Roland JP8080: supersaw my order

 

Best for: ye olde Roland pads and Jupiteristiks.

 

If there is a system by which JPs, JDs, JVs and JXs can be sorted I’d love to know the secret. Maybe it’s the same way they got the Roland name by just picking something masculine out of a phone book. They had a planet thing going on for a while, then I guess Juno sounded like a ‘little Jupiter’ and after that Roland just shrugged and made shit up.

 

The JP8080 is apparently a Jupiter, an expansion for the JP8000. Jupiters are the big cheese, the ones that get sliced into lesser cheeses. So a mystery is why the 8000 series didn’t go anywhere: no smaller portions sprang forth. It would be 12 years to the next big planet, and it and everything between is Sword & Sandals.

 

The next knobby box is the SH-32. Like all SH machines it’s relatively low cost with a slightly educational bent. My theory is that the market went south and the 8000 series was too expensive for the ravers of the GW Bush era. Or perhaps the 32 voices of the SH-32 sold better than the 4 or 5 voices in the competition.

 

Sensible review here.

 

The obvious highlight of this box is knobs. Roland did knobs six or seven years before on the JD800 (which looks so early nineties that even the early nineties is embarrassed). That machine was definitely Sword and Sandals; 4 tones through two filters, lots of looping samples yada yada. Actually a JD990 with a controller gaffered on top, which is not bad at all, but nowhere near analogue-days-of-yore.

 

The JP8080 is more secretive about how it make noises, although this is where the term ‘analogue modelling’ was first marketed. There’s two oscillators and one filter per patch, and you can combine two patches into a performance for the suspiciously familiar four tones. A couple of points make me think it’s not just a S&S in disguise.

 

Although the oscillators are based on the usual analogue waveforms they can each be ‘bent’ by two control knobs, for example the square is pulse width modulated, and the triangle phase distorted. Here is the first supersaw, the apparent creation of 8 detuned saw waves that defined horrible 90’s techno. The ‘feedback wave’ is a comb filter of some sort, probably made by brute force, playing 8 copies of the wave with delays, Using it forces the patch to be mono.

 

I was troubled by how familiar this layout was under my fingers until I realised that the Korg MS2000 ripped it off shamelessly. Flattery from the opposition.

 

The two oscillators can be synched and ring modulated, and Osc2 has wide range like the one on the Jupiter 8. The filter is a Roland filter, ain’t nothing much going on there. But again it’s not the filter of the S&S family, which has peaking (a bump) instead of bandpass (a dip).

 

For the first few sessions I thought this a decent box, very Roland eaten-all-the-pies, but not anything that would set the world on fire. It’s warm and tactile and 80’s but seemed trapped in being a tribute to the Jupiter 8. So I went back and studied the manual, especially the motion control feature. And here, at last, we find the love.

 

Get an arpeggio going or a repeating phrase from the bank of Realtime Phrase Sequencer memories. Now, record the motions of knobs into the motion control. You can get up to 8 bars of motion looping and keep on overlaying tweaks and warbles by hand until you’ve got something truly chaotic, unexpected and unashamedly bleepy. With practice you can build impressive undulating textures that sound quite modular. The middle range filter starts to make sense as it flails around the map trying to reach every burp and shriek you’ve knobbed in. In this role the JP8080 really shines.

 

The RADIAS has similar modulation tracks but is limited by emulating the SQ10 – three channels of 16 steps each give much less scope for wibbling than 8 full bars.

 

My unit’s had a hard life. The headphone outlet is busted, and others I’ve seen for sale have the same defect. One button is a little dodgy. All the controls work fine although they feel floppy to my muscle memory, which remembers stiffness in my old analogues. The V-Synth incorporates many aspects of the JP – that might satisfy, but I really do think that knobs are the excuse for not just using a VST, so I am hanging on to my knobs. The AIRA System-1 is aiming for the same territory and although confined to four voices (the JP has ten), can create some of the same warmth.

THIS TOY IS EASY TO USE

 

IT MAKES YE OLDE JUPITER SOUNDS

THE SOUND QUALITY IS GOOD

IT WAS MEDIUM PRICED AND IS COMMON

 

ITS RATING IS NOT SHABBY BY ANY MEANS

It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.