If you were offered a Roland JV2080, complete with Session expansion card and software editor, for around half the price of a JV1080, you'd probably wonder what the catch was. OK, so the JV1010 isn't quite that, but it comes surprisingly close...
Roland's JV2080 is a deservedly popular sound module, especially amongst professionals, but it's a little expensive for those on tight budgets, especially when you add on the cost of the optional expander boards. The JV1010 provides a cheaper, simpler alternative to the JV2080, and as a bonus, it also includes a switchable Mac or PC direct link, so you don't even need a MIDI interface to use it.
Cutting to the chase, the JV1010 is a half‑rack, 1U high, wall‑wart powered module based on the JV2080 engine and including all the patches and waveforms from the Session expander card as well as the JV2080's internal waveforms. Corners have been cut to keep the cost down, so there's only room for one JV‑series expansion card slot and there are only two outputs, but the powerful onboard multi‑effects processor is still augmented by separate chorus and reverb effects, individually mixable for each part. The LCD of the JV2080 has been replaced by a simple 3‑digit, 8‑segment LED display, and any in‑depth editing has to be undertaken via editing software (a special JV version of Emagic's Sound Diver is included in both Mac and PC versions), but the advantages are that the user has quick and easy access to a huge range of high‑quality JV2080 sounds, with the same 64‑voice polyphony as the original, for around the cost of two JV‑series expansion cards. And, like the original, the JV1010 also offers a good range of percussion sounds as well as a high‑quality GM sound bank.
As is evident from the photograph, the front panel is very straightforward, with one 16‑way rotary switch to select one of the 16 parts, a push‑to‑enter Value knob and a Category Bank selector. This latter is very useful in that it allows sounds to be selected by type (piano, ethnic, guitar/bass and so on) or by bank in the usual way. The JV1010 has one user bank, with the remainder being divided into Presets A to E plus the Session bank, plus a further bank for the optional expansion card if fitted. As on the JV2080, Bank D contains the GM sound set. Aside from the volume control, headphone jack and mains switch, that's pretty much it for the front panel, though it's worth noting that the secondary Edit mode functions relating to the Category/Bank knob are printed on top of the unit. This is fine for desktop use but less sensible if you choose to rack or stack the unit.
Checking out the tradesman's entrance, the usual MIDI In, Out and Thru connectors are present alongside the computer interface socket where a slide switch selects between MIDI, Mac, PC1 and PC2. Power comes via a wall‑wart PSU (one of the inevitable cost‑cutting compromises) and the stereo output is on a pair of regular quarter‑inch jacks.
There are 512 preset patches available in banks A, B, C and E, a further 128 GM presets in bank D and the 255 Session expansion card patches appear in (surprise!) the Session bank. The number of patches available from the remaining expansion slot depends on which card is installed, but it's usually around 250. That leaves the User bank, which can hold up to 128 user patches and comes filled with interesting factory patches to get you started.
Seven groups of percussion/drum sounds are available on channel 10 with two further kits stored in the user memory area. The Session bank includes eight more rhythm sets, so it's unlikely you'll need to budget for a separate drum machine! So far, then, the patch organisation is very much like that of the JV2080 itself.
For those unfamiliar with the JV2080's architecture, the voices are all created using sample‑based synthesis, though there is the facility to modulate one 'tone' with another to create FM‑like effects. Each patch can comprise up to four layers or tones, each with its own level envelope, filter envelope and filter settings. Keyboard splits and velocity switching are supported, but of course you can only get at this stuff via editing software (such as the included Sound Diver) or via a configurable MIDI hardware controller. I've always liked the JVs' filters — you can create pretty authentic‑sounding analogue synth patches using them, and numerous basic 'analogue' waveforms are included as well as 'real' sound samples for those with purist tendencies.
The JV1010 is a very big synth despite its small box, and having such powerful editing software thrown in is a huge bonus.
When it comes to effects, the manual gives precious little detail, but the basic structure seems to be exactly the same as the 2080, where there's a separate virtual chorus and reverb unit as well as a programmable multi‑effects section. This is quite a flexible arrangement, because if one part in a multitimbral setup relies heavily on a weird multi‑effect to create the sound, the other parts can still be treated with chorus and/or reverb rather than having to be either dry or 'weird'. In Patch mode, the unit plays only a single part but the effects settings may be optimised for that part, as many of the provided patches demonstrate. How the patches sound in multi mode depends on the effects setup used in the Performance, but most of the time, the compromise of sharing the same effects between all the parts isn't too serious, especially as reverb and chorus levels are independently variable per part.
As with the JV2080, multis or performances can be created that store all the settings for the 16 part(including the Part 10 drum kit) along with their level, pan, tuning and effect settings. For sequencer use, it's normal to set up a 'vanilla' performance with benign effects settings, then fire in program changes, pan and level commands from a sequencer. The JV1010 has up to 128 performances, of which 32 are user‑programmable via software, and I have to say it's much easier to use the software than attempt anything via the front panel. A MIDI channel can be designated for calling up performances via MIDI, or one may be selected manually from the front panel.
Most modern sequencers should also be able to send controller information to adjust the reverb and chorus levels, and if you're really into programming, you could almost certainly create a mixer map to access the most important patch‑edit functions, to avoid having to go into your editing program just to make minor changes.
For GM applications, the unit should be GM‑Initialised prior to use by selecting GM, then pressing the Value knob while holding down the volume knob. This doesn't affect any stored data, it merely ensures the unit is set up to work as a GM module.
The majority of acoustic instrument sounds stored in the main waveform ROM get by with only three or so samples assigned across the width of the keyboard, but the Session expansion set is designed to improve on this by offering more generously sampled pianos, guitars, basses, key orchestral sounds and synths. Around half the 255 sounds are overt synth sounds including some of the classic (albeit somewhat over‑used) Roland dance sounds, as well as a fair helping of synth leads and atmospherics. There are several good acoustic and electric pianos to choose from, as well as some very creditable orchestral strings, and for non‑guitar players, the repertoire of acoustic and electric guitar sounds extends from Solo Nylon to Big Hair Lead with just about everything in between.
On the subject of expansion cards, it's also worth noting that if you add one, not only do you get a great selection of new patches, you can also create brand new ones using a combination of waveforms from the internal sound ROM, the included Session ROM and the expander card ROM. Admittedly these patches have to be edited via software, but the capability is there for those who want to explore it.
If preset bashing is your thing, then you can get to grips with using the JV1010 in mere minutes, though some of the more obscure functions will require the manual as they may involve non‑intuitive button pressing/knob‑turning sequences. Furthermore, although you can make some changes to a Performance from the front panel, these can't be saved unless you dump them via MIDI, so using the included software really does make the JV1010 a lot more flexible.
Adjusting the pan, level and effects settings in a Patch is very simple, and having the ability to audition patches by type, courtesy of the Category/Bank knob, goes some way towards mitigating the lack of a patch name display. Furthermore, if you're using a sequencer such as Logic, Studio Vision or Cubase with Studio Module, you can set up your sequencer to display the patch names for you. Logic already has a fully configured JV2080 Environment object, so all you have to do is manually type in the names of the JV1010's new user patches and the Session card preset names — all the other banks are exactly the same as for the JV2080.
It might not be much to look at, but the JV1010 is a sonic gold mine. Some of Roland's vocal patches are a bit on the cheesy side, but there are some pretty good ones in there too, and when it comes to warm pads, bright bells, silky strings, sexy saxes, dance stabs or 'big' synth sounds, the JV1010 is up there with the best of them. The drum sounds are pretty impressive too. I tend to be wary of synths that try to be all things to all people, but my JV2080 turned out to be a fantastic all‑rounder, even before fitting the expansion cards. The JV1010 continues this tradition, and its powerful filters are definitely up to emulating vintage analogue synths as well as more contemporary dance sounds. Equally importantly, the output converters seem to perform well, as the level of background noise and distortion is very low, even by modern standards. In fact there's no obvious quality difference between the sound of the JV1010 and JV2080 at all.
It might not be much to look at, but the JV1010 is a sonic gold mine.
Having to edit via software may be viewed as a bit of a restriction, but once you've got the included version of Sound Diver up and running, it's actually a lot easier than working from the front panel of a JV2080. I managed to install and run Sound Diver on my Mac in minutes and it worked first time. Aside from patch managementthere's a simple overall patch tweaker that adjusts all four tones as though they were a single item, providing plus and minus adjustment from the original position. This is ideal for quick and dirty volume envelope or filter editing, though in‑depth tinkering is available on the main Edit page, where the whole synth is set out like a long block diagram running from left to right. All editable parameters are accessible, and the window scroll bar may be used to navigate (the whole synth won't fit on even the biggest monitor all at once), or you can double‑click on the required section in the Overview window to jump there directly.
Pretty much the only aspects of this machine I don't like are the half‑rack format and the inability to display patch names. I can understand why the alphanumeric LCD and separate outputs had to go in the interests of pricing, but surely a full‑width front panel wouldn't have broken the bank? I would also have liked some direct, global way to turn off the chorus, reverb and multi‑effects settings from the front panel, as you can in the JV2080, but at this price I'm not going to make a fuss about any of these minor shortcomings. The JV1010 is a very big synth despite its small box, and having such powerful editing software thrown in is a huge bonus. At this price, I expect it to sell by the boatload.
As you might imagine, one of the trade‑offs with 1010 is that the amount of editing you can do from the front panel is pretty limited. Anything serious needs to be done either via the included editing software or dumps from another compatible JV‑series synth. Even so, some basic editing is possible using the Value knob after entering Edit mode. Alongside the display window are five LEDs depicting MIDI, Patch, Performance, Rhythm and GM modes; pressing the Value knob steps through these options. The Volume knob also includes a push switch: this is normally used to audition patches using a short musical riff or phrase, but holding down Volume and pushing Value at the same time puts the unit into Edit mode. Any part may be selected for editing using the Part knob.
Unfortunately, the basic patch structure can't be edited at all from the front panel, though reverb, chorus and effect send levels can be adjusted along with part level, pan, tuning and voice reserve. All the preset patches are exactly the same as those of the JV2080, though many of the sounds that come loaded into the user memory are different, presumably because they take advantage of some of the waveforms from the Session ROM as well as from the basic JV2080 waveforms. This is actually a bit of a bonus, as the 2080's factory‑loaded user patches are based on the bank E presets with octave shifts, so the 1010 actually gives you more different sounds to play with.
- All the sonic power of a JV2080 in a budget box.
- User interface is generally simple and friendly.
- Editing software for Mac and PC included.
- Includes all the patches and waveforms from the Session expansion card.
- Very limited front‑panel editing.
- Occasionally obscure editing procedures.
Other than the single expansion slot and the lack of additional audio outputs, the JV1010 offers pretty much everything the JV2080 does, providing you don't mind doing your editing via the included software rather than from the front panel.