Roland’s 2022 Boutique Models
This year, Roland announced three new units in the Boutique series. The JD-08 and JX-08 synthesisers, along with the TR-06 drum machine. The range brings the sound of classic vintage equipment into the hands of modern music makers, in a more convenient footprint with various quality of life improvements.
The JX-08 is a recreation of the classic JX-8P synthesiser.
While it appears to be quite a basic synth on the surface, the JX-08 is capable of some really unique sounds due to the structure of its envelopes and oscillators. The oscillators can be cross modulated to produce unique, almost FM style sounds such as pianos and bells.
The presets, such as the “Soundtrack” patch are not only retro staples, but can also be useful, functional sounds without sounding too cliché.
The unit is a rather interesting recreation of the JX-8P, as the unit does not recreate the control panel of the original synth. The JX-8P has a classic 80’s style button based interface (like the Yamaha DX series), but the JX-8P boutique more accurately recreates the auxiliary PG-800 programmer device which was supplied separately to the original model.
If you’ve ever used an original 80s era synth with their small, calculator like screens and several different buttons, you will know that they are not the most attractive or usable interface to dial-in sounds on.
The PG-800 turns the button commands of the JX-8P into modern tactile sliders, making it much more intuitive to program. Roland appears to have taken major cues from this programmer in the JX-08 boutique unit, the small sliders being reminiscent of those used on the existing SH-01a unit.
The TR-06 is a modern-day interpretation of the TR-606, the lesser known predecessor of more famous units such as the 707, 808, and 909. The form factor is strikingly similar to the original (which was almost identical to the TB-303).
Like all TR replicas, the unit is limited in its scope but acts as an excellent companion device to other boutique models or gear. This would be a great option for those who enjoy the form factor and workflow of the other TR boutiques but want a less typical sonic character.
In this iteration of the 606, the sequencer is an improvement on the original, allowing for better ease of use. The addition of the “drive” knob and tempo delay controls are also welcome additions and expand the functionality further without adding clutter to the interface.
The JD-08 is a recreation of the JD-8000. It’s a particularly interesting addition to the range, holding similarities to the previous Boutique recreation of the Roland D-05 linear synthesizer. However, the stand out feature is that it’s a small digital synth, which can be programmed in a tactile manner through knobs and sliders, rather than just buttons and menus.
Due to the sheer number of controls on its interface, the original JD-8000 was an enormous unit. The fact that its size has been compressed down to that of a Boutique unit is really impressive.
For years, we have seen a great resurgence in hardware analogue or analogue modelling based synthesisers, with a plethora of hands-on controls. For digital based synths, however, the story has been slightly different, with available units either being large and expansive, in order to accommodate more hands-on control. Or simpler units, with a high price point (like the Elektron Digitone for example).
The Korg Volca FM does scratch some of this itch with its hands-on controls, small footprint, and lower price point. However, as with all the units in the Volca range, this makes it a simple unit with some limited functionality.
Most of the hardware digital synthesisers of recent years have been based on or marketed around the original Yamaha style FM digital synthesis. The introduction of units like the JD-08 at this price point gives producers access to hands-on control of different digital synthesis sounds and sonic possibilities.
Though there may be a wide array of VSTs available with similar synth engines (Roland themselves offer their collection of synthesisers in digital VST form in a digital subscription service) the opportunity to craft these kinds of digital sounds with physical controls is much rarer.
We hope that the launch of the JD-08 will not be the last reissue of a classic digital synth in this format with customisable controls; and that units like the JD-08 will allow the next generation of sound designers to look outside the presets and configure new, exotic sounds and patches of their own.
The current Decksaver Boutique cover will not fit the JD-08 and JX-08 units out-of-the-box, but when integrated with the K-25M keyboard, will offer protection from dust, liquids, and accidental impacts.