The Legend of Jupiter 8

In an era where Synthesiser manufacturers were engaged in a race for progression and innovation around Analog technology; the launch of Roland's Jupiter 8, in 1981, represents a milestone in the history of polyphonic analogue synthesisers. Delivering an iconic machine that is, arguably, as in demand now as it was at its time of launch. The list of credits alone is enough to firmly place it in the Synthesiser hall of fame, with notable users including Marvin Gaye, Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Michael Jackson, ABBA and Queen, through to Lady Gaga, The Prodigy and Damon Albarn in more recent times, to name just few!

Why So Popular?


The Jupiter-8 became Roland's flagship polysynth, delivering a rich and powerful sound that set it apart from its competition. The source of this unique (for the time) sound? Widely regarded as the fattest and most powerful sounding synth in the Roland range, this is due to the multiple possibilities of sound-layering available. There are 8 voices included, with two oscillators per voice, these can then be manipulated with cross-modulation, oscillator sync, lo/high pass filters and more.

Other innovative features include a bank of 64 patches and a split keyboard mode, which allowed you to have two different patches open on the 61-key machine, as well as a unison mode which allowed you to layer all sixteen voices into one huge sound! On top of this was an intuitive layout of knobs and sliders that gave you maximum creative control to sculpt and shape the sound to your heart's content.

Perfectly Timed Release


The Jupiter-8 was visionary and a step-ahead in paving the way for the future musician; in delivering a stable and precise sound that can be re-tuned instantly and, most importantly, it was reliable! The timing was also perfect. Dropping in the midst of the synth-pop heyday, with acts such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Japan, Ultravox, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, enjoying top ten hits, the synth was very hard to come by:

“When the Roland Jupiter-8 first came out, it was the most desired instrument on earth – so, needless to say, you couldn’t get it. There was a waiting list for it. We had a very good relationship with Roland, though, due to the fact that I worked with Jeff Baxter from the Doobie Brothers. He was under contract with them, so he had access to the instruments. He put in a word, you know, so I definitely got a deal.

The Jupiter-8’s particular sound comes from the structure of the two oscillators of each bank – of each voice – so you can actually layer them. This makes for a very fat, good sound. The Jupiter-8 was my main instrument for melodies – all the “Axel F” melodies were made on it.”


explains Harold Faltermeyer (German musician, composer and record producer, best known for the Beverley Hills Cop Theme tune).

Hear it in Action


Take a listen to some tracks that prominently feature the classic synth:

Axel F - Harold Faltermeyer

 

Thriller - Michael Jackson

Radio GaGa - Queen

Virtual Incarnations


Whilst the original, physical synthesiser might be out of reach for most (even if you have the cash to spare, you may need to search for a long time!) you can now try out the virtual version, with 3 different versions on offer. You can check out the comparison video here and make up your own mind which one is the best:

Roland Cloud – Jupiter 8


Perfect "ACB" recreation of original legendary Roland JUPITER-8 synthesizer.

Roland Cloud – Jupiter 8

Arturia JP8V


Jup-8 V is a powerful addition to the family of analog synthesizer recreations by Arturia. Offering the unique sound palette of the Roland Jupiter 8, this virtual version is a sound designer's dream.

Arturia JP8V

U-He's Diva


Diva captures the spirit of five decades of analogue synthesizers. Oscillators, filters, and envelopes from some of the greatest monophonic and polyphonic synths of yesteryear were meticulously modelled for unmatched analogue sound. More than a single synthesizer: Recreate an old favourite or mix-and-match modules to design your unique hybrid.

U-He's Diva

Conclusion


  Due its well-balanced and timeless design, powerful analog sound and extremely high craftmanship, the Jupiter-8 is still highly sought after and very hard to come by, with prices still fetching anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 euros. Whilst its super-clean and reliable sounds aren’t necessarily de-rigeur these days (with people searching for the imperfect, less clean sound that can’t be achieved in-the-box), the Jupiter-8 remains one of the great classic synthesizers of all time and will undoubtedly continue to be used for years to come.



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