April 2, 2011

Well, Shit...

by Chris Randall

I was going to, at this juncture, put up a lengthy rant about the Roland Jupiter 80. And the person that wrote this slavish bullshit. But then I thought what's the point? Why should Roland give a shit about 2,000 hard-core gear fetishists, when they can sell 10K of these to wedding band keyboard players?

And while that last sentence is, on the face of it, a sad thing, they're a business, and they have shareholders to please. There is a certain sort of company that will endeavor to get people like me or Matthew Davidson or others of our ilk to say nice things, and occasionally even solicit our opinions, and will work to make things that please people like us, and Roland is definitely not in a position where they need (or even want) to do that. The kind of quirky things that please us are inherently only really of interest to the couple thousand people that think like we do. The real music industry exists to please the 50,000 garage bands and the 50,000 wedding bands in the world. This is where the money is. And a corporation is generally beholden to its shareholders. Unless those shareholders are people like me and Matthew, their chief interest is a return on their investment.

Purists like us simply can't be pleased by a product like the Jupiter 80, as there's no room for (to borrow a word that Mr. Kirn uses with wild abandon) hacking. Roland's chief goal with an instrument like this is to make getting a sound that, well, sounds good for what it is supposed to do easy, quick, and thought-free. People like us like to think. We like to find new sounds, and figure out how to work them in to new contexts. The vast majority of the performing musicians in the world are much more concerned with easy access to old sounds, the ones that have already been thought of.

(As a brief aside, if you clicked that link, you'll see that there are 2,170 instances of the word "hack" in its various permutations on the createdigitalmusic.com site. For comparison, I have used the word "fuck" on this site 1,740 times.)

While I was pissing and moaning about this thing on Twitter, someone replied that perhaps I should wait to hear it before casting aspersions. I don't need to. Something like this may have "the best upright bass" a ROMpler can recreate, but it'll never make the bottles behind the bar rattle like a real one. It may have an excellent B3 emulation, but it doesn't have waterfall keys, two manuals, and a Leslie that makes your pantlegs flap. It might have a really pristine sample set of a Steinway grand in it, but it'll never look like polished laquer under a Leko framed just so.

In short, it may have science, but it is utterly lacking in art.

It'll sound like those things the same way it looks like a Jupiter 8: sort of. It will be, no doubt, a high-quality instrument for the paint-by-numbers set. Those guys make good money, too.


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Apr.03.2011 @ 12:07 AM
Computer Controlled
I'm more excited for the Monotribe. The "Jupiter" 80 can get bent. Roland will NEVER learn. How the mighty have fallen...

Apr.03.2011 @ 12:22 AM
well said CR.

it's just not worth getting upset about. it'd be like getting upset over the new honda lawnmower or something.

some of those paint by the numbers guys do pretty well.. and some of them rock the barnes and noble coffee shop. everybody's gotta make a living somehow.

Apr.03.2011 @ 12:23 AM
Chris Randall
I'm with boobs.

Apr.03.2011 @ 1:18 AM
I was trying to describe to my wife how much of a travesty the Jupiter 80 is, and how the colored buttons are a mockery of the mighty Jupiter 8. I played her this video to illustrate my point:

link [www.youtube.com]

At which point whatever argument I had to make was lost in the sheer horror of the mulleted mustache rock.

Apr.03.2011 @ 1:25 AM
Seriously, I'm trying to find a video with a Jupiter-8 in it, and they are all about that bad. I'm sure that there is some live video footage of Duran Duran that has some nice rainbow Roland slathered all over it, but most of it is bad late 1970's bands that came into the 1980's with enough money to buy really high end synths.

Apr.03.2011 @ 1:32 AM
Beware the wrath of an angry gear fetishist.

Ahem. Judging from what the paid foamymouths have been writing, Roland's building heavily on the V-Synth legacy combined with Jupiter reputation here, obviously - but they have decided to ride solely with the Jupiter flag. A bit like rebranding an airline using classical compositions in their advertisements; tying the nobility and dignity of an original classical composer to a newer, less distinguished service, company or artist. They've done their Branding ABC.

V-Synth line suffered from Roland's weak innovation-meets-marketing ratio, nobody really knew what to do with the thing and after a few retries, they announced V-Synth dead. With an appropriate legendary moniker, Jupiter, they immediately raise the status from "partially unknown" to "renowned". V-Synth never sold to wedding bands. Now, with a familiar brand they can do it.

There's also a pitfall: if it's just a mere sample player with fancy marketing material, that's it. No more usage for Jupiter as a marketing engine. Praising a piece of hardware as their flagship doesn't just raise its status - it immediately puts it under heavy user muthafuckas' zooming glasses. But, Roland's safe as long as the status of the original Jupiter is intact. Which it will be. Even if we here (and dozens of other pro blogs) annonce it DOA, it'll end up on the wedding players' QuikLoks. Because it's the new Jupiter-8. Times ten. Like, whoa, eighty.

Ah well, hopefully they've included the time/pitch-independent synthesis and a possibility to import samples. And if they have built onto V-Synth legacy, hopefully they've gotten midi/USB sync a.o.k. this time. And corrected several other rather annoying bugs, such as selective USB storage device bug; some sticks were ok, some weren't... (I doubt.) They (Roland) have put some money into R&D, now they sit and wait to get their R&D investment back - and only then they could reconsider the need of updating the OS. If the user base consists of 10000 wedding band part-time keyboardists, they probably never run into problems some more advanced user runs; the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few - heh.

I could have written just this: as CR said, shareholders are the forces that conduct this piece, not musicians unfortunately. Just as unfortunate is the fact that the original Jupiter (be that 4 or 8) wasn't meant for wedding bands.

In addition to this I'm a boob man as well.

Apr.03.2011 @ 3:13 AM
I smell a Jordan Rudess video demo coming real soon...

- Hugo

Apr.03.2011 @ 3:15 AM
The word Blasphemy needs to be mentioned in this context.

Roland today is offensive. We should riot, and burn synths.

Apr.03.2011 @ 4:14 AM
Computer Controlled
Roland should have closed it's doors after the V-Synth and went out on a high note.

Apr.03.2011 @ 5:37 AM
It's true that Roland isn't going to sell synthesizers by appealing to analog purists, but that doesn't make this shit excusable either. The fact is that Roland isn't doing well in the synthesizer market at all. How many SH-201s do you see around when you go out to shows? All i see are Microkorgs fucking everywhere. I even see more analog DSI stuff than I see recent Roland synths. Roland has been in the gutter for years (excluding their boss division of course). Their ad copy even reeks of it. "The return of a legend" Come on. Their grasping for something, and they are obviously are trying to appeal to people who keep wanting them to return to their analog roots, but they are doing it completely wrong and they are failing at it. If they were making shit synthesizers and selling tons of them, then I would be completely happy for them. I'd just say "Oh well, that's just what people want." But that's not the case. As it stands, this shit is just sad. This is not what people want. It's not good business at all.

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