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.04.2011 @ 11:20 AM
@mitchell - i apologize for calling you a tool. subtle backpedaling ay? ;) it's just my impression of the magazine as a whole.

i'm definitely not the target audience for keyboard magazine.

Apr.04.2011 @ 11:34 AM

What is offensive about the Jupiter-80 isn't strictly the name. It is the idea that a color scheme, aluminum end panels AND name are consciously deployed to leverage the retro appeal of one of Roland's most highly-regarded synths while simultaneously pissing over everything that made the Jupiter-8 great.

I bet the presets on the Jupiter-80 ARE fun to play, and I bet they do sound awesome. Scripted Kontakt libraries are also fun to play and sound awesome. The head of Roland justifies the use of the Jupiter name to signify their most forward-thinking instrument. This sounds like a reason that was thought to justify the name up after the fact. As well as the phrase "player's instrument" That's just code for "you don't want to program this."

My perception is the Jupiter name (as well as allusions before it like the JD-800 and JP-8000) were synthesizers you could touch and program. A box of hyper-detailed samples sounds like a Proteus to me, not something you'd tweak. People who want something called a Jupiter aren't looking for the next generation's most accurate, expressive double bass because very soon, that sample is known as last generation's most accurate expressive double bass.

In fact, everything about the Jupiter-80 feels like the result of a focus group questionnaire. "How important to you, on a scale from 1-5 are splits and layers?" "How important to you, on a scale from 1-5 is the ability to program sounds?" "How important to you are Organ sounds?" "Do you like big color LCD screens?"

Anyway, this is all within Roland's right to create this kind of product, but if you're going to cash in on Jupiter nostalgia, and the kind of people who are in to that sort of thing, be prepared to be called out for it.

Apr.04.2011 @ 11:41 AM
i'm with stretta

Apr.04.2011 @ 12:21 PM
beauty pill
Korg has my attention.

- c

Apr.04.2011 @ 12:37 PM
i'm with chad.

Apr.04.2011 @ 1:18 PM
@boobs: all cool- I'm not Keyboard's target market either. Truthfully, times is so tough that I imagine their target market is ANY fucker who plays keyboards. They do try and cover the whole spectrum (they review pretty much all the modern-day analog stuff), but they're sorta between a rock and a hard place. I'm probably sensitive about it because everyone I've dealt with over there over the years has been really cool to work for, and pretty open to ideas.

Getting back to the topic, the other odd thing no one's mentioned is that it seems that the type of person who gets excited by a Jupiter-8 isn't the type of person who seeks the world's most awesome upright bass sample. And conversely, the guy who gets excited about that super expressive upright bass doesn't know or care about an original Jupiter-8, they just think it's a funny-looking keyboard. Seems like wasted marketing; it's not like Korg's Kronos looks like a Trident MkII (or an M1, if you want go with well-known iconic instruments). It would be total comedy if the next Yamaha Motif looked like a CS-80 and weighed 200+ lbs though.

Apr.04.2011 @ 1:48 PM
@mitchell: "... 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..."

English is not my native language so I'm sorry if I misunderstood something. Do you mean that you don't give any bad criticism in your reviews when you really think something is bad? o.O

Apr.04.2011 @ 3:35 PM
Chris Randall
He means that when he does a review, he has to say nice things about something he doesn't like.

If you went and grabbed yourself a stack of Keyboard magazines, oh, let's say around 20 years worth, I'd be willing to wager that you won't find one review that is negative. They don't, as a matter of course, give bad reviews.

On the one had, they're very much of an "if we don't have anything nice to say, we won't say anything at all" mindset. On the other, they don't give you the down-side, so their reviews are suspect. And someone like Roland, who has been bankrolling Keyboard's existence for 30 years? God forbid it's anything but what we see in that "preview."


Apr.04.2011 @ 3:46 PM
Talking of Korg...

link [korg.com/Product.asp...]

Interesting thing.

Growing as they are at this rate, by 2024 we should have a twelve octave 64 note polyphonic analog synthesiser.

Apr.04.2011 @ 4:15 PM
I was going to say something about the JP-8000 and the Jupiter heritage, but that Korg link just cleared my short-term memory cache.

OK, here goes: It seems like the JP-8000 was much closer to a modern Jupiter-8 than this latest, seemingly horrible synth. Plus, the JP-8000 seems to have spawned a sound that is at least as popular as any Jupiter-8 sound - the SuperSaw. Think about what improvements could have been made to analog modeling in the last 14 years since the JP-8000 release.

My super cynical view: The actual DSP processing chips in the Jupiter 80 are probably on the order of a few bucks to procure/manufacture. This is the case with most prosumer audio devices nowadays. Back in the analog days, the specialized ICs, matched transistor pairs, and tempco resistors could end up being quite expensive. Today, DSP chips are cheap, the circuit board is relatively cheap, and the expensive components are the pots, knobs and case. By leaving those off the Jupiter 80, and putting in a touch screen which is now a commodity product (thanks, Apple), Roland can save a lot of money over a 1-knob/1-function synth.

Anyway: Korg Monotribe! Damn!

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