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Roland JU-06A review

Roland revamp their Juno-inspired Boutique with a new arp and expanded sound palette. MusicRadar investigates…

  • £351
  • €399
  • $399
Roland JU-06A
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The JU-06 was already up with the best Boutiques, and this update is a winner all-round. A must-try source of classic sounds.

Pros

  • Gorgeous, authentically ‘Juno’ sound.
  • Arp and Chord modes are great additions.
  • Analogue clock input is a handy tool.

Cons

  • Monophonic sequencer.
  • Boutique form factor is still a little fiddly.

Like many of Roland’s classic analogue instruments, the Juno-60 and 106 remain highly sought-after, despite being, essentially, simple instruments. With just a single oscillator, filter and amp, neither Juno was exactly all-bells-and-whistles, even in its day. Yet the warm, rich sound they created has made them classics, and the Junos remain some of the most widely-used synths in electronic music even now.

Roland clearly realise how highly prized these Juno sounds still are, as the Juno-106 was one of the first instruments to receive the Boutique recreation treatment back in 2016. Now that Boutique, the JU-06, is the first to get an updated version, becoming the JU-06A and adding a variety of features that expand its appeal significantly.

First, a quick recap. As with the original JU-06, the primary synth design here is effectively a straight copy of that found on the Juno-60 and 106. From left to right we have oscillator, hi-pass and low-pass filters and an amp section, flanked at either end by an LFO and ADSR envelope for modulation. 

As before, the synth is powered by Roland’s digital-aping ACB technology, which emulated the behaviour of the original instruments’ circuitry, with the only major difference being a reduction in voice count from the originals’ 6 down to 4. 

Signal flow

The 60/106 switch is more than just a gimmick

The oscillator section has buttons for engaging pulse and saw waves as well as a sub oscillator, the latter of which has its own level control, as does a white noise generator. There’s pulse-width modulation that can be routed from the LFO, envelope or be controlled manually. 

Of the two filters, the low-pass is the only resonant one. It’s also the only filter to have modulation options, routable from the envelope or LFO using individual level sliders. Both the filter and amp sections have envelope inversion switches, so it’s possible to have the ADSR modulating the amp and envelope in opposing directions.

The signal flow is finished off with chorus and a simple delay effect. The chorus is an ACB recreation of the famous dual mode chorus from the original Junos; a gorgeous, noisy effect that’s great for adding width and animation. 

Upgrades

This new version, however, builds on the original JU-06 by incorporating various elements of the Juno-60 alongside those from the 106. The most notable of these is the arpeggiator – hence the ‘A’ added to the name – which has a three-octave range and up, up/down and down modes. There’s also a mode switch, to the bottom right of the unit’s interface, for switching between Juno-60 and 106 behaviour. This affects both the filter and the envelopes, engaging the punchier and more percussive sound of the Juno-60.

There are other upgrades here too. Most notable is a new Chord mode, which can make use of 16 fixed chord shapes. The 16-step sequencer from previous Boutiques is present here again, and as with previous iterations, this is still mono-only. It can, however, be used in conjunction with the Chord function, which can result in some really excellent Detroit-style chord patterns. 

Combined with the arp, it makes this latest Boutique a particularly good tool for inspiring classic house and techno licks. It’s perhaps a slight shame not to be able to fully sequence all four polyphonic voices, but, if anything, the need to work around this limitation is going to make the JU-06A a more characterful creative tool in the long run. 

There’s also now an analogue clock input added to the synth’s front panel, which is a great addition for those wanting to clock the arp or sequencer to a modular system or wider hardware setup.

(Image credit: Future)

Trade-off

The trade-off for squeezing in those extra features is the loss of the pitch and mod touchstrips from the left of the front panel. Personally, this doesn’t bother me – I’ve never really used those all that much on other Boutiques I’ve tried, so I’d rather have the additional sequencing tools and edit controls.

In all, we really like this latest Boutique. While there are debatable differences between these ACB recreations and the originals – particularly in higher frequencies – there’s little denying the fact that they sound excellent in their own right; richer and fuller than most virtual analogue synths, and certainly capable of ticking all the boxes you’d expect from a Juno emulation. The 60/106 switch is more than just a gimmick too, offering both punchier Juno-60 sounds that really suit the arp and the fuller, more open sounds of the later 106.

We still have misgivings about the Boutique form factor in general; the mini-jack main output isn’t ideal, and cramming the full interfaces of classic synths into a 30cm desktop module can make for fiddly editing. Still, given the simple nature of the Juno architecture and classic slider-based design, this latter issue is nowhere near as bad for the JU-06A as for some of its siblings.

If you’re looking for a convenient, well-priced source of classic Juno sounds – particularly for those wanting the classic club sounds of Detroit and Chicago – this may well be the best option out there.