Sonic LAB: Roland Juno Gi - A Juno For All?

Synth, recording interface and 8 Track.      21/10/10

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11:34 mins

 

Juno What? 
Every time Roland release another Juno, there’s an outcry - “its not a true analog” etc.
Get over it, the Juno name has long been associated with bringing the high-end tech down to a more affordable level - Juno 106 - cheaper version of their extremely pricey Jupiters etc.
 
Anyhow, enough of that, we’re looking at the Juno Gi here, I think its going to supersede the Juno G - at least several stores appear to have put the discontinued label on it already.
 
Gi Ju 
The Juno Gi is a 128 voice, performance synth with 128mb of wave ROM, some pretty capable effects - MFX1 and MFX2 for use on the Live Sets (the Gi patch), plus a live input processor for your mic/line/instrument/USB inputs. Oh yeah, and it has an 8 track digital recorder too - and a USB Audio/MIDI interface.
 
The 1300 patches are  generally pretty good stuff, highlights are the pianos, the strings, pads and moving synthy pad stuff -  the sort of thing you should expect from the latest batch of Junos. Its fair to say is probably not going to set the synth buts afire with awe, but good  for the needs of a keyboard player with plenty of effects to tweak. In fact it is pretty editable all round, with the Pro Edit pages for getting at the building blocks of the sounds, albeit in an oldschool button pokey kind of way.
 
Structure 
Patches are made up of four Tones, split 2 Upper and 2 Lower with  effects processors (MFX1 and 2)  plus reverb and chorus to spread amongst them. Can be split, layered (inc velocity switch/faded) and also addressed externally on 2 MIDI channels (upper, lower). For 16-part multi-timbral operation, its over to the DAW to access, mix and manipulate the parts, there is no front panel interface for this mode - you flip the MIDI control button and the front panel becomes an assignable MIDI control interface, all level pan and program changes happen from outside the Gi.
 
 
As with previous Junos, there’s a USB slot for playback of Standard MIDI Files, MP3, AIFF and WAV files with centre cancel. There are dedicated song list and play/stop buttons next to the pitch bender if you need to have quick access.

8-Track
The big news is the inclusion of the 8 Track Digital Recorder which can record from the keyboard, mic/instrument, stereo line inputs and USB stick and USB audio return.
What's also cool about this is that you have a dedicated effects processor for the recorder too.
So plug a guitar in and you have a bunch of pretty decent amp and stomp sims, also presets for the Mic and line inputs. You can also insert these effects across tracks and also the master fader for final mix.

Only two tracks can be recorded at any one time, so you wont be able to do your live recordings for mixdown later, but you have bounce and copy and move features for constructing the arrangement you want - though its not quite the same  as working on a  dedicated DAW, it could prove useful. In addition to the 8 tracks, you have a rhythm part made of chains preset or user patterns. These use the rhythm sounds in the Juno which are okay, but not  - how you say - dope?

There is a song/click output on the Juno which had me all excited for a bit - imagine dropping your album stems - or whatever - you can easily import files from the SD card  to tracks and having a  separate click to feed the drummer  - hell yeah!
Unfortunately, thats not the case - click is for SMF playback only or output the USB song or full Digital Recorder output.
I live in hope that Roland can fix this in a software update - I have lobbied for it, so fingers crossed.

Juno IO
The USB interface gives you MIDI connectivity with the host computer and also a simple stereo 44.1kHz 24-bit IO. The Juno allows you to set this to take the synth output, external input - eg record an effected guitar or vocal part into your DAW with or without effects or a mix of everything. Its a nice addition and gives you a self contained recording system  - just ad headphones and a lappy and your good to go.

Finally
I was pretty impressed by the features in the Gi, the effects are of sufficient quality to enhance the basic waves in the machine - which ain’t too bad in themselves, the live input and audio routing options give you numerous ways in which to work with the machine, and the 8-track is perfectly serviceable if not let down by the lack of click.
Inevitably, there is some complexity to editing this embaressment of riches via the front panel and will take a little while to get fluent. The lack of editor will frustrate some budding synth programmers, it is possible to deep edit,  but you’ll need patience.

My only real beef is with the price, at £999 /$1199, thats a big chunk o change. In the UK its almost twice the price of the DI and it still does not have a keyboard with aftertouch.
You do get a shed-load of features of course, for which I commend Roland, but you may want to consider which Juno you need if you are on a tight budget.

Available now (ish)
£999/ $1199

 

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