2 – Roland Alpha Juno 2
Years of production: 1985-86
Spec: 6-voice analogue polysynth
Key features: single DCO per voice; classic techno ‘hoover’ sound
Current second-hand price: £150-250
When Roland’s Juno 6 was launched in 1982, it represented a watershed moment in the history of affordable synths. Roland’s only other polyphonic synth at the time was the Jupiter 8, which retailed at nearly £4,000. Even its nearest rival, the Korg PolySix, cost £1,000. At a retail price of £699, the Juno 6 brought polyphony to the masses.
The Juno 6, 60 and 106 proved incredibly popular, seeing off competition such as Korg’s Poly61 and selling strongly throughout the 80s despite the arrival of new digital synths. Considering the success of the Juno range, it’s surprising that the Alpha Juno 1 and 2 didn’t capture the synth buying public’s imagination when they were launched in 1985.
The Alpha Junos were blighted with the same button-and-encoder programming method as the JX-3P, but that isn’t really the reason they’re unloved. The problem is that they just don’t sound like the other Junos. Anyone expecting a version of the classic 6/60/106 sound will be surprised (and possibly disappointed) to find that the Alphas have a distinct character of their own.
Dismissing the Alpha Junos because they don’t sound like all the others is a huge oversight. The Alphas still sound great and, if anything, more versatile than their predecessors. The Alpha Juno’s single biggest contribution to dance music is undoubtedly the classic ‘hoover’ sound heard on tracks such as Joey Beltram’s ‘Mentasm’, the Prodigy’s ‘Charly’ and Human Resource’s ‘Dominator’, but it’s capable of much much more. Acidic bass, aggressive leads, subtle pads; the Alpha can turn its hand to just about anything.
The Alpha Juno 1 and 2 are very similar, but the velocity- and aftertouch-equipped keyboard of the 2 makes it worth the small premium you’ll pay on the second hand market.