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Roland JP-8000

Remarkable for being: The mother of the supersaw and the whore of geeks.
 




When buying one, watch out for: worn out sliders or pots skipping values during editing.
 

 


THE QUEST


Roland JP-8000 1:

I unpack the "great condition" synth and plug it in and tweak. Seven sliders are worn out to the point that the settings are only partially editable. The values jump between numbers, which makes the editing very imprecise. Cutoff and Resonance [of course] just flat. Either the JP-8000 is a very unreliable VA, or the previous owner tweaked the shit out of it. Fuck it. I pack and send the shit back.

Roland JP-8000 2:

I make a deal with a guy to import a JP-8000 and a Nord Lead from an overseas studio. Two weeks pass and I still haven't gotten any.
I stalk him and he finally admits that he's sad to break the news to me, but he's gotten the JP, however I have to give up the Nord 'cause he won't be able to organize it for me. That gets me pissed off a little and I withdraw the pre-payment. He mumbles something about the possibility of him giving me the JP later, as he has some business travels to do now.

Fate makes it that an Ensoniq ESQ-1 crops up in the same town. So I drive there to buy the ESQ and, trying to kill two birds with one stone, at 9 a.m. I knock on my guy's door. He opens up in pajamas. Flabbergasted, with the entire weird situation witnessed by his unsuspecting mother frying oily pancakes, he invites me to his cluttered little room and there's an Access Virus. I ask "where's the JP that you mentioned?". And he says: "Uhm, it didn't come, it just didn't come...". And he's sad again, with his head down, like a little boy. And he has something ugly and dirty under his nose.

Roland JP-8000 3:
- Hello, I'm interested in your JP but is it really in perfect condition ?
- Yes of course it's perfect.
- But can you do a little test for me and see if the pots and sliders are maybe imprecise?
- (...time passing...)
- And ?
- Yeah, so I did the test you asked me to and it turns out that values jump in some of the sliders.

Roland JP-8000 4:
- You bought my JP is that right? Cool. Do you maybe make VENGEANCE patches ?
- no:)
- so like I said, the JP is in good shape.
- but can you do a small test for me ?
- ok... the Xmod knob is a bit messed up.
- so I gather in that case we have to cancel the bid cause I won't be buying your Roland, as it's not what the description says.
- what the hell are you talking about, can't u read I never said it was perfect, get lost!

Roland JP-8000 5:
- (...) I'd like you to perform a test
- (...) like you said, values in two sliders jump... but the JP has been controlled by analog means [...?] and by a computer and taking into consideration that it's an analog synth [...?] and is so old [...?] I assume its condition is not bad.

(At this point I vehemently hate all trance musicians or just average JP-owners).

Roland JP-8000 6:

This was the cheapest JP of all. We drove 70 km on a rainy day to a guy who kept a home studio in a tiny room with a picture of his baby kid behind the midi controller. I checked all the knobs and everything and found no fault whatsoever. The knobs had gorgeous resistance which meant the guy did not tweak them at all. I was told that the only thing I should expect was confetti to be found between the keys. He said he used it at parties for making music in the vein of Paul Van Dyk, he asked me if I had heard of that artist and I just nodded "yes" and said "uhm" and at that moment kept myself from fucking his little studio apart. We counted as many as 13 roadkills on the route. Foxes, dogs, cats, martens and all kinds of shit pushed out of its habitat by graceful apes called humans. That was a good day.

THE SYNTH: PLASTIC OR ANALOG?

Aaaaah. The almighty Roland JP-8000. Lesson learned - never, absolutely NEVER blindly trust other people and never judge synths according to popular opinions. This of course automatically applies to what I'm writing here, and to my opinions (then why the fuck am I writing all this?). As a priority try to play the gear yourself, simply. This was supposed to be one of the coolest, best-sounding synths out there. Is it? Well... not exactly.

Like the Nord Lead, the JP-8000 is a player's synth. And what I mean by that? I mean that it's very limited, but has an interface that is extremely easy to operate and manages to strike a chord with the listener because it's musical. For example, Blofeld has shitload of functions and routes to go, but the procedure of reaching your dream sound is that you start under a pile of bricks and you need to dig yourself out. I don't know nor do I care about the philosophy & methodology of trance music and supersaw leads so I'll leave that, but I do see the JP's appeal in the vintage / classically-structured patches area. You get these patches quick, and you get them rich in this old-fashioned flavor and simple grooviness.

You might wonder what I mean by giving the synth 1 point and 3 points at the same time for vintage emulation capacity. That's actually the one and only case when I do so. In order to picture this, I'm going to put people into 3 rough categories:

1. Dance / trance maniacs;
2. Classic vintage calm electro geeks;
3. Geeks like me.

Group 1 is thrilled with the JP trance sounds judging from what I hear on the Net, although Virus and Vanguard and whatever sound better to my ears... but who the fuck cares.

Group 2 will be extremely satisfied and will often get goosebumps and cream their pants. One of my friends says he will keep his JP until his death, that's how much he loves it. He was born in the early '70s, adores the classic electronica, and finds the JP-8000 fascinating. The interface which is great & easy and the productive sweet spot enable him to achieve his silky pads and his Jupiter imitations. Most of the time the supersaw oscillator will give him the 3-point excellent spacious & warm sounds that he needs.

And group number 3... If you appreciate the versality of synths like Virus, the creativity and synthiness of synths like Alesis Ion, Waldorfs and stuff, and if you have this pervasive need to give your synth and your sound this one extra push, then don't waste your money on the JP-8000. It does have its narrow scope of merits like: lush pads and spacious strings, dirty basses and piercing leads, dreamy waterphone textures and sprinkling bursts of sound, plus the juicy filter / killer-laser resonance really reminding of the old analog gear. I enjoy all of that, yet the same kind of things and the same potential is to be found in other synths, but you just need to dig it out (a much cheaper Yamaha AN1x will do all the JP-8000 tricks I believe, even with more finesse and less plastick-ness, the only catch being its mere 8 knobs). The JP-8000 does sound analog, but only within the aforementioned (geek group 2) sweet spot. Try to go a little bit beyond that spot, make it more versatile, and the JP-8000 sounds soooooooooooooo plastic - and drops down to 1-point in my ears. Plus, bear in mind that:

- the coolest wave, by which I mean the feedback wave, puts the synth into mono and there's no continuous (like an LFO) modulation source (only the stationary ribbon / slider messages) to modulate the feedback / harmonics... WTF;
- as a sound sculpting tool the FX unit is of no avail - it's just too quitet and not deep enough to bend the sound anything beyond stereofying the patch a bit, and it sounds pretty plastic;
- it has even more limited architecture than the Nord Lead 2. All you get from the JP8000 is basically [LFO1]. Because [LFO2] works only as a subsidiary of [Pitch Bender], and the [Mod Envelope] modulates the same destination as [LFO1]. You think you can route [LFO1] to [Pitch] and [Mod Env] to [FM] ? No. They both affect just one & the same destination. Kind of super idiot-proof user-friendly option.

THE SYNTH: CONCLUSION

I view the JP-8000 as one of these synths with its "special / cult sound", a sound that brings one's memories back. And eventually I might understand the fact that some people call it "the best cheap VA there is," as long as "best VA" means "a synth that can emulate the qualities and nuances of oldskool Rolands". But if the "best VA" phrase was to mean "best modern synth", then ABSOLUTELY not. One of the worst. Again, go back to Ion and Blofeld (or at least the cheap AN1x for that matter) which offer a thousand more possibilities. Just let us not compare their sound. It's different. And it has always been about the sound, hasn't it. Even though the JP-8000 is in my view an overhyped average synth, it has the most appealing highpass filter and crunchy dirt I've heard on a VA. The sandy texture in some patches sounds exactly like The Downward Spiral (by Nine Inch Nails). I guess it would be enough a reason for me to keep it...

 

 

Watch the video demo part 1:

 

Watch the video demo part 2:

 

Or listen to the audio demo:
[ mp3 demo ]

 


 

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