Roland Juno-D Review


My first love in the world of keyboards is my Roland Fatom X8; I’ve not given it any of the Gadgetoid limelight, however, because it is a decidedly expensive niche product. The 61-key Juno-D on the other hand is what I would consider to be affordable and is a great little synth and good all-round stage keyboard that will not break the bank. Not only that but the Juno-D looks fantastic, all black with a tasteful brushed metal finish and a very refined and clean appearance that puts the similarly priced and specified Yamaha MM6 to shame.

My reason for purchasing the Juno-D was simply logistics. The Fantom weighs just over 30kg whilst the Juno-D is a paltry 5kg. Currently Roland are also running a gig bag promotion with the Juno-D, letting you send away your proof of purchase to receive a free gig bag custom designed for the Juno-D. Not only will the gig bag protect the Juno-D but it will allow you to wear it on your back in the same way that so many guitar and bass players are able. If you want to scream “I’m a keyboardist” when your out and about this is the best way to do it short of investing in a megaphone.

Handy free accessories aside the Juno-D itself is a surprisingly versatile and powerful synthesizer packed into a very small form factor at a very reasonably price. Unlike less professionally orientated keyboards the Juno-D doesn’t boast built-in speakers, whilst this helps keep the weight down it seems to make the synth appeal less to the casual player. If you’re one such player rest assured that a decent pair of headphones is all you’ll need to play for fun or practice; in fact the Juno-D headphones combination is so easily moved around the house that I’ve found myself forsaking my Fantom X8 in lieu of armchair keyboard tinkering and practice.

The Juno-D has a diverse variety of pre-set patches which are sorted into categories you can select at the touch of a button. Amongst these patches are some fantastic and fun lead sounds, some surprisingly thick strings and beautiful pianos. There’s something there for all music styles making the Juno-D stage ready from the get-go. Each patch category remembers the last patch you selected in that particular category, even when the Juno-D is turned off and unplugged so often the sound you want is just a button press away. To select one of the many patches within each category you can either type its patch number if you know it, step through patches one at a time or skip 10 patches forward/backward. I find myself liking the dedicated category button system much more than slower dial/num-pad based alternatives. If you want hard numbers there are 384 original patches and 256 Genearal MIDI patches.

Every patch on the Juno-D boasts an upper and lower tone which can be played on their own, at the same time, or split into defined portions of the keyboard. A hard balance control lets you easily fade between tones when playing and the realtime controls can effect the sound of one or both of these tones. 5 real-time control knobs are available which allow you to instantly adjust Attack, Release, Decay, Cutoff and Resonance. Trance/Dance fans will want to assign Cutoff to a control pedal to achieve a pseudo phaser effect, but if you’re playing a melody one-handed it’s easy enough to do it with your other hand.

With a touch of a button the real-time control knobs will also allow you to adjust the balance between upper and lower tones in addition to the LFO depth and rate.

The LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) is an interesting way to modify patches, you would normally expect to find LFO or two buried deep within the inner workings of a synth like the Fantom X8 making up a fundamental part of the sound engine. The LFO on the Juno-D, however, has been brought right under the users nose. As mentioned above; the real-time control knobs allow immediate and easily accessible control of the LFO rate and depth, this means you can adjust both the speed of oscillation and how much it affects the sound. This easy accessibility is sure to prompt unexperienced synth users to explore what both the attack, release, decay, cutoff, resonance and LFO do to the sound and subsequently learn the tricks they need to get the sounds they want.

And once you’ve got a sound you’re happy with you can write it to one of 128 user-writable patch locations and retrieve it later for playing on its on or working into a performance. This is an almost essential feature of any serious keyboard and has allowed me to tweak distorted guitar and piano sounds to my preference and save them for use when playing with my band. The ability to modify and save the stock sounds is a feature you almost never find in comparably priced vanilla keyboards, and is one of the biggest advantages of the Juno-D as an alternative.

Performances allow you to combine up to 16 patches for rapid switching when playing live, this is incredibly useful if you want to push everything else to one side and have 16 distinct sounds available throughout a performance. Of the 40 performances on the Juno-D only 8 of them can be written by the user, however, which isn’t ideal but the Juno-D isn’t really designed to be a workhorse performance instrument. 8 performances is quite likely more than you’ll need, personally I only ever need one to store and quickly switch between piano, strings and distorted guitar. One of my biggest peeves with setting up performances is the lack of any option (or perhaps I simply have not been able to find it) to copy all the multi-effects settings of a patch into a performance.

Finally I’ll skim on over the Rhythm Sets of which there are 22, there’s something in there for most music styles but unfortunately there’s a complete lack of buttons for quick fills, intros and outros which I always found handy on my old Yamaha keyboard. The Juno-D also boasts 3 effects processors, two for the typical Reverb and Chorus and surprisingly also one multi-effects processor with 47 available multi-effects ranging from phaser, distortion, slicer and even some combinations of two other effects. This allows the highly tweak-able distorted guitar sound I need from a keyboard possible.

There’s so much more to say about the Juno-D, but I don’t want to get into too much depth technically. SoundOnSound have done the grunt work for me and you can head on over to read their full review of the Juno-D. You can also head on over to RolandClan.info if you have questions about the Juno-D or are considering other Roland synths.

Stuffed with many features common to its bigger brothers the Juno-G and Fantom-X range the Juno-D is a fantastic starter keyboard and a great portable for more experienced keyboardists. These include the D-Beam, Roland’s combined pitch/modulation lever, multi-effects and the ability to tweak and save patches and the ability to combine patches into multi-timberal performances for playing live. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase, in fact I’m dropping this review onto Gadgetoid because the Juno-D simply deserves it. If you’ve been eyeing one up, need an upgrade to your boring vanilla keyboard, or are looking for a gig-able keyboard that wont burn a hole in your wallet then buy it, you will not be disappointed.

Roland Juno-D at SoundControl
Roland Juno-D at DigitalVillage