The People’s Polysynth: Tony Miln shows some love for the Roland Juno-106
WRITTEN BY: Tony Miln
UPLOADED: 15th Jan 2019
I first laid hands on a synth in 1981 – a very brief ‘go’ on an older boy’s MS-10 (I was shown how to do the intro to Silver Machine by Hawkwind – great excitement). However, living in rural Derbyshire, transport was more important to this teenager than playing space rock anthems, and funds went on a succession of motorbikes and cars. My pals in Sheffield with its 2p bus fares could spend any spare money on wondrous noise making devices.
In 1987, I wandered into Carlsbro Sound Centre in Mansfield to finally buy a synth: I was sold a Yamaha DX21 for around £350. It was a very long way from the synth I had in mind to make crazy whooshing space noises, but I was very green and was firmly ‘advised’ that it was the best on the market. I was told that the new Yamahas were more advanced and that everybody was trading in their old synths to get one (with a derisive gesture towards a pile of abandoned keyboards that’d be a treasure trove today). Had I been more savvy, I could have picked up a VCS3, Synthi AKS or Jupiter 8 for the same price – or less – but I duly walked out of the store with my new technical marvel. After I’d got over the initial excitement of these shiny new sounds available at the press of a button, I began to try and edit noises. It gradually dawned on me that this sleek design, reliant on the absence of old fashioned sliders, switches and knobs, was at the expense of the user’s enjoyment. The DX thwarted my synth explorations for a further 4 years…
I’ve never really forgiven Yamaha for the DX range – sonically or for being so obtuse. I finally, grudgingly, admitted that I ‘got it’ after we had a pristine ex-Abbey Road DX-1 in here at Soundgas, and I’m starting to think I might buy a Volca FM, but I remain firmly in the pre-digital camp when it comes to synths. I still find the (admittedly few) new synths I try somehow lacking after getting past the initial wow of those first presets. Joe Mount of Metronomy said in an interview that old synths know their place and leave space in a track, whereas new ones don’t sit well with ‘real’ instruments.
Returning to synths in the early 90s, we kitted out our studio with an MS-10 (though I always wanted a 20) and Moog Prodigy (alongside the inevitable JV2080), but it was my finding an old Roland HS-60 (cheaper Juno 106 with speakers made for the domestic market) that at last started the ball rolling for me and synthesis. I’m not the most technical of musicians, preferring to feel my way with an instrument; only RTFM if I have to (hard copy – analogue all the way!). Finally, here was a synth that even I could understand – and one that seemed unable to make a bad sound – no matter how ham-fisted the ‘player’. It didn’t matter that my playing was terrible – we could edit and sequence it via Midi and an Atari computer; it even had Midi control of the sliders for recording and playback of filter sweeps etc.
I eventually sold my HS60-badged 106 after a couple of happy decades of faultless use (though two voice chips failed after I opened it up to take photos for the listing and decided to vacuum out the dust inside beforehand!). I’d found an earlier, less technologically-advanced Juno and had fallen for it completely. The Juno 60 became the one for me: an arpeggiator is more important than Midi to me now, and there is a warmth to the sound that suits my taste.
The Roland Juno is a very democratic synth: I brought a 106S (Japanese version of the HS60) home this Christmas and my 8 year old son loves it. As do I – I’ve been noodling away on it with a little Korg SQ-1 (to make up for the lack of arpeggiator) and it has reawakened my love for the 106. You can find your way on a Juno without any fear – or prior synth knowledge – and happily stumble across stunning sounds. A great instrument inspires you to create; it encourages and elicits better performances from you: a Juno is a truly great synth. Whichever model you choose, be it 6, 60 or 106, I guarantee it will always bring a smile to your face – they are a joy to play.
Thanks for reading. More to come soon, going deeper into the Juno family.
All the Juno-106s pictured are examples we have sold. We can source excellent examples, and they are supplied serviced and future-proofed with all voice chips replaced, power supply recapped and set up for 120 or 240v use.
We usually have a 106 listed or being worked on – if you don’t see one available here on our site, get in touch now to discuss your requirements.
Tony Miln is the co-founder (& Head Gear Head) of Soundgas. See/hear him in action on Instagram.