Thing 666: destiny

The portents were all there – the fussing with waveforms, the obscene level of interest in Roland system exclusives. It starts with Aspirin and it ends up with Heroin, or in my case the evening my hand slapped eBay hard for a card.

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SR-JV80-04 VINTAGE SYNTH – artefact of an era when Roland JV synthesisers lumbered unchallenged through prehistoric tropical forests. A hardware sample library with waveforms from Roland’s stable of ancients, plus some mysterious additions from MG and KG and OB, whoever they may be. Quite a few different cards were made and bless you if you wanted the Hip Hop one, but I’ve been after these particular waveforms since I encountered that orange thing and realised that it was the Abbot And Costello Meet The Wolfman to the Bride of Frankenstein of my dreams.

What use? I have paid a small army of Japanese sound engineers wearing identical uniforms to make looping samples of their equipment library – probably the same library as seen in the recent AIRA videos. They’ve done a better job than me, with sources I can’t match. Look through available sample libraries from software vendors you’ll rarely find the raw sounds. You’ll get lots of interpretations of the sounds, legally unique but not what I want. The card represents access; technical and legal.

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Actually they want as much old crap as they can eat.

You will be astounded to hear that there are bearded men on the Internet who argue over which box should house this card. The consensus is that it must live in a JD-990 because warmth, phatness, monster cables – who the hell knows why really. I tend to trust those souls that have owned various boxes and say they all sound much the same. The JD-990 was the last of the D generation, followed by the JV-1080. I don’t know what the D and V mean. I do know that the JV-1080 was Roland’s biggest thing in years, a huge seller. The JV-2080 was much the same but had a big screen, and the pinnacle is the JV-5080 which had people selling their daughters, but probably not too many daughters, as cheaper boxes soon arrived.

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Knowing my disease, some day a JD-990 will come. Meanwhile fleacore rules say that small cheap box is best. The JV-1010 is the first one of these cheap boxes and has the same guts as a JV2080 + a card called Session built in. It’ll do nicely.

There’s no editing available on the box itself and so you have to run a cut down version of Emagic Sound Diver, particularly quaint on a Windows machine where the Mac OS7 graphics look tres moderne. Works pretty nicely mind you; the 4 Roland tones roll along an endless panorama of sliders and knobs…

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clicken to biggen

Sonically it’s a mixed bag. The basic sounds are tiny samples compared to today’s software, and have obvious loop points. If I wanted an oboe I’d stick with NN-XT. The Session card has a sweeter sound, let down a little by the low sample rate (apparently 32KHz) which some people then claim is ‘warmer’ (rule 34). As with all audio hardware the slight imperfections of cables and amplifiers add a little noise that works like a studio exciter, a bit of natural sparkle.

The waves that come with the Vintage card are good in that morbidly obese Roland way. As you run through the list you notice duplication – the first two are JP-8 Saw A and JP-8 Saw C. (Where’s the B? It’s over on the main wave bank. Mysterious east at work). Inspect the presets to find that their slight differences are combined to create analogue-like drift and disparity. Strings will have more variations that basses. The different sounds are sometimes subtle and sometimes recognisable, you’d have to be very obsessive to need every single one of them but the obvious ones do make sound design easier.

The filters are Roland filters and no one is going to write a sonnet about them. If you really were hoping for an authentic OBX sound you’re not in luck, although few of the waves have original filter sweeps in them, notably the wretched TB303. Compare the sampled Prophet 5 sounds with the sounds made by the AN200. Yamaha have access to the circuits of the original and have designed their failures, the JV doesn’t know how to fail on that level. The AN200 is wilder and greedier for the spotlight.

But let’s be honest, you don’t buy a box with Roland on it looking for punk. Roland is summery afternoons, small children splashing at the beach, your favourite pullover. The JV will always be the warm fuzzies up in the gearshift of your next anthem.

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