Roland Boutique Series JU-06A by cr73645
A little background...
Had the previous JU-06 (also JP-08 and JX-03) and can make some comparisons on the hardware and the extra features of the newest model.
The build quality is better on the JU-06A than previous Boutique I had. The non illuminated sliders feel better, and so does all the buttons. There's little side movement on the buttons, but switches and sliders feel solid.
Buttons are actually quite good on this one. The looks are bullseye in the nostalgia factor, and the different color makes it easier to find what you need (chorus I and II have different colors from patch selection for example).
The front is made of metal, while below is plastic (even on the deck I got with it). Talking about the deck, it isn't as well built for what they ask price-wise, but makes the whole unit look way better.
The unit itself is quite "pretty" and certainly makes part of the appeal of the product.
60 and 106:
Unlike the JU-06, on the newer version you also get the Juno 60 model (+ previous 106 model), and they actually feel quite different.
The 60 version has a rawer sound, and the sawtooth osc sound lovely. The 106 is more contained and even darker sounding, but with more low end.
Filter-wise, I'd say they're a lot alike, but you can "open" the filter more on the 60. The 106 always feels a bit more smooth, and gentler resonance, even if by a small amount.
The envelopes behave a lot different, with faster envelopes on the 60. The 106 has slower envelopes.
On the bad side, there's some annoying modulation on the 60 sub-oscillator, not found on the 106, which seem like a better emulation to be honest.
In the end, you get two different Juno flavors on a single unit, and they actually do feel a LOT different, which is great.
Some nice adds from the previous unit include the possibility to use the envelope to modulate the PW for the square wave.
The chorus sounds the same for both emulations, and it certainly has a great overall feeling - but there's a problem: the unit isn't capable of handling complex sounds with the chorus turned on, and aliases a lot (to my ears).
A high resonance sound is simply lovely when the chorus isn't engaged, but as soon as you turn it on, you get a lot of artifacts on the stereo field, unlike the Cloud versions. This is one of the worst characteristics of the synth.
The addition of arpeggiator instead of those horrendous mod/pitch strips is a great add on. It works as a global arpeggiator instead of per patch, but it's good enough for an internal/single unit jam - don't try to work MIDI over it, it isn't actually functional. It's a pretty basic arpeggiator, but does what it is meant to do.
The chord mode is also a great addition, not found previously. You can either play the chord you want or select on a list. Simple and effective.
There's an additional simple delay inside, but quite poor sounding IMHO... it is good however in covering a lot of the note stealing you get on the unit.
Discussing sound is pretty subjective, but there are certain comparisons that need to be made to show that this is actually a good VA.
The Nord Lead A1, my current go to polysynth, sounds more robust in terms of quality of the raw oscillators, but the little Boutique has a bit more low end in comparison, even if it aliases as hell on higher registers (unlike the steady A1).
On the VST side, compared it to Diva and got the impression that on the low to medium frequencies, it sounds pretty much just as good - again, not comparable on higher octaves. The Cloud version of the 106 also sounds better, with much less aliasing then the Boutique.
The filter emulation is very well done, and sounds beautiful... pretty much what I remember from a small experience with real Junos (and sonic memory is quite poor for humans). Even if not directly compared, I'd say that both models provide a very nice feeling filter, with both creamy and screaming possibilities.
Using the JU-06A with external chorus makes it way better. I did use the internal synth with an external TAL Chorus (that sound almost like a copy of the one in the Boutique BTW), and you get a much better experience, with much less aliasing. It seems that processing power inside the unit can't actually run everything it has without hiccups, which is a shame.
Yes - this is one big problem, we all know it. Being limited to 4 voices is quite a problem when you think of pads and long releases on synth sounds. It is what it is. A shame, but there's nothing to do about it.
This is a small, portable and beautiful looking little device for those looking for a Juno-esque experience. All controls feel solid, and although you do get aliasing if abusing resonance and chorus, it still a very good sounding synth for what it is.
One of the cool aspects of the unit is the constraining of the interface, which almost begs to be messed with - the result is almost always a pleasant sound, much like you'd get out of a real Juno. It doesn't replace the original unit, but you also get rid of the original's recurrent problems.
I bought it out of pure GAS and didn't actually need it, since the A1 is capable or everything and much more, BUT the experience of having the interface laid out like on a Juno makes the journey quite fun.
If buying as a first synth, I'd certainly recommend looking somewhere else - this is a very limited synthesizer, with a very on your face hear my Juno all the time - but that's just as good as it is bad.
Price-wise, I'd say that 399 seems a little steep, and they should've kept the original 299 price tag for what they delivered.
The 4 voice limitation seem quite frequent nowadays, and maybe it is aimed to people that don't actually play. I find 4 to be the minimum to be ok (imagine the 3 voice Volca FM), but 6 would certainly be better.
If you're looking for something for your studio to replace the Juno sound, I'd recommend Softube Model 84 instead of this - the one better thing you get from the Boutique is physical controls, and that's it - Softube nails the sound of the 106 in a much better (and cheaper) way (with 6 voices total).
Anyway... this is a lovely little unit, a keeper or not is simply a metter of taste and need.