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Juno Di Review - Juno what we're talking about...!!!

Published: Fri January 06, 2012  News Feed

I approached this review from the perspective of a total keyboard and synth novice. My background is purely guitar based so from the outset the Roland Juno Di with its LCD screen, dial, many knobs and buttons appeared to be a very daunting prospect but I can tell you that it definitely isn’t. Roland has aimed this product squarely at everyone and anyone and to that end, has made an instrument that can be used by students, amateurs and professionals alike.

Let’s talk a bit about where this instrument comes from and how we’ve arrived at the product you see before you today. After a bit of research, I found out that this model is a very distant relative of the Juno 6 which was the first programmable analogue polysynth and a pioneer in its time. This model then led Roland to develop the Alpha Juno 1 and then on to the Juno G. All these previous incarnations have clearly helped Roland hone their talents and extract the best bits into the user friendly Juno Di.

The build quality as with all Roland gear is solid, robust and very portable at the same time. It is incredibly light for a 61 note keyboard and can be run on batteries. For the purposes of this review I used the DC 9 Volt AC Adaptor so I am unawares as to how much play time that 8 AA Batteries (Not Included) would give you, however there is an on board battery indicator which should switch on before you switch off.


The velocity sensitive keyboard unfortunately gives the user limited key travel and no aftertouch but this is more than made up for with the 1000+ patches, 79 FX over 3 dedicated FX units and an incredible amount of other features. The Juno Di accesses the core technology for making voice sounds from the high end Fantom G Range so this is clearly a professional product. The sounds are organised into instrument types for ease of use and the piano sound is beautiful and worth a special mention on its own. The string patches are beautiful and lush and the inclusion of Roland’s patented COSM Modelling produces some great guitar sounds. The synth capabilities aren’t going to appease those purists amongst you, as the Juno Di can only modify common parameters via the Sound Modify section on the unit, but the Di Editor that the unit comes boxed with gives you deeper access to these parameters via a USB cable and a computer. The Super Layer function however allows you to layer up to 5 instances of the same sound and then individually detune them to give the user greater editing access and a richer sound palette.

You also get Roland’s D Beam controller which is a sort of Theremin-esque IR controller that can be programmed to bend and modulate the sound. It also features a solo synth setting which feels quite crude at times but I’m sure someone somewhere would find a use for it or maybe my hand movements just weren’t refined enough. 

One of the most pleasing features for me as a total novice is the USB Memory slot. From here you can play Midi, Wave and MP3 files from your main stereo output. This is a great help for someone learning keyboards and can also be utilised to great effect during live situations by triggering backing tracks. Also a great feature concerning midi files, by using the C-Cancel button the user can remove the line they want to learn and/or play. This also works in respect to any MP3’s as this function will cancel out the lead vocal - for the most part - allowing the user to jam along and sing the lead vocal line via the onboard microphone input, which incidentally is another nice touch on this unit.


Roland’s advertising tag line for this product is ‘Travel Light, Play Heavy’ and really it does what it says on the tin. To conclude this keyboard is a great all round performance tool with many great features and it is a worthwhile addition to the Roland range. If you are looking for a synth tool then the Juno Di really isn’t for you and I would suggest you take a look at the epic Roland Gaia but for core sounds, pure portability and performance then you would do well to get your hands on this as soon as you can.

Jay Whittaker

 

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