Sonic LAB: Roland Juno Di On Test

Mobile synthesizer - has it got legs?      27/07/09

No flash plug

   QuickTime (MP4)  | iOS MP4    Windows Media 
12:17 mins

When the first of the new Juno keyboards arrived on the scene, people scoffed - "Thats not a proper Juno!" they said, "we remember the Juno6 and 106 - now they were classics." And they might be correct, but as Roland oft pointed out, the Juno concept was to bring the features available in their higher end keyboards (at that time the Jupiter 8 and 6) into a more affordable package.

Which is precisely the Juno Di's intended purpose. Only obviously not the JP8 and 6, more the Fantom. So, here it is in my office, all 61 keys in an unfeasibly light battery (or mains) powered package.

I plug it in, I play. For quite a long time, and still I play. The Juno Di has well over 1,000 on board patches grouped (loosely) into instrument types. Hit the Piano bank and scroll through 128 acoustic and electro-mechanical pianos. Want some brass? Hit the brass button and do the same.

This is where the Juno Di scores, with these Fantom G derived sound sets (not entirely sure what this means) you get a LOT of presets to play with. There is of course a price - the only front panel tweakage comes via the five Sound Modify knobs - these have fixed assignments - Attack, Release, Reverb, Cutoff and Resonance. Further tweaking only available through the 3 built in effects generators with 79 algorithms accessed by hitting shift and one of the four bank buttons - definitely a two handed task. If you want to dig deep, your going to have to hook up via USB (rear connection) or MIDI and fire up the Juno Di editor - an application not likely to win any software design awards, but certainly functional -  and this will give you access to the familliar four tones (oscillators), TVF (filter) and TVA (amplifier) plus effects and the like. It's funny but this reminds me of the editor for the D-110 - my first ever trusty multi-timbral synth.

Juno What I Mean?
Roland have done a great job of getting the best out of 64MB of Wave ROM, and its clearly a testament to the synth and effects engine that it's capable of such a large patch library. Not all these patches are going to have you blissing out, in fact, some of them are downright dreadful, but not all that many. The grand piano is actually quite a high point, though suffers a little from the short-travel 61 key keyboard's inabillity to be really subtle. But on the whole it's a good bunch, perhaps lacking in the signature sounds that only some specialist soft or hardware synths can create.

This Is How You Juno
Where the Juno Di really scores high, is the additional features - deep breath:

Easy split/dual and Super Layer modes quick one button access
Arpeggiator and Chord Memory
D-Beam control but almost useless Solo Synth voice
Rhythm parts with six variations quick computer free jamming
Tap Tempo
Song Player -USB Stick access
You can set up a preset mute group for MIDI files (eg: single or multiple parts)

Centre voice cancel for audio files
 - drop the lead vocal - can be a bit hit and miss
Mic in with separate Reverb/Delay effect shame it's not on XLR and no Compression/EQ
sort of
Stereo Mini-jack in for secondary audio source basically you could do a gig solo with no additional mixer if you need to.

Juno What I Think?
I'm impressed. I was rather dreading this review, as equipment this erm, feature rich is quite hard to review in a short (ish) video format, and all that work is rather wasted if you think something is totally rubbish - which had crossed my mind as a possibility. But, this is all rather moot, as the Juno Di is actually a good, solid and useable sound source. All those voices and patches mean it can fill large holes in any arrangement, with plenty to spare. And its 16 part multi-timbral performance mode means it can be a good partner with your DAW to cope with your MIDI sequences too should you need it to.

The keyboard action is probably the weakest link, taking a little work to play smooth dynamics - which you will want to with some of the voices requiring it. But at this price, something has to give. More outputs would be nice too, but D/A=$$$.

I'd say it was pretty ideal as a beginners keyboard, it will also give you enough features to find it something useful to do live and in the studio. Chuck this, a laptop and a pair of headphones in the car and you'd have more than enough firepower to write that filmscore or sketch out the bones of some songs in the cottage, or heck,  take it camping - it runs on batteries!

An excellent value keyboard.

$799/£549 you'll find it cheaper on the streets no doubt.

Available July 2009

Nick Batt



More From: ROLAND
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31 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
tobeng    Said...

Great review, I wish they would make a "real" Juno though...

27-Jul-09 06:52 AM

Nick B    Said...

Its funny, but the 'real' juno was kind of the same thing, a budget synth for its time.

I'm not sure Roland would sell enough synths to fund the R&D of another pure analog synth, it might be nice to see a Juno-fied version of the VSynth though

27-Jul-09 07:02 AM

mystic radio    Said...

actually would be nice if Roland got out of the rehashed JVish sounds they have been recirculating for years. to me they sound like excited JV sounds with some slick effects... TIME FOR A NEW ENGINE RETHINK MY JAPANESE FRIENDS.. cant they put in filters like novation or access ? those synths were virtual... GET WITH IT ROLAND

27-Jul-09 09:44 AM

Nick B    Said...

Mystic, that's a really good point, I originally bought a JV1080 for the same functions that I would recommend the Di for now, except its less than 50% of the price and has a keyboard and a number of other features that make it pretty good value.

i think, though I may be wrong, that the V-Synth does have a totally different engine and would appeal to the synthesist. This stuff is more of a massive sound bank of useable sounds - which do have their basis in the JV (and earlier) voice structure

27-Jul-09 10:20 AM

mystic radio    Said...

nice review Nick... always like your style in reviews

27-Jul-09 04:07 PM

donger needing food    Said...

Fantastic review . . . Holy Christ, I just farted, and boy does it stink!!! Anyway, great review, Nick. Thanks! And thanks for demo-ing the (unimpressive) vocoder.

It seems like all of the big companies are thinking small nowadays . . . nothing "outside the box", just re-hashes of previous successes.

I don't blame them (I'd probably play it safe, too, if it was my money), but I haven't been really excited about a sub-$1,000 product from "the big three" since . . . since the MS-2000, and that's a LOOONG time ago.

You also touched on something that's bugged me for a long time, Nick. Why on Earth hasn't Roland re-released the 808 and 909? They're clearly not afraid to go back to the past to lift a name for a new product, why not just re-release? The knobs, the outs, the step sequencer row of buttons . . . why haven't they done it yet? And I'm not talking about the MC-909. I'm talking about a sub-$1,000 (ideally, sub-$500) old skool drum machine.

Didn't they see the massive success Korg had with the Electribes?

It boggles the mind.

28-Jul-09 06:04 AM

squeakD    Said...

Great review! It should be noted that the Vocoder on the Di can do MUCH more than shown in this vid. There are presets, but you can use any patch as a source for the vocoder (preset or user). The US price isn't $799 either. We're getting these things for $699 over here.

28-Jul-09 08:58 AM

Nick B    Said...

Squeak, I couldnt really get much articulation from the vocoder myself, so I didnt spend that much time on it.

Regarding the price, I was quoting $799 as the RRP. I'm sure you can get it cheaper of course.

28-Jul-09 09:41 AM

squeakD    Said...

Totally understandable Nick. Plus you're limted in your time on this vid too :) I've got one on pre-order and I'm probably one of the first in the United States to order one (ordered mine several weeks ago through Sweetwater). Roland packed a lot into this little performance synth too, and when you look at the bad it's quicky outweighed by the good points :) Plus it's a JUNO :) The Juno is and has always been a budget "affordable" line of synths since its introduction years ago. Again.., great video review on this synth! I posted a link to this review at the Roland Clan Forum for the Di as well.

28-Jul-09 09:48 AM

Benedict Johnson    Said...

Oh, I would have loved this 12 years ago, when I was suffering along with my Korg X5.. Now that I'm Mr. Nord, I want to look down my nose at it - but it just looks so useful!

Roland are persevering with their atrocious, aliasing D-Beams, the "super-layer" feature looks like something I would have got excited about back in the day, then there are all those vocal thru/midi/mp3 player functions - all seems like such a well-observed feature-set!

I have ill-informed and unrealistic opinions about sample-RAM, plus it's the wrong kind of product to be having these opinions about, but I wish they'd focus "more on less".

I'd recommend this to newbies or veterans willing to compromise concentrated quality for portability and broadness.

Surely the portable synth market is absolutely gaping now? Especially now that gigging is the only business-model left for turning music into money..

28-Jul-09 12:00 PM

Nick B    Said...

Benedict, wise observations and I agree, if this kind of tech had been available at this price back in the day, I would have been in heaven.

You point about the gig is where the money is is spot on too.

28-Jul-09 01:26 PM

s r dhain    Said...

Good review nick, and rather than repeat what everyoen else has said - same old jv sound set and engine, not a true juno etc- Id like to say that as i still have a JD990 AND a jv1080 - the 990 holds my vintage board- then this is of no use to me. But then i still have my motif xs6, moog voyager, radias, etc, etc..

On another point, YOU CAN make money via scoring, but youve really gotta be adept at doign variations on a theme and be QUICK at it too. In effect, you learn with time and experience to be a bit pre-emptive. For scoring, the JUNO DI would be a good bang for the buck, especially if its your ONLY keyboard for a while till you make some meatier £££.

Guys there are newer business models coming , such as POLYPHONIC's model where they wont own your publishing et al, but will have a share in sales etc. Its a different time cause the whole industry is going through the mill, but keep your chins up..there's light at the end of the tunnel (fingers crossed)

big L


28-Jul-09 05:39 PM

squeakD    Said...

Mine will be here tomorrow!!!! SWEEEEET!!!!!!

04-Aug-09 06:43 PM

Mafew    Said...

Not really that great. Guess the portability factor is cool but 800 is a lot for that. There's nothing new or interesting here.

06-Aug-09 04:04 PM

squeakD    Said...

It's selling for less than $700 in the USA. We're getting them here for $699 with extended warranties and free shipping.

10-Aug-09 06:32 AM

selercs    Said...

roland really needs to do better at analog modeling...create at least a 4 part, 24 voice analog modeling engine...

that being said juno-d is a great can definitely create your own signature sounds using its quite deep synthesis engine, and the vocoder is actually really good...better than what he reviewed.

the sounds are very warm and rich in this video and i have no doubt that this will be a great keyboard unless you want some more programmability: pwm/sync/fm/oscillator drifting/feedback,etc...well even the fantom g doesn't have any of those capabilities.

the key action didn't bother me one bit...also lack of aftertouch is a good thing manytimes because when recording into computer sequencer, you don't have to worry about unnecessary aftertouch events...the sustain/release section of the envelope can provide appropriate sound effects or voice oscillators.

a great synth indeed!

10-Aug-09 08:54 PM

selercs    Said...

mystic radio,

roland already has a nice analog modeling synth with tb style filters...its called the V-synth.

besides, i think novation/access are really really overrated. virus' filter aliasing is pathetic and novation has a sound character like a vst plugin. heck, i sold my supernova and bought the v-station...same sound.

if you want pure analog tone with deep, rich, warm sounds, get the mopho or the prophet 08 ... they don't have effects, but you can use external processor for that.

10-Aug-09 08:59 PM

Eric S    Said...

yeah i feel that the name 'juno' is a abused by these modern uses. though as a keyboard it is a nice cute unit. though i would prefer the REAL sound of a REAL juno.

10-Aug-09 11:09 PM

selercs    Said...


As Nick the reviewer mentioned, 'Juno' does not mean 'analog', it means 'affordable'...Juno 106 was a cut down jupiter, and juno di is a cut down fantom-g.

Roland thinks analog will cost too much to research and design and they said they will be sticking to digital (including analog modeling)...

i am just hoping that they can release a more powerful analog modeling keyboard than the sh-201...soomething like a jupiter clone but with authentic analog modeling...i am sure they are afraid analog aficionados will compare them and blast roland for the 'thin' sound of analog is life.

i like Nick's review a lot except what he said about this keyboard only good for bread and butter sounds...that is far from true: if you use the computer editor, you can get into full fantom level editing of the patches complete with 3 MFX, etc.

12-Aug-09 01:00 AM

selercs    Said...

well sure, the v-synth gt 2.0 version has analog modeling, but i was talking about a standalone VA synth with more multi-timbral parts and polyphony like the virus.

for real analog, we still have good ole dave smith!

12-Aug-09 01:02 AM

squeakD    Said...

I own the Juno-Di and I think people need to play one of these before making up their minds. If you haven't played one.., then you'll not understand what Roland has done with the Di's patches. Patch Mode is down to a single osc or tone.., but WOW what Roland did with that single osc/tone is unreal. To see what Roland has done all you have to do is hook up to your computer and use the editor. We're talking patches that in reality are multiple osc's with some of them having separate zones per osc, and loads of velocity switching. The Di's editor is literally a "virtual key" that unlocks the full potential of the Di's patch editing, and puts it at a PRO level. Again.., ya just gotta try one out and check out the editor to see what all Roland has going on with these patches. The previous Juno-D/Le can't even come close to the current Di in terms of patch quality.

12-Aug-09 09:09 PM

JAY-kid    Said...

hi....can any1 tell me how many splits this juno d-i can make?...

19-Dec-09 04:38 AM

JAY-kid    Said...

can anyone tell me plss...

19-Dec-09 04:48 AM

Nick B    Said...

Hey Jay, 10 minutes too long to wait huh?

I cant quite remember now, but I think you can set up the split in two points really quick quick with the split button, and I would have thoughts, but I cant recall, that each of the multi-timbral parts could be set to a different zone on the keyboard but with the same MIDI channel - I would ask Roland to be sure

19-Dec-09 02:16 PM

Candi    Said...

I liked the review, found it very helpful. I bought this last year as it was within my budget and I needed something quick for performances. So far, i've been very pleased with the sound I've gotten out of it! Didn't know I could edit the drum patterns or use the mic without the vocoder setting...or the chord memory. Guess I've got a bit more to explore yet, thanks!

13-Jan-10 10:04 AM

Daniel    Said...

I'm very interested in this unit for budget reasons. But allthough I liked it for its price, and tried it out in a music store, I'd like to know better how does it handle program change messages. I have a couple of racks and use to change sounds more than twice a verse or chorus hah. Thank you

08-Jul-10 08:57 PM

Ozzy    Said...

Hai Nick...I am very new here working with roland(juno di).I used Yamaha PSR before. I love ur reviews.I learn smthing from there. But, I really wanna ask you...why when I push the dual/split button, the sound i played before(exe piano) off suddenly although i press the pedal. How to i fix it Nick?? Help me on this...

14-Aug-10 11:00 AM

rolando    Said...

only 390 midi or mp3 from usb flash memory no matter if the usb is 4 or 8 or 16 g.the same 390 songs.

08-Feb-12 01:43 AM

Dipesh Varsani    Said...


Does any know how to install/ make new sounds on Juno Di.

I Really need to make them.

Thanks guys :)

16-May-13 03:31 AM

Dipesh Varsani    Said...


Does any know how to install/ make new sounds on Juno Di.

I Really need to make them.

Thanks guys :)

16-May-13 03:32 AM

Jason J. Young    Said...

Just won one of these on eBay...after waiting six years to get one, I finally found one and it was worth waiting for! Over 1,000 sounds to choose from, giving one plenty of ways to be creative, have yet to experiment with the editing software, but I'm sure it'll be something good to work with. I've read many reviews, most are positive, some downright negative, but you can't please everyone.

Now with two synths in my studio (also have a Casio CZ-5000), can finally produce music tracks for video productions, keep re-discovering my passion for music and find new ways to be creative like other musicians. Roland has made many fine musical instruments, this completes the legendary Juno line. And by the way, Nick Batt--great review, one of the best I've heard/seen!

21-Mar-15 12:14 AM

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