The name “Jupiter” evokes some strong feelings among synth aficionados. Little wonder, than, that when Roland introduced a modern successor, the response was impassioned. CDM was one of the first to look in detail at the Jupiter-80, and I was surprised – given the tendency of this readership away from massive flagship keyboards – to see it become one of our biggest stories of the year.
Roland faced some serious criticism when the story it told about the new Jupiter was less about synthesis and more about the instrument-emulating Supernatural engine. After all, since the days of the original Jupiter’s launch, we’ve come to think of the synthesizer as its own category of instrument – not an emulation of anything else. Then there was the fact that the JP-80’s weight and cost put it out of reach of many musicians.
If those were your criticisms, the news out of last week’s Musikmesse should be welcome news. First, the Jupiter-50 is a Jupiter keyboard for those of you without big budgets and road crews; it’s lighter and more affordable. The lack of the JP-80’s nifty touchscreen isn’t bad news, either – new iPad integration means you can get deep into programming right from your tablet.
Second, the JP-50 and a new second version of the JP-80 significantly refocus on synthesis features. I spent some time talking to Peter from Roland Europe at Messe about the synth stuff added to the JP. A lot of the effort went into behavioral modeling of classic analog filters. (See CDM’s hands-on video above.) Peter can’t say on camera the names, but you’ll get the trademark filters found on synthesizers from Sequential Circuits (Prophet) and Moog.
Most notably, I got the sense from Peter that Roland not only heard but took seriously complaints from the synth-loving public that any new keyboard called “Jupiter” really needed to be a synth. Now, don’t get me wrong: I actually think the Supernatural stuff is pretty cool. I can easily imagine someone who needs versatility onstage or is programming film and TV scores or otherwise needs some great-sounding, wide-reaching instruments will really love it. It’s not anything you haven’t heard from big sample libraries on computers, but you get it in a keyboard you can turn on in a matter of seconds and tour with without needing a dedicated computer tech tailing you around. I think, ironically, those features will seem more appealing when you don’t have to choose between a keyboard that makes those sounds and a rich synthesizer. Now you get both of those things in one unit, and via the JP-50, one that can reach a wider audience.
New in the version 2 JP-80 and on the JP-50:
- Three new low-pass filter models, for a total of four
- New effects structures – yes, parallel routing as previously, but now a total of five structures including serial routing. This gives you the kind of semi-modular effects routing you’d normally expect on a soft synth.
- Quicker access to playing a single sound (without all the zones) called Registration Play, and SONAR integration.
On the JP-50:
- Same sound engine as the JP-80
- 76-note weighted keys. (This isn’t the same class of keybed as found on the JP-80, but it still feels like a premium keyboard; I gave it a try at Messe.)
- Integrated USB audio/MIDI interface, and USB song player/recorder. This also includes, via an optional wireless dongle, the ability to wirelessly stream MIDI and audio to an iPad or iPhone – new functionality also demoed at Messe last week.
No official pricing yet, but word is it’ll be significantly less (of course) than the 80, and availability is planned for late spring.
My colleague Steve Fortner at Keyboard Magazine got an exclusive first look at the JP-50. There’s an extensive video series, but to get you started, here’s the sound programming vid:
See the full hands-on (and this, naturally, covers some of what’s new in the v2 firmware upgrade for the JP-80):
Roland Jupiter-50 Hands-on [Keyboard Magazine USA]
And little did I know how prescient the cooler in German words I uttered would become. Oops. (Hello from Berlin.)