Sonic LAB: Roland Boutique JP-08

US An iconic synth in DSP form      14/11/15
    MP4 17:4 mins    

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The Roland Jupiter 8 is the stuff of legend, generally associated with 80's superstars and eccentric collectors, many of us have never even seen one, let alone touched one.

Roland are aiming to remedy that  - with the introduction of their Boutique JP-08 - a definitely much smaller and four voice version, created using their AIRA ACB (analog circuit behaviour) technology.

With twin oscillators, 12 and 24dB switchable filter, cross mod, twin envelopes and single LFO - the Jupiter 8 is synth royalty, even though not as fully featured as one might expect - it's as much to do with it's original size  and price. Having never actually used an original, not for want of trying, I was actually quite surprised at the lack of esoteric routing possibilities.

Yes the JP-08 is the model village to the sprawling metropolis that is the original Jupiter 8. It's tiny, at around 30cm wide by 12 deep, it's almost small enough to fit on a bit of blank panel space on the original. This means that the faders have been reduced to an iris challenging 20mm.

Firstly, I compared the waveforms on the scope, which match up surprisingly well. The JP-08 increases the range of each VCO to 64' to 2' and adds a bit of extra waveform action with the addition of a sine wave. To my ears, this Jupiter edges it for low end content. Though we've been told that it's hard to find two originals that would sound identical - who's ever going to be able to check that?

Matching sounds with the borrowed Jupiter 8 from Gforce Software's massive collection of synths, was slightly challenging as finding the sweet spot on those small faders is not easy. I was hoping to find a way to send in MIDI CC to be able to use a larger fader on a MIDI controller, but as with all the Boutiques, this is not possible, however we are hearing that pressure is mounting for  firmware update.

Missing In Action

One thing about the original Jupiter 8, is the ability to layer and or split the keyboard with two sounds, perhaps even throwing in an arpeggiator on one or other part to create some of those classic lines. Sadly, the JP-08 does not support this, it does offer a dual mode in which two sounds can be layered, but no split or arpeggiator here - and of course only 2 voices per layer.

Also, as with the Juno 106, the performance controls are quite key to the experience - with the mod/pitch being routable to one or other Osc, and or Filter cutoff and modulation. This is not possible with the JP-08 as it's Pitch and Mod ribbons are both hard routed to pitch only.

However, the JP-08 is certainly capable of many classic Jupiter sounds, as long as four voices will do it. This will also affect the ability to unison up the voices to a whopping 16 oscillators on the original, only (only?) 8 on the JP-08.

As with the other Boutiques, you get a digital delay and 16 step /16 pattern sequencer to help things along and they are welcome. The sounds it can produce are very authentic, with the filter modes being very nicely replicated.

However, for me, the Jupiter 8 is as much about the physical presence as the sound, and the Boutique is just, well a lot smaller. A great job of modelling is undermined by the lack of physical space to create sounds and impress your mates with your massive new synth, unless you know a lot of ants.

But jesting aside, yes the JP-08 sound is very close to the original, though of course, it had those extra 4 voices. In this case I think the lack of polyphony is more crucial  than on the JU-06 and JX-03 because four keys are enough. On the JP-08 you do miss them as you can't do 2x4 splits and layers which the original had.

The only conclusion being that  you will of course need to buy two and chain them, which is still going to be a lot less cash than a difficult to maintain original.

Available now at £299/$399 - limited edition.



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