The Golden Era of Roland 1979 - 1984
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16th July 2011
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The Golden Era of Roland 1979 - 1984

Okay, given the legendary status of the 808/909/303 and the Jupiter 8, it's hardly a revelation...

But as I was glancing around the studio the other day, I was struck -- and moved -- by just how many genuinely useful and inspired products were created by the Roland corporation at the end of the 70's through the first half of the 80's. Some of these instruments, such as the Jupiter 8 and Juno 106/60/6, are still vital studio tools today, and while others -- like the 303 -- were the catalyst for whole genres of music. It's pretty remarkable when you stop to think about it. Here's a partial list:

System 100m -- 1979
VP330 Vocoder -- 1979
TR-808 - 1980
Jupiter 8 -- 1981
TB-303 - 1981
Juno 6/60/106 -- 1982, 84
SH-101 -- 1983
TR-909 - 1983

In addition to this, some amazing earlier products -- like the Space Echo line -- were still being marketed and sold throughout this period. And almost every one of these items is not just a great sounding instrument/tool, but also a fine investment for any electronic studio. I can't think of any other manufacturer with this many classic products in such a small period of time.

Whoever the team at Roland was during this period, I salute you! And I thank you profusely --JB
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16th July 2011
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agreed, tho imo the golden era started somewhat earlier.. in 1976 with release of original System100 (101, 102 etc).. which is one of the best sounding boards they ever made. also system 700 modular and RS202 string machine. then, Jupiter4 and SH1 synths, and CR drum machines.. all in 1978 etc..
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I'm pretty far from being a Roland fanboy, but my god. Roland is THE KING of electronic musical instruments, and that golden era (going back, as clusterchord says, to mid 70s) is the main reason why.
Mr Arkadin
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16th July 2011
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Definitely need to start earlier (1974 perhaps) to get the RE-201, JP-4 and CR-78 in (also SH-1, 5 and 7 and RS-505) and maybe finish later at 1994 to include the D-50/550 and JD-800/990.

And yes, I am a Roland fanboy, more by fluke than design though.
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16th July 2011
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oh. i have to respond to this one. i'm probably one of the biggest roland sluts around here

i own pretty much everything on that list and more, minus the 100m and the vp330 (but i got it's cousin the svc-350 and the sdd-320 which also rules)

anyhow, <3 roland

of course all things considered I do have quite a bit of non-roland stuff too, but if I had to pick essentials then i'd be damned if the 808, jp8 and juno weren't on the short list.

yay roland
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16th July 2011
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Funny, I was reading up on Roland yesterday!

great series

1930-1978
The History Of Roland

1979-1985
The History Of Roland

1986-1991
The History Of Roland


You can blame the DX7 for killing off the Roland analogs. Who knows there may have been a JP8 mk2 had it not been for it.
JP8 has the last laugh now

The above articles state that a lot of the cult Roland synths and gear were not that popular or well received when they first came out. Some were only produced for 1-2 years.



Quote:
I think that it was one of the staff who wrote for Roland's in-house magazine in the 1980s who first posed the question, "What have the Rolands ever done for us?", with apologies to John Cleese. The Judean Peoples' Front (or was it the Peoples' Front of Judea?) might well have replied as follows...

Activist 1: "The Jupiter 8?"
Stan: "What?"
Activist 1: "The Jupiter 8."
Stan: "Oh yeah, yeah... they did give us that, that's true."
Activist 2: "And the Space Echo."
Activist 1: "Oh yeah, the Space Echo... remember what echo units used to be like?"
Stan: "Yeah, all right, I'll grant you that the Jupiter 8 and the Space Echo are two things the Rolands have done."
Activist 3: "And programmable rhythm units."
Stan: "Well, yeah. Obviously programmable rhythm units, programmable rhythm units go without saying, don't they... But apart from the Jupiter 8, the Space Echo, and programmable rhythm units?"
Activist 2: "Boss effects units?"
Activist 1: "Guitar synthesis?"
Activist 4: "Playable electronic drum kits?"
Stan: "Yeah, yeah, alright... fair enough."
Activist 1: "... and sample-based synthesis."
Activist 4: "Yeah, yeah, that's something that we would really miss if the Rolands left."
Activist 2: "Jazz Chorus amplifiers..."
Activist 1: "And they made analogue synthesizers that were reliable!"
Activist 3: "Yeah, they certainly know how to keep things working. Let's face it, they were the only ones who could in the 1970s..."
Stan: "All right, but apart from the Jupiter 8, guitar synthesis, sample-based synthesizers, playable electronic drum kits, Boss effects units, programmable rhythm units, reliable analogue synthesizers, the Space Echoes and Jazz Chorus amplifiers, what have the Rolands ever done for us?"
Activist 5: "...MIDI?"
Stan: "Oh, shut up!!!":

Clearly, the Rolands have done a great deal for us, and it seems high time that we looked back at some of the milestones in the company's (and, therefore, the electronic music industry's) history. But this is the story of a man as much as a company, so we'll start by turning our clock back to a time long before the birth of the hi-tech music.
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16th July 2011
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Such a reputable company with a dedication to making instruments and equipment that musicians could use creatively, but also abuse. Built like tanks most of that golden years stuff. Blondie "Heart Of Glass" SH1000 and a CR78 were the early Roland sound that later evolved but in some ways retained that Roland signature. Even prior to that JJ Cale used the Rhythm Ace (before Roland became Roland) for classic tracks on "Naturally". Those plastic little TB303's and TR drum machines which some of us tossed out as toys before hip hop emerged coined an entire new renaissance of electronic music which is now in full swing. They have had such an impact on things
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No other company can lay claim to releasing an instrument that defined a whole new music genre and kicked off probably the largest counter culture aside from Punk and the Hippies.
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Technics?


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Quote:
Originally Posted by mangobob View Post
Technics?


not really. they didnt have the plethora of culture changing instruments as roland did. i mean the sl 1200s are great but come on. if you are gonna count technics, then moog would definitely out rank them.
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Yeah. When did the downhill start? D50? I think Roland started to think digital after the Yamaha DX7 hit and that's where things went downhill...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandvik View Post
Yeah. When did the downhill start? D50? I think Roland started to think digital after the Yamaha DX7 hit and that's where things went downhill...

Probably around the time the original founder retired from hands on management
#13
16th July 2011
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Yep, the Space Echo is also important, and the 'jazz chorus' and Dimension-D.
The S series samplers are still well thought of.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandvik View Post
Yeah. When did the downhill start? D50? I think Roland started to think digital after the Yamaha DX7 hit and that's where things went downhill...
Actually, IMHO, the D50 was a strong offering. many people love it. it has a very magical sound. Then the JX8P which almost happened at the same time as the DX had some really great attributes. I think it's a huge synth and built extremely well even though it looks like crap. Just after the JD 800 and the 990 is where I personally see a bit of a cutoff. With that said, I have an SH32 and I really like it for the things it can do and it's retro design. I wasn't happy with my XV5080 for it's sound and for it's build quality. But nobody except the Moog factory or some of the obscure modular companies are making the same kind of rugged electronic instruments anymore. It's not feasible given the very nature of how electronics devices are produced now. Unless you go boutique like the Moog people and build them with discrete rugged tactile components. and that's why a Voyager is so expensive. Sometimes I'm afraid to twist the knobs on the SH32. Very fragile.
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A lot of my Roland synths come from era, but I would extend it at least up until 1986 when the Alpha Juno-2 was released. In my collection I've got:

Promars
Jupiter-4
CR-8000
TR-606
JX-3P w/PG-200
MKS-30
Juno-2 w/PG-300
MKS-50

I've also got 'more recent' stuff like a JP-8000, XP-60, etc., but by the late 90s I was no longer interested in what Roland was putting out synth-wise. I haven't bought a new Roland synth since 1997. The only Roland gear I've bought since are some Cube monitors and an RE-20 Space Echo. I was kind of hoping the Jupiter-80 might be my first new Roland synth in nearly fifteen years, but... well, it's hard to say at this point. I need to play one first.

Anyway, I totally agree. That was an incredible period for Roland. It's also why I will always have a special feeling for the company regardless of what they're making now.

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16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolColJ View Post
Funny, I was reading up on Roland yesterday!

great series

1930-1978
The History Of Roland

1979-1985
The History Of Roland

1986-1991
The History Of Roland
Cool stuff, hadnt read those! What I find about the Roland stuff from this era is that its all so musical and inspiring compared to other companies of the time and Rolands later output.
I can dial up a beat on my 808 or 909 or a patch on my 106 and it sounds cool straight away without any external messing around. Its almost as if theyre traditional instruments in their own right rather than cold circuit boards.
#17
16th July 2011
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I had an awesome Roland reverb... 880 something. It was very cool, but also extremely heavy and didn't work without the remote. Ofcourse the remote died .... :-( good memories though!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CAT5 View Post
I had an awesome Roland reverb... 880 something. It was very cool, but also extremely heavy and didn't work without the remote. Ofcourse the remote died .... :-( good memories though!
I had an awesome Roland reverb too (SRV2000). It had amazing parameter control. it was the best gated snare machine. With some secret button presses it runed into a DDL. Roland made the best tape echos, too.
#19
16th July 2011
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As of innovation, probably Super JD-990 is their last State Of The Art product. But i need to mention XV-5080 as a good upgrade and more importantly, for the first time, we could process the samples thru the whole Super JD / Super JV engine.

And that was it. That was the end of the golden era. I need to include the Roland Super JV 1080 which was the most successful ROMpler in the 90's and the JP-8000 (not a fan of it, but kudos to Roland). VariPhrase was a good idea, but algorithms had some bugs, particularly on vocals the pitch would drop back from time to time. Didn't tried the V-Synth, maybe they fixed it. With Variphrase i would put an end to the golden age of Roland.

Since then, they have been just repacking the XV-5080 engine - which is based on JD-990 engine - which gives us 20 years of repacking. Still, most of my synths are Roland, and will be - you can't deny the sound quality!
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16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
As of innovation, probably Super JD-990 is their last State Of The Art product. But i need to mention XV-5080 as a good upgrade and more importantly, for the first time, we could process the samples thru the whole Super JD / Super JV engine.

And that was it. That was the end of the golden era. I need to include the Roland Super JV 1080 which was the most successful ROMpler in the 90's and the JP-8000 (not a fan of it, but kudos to Roland). VariPhrase was a good idea, but algorithms had some bugs, particularly on vocals the pitch would drop back from time to time. Didn't tried the V-Synth, maybe they fixed it. With Variphrase i would put an end to the golden age of Roland.

Since then, they have been just repacking the XV-5080 engine - which is based on JD-990 engine - which gives us 20 years of repacking. Still, most of my synths are Roland, and will be - you can't deny the sound quality!
Hey Don, I'm considering retiring my XP-60 soon, but I was thinking of keeping the expansion cards, picking up an XV-5080, and stuffing 'em in there. Do you think it's worth it at this point in time? Also, the higher playback sample rate capability of the XV-5080 is supposed to be a plus, but I strangely kind of like the warm, lo-fi 32 kHz of the XP-60. This is probably a difficult question to answer, I know, but before I go hunting down an XV-5080, I'd be curious to know what you think (also since you're familiar with the kind of music I like to make).
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandvik View Post
Yeah. When did the downhill start?
For me it started at the end of the JV/XP series. I consider the XP-80 and XP-60 the last of the great workstations. I also really like the JP-8000.

I mark the demise of Roland with the release of the MC-303. It began the trend away from innovation towards resting on their laurels from the past. Granted, there were a few bright spots along the way, like the Handsonics and V-Drums, but generally I feel like Roland has lost its edge regarding synths. The Jupiter-80 could change that, but... I'm not terribly optimistic.
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Yep, agreed. The Technics AX7 was an AMAZING, dare I say "game-changing" machine...... that hardly anybody heard of.

One of the first synths with touch sensitive keyboards. An AMAZING step-time sequencer.
And the "piece de resistance" - the ability to apply any instrument's envelope to any PCM sample (high quality PCM samples too)

Great bit of kit.

Then there's the Acoustic Modelling WSA-1.....

Not in the same league as Roland, but still some significant instruments - turntables etc?? Meh.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mangobob View Post
Technics?


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16th July 2011
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Tadao Kikumoto
#24
16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maisonvague View Post
Hey Don, I'm considering retiring my XP-60 soon, but I was thinking of keeping the expansion cards, picking up an XV-5080, and stuffing 'em in there. Do you think it's worth it at this point in time?
Nothing to worry about, because cards are 32k. You won't lose anything of that "sound". Plus, 5080 combines both the 32k and 44.1k waveforms in the ROM (new, non Super JV waveforms are 44.1, Super JV are standard 32k, and those from JD-990 are 44.1k). So, it not full 44.1k like 5050, which means you get best of the both worlds.

Soundwise, XV-5080 blows XP-60 out of the water. If you don't believe me, keep XP-60 untill 5080 arrives, then load the same preset into both units, for example "A115 LetterFrmPat", listen on the mixing desk and watch your smile once you try the same on 5080. (you'll remember this last sentience)
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16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandvik View Post
Yeah. When did the downhill start? D50? I think Roland started to think digital after the Yamaha DX7 hit and that's where things went downhill...
Everyone was thinking digital in the mid-late 80's. Analog subtractive had been around for a long time, and the DX7 had made this amazing new digital technology available for the masses (previously most digital synths were extremely expensive). Kind of the opposite of where we are now, with new analog polysynths in the $10,000 range being announced, while you can get a cheap digital ROMpler 1/100th the price.

I personally think the only reason we got analog synths like the Juno and JX series from Roland is because they were too slow to innovate, so they had to repackage what was viewed as old technology. Towards the end they even made their analog synths look digital, and used words like "digital" and "computer" extensively in the documentation and marketing (even the product names give it away - JX-8P must be similar to, but better than DX-7, right?)

The D50 was a huge success that finally showed that Roland was still able to innovate, even though it still based on DCO's and filters.
#26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
Soundwise, XV-5080 blows XP-60 out of the water. If you don't believe me, keep XP-60 untill 5080 arrives, then load the same preset into both units, for example "A115 LetterFrmPat", listen on the mixing desk and watch your smile once you try the same on 5080. (you'll remember this last sentience)
Okay. I'll do that. I know exactly which patch you're talking about. Thanks!
Mr Arkadin
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16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimmiG View Post
The D50 was a huge success that finally showed that Roland was still able to innovate, even though it still based on DCO's and filters.
Are you going to tell him or am I?
#28
16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Arkadin View Post
Are you going to tell him or am I?
Nah...leave it..you'll ruin the illusion..
#29
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Okay, I'll do it.

The D-50 had VCOs, not DCOs. There's a big difference!!!

No. Seriously, JimmiG, the D-50 was built around a combination of PCM samples and what Roland called a Linear Arithmetic Synth engine (LAS). Totally digital. But great synth.
#30
16th July 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolColJ View Post
You can blame the DX7 for killing off the Roland analogs.
This would've happened anyway; it already started with the GS1, and if it weren't for Yamaha, someone else would've come up with the idea to use microprocessors and ASICs for sound generation. The DX7 was quite a disruption for the entire marketplace.

Quote:
JP8 has the last laugh now
DX7: 100,000 sold at $1,999 vs. JP8: 3,000 sold at $4,995?

The people who bought them for cheap and who now see that their investment is worth a multitude; they're laughing. But only theoretically, since they're probably not going to sell it and cash in on that profit anyway.
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