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.
 
 
 

50 comments:

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Apr.04.2011 @ 4:34 PM
Chris Randall
Speaking from experience, the expensive component is the engineer that codes the DSP, not the chip.

-CR
 
 

 
Apr.04.2011 @ 7:42 PM
Computer Controlled
I just don't see how this is forward thinking. The V-Synth was forward thinking... this? Not so much.
 
 

 
Apr.04.2011 @ 8:50 PM
seancostello
CR: It depends how many you sell. In the hardware biz (and by hardware, I mean the boring stuff like car stereos I used to work on), the volume of sales can be high enough that it is worthwhile to spend more on the development, such that the manufacturer can use a less powerful DSP. For smaller production numbers, the engineers become a more considerable factor in the price needed to turn a profit. I'm not sure where the Jupiter-80 would stand in this spectrum, and how much of the DSP/OS is new versus recycled from older products.
 
 

 
Apr.04.2011 @ 9:08 PM
kid vs chemical
Who the fuck cares about another rompler (WTF is Supernatural about it). I think we should riot and burn synths, like onar3d said. Your point is well taken, but Korg continues to make cool shit, and money at the same time.
 
 

 
Apr.05.2011 @ 1:13 AM
Taxist
Hasn't Roland historically been off on the mark though? The 303 808 909 ended up going for peanuts when they were first introduced because nobody wanted them. 30 years later they are ridiculously overpriced collectors pieces. Correct me if I am wrong, I only have internet mythology to reference.
 
 

 
Apr.05.2011 @ 1:30 AM
Blake
I'm with boobs.
 
 

 
Apr.05.2011 @ 4:21 AM
mitchell
@Trackdriver and Chris: I don't "have" to say anything. In my experience, Keyboard tends to be very easygoing and has never given me a hard time for being critical of gear- they usually print what the writers write realtively verbatim. But at the same time I'm not usually that critical because I just don't feel as if my ideals have much in common with the vast majority of their readership. Thus it makes sense to write reviews that are useful to them. I love real analog, preferably discrete. I don't even like new Moogs or Prophet '08's- I'll take my rev3 Prophet-5 any day for numerous reasons. But most people aren't like me and I recognize that. (for the record, when I did more reviews for them, I tried to do stuff that I inherently liked, such as the Oberheim SEM or Korg mini Kaoss pad).

I recently did a video for the new M-Audio keyboard and I just tried to point out the hight points for the people in that market (i.e. $500 synth that's full of techno). The fact that it's not my bag is almost irrelevant. Besides, every analog synth I own was in the background (not intentionally), so I guess those in know might've figured things out :)
 
 

 
Apr.05.2011 @ 3:37 PM
boobs
@mitchell - i do like reviews where the person doing it is 'matter of fact' about it and not emotional about it (though easy to understand the triggers set off in some people by stocking jupiter on a keyboard) -

"it's a thing that does this this and this but not this or this" - i find that useful but at the same time i like little op-ed in there about how it sounds, what maybe it compares to etc.. just from a readability point of view.. i'll read a review of something even if i'm not in the market for it.. just out of curiosity as to what new synth technology is being used or what have they figured out how to do that isn't yet in the mix... but if it's all praise then i just consider it pablum.
 
 

 
Apr.06.2011 @ 4:07 PM
MR-808
@Sean: Here's an 80s video with a JP8 that isn't awful: link [www.youtube.com] (melancholic Scottish synthpop from The Blue Nile). Unfortunately, it doesn't have a synthporn shot of the Jupe and you have to be pretty familiar with the synth to ID it.

The other Jupiter-8-wielding 80s band that doesn't suck which comes to mind is Shriekback. But they didn't make a lot of videos and I can't remember any with the JP8.
 
 

 
Apr.12.2011 @ 2:44 PM
D' MacKinnon
Fucking money-grab by Roland.
This is going to be just another doorstop in five years when the target audience moves onto the next rompler of the moment. It saddens me that they are just pissing all over their legacy.

Whatever happened to building something innovative?
 
 

 
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