Aug 7

INTRODUCTION

The first Synthesizer I bought was a Roland Juno 6 so like many people I was pleased when Roland decided to bring the Juno back from the dead in 2005 with the Juno-D. They then made further improvements with the Juno-Di and the bigger Juno-G and now they have released the Juno-Gi Mobile Synthesizer and Digital Recorder. I am also pleased that they have used some of the original colour schemes as everything was clearly labelled and easy to see however these new keyboards are really very different beasts from the Juno 6, Juno 60 and Juno 106 that I remember so well.


The new Gi features a wealth of specifications. For a start it has 1379 sounds on-board with 128 mb of waveform ROM. This is double what the Juno-G had. You will not find a sequencer or any facility for sampling, but instead they have a whole section dedicated to an eight-track digital recorder which can record to high capacity SDHC cards up to 32 GB. It can also run from eight AA batteries as well as the usual power pack. This looks like a very useful keyboard for duo’s or solo artists that could have complete backing tracks to the songs that they perform, but instead of the weak boring sound of robotic MIDI file, something played with feeling and dynamics using Roland’s up to date sounds along with direct input recording from a guitarist or a bass guitarist. I shall dig a little deeper to find out exactly how useful this could be and to what audience this is being targeted at.

OUT OF THE BOX

OK let’s start with some specs like size and weight. This is a very portable keyboard that only weighs an incredible 5.7 kg (12 lbs. 10 oz.). It is a comfortable 1,008 mm (39-11/16 inches) wide and only 300 mm (11-13/16 inches) and 105 mm (4-3/16 inches) high. As you take it out of its box you immediately understand its portability. Inside the box you have:- The Owner’s Manual, a Quick Guide, a CD-ROM (USB Driver), a DVD-ROM (Cakewalk PPP), an SD Card (2 GB, installed in the JUNO-Gi when shipped from the factory), an SD Card Protector (also installed in the JUNO-Gi when shipped from the factory), a USB Memory Protector and an AC Adaptor and Power Cord.

KEYBOARD, BUILD AND LAYOUT

It is a 61key keyboard with velocity but sadly no after-touch but it does have 128 note polyphony. The feel of the keys are far from the best I have played on. What I really hate about keyboard manufactures is that they have to justify their sale prices by the specification of the instrument and this seems to be true of the keybed itself. I wish it was not a consideration at all. Forget all the sounds and effects etc. as every customer as priority wants his instrument to be playable. I think they should use only two keybeds, the best lightweight synth-action keyboard available and for heavier full size keyboards the best weighted hammer-action and have all keyboards with velocity sensitivity and after-touch, regardless. Then we can all be assured that regardless of the keyboard we have purchased it is really great to play. We can then pay accordingly for its sound and other facilities. Ok so that is me in my ideal world again – back to the Juno-Gi.

The build is basically a very thin plastic case which accounts for its portability but the controls in the main are good and solid enough for everyday use. I suppose again we are dealing with compromise here. This will clearly not take heavy knocks, but with care you have a keyboard here to take anywhere and you can power it with batteries. If you also purchase one of Roland’s portable battery-powered Amplifiers such as the BA-330 or the KC-110 you have the ideal setup for a street performance. I have seen a great deal more musicians on the streets recently with their battery-powered keyboard solutions providing the Public with their colourful music. I found it a refreshing change from the many acoustic guitarists that I normally encounter.

The 240×64 graphic LCD screen is monochrome and whilst we seem to be all getting very used to quality colour screens, I did not find this a problem at all. I think Roland do a good job here of getting a lot of information to you here without it all being so small it is difficult to read. The screen gives you clear visibility and fast navigation which is exactly what you need.

The layout is mainly divided into three sections – a USB Memory Song Player, a Synthesizer and a Digital Recorder. The Synthesizer section has a good selection of controls which include the D Beam, S1 and S2 selections, Pitch bend and modulation control, volume knob, a series of buttons for:- Midi Controller mode, split, arpeggio, tempo, chord memory, V-Link, transpose, octave, menu, preview, numeric, favourite on/off, favourite bank, Live set category groups, special Live Sets and Functions 1-6. There is also a Sound Modify part which has further controls for Reverb, Eq, Cut-off and resonance.

SOUNDS, SPLITS AND LAYERS

The sound is unmistakably Roland and to be honest I cannot fault them in any way. This is a new sound library created for the Juno Gi and the sounds are now called “Live Sets” which comprise up to four layered tones each. You can press the preview button on each sound to really get an idea of what they sound like. There is also a Special Live Set and Roland state that these are high-quality live sets that were carefully created specifically for the JUNO-Gi. You can edit one of these and save the edited result in the User group. You can select sounds in different ways but the easiest seems to be via the Category buttons and there are nine of them – Piano, Keyboard /Organ, Bass, Guitar Plucked, Strings / Orchestra, Brass/Wind, Vocal/Choir, Synth/Pad and FX/Others.

I also really like the simplistic approach they have made to making Splits and Layers. The screen divides into four for you to select two layers for the bottom half of the keyboard and two for the top half. There is also a sign above the keys showing exactly where the split is – excellent although you can of course edit the location of the split point. It is fast and does the necessary job and even in a live situation it is achievable.

Lastly there is a Favourite Live Set option for you to register your frequently used live sets. Each bank of favourites lets you register a total of ten live sets and you can create ten of these banks. I love these types of ideas because if the sounds you use in your performance are registered in their order of appearance, it will be easy for you to select each sound when playing Live.

JUNO Gi EFFECTS AND EDIT OF LIVE SETS

The effects are excellent but I have one gripe or rather a wish for future Roland keyboards. From the moment I saw the layout of the effects section on the Roland GAIA, I made up my mind that this facility should be on every Roland keyboard, because it simply is the fastest effect selector on the planet. The immediacy of having a good selection of effects with one button for each was simply but truly an excellent facility especially to the “Live” performer. I was also annoyed that there was no such facility on their new flagship synth the Jupiter 80.

The Juno Gi’s sounds can be enhanced by using the two multi-effects units which provide 79 different types of effect and there’s also a dedicated reverb and chorus. There is an interesting selection here which includes:-enhancers, slicers, phone filters, step-ring-modulators, speaker simulators and a vocoder. On the whole these are great and only occasionally I found myself delving into the settings to enhance the effect to my liking.

At the far right you can quick edit the sound further by use of the three-band EQ, reverb level, filter cutoff and resonance controls. For more refined editing you will need to use the main menu screen where you will find many editing options. On Live Set Edit screen 1 you can edit the Tone, Level & Pan, Pitch, Output and Keyboard. On screen Edit 2 you can adjust Offset, Vibrato, Velocity, Key Modulation and RX Filter and on Screen Edit 3 you can adjust Common settings and Control settings. You can also edit on the Pro Edit Screens which have options under:- General, Pitch Envelope, Filter Parameter, Filter Envelope, Amplifier Parameter, Amplifier Envelope, LFO1 and LFO2 (syncable to internal and MIDI tempo).

You can also of course edit the effects as well and you will find screens to adjust effect routing, multi-effect control, and adjustment of the 79 multi-effect parameters plus the Chorus and Reverb settings.

ARPEGGIATOR AND CHORD MEMORY FUNCTIONS

As I have already said there is no sequencer or sampling facility on the Juno Gi but it does have a powerful arpeggiator with all of the usual modes including a Glissando Mode, which glide notes between the lowest and highest notes, a Chord Mode whereby all of the notes you press sound simultaneously and Auto and Phrase Mode. Of course you can edit the velocity, swing, octave accent and resolution. The bit that I liked the best was that this arpeggiator can also be directed to only affect certain tones within a live set – great stuff.

EIGHT TRACK RECORDER

The eight track recorder complete with dedicated transport controls and mix faders certainly gives this keyboard something different from the rest and is probably why the cost of this keyboard is slightly higher than you would expect. With a professional digital recorder on-board with eight tracks and 64 virtual tracks, you can record up to a maximum of 99 songs and up to 12 hours for one song onto a 2GB SDHC card. The demo song really demonstrates the quality here and although it is only 16-bit, 44.1 kHz, it sounds excellent and shows how guitars and vocals can be recorded via the Juno Gi with some awesome results.

The tracks are accessed via four fader/buttons. If you want to, you can record two tracks at once and you can bounce tracks to save space. To keep you in time this recorder has its own rhythm track which has its own set of 371 patterns and there is a user area for you to create up to 99 of your own. You can add insert effects and reverb to tracks, or use the mastering toolkit to process your song. The same professional effects that you can get in the BOSS GT series are built into the JUNO-Gi, as well as effects designed for processing your vocals. Once your masterpiece is complete you can export the 16-bit wav file to your PC or Mac and create your CD or use a wave editor to edit it / master it etc. prior to burning it.

JUNO GI’S USB MEMORY SONG PLAYER / USB AUDIO AND MIDI CONNECTION

On the left you have a compartment for the USB Memory Song Player which allows you to play standard MIDI files or audio files (WAV, AIFF or mp3) saved to a USB memory stick. I found out that all of the files need to be at root directory level and Roland suggests you only use their USB memory but I am sure others will be OK. This is great for jamming along to and I am sure solo performers will produce a complete sound with their Juno Gi, Mic and USB stick.
The Gi can also be switched into MIDI controller mode which lets you operate the JUNO-Gi as a MIDI master keyboard for controlling your DAW or external MIDI devices. Its multifunction USB port offers both audio and MIDI functionality. All you need to do is connect to your computer with one cable and you can stream audio and MIDI back and forth. Better still combine your JUNO-Gi with the bundled Cakewalk Sonar LE 8.5 software, and you have a complete digital audio workstation package for your PC – great stuff.

CONNECTIONS


Around the back you have:- Left and Right OUTPUT 1/4 inch Jacks, 1/4 inch Stereo PHONES Jack , 1/4 inch Stereo SONG/CLICK OUT Jack , Left and Right LINE INPUT 1/4 inch Jacks, a GUITAR/MIC INPUT Jack, a CONTROL PEDAL Jack, HOLD PEDAL Jack, MIDI Connectors (IN, OUT), USB COMPUTER Connectors (USB Hi-Speed Audio/MIDI) and DC IN Jack.

CONCLUSION

The Juno Gi is certainly different from other keyboards offering a powerful Synth with an eight-track digital recorder in a lightweight portable package. I think its cost will put some people off, but you have to take into account the comparable cost of purchasing individually a Synth (with this arsenal of sounds and sound quality) and a digital recorder equivalent to a BOSS. Songwriters will love these facilities and have that added inspirational element of being able to easily transport this keyboard anywhere at all using batteries to power it and if you take a mic as well you can also record your vocal ideas.

4 Responses

  1. Parimal Says:

    Roland juno gi is very good n functional keyboard for live and playback synth but does it as any patches editor software or any other things which can give an original instruments sounds like flute,sitar ,santur n other indian + western instruments sounds .

  2. tonylongmusic Says:

    Hi, If you have a look at the Sound List for the Roland Juno GI (which you can download from Roland), you will see that amungst its many sounds, it has Sitar 1, Sitar 2, Sitar 3, Mandolin, Yang Qin, Sitar Pad, Electric Sitar, Indian Fretless, Banjo, Shamisen, Koto, Taisho Koto and Kalimba.

  3. Paul Hattp Says:

    Hi, do you still stock this keyboard, regards, Paul

  4. tonylongmusic Says:

    Paul,
    Sorry for the delay in replying, I’ll ask sales to contact you about a Roland Gi Synth
    Cheers – Tony

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