Monday, April 29, 2013

Roland Juno-106 "Synful" ad, Keyboard August 1984

Roland Juno-106 synthesizer "Synful" full page colour advertisement from page 7 in the June1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

This ad ended up running in Keyboard Magazine for five months starting in the June1984 issue of Keyboard (skipping July). I had a subscription to Keyboard, but I ended up going down to my favourite gear store and buying a second copy just so I could cut out the big colour front cover photo of the Thompson Twins as well as a few of the black and white photos from the feature article on Tom Bailey. I remember being particularly angry when, coincidentally, a girl with the last name of Bailey drew a moustache on both Tom and Alannah Currie when I put up that photo in my locker at school.

True story - you can't make that sh!t up.

Roland had regularly advertised on the coveted inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine from around March 1980 (starting with a Jupiter-4 ad) until around January 1983 (ending with a Jupiter 8/MC-4 ad). Then it more sporadically took over the page 7 spot with ads for the Juno-60, SH-101 and this ad for the Juno106.

If the inside front cover of a 1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine was equivalent to living on a private island, then page 7 was like living in the South of France. Still a pretty good gig if you can swing it. And early on it was clear the Juno-106 deserved a nice little property in the South of France.

The Juno-106 is kind of a big deal and it really is amazing just how iconic it has become. There are a number of ways to measure the popularity of a vintage synthesizer. Some use the new-to-now price ratio, others the number of times it pops up in interviews with artists in magazines. And of course, you can measure it by looking at the number of comments that can be found on such sites as Vintage Synth Explorer. In the case of that latter measurement, the number of comments would be 176 at the time of this writing.

Let me throw out another number at you: 11. That would be the number of comments that the Siel DK600 (another synth that came out around 1984) has managed to pull together on VSE.

Poor thing.  :)

If you believe the ad-copy for this Juno-106 advertisement, you would think this thing was packed to the brim with features.
"Roland's JUNO synthesizers are known for packing them in. More features, (and followers) than you can count. But this time, the JUNO has outdone even itself"
Wait... what? More features than I can count?   Like multiple oscillators? Nope. Just one. Loads of modifiers like ADSRs and LFOs? Nope. Again, just one of each. Arpeggiator? Sequencer? Nope. Nope.

Truly, not feature-rich. In fact, if all I had were the specs of the machine written on a piece of paper, I would more likely turn my nose up at this single-oscillator synth. And many readers only had just that when the Spec Sheet promo for the Juno-106 appeared the following month in the July 1984 issue of Keyboard. More than a few probably stopped reading after that second sentence:
"Roland Synthesizer. The Juno-106 polyphonic synthesizer is the latest addition to the Juno line, which includes the Juno-60 and Juno-6. The 106 features a 61-note, 5-octave keyboard with six DCOs - one per voice. each voice has its own VCF, VCA, and envelope generator. There is also an LFO and a chorus circuit. Performance controls include a portamento section, pitch-bend, LFO trigger sensitivity control, and master volume. The instrument features 128 user-programmable memory positions, arranged in two groups of eight banks each. Each bank holds eight patches. Hands-free switching between memory positions can be accomplished via a rear panel patch shift jack. A cassette interface for off-loading programs is also included. The unit is equipped with MIDI in, out and thru ports. The instrument can receive note event, pitch-bend, LFO modulation, and program change information via MIDI. Stereo and mono outputs as well as a headphone jack are provided. Measurements are 29.68" wide, 4.6" high, and 12.6" deep. Price is $1,095.00. RolandCorp., 7200 Dominion Circle, Los Angeles, CA 90040."
But, to cast aside the Juno-106 based purely on specs misses the point I'm trying, and as yet, to make.

The rest of the ad-copy doesn't hit this point either, but does tell readers a few other things.  The 106 includes 128 programs - double that of the Juno-60. It has polyphonic portamento. And MIDI (This is 1984! A new era!).   

But like I said. It still doesn't really get to the real point of the Juno-106.

Keep on reading that August 1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine, and you will eventually hit page 78 with a Keyboard Report on the Juno-106 by Dominic Milano.

Right at the beginning, he points out what could have been the Juno-106's Achilles heel. But quickly puts that myth to rest - well, at least as far as the Juno-106 is concerned.
"Polyphonic synthesizers that feature a single oscillator per voice have been looked on with disdain for years by experienced synthesists. the contention is that somehow they don't sound as good as the "standard" two-oscillator-per-voice instruments... But it's also true that there are single-oscillator instruments that offer a lot more than just relatively low cost. Roland's new Juno-106 is one of them."
And finally we get to the point.


The Juno-106 offers sweet sweet sound. Enough to make this $1095 synthesizer worth every penny. And more. And to help get that sound, the Juno-106 includes low and high pass filters, a noise source, a stereo chorus unit built in, and a juicy sub-octave generator. As Dominic states:
"For a single-oscillator instrument, it really punches."
Got that right. Super yummy punchy bass!

End note: Oh. And like I mentioned before - this thing has sweet sweet MIDI as well. Or as Dominic puts it in his keyboard Report:
"...the instrument packs more control over MIDI functions than any instrument we've seen to date". 
In fact, apparently one little known feature of the Juno-106 even among my fellow 106-fanatics is the ability to hook two 106s together with MIDI such that the front panel controls of the master can affect the controls of the slave. And even though I tend to use my Juno-106 mostly for bass sounds - never holding down more than one note at a time - I'm always on the look out for another realistically-priced 106 just so I can hook them together and try this out.

I'm still waiting.   :)

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