The JD‑800 is the latest instrument to join the Roland Cloud.
“Ask your average graphic artist to draw you a picture of a synthesizer and most will come up with something like a JD‑800,” wrote Julian Colbeck, beginning his follow‑up review of Roland’s original JD‑800 back in the April 1992 issue of Sound On Sound. He continued, “A sea of knobs and sliders and flashing lights, the JD is everyone’s common perception of this type of instrument.”
However, in 1991 when the JD‑800 was released, this lavish set of physical controls was far from the norm. The popular, so‑called workstation keyboards of the late ’80s and early ’90s — like Roland’s D‑50, Korg’s M1 and 01/W, and Yamaha’s SY85 — had dominated the market, embracing a less‑is‑more philosophy when it came to front‑panel physical controls for programming an instrument. The JD‑800 was very much a reaction against this direction. Therefore, it’s perhaps ironic that, 30 years later, Roland would recreate a JD‑800 as a plug‑in instrument, since you’re (obviously) lacking the abundance of actual faders that was the raison d’être for the original!
This new JD‑800 is implemented in the Roland Cloud as a Model Expansion, rather than a dedicated Anthology Instrument like some of the company’s other virtual recreations. Since Gordon Reid discussed Roland’s online service in his Juno 60 review in the May issue, I’m not going to retread the same ground here. Except for saying I’m not a particular fan of such subscription services — especially when it comes to plug‑ins — and I wish Roland had implemented the JD‑800 as its own instrument like, say, the Juno 60, rather than as an expansion for another.
The JD‑800’s programs are known as patches, and each patch comprises up to four...