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 Roland Jupiter 6

 


 

8000 KILOMETERS

OK, so what's the story behind this model? Who used it and caused the dramatic rise in price? Nick Rhodes? Dick Robes? Lymph Nodes? Tell me, who the fuck is able to keep pace with the cryptic ways in which the market & the synth community operates? I can't, so all I'm going to tell you is just the story of my unit: it was owned by Skinny Puppy and after some 20 years flown from Canada to Poland, was subsequently bought here by a resident of Texas (real cowboy), then died and was shipped to a tech who couldn't fix it, shipped back, then shipped to the best tech in the country who fixed it, but then re-shipped to him because it broke again. The owner, with his fingernails almost bitten to the core, was at the end of his tether - synth pranks like that can leave you pretty discouraged. Enter Jexus. The rest from now on is boring.

WANT A HUGE RETRO SYNTH?

Buy it. It gefrannis booj pooch boo jujube; bear-ramage. Jigiji geeji geeja geeble boogle. Begep flagaggle vaggle veditch-waggle bagga. So don't trust any word anybody is saying about it. Do not allow relativity, be uncompromising. Buy it now. Do it. Do it. Did I ox you?

WANT A TURBO-JUNO?

OK let me get a foothold some place.
The majority of synth aficionados probably know that the words Jupiter and Juno are closely-knit, whereas the majority of Juno aficionados probably know that Jupiters are not simply "beefed up" Junos. Instead of starting this piece totally from scratch, I will treat my
Juno 60 review as a prequel to hover around and build on.

If you love your Junos as I do, but feel they limit you with their sparse features or samey sound, and you would like do away with those limitations yet retain the lovable basic sound - the Jupiter 6 is not the way to go. The Jupiters have VCOs instead of DCOs, a crucial fact which ultimately makes those two synth families substantially different (quite as important is the fact that the JP-6 lacks the classic Roland chorus). Legendary clan wars between the purists and the heathens, and endless forum threads in the vein of "DCO vs VCO and why the latter is better" cultivated by people who have too much spare time on their hands could make my statement confusing, so I'll try to explain myself (briefly) why I judge the Jupiter-VCO-6 option as inferior to the Juno-DCO option.

I'm not an engineer nor a hobbyist in any fields related to physics or electronics, so I won't give you theorethical / technical yada yada or oscilloscope graphs. I am only interested in practical consequences and I only judge with my ears. And even though the VCO technology is supposed to be more "analog, organic, unstable" (and sometimes it is), whereas the DCO is always supposed to be less of these (and most often it is), in my ears it's the Juno family - and most specifically the Juno 6 / 60 - which sounds way more analog and way more organic. The Japanese did it, I don't know how, but they did it (run for it, Marty!). Of course everybody has their own definition of analogueness; for me, good analog tone needs to be supple before everything else. For others it needs to be crisp, and such people will probably judge the Jupiter-6 to be the bee's knees. (Besides, a DCO and a DCO is not always the same thing - the DCO-based Roland JX-8p sounds like robot's vomit when held against the Juno or Jupiter, so go figure). A small thing to remember: the DCO Juno will spare you the necessity of tuning ;P

WANT A VINTAGE WORKHORSE?

If you care less about the sound (+ maintenance) and more about expanding the plasticity / versatility - the JP-6 is the way to go. By itself, the Jupiter-6 is a neat classy synth with a late '70s - early '80s feel that can produce some mighty gusts of brasses and give you a rash of authentic goosebumps with its quite deep array of vintage, Visage-esque leads. I get bored with sounds like that pretty fast, so the next stage consisted of me searching for the hidden sweet spots and possibilities within the boundaries of its narrow sliders. My findings inspired, turned off, spooked out or entertained me alternately. I reached the interesting conclusion that of all the vintage synths the Jupiter-6 is the one most reminiscent of  the Korg Z1 (or V-Synth) with its atonal spacey broken-glass / giant-vacuum-cleaner FX and mutant-mosquito buzzes and resonator-sweeps (just click my mp3 demo below if I'm being too vague). The Europa mod with its arpeggio features will add its 2 cents to the quirky & curious sound arrangement options and enable you, for example, to combine waveforms so that more than one is active / audible. The synth definitely has personality - or a set of aggressive and mellow personalities to switch between.

(THE LAST RANT ABOUT THE SOUND)

But after you've had enough of the "crazy / powerful stuff" or the "like a cutting knife stuff" and get back to simply "making music" (who the fuck has time for that, eh?), you might feel that the overall sound is... uhm... what's the word?... specific (or specifically unappealing;P), and your ears will have to decide whether it -  notwithstanding its versatility - is inspiring or not (whether it's analog / organic / full-blooded / whatever, or not). If you are familiar with the sound of the Prophets or the Polysix, it will be easier for me to give you a sense of where the Jupiter-6 stands, because its general tone is like a mixture of the quintessential Juno and the Polysix / Prophet tone. Unfortunately this is not the instance when the final mixture is more than the sum of its ingredients. Here the mixture turns out to be generally less tasty than if we decided to eat the ingredients separately one by one. (And it's not that I want every synth to sound like a Juno-60. It would be fantastic if every model in the world sounded different - variety is the spice of life. But the JP-6 often just seems like a glassy Juno. Generally classy, yet often icy / glassy. Is that okay for a synth of this sort?)

ADDONS vs BUMMERS

That's it, as far as the subjective and elusive concept of sound is concerned. Now let's look at the physical aspect of this thing; it's huge. The panel is twice as large as in your average affordable analog synths, and even though its size is dictated by the necessary amount of electronic components beneath it, one might be tempted to think that such size will bring with itself a multitude of addons. Or will it?... To be mathematically objective, it does exhibit some fine addons. The various shapes of the fast LFO, the additional envelope, the bandpass filter, the two 4-waveform oscillators plus all the little choices to control the routing (eg. VCF control by ENV1 or ENV2) are surely the things to be appreciated on the JP-6 since they expand the overall scope of patches and sound variety of the machine and will let you achieve sounds that the Polysiks & CO can only dream of. But the somewhat unmusical (in a "musical noise" sense / context) cross-mod section and the lack of another LFO is a major bummer that leaves the synth disappointingly lacking. *(Technically speaking there is a second LFO, but it was meant as a performance control and works only when triggered manually from the left-hand panel, so I'm not counting it in). Another thing regarding the physical aspect of the synth - one that goes against common sense - is that the larger size of the panel did not translate to better comfort & precision of editing; the sliders on the JP-6 are quite short, and pretty soon after you push them up you reach the end of the editing scope.

Unison mode is groovy and produces very musical results, though, unlike other synths whose unisoned "phat" sound makes me want to quickly abandon the premises to avoid the apparent attack of a fat, ob-noxious insect or rodent. I don't understand the common argument that JP-6 is bad for basses... I think it's neither bad, nor so-so. It's properly okay. And the JP-6 Unison has the detune spread knob. And there's the mixer knob so you can control the balance between the oscillators' volume instead of just switching them on and off. And... I hope I've mentioned everything essential.

RATIONALITY vs ROMANCE

OK, let's wrap it up somehow. The Juipter-6 is a cool / proper synth. The bottom line is that it is a more-than-ordinary machine and that we do have an area of fun & uniqueness that will not be covered or imitated by any Juno or JX (first and foremost because those synths don't have a bandpass filter), however, the peculiarity of its uniqueness makes me wish I had spent the money on a [JD-800 / Juno] plus a [Polysix / Prophet 600] instead. What exactly is this peculiar (or particular) uniqueness? Shit... I think it consists of the qualities & trifles appreciated only by vintage-analog freaks, and the communal sense of taking part in a big chunk of music history & heritage. There will surely be several sounds to be missed (as with every synth), like those unisoned hairy basses and Elka-Synthex-like string-pads (and all things crazy and powerful :P) . But when our nebulous artistic ideas or nostalgic journeys have toned down, the realistic question must be asked: what practical outcome do we arrive at? We have a synth that (1) in general sounds relatively stiff-ish and cold-ish, (2) has a questionable amount or effectiveness of its additional features, and (3) costs threefold of the average synth price. That sounds like a bad deal to me; the payoff seems to small. Better leave it where it belongs: in the collector's realm.

ps. I'm kidding. Don't be such a cold son-of-a-dog. Be less calculating and more romantic and just buy it, if only for a couple of months:P There's only a couple of thousands left and some of its sounds are unbeatable.

ps2. I'm kidding. Be careful with releasing your emotions. They have always led men astray and into deep shit :D

 

 

Audio demo:
[ mp3 demo ]

 


 

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