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 Roland Juno-106

Remarkable for being: The lawmaker in the synth-world.
 




When buying one, watch out for: dead or aged sliders / chips that cause → noise or crackling on the output.
 

 

JUNO LAW

There are not many "controversial" synths, as I call them, but in my mind the Juno-106 is one for sure. I can't really decide if it has more pros or more cons, whether it's inspiring or boring - whether its cost fairly represents its value to me. If anybody describes the Juno-60 as "bland / samey", then I'm not sure what stronger words should be used to describe the Juno-106. Because the 106 is even more limiting & samey. If there's anything I'm certain of, it's the fact that the 106 is relatively unreliable technically - my first unit was faulty, and my friend's 106 lost 3 of its voices across the span of 6 years. But is it really the synth's fault? Maybe it breaks down quicker because it is so loved and inspiring to people that it's actually used much more often than other synths. The owners, during their hour-long sessions, tweak the shit out of the potentiometers and fry the voice chips. Whatever the story, based on my observations of the market and my individual units, the Juno-60 seems to be a much, much more reliable product.

To explain myself more clearly and to give you a more serious & useful hint about this instrument: Juno-106 has its own character - yeah, a cliche about every synth. But here this word character is more of a downside, since this character, this specific timbre of the 106 is evident in every subsequent patch you create, you cannot escape it. The synth is very monoaural. What follows is the feeling that all sounds are as if descendants of one basic sound. And you cannot say exactly the same about e.g. the JU-60 or JX-3p. Evaluating the sound of the 106 I have to put it right in the middle between the stiffer, metallic tone of the JX-3p, and the juicy analog tone of the Juno-60. There's just something about the oscillators or the envelopes that make the 106 sound less agile and natural (am I right in thinking that 106 envelopes are digital whereas 60 are analog, hence the difference?).

Of course the synth still radiates this innocent, tantalizing Juno-ness; come on, it's a proper Juno. Women adore big houses into which they can fit all their outrageously large quantities of same-looking clothes / men just want to fuck / all people and animals love the sound of the Juno, haha - just another "law". Yet for the proper vintage synth experience that retains the same sonic vibe, I'd guide you to the Juno-6/60, which I view to be a more fulfilling and sensual model, and the JX3p or JX8p if you want more fun with parameters and a deeper feeling of liberation & exploration.

But if you always wanted to buy yourself a Juno, or you have a golden opportunity to grab one just now, don't worry and grab whichever, even if it means grabbing the 106. I personally harbor a perverted sentiment towards the JU-60 so don't let yourself be in two minds about it for too long. In the end, they are all just fucking Junos. Plus it all depends what you're after. For example, if you're after some crisp & punchy brass, the 106 will create these sounds in a more appealing manner than the 60.

There's still one thing I missed which might add in big part to the appeal of the 106 - it has MIDI, whereas the JU-60 does not. And buying the additional MIDI-to-DCB converter that costs several hundred bucks for your Ju-60 is an obvious pain in the ass.

ps. And the craze around the 106, together with its price growth, seems to have stagnated recently. I might be a proper opportunity for some of you to finally lay your hands on one.

SLIDERZ

One day I decided to restore my dusty Juno, and the minute I began my research on how to do it, endless problems and doubts started to mount. The sliders have inside them a thin conducive layer made of carbon. The movable stick that you grab when you tweak is actually moving back and forth (up & down) on top of that layer (eureka!). If you have any problems with editing your sounds (noise, crackling, silence), there could be 2 reasons for this:
1. The synth has been used so often that the carbon layer has worn out. You need to replace the entire sliders. Ouch & fuck.
2. The synth was not used at all, or has been kept in a dusty environment. You need to clean the sliders. Doable but still a PITA.

Option number 1 means replacement. Fortunately, my Juno suffered from option number 2. The $ 64'000 question was: HOW TO CLEAN THIS CRAP? After talking with countless "professionals", half of whom wholeheartedly recommended stuff like "contact cleaners" and "WD-40", while the other half vehemently opposed those things because "they give great results at first, but actually later make things even worse", here's the version of truth I find most conclusive and practical.

Don't use any oily contact cleaners, fancy-lubes, or WD-40. They will attract dirt / can cause short-circuits / can damage some electrical elements in certain conditions / whatever. When you open your Juno and get to the sliders, first blow off the dirt that can be blown off with compressed air. Just don't make it too forceful. Then spray the pots with isopropyl alcohol and use a little paintbrush or a foam-q-tip to soak in and remove the alcohol together with dirt particles. Just don't scratch the fucking carbon strip. Finally, when your pot is clean & dry, take a small amount of silicone grease and spread it around the slider casing and its movable joystick-thingie, but not necessarily on the carbon strip. You'll probably also need to replace the black, weathered, spongy covers that had been installed over the potentiometer slots by Roland - after such a long time (30 years) they disintegrate and fall apart. Without this decorative / protective element, your Juno will look ugly from the outside and dust will fall easily into the pots. I used a carefully-tailored strap of textile kept in place by scotch tape. Voila. Only 6 hours of work. I'm going to bed and don't get up tomorrow.

 

 

Watch the video demo part 1:

 

Watch the video demo part 2:

 

Or listen to the audio demos:
[ mp3 demo - my patches part 1 ]
[ mp3 demo - my patches part 2 ]

 


 

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