Roland Boutique JD-08 and JX-08 review: Worthy and welcome additions to the Boutique range

Roland’s boutique chain shows no signs of fatigue. The boutiques offer audio drivers for some of Roland’s most popular synths along with arpeggators, powerful sequencers, incredible portability and low cost. Roland’s two most recent versions, the JD-08 and JX-08, are compact re-releases of a classic of the early 1990s, the JD-800, and a mid-1980s digital/analog hybrid, the JX-8P.

Unknown hero

Roland’s JD-800 doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Ask a synth enthusiast what Roland’s most popular synth is ever, and only this beast’s devotee of the early ’90s will remember him before Roland’s Juno, Jupiter, and SH models. But without the JD-800, the return to slider-heavy tactile modular programming might have been delayed for several more years.

The massive, deep front panel of tuned programmers reconnects with the controls they need to make authentic sounds. Composite manufacturers never returned to the “soft key” days of burying parameters under the weight of rolls. Roland’s decision to turn the JD-800’s user interface into a bold boutique mod – how do you fit all the features into a six-by-12-inch panel? More importantly, did Roland manage to bring one of the earliest classics of the early 1990s into the 21st century?

power board

The JD-800’s four audio architecture is carried over to the JD-08, including 64 original presets, 108 waveforms and two-part multi-effects capabilities. Furthermore, there are new presets in a total of 256 memory locations for your sounds, along with standard Boutique features such as External Clock In to sync the JD-08 with other modules in the series.

Each patch has a structure of four sounds with layers selected on the left side, before the Waveform tweak in the Wave Generator (WG) section lets you assign sounds to each tone. Most of the space is saved by offering a single set of envelope controls in the top right, with a toggle below that determines whether you’re adjusting pitch, filter, or amp settings.

Two LFOs can be similarly identified prior to JD-08’s major boutique features; Not just a sound sequencer, but a round-the-clock step sequencer that can be programmed note-by-note or in real time. Palette sliders at the top allow you to control a whole host of functions on the go, such as the level between tones, thus acting as a kind of mini mixer.

Roland JD-08

The JD-08 allows you to play two layers of audio simultaneously in independent sequences, although you will need to read the manual extensively to understand the capabilities of the JD-08 in this area. Since two layers of sequencing can play separate patterns, switching between them and then choosing the active sequencing steps, then mapping the data and feedback lanes is a huge burden for both the brain and the numbers until you understand how Roland organized things. But the sound is pure, open, bright, rich and detailed. It’s easy to forget how versatile a musical instrument the JD-800 was, and to be reminded of, via the JD-08, it’s rather cool.

Roland JD-08

Back to the 80’s

Whereas the JD-800 was a scrolling behemoth, the 1985 JX-8P was the opposite—a sleek, button-heavy powerhouse that required the PG-800 programmer to deliver its full potential via a touch control surface. Fortunately, the JX-08 Boutique unit offers a combination of both in one instrument, allowing you to easily program sounds from the front panel. Two digitally controlled oscillators get the ball rolling, each with options for waveform selection, LFO amount, range and tuning dials, as well as mutual modulation between audio sources. The mixer section provides blending of the two, as well as casing control over output levels.

Roland JX-08

Speaking of envelopes, there are two types, and the filter section offers a Juno-style high-pass filter, as well as a resonant low-pass, with LFO and envelope modulation. There are two layers for any sound, which can be played simultaneously via the keyboard (dual), or in split mode, if you prefer one sound for the right and left hands. Arpeggiator and Sequencer modes are included as you wish, again with the large manual references required to extract the maximum value.

The JX-8P is revered for its strings, rich copper and rich pads well, and those are beautifully displayed here. It’s a pleasure to introduce the fast, random LFO movement in the DCO and/or filter sections, to produce flicker variations for sustainable sounds, while there are attractive ambient patterns as you tap the sequencer options.

Roland JX-08

Both units offer a lot for their price. As always with Roland’s Boutiques, the sound engines are compelling, and provide a modern take on some of the classic instruments. But their only drawback is functionality versus size; Packing so much potential in such a thin frame inevitably means switching between modes. Using the digital buttons for many functions (at the same time, if you’re programming sequences and playing notes) is fine, and the four-segment LEDs do their best to keep you up to date with the current parameter or situation, but at least in the beginning, they might make you Deeper posts scratch your head when you hit the manual again.

However, persistence will be rewarded. Each of these units are welcome additions to an ever-growing collection of truly compelling synthesizers. Don’t be fooled by the compact speaker, compact frame, and portability; These are far from being games. They are excellent, entertaining, high-powered synthesizers that sound great. If we choose one? For us, it’s the JX-8P. But if Roland conveniently forgot that they sent us for a review, all the better.

Roland JX-08

Feature guides

JOD -08

  • 108 original waveforms for extensive patch design capabilities
  • 75 presets including 64 original presets JOD 800
  • Two-part, 64-step, eight-tone (per part) polyphonic sequencer with motion recording, random pattern generator, memory for 128 patterns
  • Two-part polyphony with expanded polyphony, up to 128 sounds
  • Four-part structure for pitching
  • Detailed recreation of the JD-800 . two-stage multi-effects section
  • Distortion, Visor, Spectrum, Enhancer, Delay, Chorus, and Reverb

JX-08

  • PG-800 programmer functions included
  • Includes 32 presets from the original JX-8P plus 111 new presets
  • 17 new types of effects including JUNO-106 chorus, SDD-320 reverb, lo-fi comp, super filter, pute shifter and more
  • Two-part, 64-step, eight-tone (per part) polyphonic sequencer with motion recording, random pattern generator, memory for 128 patterns
  • Expanded polyphony compared to the original, up to 20 sounds
  • Two-part multiplayer to play multiple patches with dual and split capabilities

Both

  • flight attendant
  • USB-C audio interface / MIDI interface, full-size MIDI input / output, external clock input
  • Portable design for mobile music making
  • High quality construction with metal front panel
  • Powered by batteries (4 x AA) or USB-C
  • Control information can be sent and received via MIDI and USB-C
  • Built-in mini speaker for instant enjoyment
  • Compatible with optional DK-01 Boutique Dock or K-25m keyboard module

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