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 @ 4:24 PM
Boobs, I agree with you about Keyboard mag. I bought a piece of gear from Sweetwater years ago and my "thank you" was a free subscription to that piece of shit magazine. I was getting it for free and I emailed them and told them I didn't want it. How bad does a magazine have to be that you don't even want it for free?

Apr.03.2011 @ 4:52 PM
@ZombieStomper - i got keyboard, mix mag, electronic musician all free after i went to an AES show in the 90's. they followed me everywhere. i'd move and the first batch of mail i'd get would be those friggin mags. i never even filled out any of the "free renewal" card they sent out and still they kept sending it. i still get mixmag and some times electronic musician. it's very bizarre. i've asked, via email, to stop getting mixmag a few times and it just doesn't take.. even when they confirm my request. what i noticed when getting all three of those is that they cannibalize each other since they are from the same publisher. so, articles from each show up in the others at various times.. it's a way for them to cut costs of creating new content. they really are useless... and being magazines they are always late to cover anything and can't figure out how to shape news into something new and worth reading.

end rant.

Apr.03.2011 @ 9:30 PM
Let's be honest: the name is really the only offensive thing about it. If Roland were calling these new Jupiters and Junos by any other names, no one would even think twice. They'd be like every other product Roland has put out in the last 20 or so years, and we'd all just ignore their stupid, sucky existence.

Apr.03.2011 @ 10:16 PM
Thing is, Korg is a business that has shareholders to please as well, yet they occasionally manage to produce something interesting (and the Monotribe might end up being *very* interesting). If they can do it, why can't roland?

Apr.03.2011 @ 10:25 PM
Chris Randall
Korg actually has quite a habit of producing interesting shit. Barely a NAMM goes by without something at least a little quirky.

But to speak to Funkybot's point, the annoying thing isn't the name at all. The annoying thing is that they're fairly transparently trying to trick people with a color scheme and a name slapped on yet another ROMpler, in lieu of actually making something that pushes the envelope.

Geoff Downes, the keyboard player from Asia/Yes/The Buggles replied to my twat-o-doom last night, saying that he's got a J-80 in his studio because he's writing some of the presets for it, and it's awesome. Which pretty much proves my point: Roland didn't make this for us. They made it for Geoff Downes, and the people that aspire to play like him.

(And that, from the man who, for a time, held the Guiness record for the largest keyboard rig ever used on stage in performance, 28 in all.)


Apr.04.2011 @ 2:12 AM
Roland hasn't made a niche-focused keyboard in ages. I'd wager not since the SH-101. And in 2011, with everyone dicking around on their laptops and ipads, an all-analogue monstrosity of a synth would not be forward thinking. And someone's already put the Jupiter 8 into software, so that's pretty much done and done.

We should all just do with Roland what we learned to do with Yamaha years ago...

Apr.04.2011 @ 3:56 AM
Fuck all of you, and your negativity...

This beast of a machine could bring an end to my lifelong quest for the perfect 'Nylon String Guitar' preset...

And it's got a D-Beam controller!? What is wrong with you people?

I'd have called it the Fisher Price Jupiter, though...

Apr.04.2011 @ 6:49 AM
What's also funny is that Roland already released a synth based on the legend of the Jupiter 8: the JP-8000

AI blog needs an "I'm NOT with boobs" button, because I think he just called me a tool (see Keyboard masthead- the part where it says my name). They're very easy/nice to work for, but I don't do many product reviews these days, so I don't have to pretend to like this week's latest fake plastic ROMpler (I write Steal This Sound wherein I explain how to make sounds and hopefully try to indoctrinate wedding band keyboardists into the analog nerd set using plug-ins as a gateway drug. Probably doesn't work.). Unfortunately, keyboard has their own market issues to deal with. The writers there are actually a pretty sharp bunch, and they're surprisngly open-minded. But at the same time, you gotta remember, they have a market too. If they turned into Polyphony mag, it'd be a super awesome read for all seven of us for like, a month. Then it would be gone.

Noisetheorem raises a very interesting and valid point that probably eludes most analog snobs (myself included)- if the big synth companies had the technology to easily make piano/string/slap bass PCM playback synths in 1980, they would've jumped on it and abandoned wonky analog synthesis in a heartbeat. The obvious example is Yamaha and DX synths- they kicked analog to the curb in an instant as soon as FM and it's super-duper Rhodes sound was released. And they HAD to know that a DX7 with its one slider and really hard to understand six-op FM was a shit-ton more complicated to create sounds with than any of its CS-series analog predecessors (except maybe the CS-30, since it's one of the most un-intuitive pieces of analog weirdity I've ever messed with). The strange truth is that the classic, real analog synthesis we all love is one of those strange accidents, and perhaps an even stranger accident that it was embraced by most of the major keyboard makers for a while.

>>What's also funny is that Roland already released a synth based on the legend of the Jupiter 8: the JP-8000

Gosh, I thought it was called the JD-800...

Apr.04.2011 @ 8:33 AM
"...if the big synth companies had the technology to easily make piano/string/slap bass PCM playback synths in 1980, they would've jumped on it and abandoned wonky analog synthesis in a heartbeat"

Sweet baby geebuz...the notion that he may have done something different if Orville Gibson had access to 'Garageband Smart Guitar iPad Instrument' technology way back just almost made my head asplode...I may still have nightmares...

Apr.04.2011 @ 10:08 AM
I managed to maintain the meditative discipline to avoid compulsively clicking any Jupiter-80 link, knowing it was sure to be a travesty, until this thread sucked me in ...

Lord Jesus was I appalled when I actually took a look at the thing ... After all, it's Roland's brand to ruin, but I don't see how the combination of the Fischer Price kiddie colors (which somehow worked in the 80s, or at least we got accustomed to it) with the Darth Vader black and white and gray "marvel at my power" design motif, could have struck anyone as anything but a grade-A clusterfuck.

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