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The Roland JP-08

The Roland JP-08 is a low-cost ($400!) Jupiter-8-like synth which Roland announced on Thursday October 1, 2015. I pre-ordered one the day it came out, and got it on October 15, 2015.

The JP-08 is a very good synth for getting that early 1980s vibe. One talented user has rendered all of Depeche Mode’s Speak and Spell, Yaz’s Upstairs at Eric’s, and Human League’s Dare using nothing more than a drum machine and a JP-08: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

I have no relationship with Roland except as a long-time satisfied user and admirer of their products (my first Roland was a TR-606, followed soon by a TR-707 and a SRV-2000 reverb)


ICON interview with the Roland Boutique design team (translated)

The manual says it’s not possible to have one module affect the sounds of other modules in chain mode, but Roland Australia has a video demonstrating that this can be done.

Youtube videos showing the JP-08 in action: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (unboxing!) 8 9 10 11 (go to 8:08) 12 13 (they talk in Japanese, then at 0:55 play a really nice little song with all three Boutiques) 14 (playing starts at 2:40) 15 (playing starts at 0:50) 16 17 18 19 20 (Jupiter-8 comparison)

Reviews of the JP-08

Order the JP-08

The JP-08 is no longer being made, but is readily available online

Official product page
JX-03 (JX-3P clone):
JU-06 (Juno-106 clone):
JP-08 (Jupiter-8 clone):

Differences between the JP-08 and the Jupiter-8

The Jupiter-8 retailed about $5000 when it came about; about $11000 in today’s dollars. A used Jupiter-8 currently sells for about $8000-$12000. A JP-08 costs $400, $500 with detachable keyboard. Yes, Roland managed to remove a zero — and then some — from the end of the price.

The Jupiter-8 is completely analog, with the resulting sound but reliability problems. The JP-08 is completely digital, using Roland’s “ACB” modeling technology. The sound is quite close.

There are some slight differences in the sound architecture. The noise source is now in VCO1 instead of VCO2, which means that the JP-08 doesn’t have a pink noise generator. Since the cross modulation has VCO2 modulate the frequency of VCO1, they have restored the ability to use noise to modulate a waveform by adding a noise waveform to the LFO. In addition, VCO1 can now be a sine wave.

Modulation routing

The JP-08 is based on the Jupiter-8, which came out before the first programmable synthesizer with flexible modulation routing (the Oberheim Xpander from 1984), so it has fixed modulation routing.

Since the JP-08 is too small to include modulation routing information on the panel the way the JP-8 did, here are the JP-8 modulation routes:

Can I chain sequencer patterns?

When changing the pattern while a pattern is playing, it queues up the request, and doesn’t go to the new pattern until the end of the measure.

The sequencer has only 16 patterns and no “song mode” to automatically chain patterns to together. This is OK for studio use, but the device would need to be hooked up to a computer in a live show to load sequencer patterns between songs.

Can I connect a Boutique synth to Roland’s MX-1 via USB?

Yes, with the caveat that only one Boutique synth can be connected to the MX-1 via USB at a time, since the MX-1 only has one powered USB connection, and the Boutiques will not use battery power when connected via USB.

It may be possible to connect multiple Boutiques to a MX-1 using a powered USB isolator like the Wyrd USB Decrapifier.

Why did Roland model these three synths?

The JP-8, JX-3p, and Juno-106 all use the very same IR3109 filter; which helped get all three products to market 10 months after development began.

Why doesn’t the JP-08 have more voices?

ACB uses a lot more DSP than Integra-engine virtual analog modeling. It appears to take the actual schematic of a given synth to model all of the components in the analog path. Since the JP-08 is so small, they didn’t have room to give it a second ACB chip to replicate 8 voices.

The very successful Korg MicroKORG also has only four voices.

People who want an inexpensive Roland with more digital voices or real analog can get both with a JD-Xi, which only costs $100 more than the JP-08, has 128 voices (OK, oscillators), and has a drum machine and mini-keyboard to boot.

Does the JP-08 sound exactly like a Jupiter-8?

The quick answer is that the JP-08 will not sound exactly like any given Jupiter-8. To quote Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, who owns three Jupiter-8s, “[one] thing I love about [the Roland Jupiter-8] is that each one sounds slightly different.”

Indeed, the main advantage of the Jupiter-8 (besides its greater polyphony compared to the JP-08) is that each one has its own bit of character; multiple JP-08s, on the other hand, will probably have the same character and sound to them.

Does the JP-08 accept Midi CC (control change) data?

No, it does not. When multiple JP-08 modules are chained together, according to Audio Central magazine, the modules send MIDI system exclusive data to change the parameters on all units at the same time.

I wonder how long it will take for someone to reverse engineer the system exclusive messages a JP-08 accepts in chain mode and make a MIDI CC to JP-08 chain converter.

How does the JP-08 filter sound?

I think they nailed the IR3109 (the filter used in the original Jupiter-8) — the JP-08’s filter sounds very warm and analog to my ears. But, decide for yourself. Go to this video and listen to it.

How does its built-in sequencer work?

The sequencer is a basic 16-pattern 16-note-per-pattern monophonic sequencer. You hit the note in the pattern you want to change, then hit the note you want that step to play (either on the ribbon controller, or with the optional mini keyboard, or via MIDI from another keyboard).

To copy a sequence, you can write it to any of the 16 sequencer memories by hitting “dual”, then holding down the button to the sequence to save to.

To change the sequence, hit “dual” and the button for the new sequence. If it’s playing a sequence when changing it, it will play the current sequence until the end of the bar, then move to the new sequence.

Is it possible to use the JP-08’s sequencer with tape sync?

Yes, it is, but with a caveat: The tape sync pulse has to start within one or two seconds of starting the JP-08’s sequencer. The way to make the JP-08’s sequencer slave to tape sync is as follows:

Do you have any recordings of the JP-08?


Does the JP-08 need a USB driver?

For patch storage and recall, the JP-08 looks like a standard USB mass storage device (albeit one with only a megabyte of storage). To activate this, hold down the Patch Number 2 button when turning on the unit. Eject the drive then turn off the unit after backing up (copy the files from the JP-08's BACKUP folder); to restore from a backup, put the files in the RESTORE directory on the JP-08's USB drive, eject (unmount) the drive, then press the Manual button on the JP-08. After about a minute, the JP-08 will say OK, and the patches and sequences are now uploaded from the computer.

Yes, this process works using just about any computer or operating system out there; I have verified that it works in Linux.

Note that it’s not possible to store family photos or other data on the JP-08; the virtual drive is a ram disk which is erased.

Roland did the right thing here; by making the storing and recalling of patches and sequences use as generic of a driver as possible, it will be possible to recall and store sounds from it decades from now.

The JP-08 can also be used as a USB sound card, as long as one has an operating system that Roland has drivers for. Mac OS, Windows 7, and Windows 8 are supported. Once Roland’s driver is installed, not only is it possible to have the JP-08’s sounds come in to the computer via USB, but also the computer’s sounds go through the JP-08’s headphone and output jacks.

In addition, the JP-08 is a MIDI interface; when hooked up to a computer, the DIN MIDI ports on the JP-08 are a MIDI device which any computer program which can send or receive MIDI can control.

Yes, it is possible to use the JP-08 as a 2-in 2-out audio and MIDI interface for a digital audio workstation.