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The cult of Roland JD-990
Old 4th June 2017
  #1
The cult of Roland JD-990

Menacing Monolith



-- When did you buy it?
-- Why did you buy it?
-- Why do you still have it?
Old 4th June 2017
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Mushy Mushy's Avatar
 

Interesting thread. Just added to my eBay watch list earlier this week as it happens.
Old 4th June 2017
  #3
My entry:
Got mine in '07. Year ago i've put it in ads, but then pulled it back.

This year (now) i had the same idea. I dig the synth, but having a lot of clutter in the studio kills your inspiration. So the idea was to let it go, and then grab one later. Just checked the prices, about how much i can get, and i came out shocked. This makes no sense. Instead of prices going down, as with other old digital gear, the price actually went up.

I remember i gave around $300 for my unit and another $100 for Vintage expansion. Now for the same setup people ask around 700 notes, but sometimes as high as 900. LOL! What is going on???

I can't think of any digital hardware synth with its value increasing over time, instead of decreasing. This begs questions:

-- How long before it reaches $1000 with Vintage expansion? LOL!
-- Are the alternatives in software really that bad?
-- What's so magical about it?
Old 4th June 2017
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Mushy Mushy's Avatar
 

Ideally I want the JD800 but I don't have the room and they're huuuge. Plus they're even more expensive.

Why do I want one? The Pleiadians' IFO album.
Old 4th June 2017
  #5
Lives for gear
 

-- When did you buy it?
2016

-- Why did you buy it?
I like programming Roland digital synths, but Roland's other models (except for maybe D-50 and V-synth) don't have the same magic to them. Most software synths, especially for electronic sounds, are still too dull- and sterile-sounding, have too many features or options, or are too cumbersome to use.

-- Why do you still have it?
It sounds amazing and is easy to program. Wide range of timbres. Even a lot of the factory patches immediately inspire me to come up with new riffs or even whole songs on the fly. It has a polished, finished, professional sound quality, just as polished as 2010s synths like Kronos/Integra/Montage. It's a classic synth, like a Yamaha DX7, that might not have the best spec on paper compared to modern gear, but has stood the test of time.
Old 4th June 2017
  #6
I understand the sexy appeal of JD-800. IMO the real magic of every JD is how it cuts through the mix. I was working on some 990 demos along with 1080, and no matter what patch i select, i always have to reduce 990, at least 10 dB below other channels. Some of these channels were drums that i programmed on 1080 and which i always set to gain +12 which means 1080 was already playing as loud as it can through its individual outs! Even the LED bar graph on my Soundcraft console confirmed i was near 0 dB with kick and bass, while JD was somewhere around -18 dB and you could still hear this pad sound. I can't explain this.

It is amusing to look at bar meters, the cannel with JD is always just a few leds, while channels with 1080 are full on. For a moment i thought my desk was wrong so i've set JD to another channel, but the same thing happened. Not sure what is going on. How can this synth cut so easily through the mix?
Old 4th June 2017
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Hazmatic's Avatar
-- When did you buy it? First played one in 1995, waited 2 decades later to buy one.
-- Why did you buy it? Because it has that "Je ne sais quoi" sonic quality about it.
-- Why do you still have it? The sound.
-- How long before it reaches $1000 with Vintage expansion? Give it a couple of years, LOL.
-- Are the alternatives in software really that bad? Aside from Omnisphere, yes.
-- What's so magical about it? Let's be honest, coupled with a Vintage Synth card, it's incredible.
Old 4th June 2017
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Originally bought a JD-800 (last of the European batch - not sure of year). I seem to remember it was £800 from Turnkey, for those that remember that infamous music shop.

Naturally loving the sound, the idea of a module version with all the extras sounded like a great idea. I couldn't afford the 990 though, but by the time I could afford a second-hand one (£700 from a music shop somewhere in deepest Essex), the JV-1080 was out and they had one for about the same cost as the JD-990.

I tried both modules and even though the JV was newer, had more polyphony and took four expansion cards I couldn't get past my gas for the 990 (partially fuelled by a good review in Sound-On-Sound with sexy pictures), so ended up with the JD-990.

Later I added the Vintage Expansion (natch) and the Strings Ensemble PCM card (before the were silly money). Eventually managed to collect all of the SL-JD card sets (the piano one is in my JD-800, the others, especially Accordion, see little use).

With all the extra sounds on the ROM cards, the two banks on the Vintage Expansion, plus the three JD9D patches and tons found on the internet I have loads of sounds. To refresh the sound set a little I bought Don's JD-990 patches and many of those made it into my favourites (I have four RAM cards that I swap between with all my fave sounds on).

Whatever happened to that project where some guy was developing four cards in one with a switch to toggle between the banks? That would be perfect for me.
Old 4th June 2017
  #9
UVI recently released a soft synth that emulates the JD-990 and the JD-800 as part of "Digital Synsations volume 2"

The collection also emulates the Ensoniq Fizmo, and the Kawai K5000S.
Old 4th June 2017
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by once was... View Post


With all the extra sounds on the ROM cards, the two banks on the Vintage Expansion, plus the three JD9D patches and tons found on the internet I have loads of sounds.
Do you know if the JD9D patch sysex is available online anywhere? I have the first card but haven't been able to track down the other two.

I'd be happy to put the JD9D-1 sysex on a dropbox if anyone needs it.
Old 4th June 2017
  #11
Two wallpapers in HD for all the slutz and members of the Cult:



Old 4th June 2017
  #12
Lives for gear
 
ionian's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
-- When did you bought it?
-- Why did you bought it?
-- Why do you still have it?
The first week it came out. '94? '95?

I bought it because I went to a music store looking for a new synth. The salesman there knew me well and had sold me a lot of stuff in the past and so he was very familiar with my setup. I went into the music store and the his face lit up when he saw me. He said, "Hey, check this out...this just came out and I know you don't have anything like this in your setup!"

He showed me the JD990 and that was it. He said to me, "You also want the Vintage Synth card. It's the best card for it." Man, I have to give that guy credit...the thing was out like a week and he knew.

Anyway, it was about $2100 for the 990, and another $400 for the Vintage synth card. So I ended up dropping about $2500 on my credit card and walked out with my toys.

Sounds like a lot of money but I've gotten to use for 22 years. That thing has done hundreds of gigs with me and been on hundreds of stages over the past 20 years. I had it in an SKB rack with a few other Roland modules and a midi thru box (remember those!?) where I could route which of my synths controlled which modules for splits and layers.

I've used it on a ton of songs but yeah, it's really amazing in live use so I took it around with me from '95 to at least 2010 before I retired it to my studio.

I still have it because it's proven itself over and over again, on stages, in the studio. It sounds amazing and it still sounds fresh even to this day.

EDIT: I just glanced over to it in my rack and I got a kick out of the fact I still have the electrical tape on it from '95 haha... Let me explain - back then, you could still smoke in arenas, clubs, bars, etc. So no matter where I performed, I had a habit of covering all open but unused slots and outputs with electrical tape to try to prevent cigarette smoke from getting inside. I have an old Maartists memory card in the Data card slot for my patches from the Vintage Synth card, but the other stuff- headphone out, PCM card slot, etc. still have electrical tape over them. That tape has to be on there as long as I own the unit, so about 22 years. Haha I'm not removing it now.
Old 4th June 2017
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Chevron's Avatar
 

Haha I have fond memories from the 90s of the JD990. I have often wondered if it sticks in my mind for being really good, or for nostalgic reasons... You guys have got me interested in the unit again
Old 4th June 2017
  #14
Gear Nut
 

I don't have it. I was born the year it came out... But amazing synth! I'm nostalgic about everything JD/JV/XV and SC actually. Those sounds remind me 90's video games/TV OST and music I grew up with. I wish Roland to release VST emulations of all these synths at some point just to keep this synth legacy alive. I mean they're missing in our software collection and they are still inspiring and relevant too.

By the way, can you get JD-990 (and 800) patches on a JV-1080 ?
Old 4th June 2017
  #15
My first memory of JD series was about the time we still had Amiga computers for making music. So a friend went to visit a DJ who happened to visit a studio in Italy, i believe belonging to Walter Cremonini and he came back with some cool infos about which synth we should buy. And that happened to be Roland JV-80. However there was another, much more powerful synth also mentioned, and i remember that name very well, it was called Roland JD-800. Back then it was considered THE BEST digital synthesiser. And it was way way over my budget. I think it was around 3k in Europe or something like that while JV was 2k which was affordable.

But i remember even back then it was known that JD has different filter and different waveforms than the JV series which will later become the ubiquitous Super JV. From this we can gather that Roland literally terminated JD series with model 990 and completely moved its focus into Super JV series. Seems like JD was "too pro" and they decided to go for the mass market which what Super JV essentially is. Model JV-1080 was targeted as a box packed with a lot of tools, but it lacked the professional sound of JD series. Personally i prefer the sound of JV, because it is softer and darker, plus i am not a pro. But if i was a tv/movies guy i would be all over JD for my scores.
Old 4th June 2017
  #16
Lives for gear
 
synthguy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gear_up View Post
It has a polished, finished, professional sound quality, just as polished as 2010s synths like Kronos/Integra/Montage.
This is true. When I got to play with one, it sounded as modern as anything out there just using the ROM waves. The reverb is stellar too, which has become a rarity on Roland synths. Now being a synth, it's not going to give you good pianos without a piano expansion, but as a synth it has great sampled waves and sweet unique filters. New Age, rock, industrial... it does it all with aplomb.

Are there better things out there? Sure, it is a bit over 20 years old now, but it holds its own well as gear_up says.
Old 4th June 2017
  #17
I bought mine in 2010 in anticipation of selling my JD800. I hadn't really heard one before then but had done a lot of reading around these here parts and decided that sometimes racks were better than keys. I now own quite a few more racks synths because with the move to more hardware they obviously save space. Turns out it also sits in the mix better than my JD800 which I had to fight with a lot to tame the frequencies it generated. The JD990 seems more even.

I also bought it because I wanted to try out the vintage expansion and other expansion cards. This process brought me to the JV1080 which I bought in no small part because of Don's soundset and to add the 60/70's keys and orchestra cards so I didn't have to swap them out anymore in the JD990. And man what a great bang for the buck that is.

I keep it because it's great and useful. It's not part of my main 5 or 6 synths I reach for but when I do want it I'm glad I have it. It's definitely not ever going to be for sale.

Last edited by syzygywell; 5th June 2017 at 02:51 AM..
Old 5th June 2017
  #18
Bought one in great shape back in 2015, along with the Vintage Synth board. After the D 550, this is my favorite Roland rack ( I also have an MKS-70 and JV 1080).
Old 5th June 2017
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

I bought mine in October of 1993 - that's right, 24 years ago

I've got several voice and data cards for it as well as the vintage board, which is a pain in the ass to access via midi.

It's a great synth, mine's in mint condition - I tried to sell it locally a couple of years ago, but no one took the bait.

I'll probably hang onto it for now.
Old 5th June 2017
  #20
Lives for gear
 
TheBrightSide's Avatar
Bought mine new in '96. Got it from KeyboardLand in Berlin for 4000 DM. Expensive new, but it came with every card (maybe 5-6, can't remember)
Only had it a few months, it got pinched after leaving it in a reputable studio overnight.
Old 5th June 2017
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
crystalmsc's Avatar
 

I have one with a vintage expansion board installed, still one of the best sounding and cool looking marvel until now.
Old 5th June 2017
  #22
Lives for gear
 
ionian's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharp11 View Post
I bought mine in October of 1993
Was it really that long ago? I got mine the first week they were released so I guess it really is 24 years for me. Man, I hate to think of that. I know it was before summer...I can't remember but I almost want to say I got it in either May or June of 1993. Lol...I'm at the point I'm using ex-girlfriends to date things hahaha...The girl who was with me when I bought it didn't last the summer so that's how I know I bought it before Summer! hahaha

Another thing that stands out on that box for me -

I bought it back a long time ago - way before DAWs and multitrack digital recording. I used to track with it to 8 track. So I'd sync the tape up with a Roland sequencer and that way I'd have free tracks on the tape. Instead of tracking a keyboard with 6 or 7 different parts, I could just run all that off midi and use the tracks for vocals, guitar, etc. and just save the keys for the final tracking where they could all be recorded on one track since the keys were being run by the sequencer.

Anyway, a thing that stood out for me with the JD990, was that it was a module that still sounded excellent in Performance mode. Usually performance mode (or combi for korg people) sounds like ass since there wasn't enough power for efx. A patch might have 2 efx on it, but when you went to performance, that's all you had for the whole performance mode. So a big issue then was that if you used performance mode for multiple instruments (synth bass on channel 2, pads on channel 3, poly synth stabs on channel 4, Analog piano on Channel 5, Analog strings on channel 6, etc...) usually it sounded like ass because you'd lose the individual efx that were on each patch because all you had was 2 efx total - either 2 for a patch, or 2 for a performance.

Anyway, the JD990 stood out to me because even in Performance mode, with the patches losing their individual effects, they all still sounded kick ass. The 990 was a unit where the sounds didn't need to be drenched in delays and reverbs and distortion to sound huge and ballsy. The raw tone of each patch still sounded pretty huge just by itself.

Great stuff. Man...24 years...my knees just started hurting at the thought of that!

Last edited by ionian; 5th June 2017 at 06:31 AM..
Old 5th June 2017
  #23
Gear Addict
bought 2016 w/vintage synth expansion
sounds lovely, easy to use.
Old 5th June 2017
  #24
Deleted b598644
Guest
the JD990 is practically monotimbral.
in multitimbral mode the sound quality decreases.
Old 5th June 2017
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by BassX View Post
the JD990 is practically monotimbral.
in multitimbral mode the sound quality decreases.
Not at all if you use separate outs which you then separately process.
Old 5th June 2017
  #26
Gear Head
 
Dick Martini's Avatar
 

Had a JD800 but was running out of room in the studio - the plan was to buy a JD990 and then sell the JD800. A used JD990 eventually came up for sale at my local music store so snatched it up. Turned out it had the vintage synth card in it!

Both sound so lovely. Still have both.
Old 5th June 2017
  #27
Deleted 7a792f4
Guest
-- When did you buy it? a friend bought one in the 90's and I played a few patches- sounded sterile (too precise) to me at the time, bought one in early 2010s
-- Why did you buy it? to see what all the fuss was about (price was reasonable enough at the time)
-- Why do you still have it? I sold it (tried it with the Vintage synth board first though)
-- Are the alternatives in software really that bad? no idea- not the right workflow for me at the moment
-- What's so magical about it? The editing screen was nifty. I know folks here that love it say the filters are top notch- and it can 'sound analog', but for me, the XV-5080 is a much better fit (my ears are quite happy with the XV filters- which I think are really nice). I don't feel the JD or XV have the 'Magic' factor (to me that is the D-50- really unique)- but the XV is a great synth, reliable, good to edit, and a solid (and sometimes inspiring) tool for composition.
Old 5th June 2017
  #28
Deleted 8456dd3
Guest
I started on the JD-800 in the late 90's, had a few of them loved all the sliders and possibility to create complex layered sounds.
Eventually sold the last JD-800 and then got the JD-990 instead mainly to save space, had the Ram and SL-JD Strings cards and Vintage board inside.
Sold it when i got an XV5080 in the 00's, later realized it a mistake and so went looking for another one a few years ago, then added the expansions again, the Ram card, Vintage board and eventually managed to track down the strings cards (boy those string cards are hard to find and expensive)
Its the only rom (sample based) synth i own, i do also have an s760 with large roland cd library but thats not the same thing.
I love it mainly for washes and big layered string pads. The filters are great and it can do some nice filtered synth lines...
Id actually really like a JD800 again too, but dont have the space to put it
Its not very friendly to program like its big brother, but its not too bad with its nice matrix of buttons and big screen.
Very cool synth, eric persing really did some great work on the internal waveforms (8MB!).
Would be really good to see a replacement OLED display for it as they look so nice
Old 5th June 2017
  #29
Lives for gear
 
silent5's Avatar
 

Bought in 2015 because it was cheap and I was curious if it could replace the JD-800 (it did - no regrets).

I keep it because it sounds great and I quite like the front panel interface as far as staying focused on the task at hand...the JD-800 is great for exploring but sometimes it became a fruitless time-suck. I actually prefer the patches I've made from the 990's front panel over those I'd made with the 800.
Old 5th June 2017
  #30
Gear Addict
 
Pilotwings's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
-- When did you buy it?
-- Why did you buy it?
-- Why do you still have it?
Years ago I bought a Roland JD-800 new and loved it. When the 990 came out, I sold the 800 and replaced it with the rackmout version and have no regrets. Years later (around 2008) I bought a second 990 and have been using two ever since.

I bought the 990's simply because of the sound. They sound fantastic! I've considered selling one 990 and replacing it with an Integra-7, but haven't partly 'cause of laziness and not wanting to let go (even though I'd still have one).

I still have them probably for the same reason a guitarist keeps their favorite guitar(s). As an electronic musician who uses a wide variety of instruments/sounds, the 990 is one that I refuse to give up!
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