The Queen of Gods | The God of Synths

Juno was the wife and sister of Jupiter, the chief Roman god, and the two of them were worshipped as they protected the Roman nation. Seeking constant inspiration from cultures that are not of his own, discussing the cross-cultural pollination of post-war Japan, extensively, in his last text, An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World , Japanese inventor Ikutaro Kakehashi, drew upon this European mythical dichotomy to release the two most important synthesizer models ever created, the Jupiter and the Juno

Releasing his chief Roman god, the flagship Roland Jupiter-8 in 1981, Kakehashi used this robust model as a blueprint to create more affordable versions of this synth throughout the next decade.

Roland Jupiter-8 (1981)
Roland Jupiter-8 (1981)

The next model of the Jupiter series , the Jupiter-6, didn’t come out until January 1983 and featured some critical improvements to its predecessor. Although, updated and massive sounding, this 2 oscillator per voice Cadillac of synthesis would still set you back around $2995 in 1983, roughly $7,600 in 2019 dollars.

However, it was in September of 1982, that Roland’s greatest product achievement would come to market. The Queen of Gods, the most affordable, feature-rich, efficiently utilitarian polyphonic sonic paintbrush ever made, The Queen of Synths, the Roland Juno.

Roland Juno-6 (1982)
Roland Juno-6 (1982)

The Juno-6 was the first of the polyphonic synthesizers to be sold for under $2000. It features 6 voices with the sounds being generated by an innovative technology with its Digitally Controlled Oscillators. The lush character of the Jupiter series was now reimagined, and re-engineered, for the general public’s consumption. A new workhorse standard in synthesis was born.

Released in September 1982, The Juno-60 features the same six voices of polyphony, 56 presets, and an IR3109 filter chip, these features, along with the unit’s tuning stability, made the Juno-60 a popular instrument choice for a wide range of artists.

Roland Juno-60 (1982)
Roland Juno-60 (1982)


Roland’s first synthesizer with memory found its way on to many famous pop records of the era, such as “Borderline” by Madonna, “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys, “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, “Take On Me” by a-ha, and “Save A Prayer” by Duran Duran, among many others. The Juno was a favorite synth of the influential early house music producers out of Chicago, as heard on Mr. Fingers’ seminal Deep House blueprint, “Can You Feel It”.

Released in 1983, the Juno-106 offers 6-voices of polyphony, MIDI programmability, preset storage, -24db filtering, digitally controlled oscillators, for consistently remaining tuned, with an analog signal path for synthesis. Roland 80017A VCF/VCA IC Hybrid Chips powered the 6 voices on the synth.

Roland Juno-106 (1983)
Roland Juno-106 (1983)

The integrations of analog sound generation with digital controls, see this indispensable synthesizer in a league of its own and not only during its era of release but its forward-thinking concept is still relevant today with them being relatively affordable especially when compared to other comparable polyphonic synths of that era.

Retroactive Synthesis | Future Forward Sequencing

The Juno series of polyphonic synthesizers were launched during the same period as other iconic instruments from which whole genres emerged. Between 1980 and 1984, Roland released not only the Juno-6, 60, and 106, but also the TR-808, TB-303, TR-606, SH-101, TR-909, TR-707, as well as the aforementioned Jupiter models.

Later on, once MIDI was standardized in 1983, Roland would release the MSQ line of sequencers, allowing the translation of MIDI to DIN and DCB, modernizing their older models of synths and drum machines.

Roland MSQ-700 Sequencer
Roland MSQ-700 Sequencer

10 Reasons Why The Roland Juno Is The Greatest Synthesizer Of All Time

  1. Ikutaro Kakehashi’s efforts in the 1960s and 1970s with his previous company, Ace Tone, laid the groundwork for Roland’s vigorous vertically integrated manufacturing process by the early 80s. This produced a combined total of around 116,000, between the Juno-6, Juno-60, and Juno-106, of these synths during just this three year period, making it the most available and affordable 6-voice analog synth then and now.
    First Generation Roland Juno Advertisements
    First Generation Roland Juno Advertisements
  2. The first Roland synth with DCOs, Digitally Controlled Oscillators, preventing the constant tuning issues that plagued most polyphonic predecessors.  These DCOs produce variable pulse, sawtooth, and sub-pulse as the three outputs. Driven by the VCA, these digital controls stabilize the fully analog signal path. See the schematic below for these unique DCO designs at that time.
    Juno DCO Schematic by Tom Wiltshire
    Juno DCO Schematic by Tom Wiltshire
  3. One of the first Roland synths with MIDI, only preceded by the Jupiter-6 and JX-3P a standardization Kakehashi co-authored. Based on his DCB or Digital Control Bus protocol, Kakehashi, along with Dave Smith received a Technical GRAMMY Award in 2013 for their work in developing the MIDI standard.
    Synth Gods: Dave Smith, Bob Moog, Ikutaro Kakehashi and Tom Oberheim
    Synth Gods: Dave Smith, Bob Moog, Ikutaro Kakehashi and Tom Oberheim
  4. This workhorse of polyphony is capable of creating any genre of music with its ability to create lush pads, stark brass tones, bombastic bass patches, striking strings, iconic transition sounds, and effects.
    1980s Roland Juno Family 
    1980s Roland Juno Family
  5. Loaded with storage of up to 128 presets on the Juno-106, the instant patch recall and programmability of the original Juno series are exceptionally superior to its peers of the era.
    Original Factory Patches | Roland Juno-106 Patch Names
    Original Factory Patches | Roland Juno-106 Patch Names
  6. Designed for fast, effective, and intuitive sound designing, all the necessary controls, sliders, and wave shaping tools are directly on the faceplate.
    Roland Juno-106 Faceplate and Specifications 
    Roland Juno-106 Faceplate and Specifications
  7. The onboard chorus modulation effect, with up to three settings—a signature sonic character of the Juno series, was based around the distinctly iconic Roland bucket brigade designs from the 70s, like the Roland DC-50 from 1976.
    Roland DC-50 BBD Delay (1976)
    Roland DC-50 BBD Delay (1976)
    Roland Juno-106 MIDI Controls And Programmability Options
    Roland Juno-106 MIDI Controls And Programmability Options
  8. One of the first synths to use the brand new MIDI standard at the time the Juno-106 model only, it featured highly advanced MIDI control mapping to the sliders and knobs via SysEx, a complete remote control long before that was anywhere near standardized.
     J106 Librarian
    J106 Librarian
    Night Birds Evolve Juno-106 Editor Night Birds Evolve Juno-106 Editor
  9. Utilizing an audible programming code, the factory presets can easily be restored to the instrument with use of these aural programming messaging protocol or code. You can download the factory audible code for restoring the Juno-106 here, Roland Juno-106 Factory Bank A, Roland Juno-106 Factory Bank B, or you can use a modern librarian editor like the J106,  the Night Birds Evolve Juno-106 Editor, the Rekon Audio VST-AU JUNO-106 Editor, or the JunoControl – MAX 4 Live Roland JUNO-106 Editor to streamline this process.
    Rekon Audio VST-AU JUNO-106 Editor
    Rekon Audio VST-AU JUNO-106 Editor
    JunoControl - MAX 4 Live Roland JUNO-106 Editor
    JunoControl – MAX 4 Live Roland JUNO-106 Editor
  10. One of the earliest synths to incorporate polyphonic portamento control, this made glissandos, in relation to multiple voices like chordal harmonies, possible on many voices simultaneously. A great primer on this technique is here: Legato Synths: Glide, Slide, and Portamento.
    Glide/Portamento Circuit
    Glide/Portamento Circuit

Furthermore, #11m, the aftermarket on mods, unique colors, circuit-bending, and almost any other variation of customization you can think of for the Roland Juno series is, by far, the most proliferated of any synth model out there.

From the massive feature expansion the KIWI-106 Mod offers and the Juno-66 Mod, turning the Juno-6 and Juno-60 into a Juno-106, as well as the many manufacturers of wood paneling to make the Juno-106 look more like the Juno-60, to the endless white and multicolor variant Junos as well as the ability to play, record and export MIDI on a Juno-106 in your web browser, with the 106.JS.

This fanatic user base alone is a testament to the cultural impact this synth has had on the world. Accessibility, usability, feature offerings, polyphony, manufactured available quantity, and distinct sonic utility have levered the Roland Juno as the most ubiquitous synth of popular, underground, and experimental music culture since its release.

106.JS Web Browser Juno-106
106.JS Web Browser Juno-106

The Synth Queen’s Legacy | Post Synthesis Genesis Era

While many attempts were made to recapture that same impact the original Juno series had on music making, including the Roland Alpha Juno 1, Alpha Juno 2, and MKS-50 Module, none succeeded to galvanize the music world anywhere close to the insurmountable influence the first three Juno models did in the early 1980s.

Modern-day synthesizers have incrementally gotten smaller, more affordable, and mainly focused around digital synthesis technologies, while Roland continued the Juno brand with many models sharing only the Juno name alone, including the Juno-G, Juno-D, Juno-Di, Juno-DS, and the JU-06 from their recent Roland Boutique Series sound module line.

Most, if not all, of these later keyboards and modules in the Juno series are, essentially, virtual instruments or plugins with the JU-06 Boutique and Roland Cloud Juno-106 even utilizing the same proprietary Roland ACB emulation technology housed in cosmetically pleasing cases attached to MIDI controllers/keyboards.

The Next Generation Roland Juno Series
The Next Generation Roland Juno Series

Visions Of The Future | The Virtual Queen Of Synths

The ability to accurately model the sought-after synth sounds of any era via software is the current state-of-the-art. These advancements in digital signal processing have given rise to a myriad of emulations of classic synthesizers, including the nostalgic Juno sound. The chameleon sonic quality of the Juno’s lushness was an inevitable pursuit for DSP developers.  

After a handful of early attempts to recreate this distinct texturing, including many VST-only formatted plugins, such as the Sixth Month June and the kwop7 VST by GTG, some of the early attempts at recreating the Juno magic left somethings to be desired.

Sixth Month June and kwop 7 by GTG

Sixth Month June and kwop 7 by GTG

Massive improvements in digital signal processing technology and have over time surfaced many new products that are worth being considered. Below, are my top three virtual emulations of the classic Juno-60 and Juno-106.

As a part of their Syntronik Collection of highly sought after vintage synths, IK Multimedia took a shot at the Juno-60, with the IK Multimedia Syntronik J-60 . An impressive virtual synth, it is the only one of the three that is a sample-based virtual instrument. Although intrinsically that makes it a bit more resource intensive, the sounds and presets IK Multimedia developed are top-notch and its one that I return to often.

IK Multimedia Syntronik J-60
IK Multimedia Syntronik J-60

Another promising one is made by the original manufacturer. About five years ago, Roland embarked on a research project to create software versions of their iconic legacy products. After an organizational decision to move forward with bringing these instruments to market, Roland Virtual Sonics aka Roland Cloud was formed as the touchstone for their consumer-facing offerings.

The Roland Cloud Juno-106 nails the sound, presets, patches, and functionality of the original, utilizing their proprietary ACB-powered (Analog Circuit Behavior – Roland’s propriety analog modeling technology) PLUG OUT technology (Patch Builder and Editor), all the way down to the classic Roland 80017A VCF/VCA integrated circuit.

This one ships with all the standard Juno-106 sounds, and the addition of the PLUG-OUT feature allowing the transfer of your presets to their System series synths I look forward to even more musical utility with this plugin and the Roland Virtual Sonics team in the coming years.

Roland Cloud Juno-106
Roland Cloud Juno-106

Togu Audio Line aka TAL is a team of Swiss DSP wizards who make a small, but effective suite of music software tools. The TAL-U-NO-LX is the company’s second attempt at nailing this synthetic character, improving upon their TAL-U-NO-62 (now a free download, but no longer developer supported).

TAL U-NO-LX V2
TAL U-NO-LX V2

Shipping with the original Juno factory preset banks A/B, this product has attracted a culture and an entire community’s worth of creators making patches, over 200+ patches from many top sound designers, downloadable immediately after purchase. This is my top choice for Juno-60 lushness and sound designs.

Furthermore, TAL makes a FREE Juno-60 chorus effect, taken from their U-NO-LX, with the TAL-Chorus-LX. This particular unique modulation effect is really one of the more distinct sounds of the Roland Juno series, and it’s fantastic to have it as a standalone processor.

TAL-Chorus-LX

TAL-Chorus-LX

An Illustration of Virtualization | The Queen Dreams of Tangerine

As a musician, record producer, and sound designer, over the years, I have continued my music education through structured lessons I learned in academia.

Learning music composition through the tradition of writing Études, is something that I continue to apply to my digital music production routine, regularly. In a series where I recreate the music and sounds of some of my favorite records, serving the purpose of a modern Étude, The Change Request ReVision,I wanted to present something special for this very personal editorial.

Utilizing only these top three aforementioned software choices, I remade a song from one of my all-time favorite pioneering groups of synth music, the Krautrock masters, Tangerine Dream. I remade “Canyon Voices” off of their fourteenth soundtrack album, Canyon Dreams.

This song was always a stand out of their compelling score to Jan Nickman’s film about the Grand Canyon, which eventually earned them their first GRAMMY Award nomination.

Linked below (underneath the image) is the full recreation of this song from the German masters, using only the Syntronik J-60, Roland Cloud Juno-106, and TAL U-NO-LX, made available as a free download to Attack Mag readers. Click here to download the track.

Tangerine Dream | Canyon Voices (Change Request ReVision)
Tangerine Dream | Canyon Voices (Change Request ReVision)

Long Live The Queen | The Lasting Legacy

Much like the Roman god this synthesizer series was named after, the Juno-6, Juno-60, and Juno-106 released by Roland during their prime musical instrument innovation era of the 1980s, ultimately, their greatest achievement, gave the music community the world’s most utilitarian polyphonic programmable synthesizer its ever seen.

The Roland Juno series still, to this day hasn’t been eclipsed by neither in technological feature combinations at the price point, general affordability for a—now—vintage instrument, quick and effective usability, or a significant sonic signature of distinction and characteristic sonorus originality.

Long Live The Queen!

Neal Andrew Emil Gustafson is a  Chicago-based musician, record producer and journalist. For more information about his work, check out his home on the web: www.andrewemil.com.

28th March, 2019

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