Roland Boutique Synths

Well, I said I wouldn’t but I did anyway. But I wont any more. I have enough!! Anyway, I got the Roland Boutique JU-06 and loved it. It sounds fantastic! So even though I’ve never had any desire to get a Jupiter 8 I thought this would be a cheap way to get one just so that I have access to that architecture and those sounds if I want them, so I ran out and got a JP-08 as well.

Roland Boutique Synthesizers - JP-08 and JU-06

They each have their own unique sound and there is very little, if any, overlap. So here are my initial impressions of the Roland Boutique JP-08 and JU-06. This is not a very full review but there might be a couple of things you haven’t heard before.

First, the controls are REALLY small! The rotary switches are especially small and unless you’re looking straight down from over top of the unit you can’t tell how they are set so angling these things is a good idea. The interesting thing for me was that although everyone complains about the 1cm sliders, I actually didn’t have any trouble with them at all. They move very smoothly and it isn’t a big problem setting them (mostly the cutoff frequency) where you want. You can definitely get a lot of very cool sounds out of this synth and that’s one reason the Jupiter 8 is known as a classic.

As for the JU-06, it’s great! Big, full, punchy, clean sound. Sounds like a Juno-106, like everyone says. There isn’t too much to say about it other than the old “it is what it is”.

But now that I’ve played with both of them I’ll say this: I’ve always loved synths with lots of oscillators and features so that there is lots of variety, but if I was given a choice I’d take the JU-06. It has loads more low end and has a much more punchy and very articulated sound. The JP, much less so. Much less. It can do a lot, but it jut doesn’t jump out at me like the JU-06 did. If you are hoping that it will do a lot for you, like nice basses and big fat Moog/Oberheim like sounds, you might be a bit disappointed. It’s NICE, but it’s not one of those.

And I REALLY REALLY wish they had included the chorus from the JU-06 in the JP-08. That would have helped tremendously to give it a HUGE, fat, stereo sound.

The built-in echo is very nice to have but there is limited control. The sequencer is nice and can be locked to MIDI clock.
So in short, I really love the JU-06, but the JP-08 will see more limited use.

Now here’s something I haven’t read before: If you are using Windows software and like the idea that you can use a micro USB cable for midi, power, and audio, be aware that there is only ONE driver for windows: Windows 10 ONLY. And my experience so far has not been good.

I use Cakewalk Sonar Platinum and hoped I could just insert this thing on it’s own channel somehow but my first try was, let’s say, confusing. As soon as I connected the JU-06 Windows installed the driver nicely. But when I started Sonar it told me there were no audio drivers available! For some reason the JU-06 was now the ONLY available audio driver and all my sound card channels had been deselected and grayed out. I can have one or the other, but not both. I haven’t had time to figure this out yet so it may or may not be a problem. Using the standard audio out and midi din connector might be the best options until this becomes more standardized.

Also, these things do NOT come with micro USB cables. When you open the box you’ll find the synth, a set of 4 of the cheapest batteries ever made, and the most ridiculous poster sized owners manual you will ever see. WHY couldn’t they have just produced a small booklet like everyone else (Except Korg, who did the same thing with the Monotrons)? No cables, nothing else.

REMEMBER: You need a MICRO USB cable, not mini. And be careful, lots of micro usb cables are Charge ONLY. That means there is no data connection so although you can get power to the unit, it will not be visible at all to the computer.

Also, I have found that powering the synths from my computer’s USB cause a strange, very noticeable warbling noise in the output. I tried it with my Laptop USB and got the same noise. Eventually I plugged it into my iPhone charger (the little white box that plugs into a wall socket and provides USB power) and the output was quiet again. This is definitely not good as the noise was loud enough to be immediately noticeable, not way down in the background.

And yes, as everyone else has said, 4 voices is simply not enough. It’s a pain but not a deal killer.

So overall, they are very cool but the JU-06 just seems like a much more powerful, more interesting sounding synth. I think I will use it a lot more than the JP-08. They feel very solidly built other than the tiny rotary switches on the JP-08 which feel a bit weak and like they might easily snap. Definitely a great buy for the price if you want these synths though!

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