Roland JUNO-60 by Don Solaris
Roland Juno 60
Many spears needlessly got broken in debates whether Juno 60's oscillators are analogue or digital. Both answers are actually correct, depending from which angle we look at the problem. The part that i will focus in here is the analogue signal path that starts at the oscillator point - therefore, from this perspective, i will call Juno 60 an analogue synth.
What makes Juno 60 special is its user interface. When ever a beginner would ask for the first synth recommendation, my answer would be Juno 60. Can't be more logical laid out control, can't be more simple to work with. Plain simple to learn the basics of subtractive synthesis. Highly recommended for anyone starting to learn how synthesizers work.
I gave 5/10 for the features, since it's obviously a single oscillator structure, with one filter and a single envelope. Too bad there's no 12dB tap point at the filter stage, this would make some really exotic PWM pads for which Juno 60 is known (in combination with its killer Chorus). Still, its filter sounds fantastic and is in fact one of my favorite sounding filters. Instead of just adding the 'liquid' part of the resonance, this one colors the affected frequency band in a very pleasant way. And it will squelch nicely when pushed high.
What makes Juno 60 a killer synth actually lies right at the end of its front panel controls next to the chorus buttons, and that is the envelope. Rather than being software controlled as on the other Roland DCO synths, this one uses hardware chip IR3R01, making it brutal fast and snappy. Particularly when compared to software envelopes of that age. It's the same envelope chip as used in the flagship Jupiter 8. When you lay down the 1/16ths via the arpeggio, this thing works like a super-fast die cutter.
Chorus on this unit is sort of a double sided sword. It will do magic on some applications, but if overused, tends to make all the patches sound the same. I personally prefer to use it for pads only (with partly closed filter), and absolutely never use it for bass or arpeggio stuff.
External MIDI control is a must have for this unit. Luckily there are few solutions / upgrades available now at the market which make life easier. Technically speaking, Juno 60 already has external control available, only thing required is to convert it to the MIDI standard via MIDI/DCB converter, or to go with something like the Minerva upgrade.