Many of today's musicians have probably forgotten the speed at which technology progressed in the early 1980s. Analog synthesizers went from being clunky, hard to tune devices with spaghetti-strands of patch cables to sleek, self-contained boxes that anyone, with a little practice, could get some remarkable sounds out of.
A key driving force beyond this development was Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland Corporation. In addition to advancing keyboard synths in general, Kakehashi also spearheaded the development of the portable drum machine and the guitar synthesizer. But one of Roland's best selling products of the time was their classic Jupiter-8 keyboard, produced from 1981 to 1984, and played by musicians ranging from Howard Jones to Jan Hammer to even Elvis Costello. It's recently been recreated in software synthesizer form by France's Arturia, their latest in a growing line of software versions of classic synths.
Designed to work in PC and Mac formats as a standalone product, or synced to most digital audio workstations via RTAS, VST, and AU, Arturia's software reissue version of Roland's legendary Jupiter-8 synthesizer has some great sounds built into it. The unit ships with over 400 presets, and a programmable GUI which beautifully recreates the original Jupiter-8's hardware interface.
The Jupiter-8 was noted for its wide range of sounds, from the expected fat analog tones, to more crystalline sounds that foreshadow Yamaha's DX-7, whose digital tones would supplant the Jupiter-8's dominance in the mid-1980s. There are also loads of interesting percussion effects, including snare and bass hits and even tribal-sounding sequences.
Fun With Arpeggiation
And then there's the Jupiter-8V's arpeggiator. Surprisingly, considering what a fun and useful sonic tool it is, there don't seem to be enough software synths that come equipped with arpeggiators. And even in the mid-1980s, when the Jupiter-8 was revised by Roland as first the Super Jupiter and later the JX-8P (inside a case whose aesthetics were clearly DX-7 inspired), that feature was inexplicably left off.