Roland Juno-X Review: A Nostalgic Workhorse


Some sounds never die. Whether it’s classic rock guitarists coveting decades-old guitars and amps or Mac DeMarco messing with ’80s Casio keyboards, there’s something about vintage sounds that goes beyond nostalgia. Old guitars, synths, amps, and drums have a certain tone that we haven’t necessarily moved past. It could be the slight analog distortion, age in materials, or just the way they physically feel when we use them—there are real, non-vapid reasons why many musicians seek out specific tools from specific eras.

The problem with old keyboards like Roland’s iconic Juno-6 and Juno-60 models (with sounds responsible for a ton of the hits you love from the 1980s) is that if you want a real one, you’re going to have to pay thousands of dollars, and then you’re going to have to maintain a 40-year-old, relatively fragile piece of equipment. It’s an annoying proposition.

But if you’ve been searching for the perfect modern keyboard to scratch your vintage itch, look no further than Roland’s new Juno-X, which looks like a vintage Juno, sounds like a vintage Juno, but is easier to use (and more versatile) in the modern world.

The Sound of the ’80s

Photograph: Roland

Originally built as a lower-cost alternative to Roland’s higher-end Jupiter-8 somewhere between 1982 and 1984, the Juno-6 (later the Juno-60 and Juno-106) is famed for its iconic chorus sound. It was used with spectacular effect on hits like “Time After Time” and “Take On Me,” among many others. After its initial stint in pop music, the Juno (as all iterations would come to be known) became a favorite of house and dance music artists in the ’90s and 2000s, who liked how it layered in between bass and high notes. These days, it’s considered one of the must-have synths for any nerd—aforementioned indie rocker Mac DeMarco loves his.

The synth is polyphonic, meaning you can play multiple notes at once—relatively expensive tech at the time it came out. The bigger Roland Jupiter-8 was the first to introduce this to Roland products and cost $5,000 on release, but the Juno-6 was meant to bring that to the masses, with an original starting price of $1,295. A part of the reason it found immediate success was that it featured digitally controlled oscillators, which meant the synth stayed in tune between gigs, something that was also rare at the time. You could plug it in and it would be in tune! 1980s magic!

Original Junos never really fell in value much. To this day, a real Juno-106 will cost you a little over $2,000 on the used market, which nearly matches inflation with its original list price and is equivalent to this new Juno-X. That’s why I’m so excited.

The Juno-X packs significantly more tech and even more sounds. You get spot-on emulations of the Juno-6, Juno-60, and Juno-106 (each had slightly different presets and tones), including three different versions of Roland’s legendary Juno chorus to mix and match with. The keyboard comes with a myriad of other excellent Roland keyboard sounds and even a built-in drum sequencer. You might be familiar with Roland’s iconic TR-808 drum machine—this has an equally excellent drum sequencer on board.

Couple that with a pair of balanced XLR outputs, MIDI input and output, and even a mic input for the included vocoder (!), and you can literally do anything you want on this piece of gorgeous ’80s design. It even has built-in speakers—a feature of a rarer, student model Juno—to play sounds without an amp, speakers, or headphones. You can even turn them on when you play live to act as a small stage monitor for your piano tones.

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