The latest Roland Boutique is inspired by the 1985 JX-8P - we say inspired because:
a) It has controls (the original didnt) based on the optional PG800 programmer b) It has up to 20 voices of polyphony and a two part multi-timbral engine
It uses ABM (analog behaviour modeling) which is a less DSP hungry way of digitally modeling the voice architecture which means it has more voices and layering than the original ACB based Boutiques.
The interface is still Boutique sized with 30mm faders, knobs and buttons, has an internal speaker, mini-jack connections and a battery compartment for wire-free operation. Pulse the USB Audio interface (8 outs - Mix, Layer A, B and Stereo in, plus stereo return)
USB-C is used - yay! Better than micro USB of the earlier models, and can be mounted in the Roland K-24m keyboard if you desire
How does it sound? Pretty good actually, the original JX-8P did have some limitations and as this is a recreation, you also get those: limited analog waveforms: Saw/50 Pulse, Square and a single LFO, plus a pair of envelopes.
There are 3 filter variations in the Boutique, all Low Pass - these are not specified but do sound pretty good too.
Working with the two layers A/B is nice and simple - each layer has a full synth engine and FX too (17 types in total) plus the reverb.
You also get a 64 step sequencer for each part, with plenty of motion sequencing (I couldn't max out the parameters I recorded) And they can also run without notes for decent additional time based mod matrix.
There are a couple of criticisms: First up, there's no performance memory - you do get 128 patches, but the only way to store the setup is in a Sequence (another 128 memories) - that includes notes, the motion sequence data plus the two patches referenced. But if you overwrite one of those patches in regular memory, it's toast.
Also no way to dump individual patches as files, just as full backup of the unit for full restore. Although you can dump all the current controller values for a snapshot into your DAW it's not that convenient.
Additionally, there is no parameter catchup mode, switching layers and grabbing a fader will immediately jump to that value.
But having said that, it sounds pretty good, is easy to use and the chorus is fantastic - super wide pads - no problem as well as plenty of other sounds which gives a reasonable sound palette even with limited oscillator waves. I had a lot of fun with this and would reach for it if I need some nice Roland JX-8P action. Yes it can be done in software via the Roland Cloud, but it's just not the same.
It's priced at $399/$349 and while that's not a bargain basement amount of cash, it is a fair price for what is a pretty good Boutique sized hands-on synth experience.
These new Boutiques seem to make more sense to me now that the voice count surpasses the originals.
All we need now is a new Roland USB mixer to plug all these boutiques into and access the individual outs.