REVIEW: Roland JD-08 Boutique Series Desktop Synth Module

by | Jul 29, 2022 | Best Music Keyboards & Synth Pads, Gear Reviews

You can read our companion review of the JX-08 that launched alongside this for more context on the Boutique series as a whole, but for now let’s focus on the JD-08, specifically.

Unlike the JX, we don’t have much hands-on experience playing the original JD-800 that this small-format synth is based on. The last time we played one in person was nearly 20 years ago. So, while our frame of reference may be outdated, that could be an advantage. We’re approaching this unit as its own instrument, not meticulously comparing how it does, or doesn’t faithfully (or not) recreate the vintage keyboard it’s based on. And I think that’s a healthy approach to take with the entire Boutique line, one that we sometimes neglect ourselves. Sorry, we’re synth nerds.

What you need to know here is that this is not a pick-your-waveform and sweep-the-filter type of synth, like a Moog or something similar. We’re dealing with the world of true sound design, so be prepared to strap in, read the manual and get accustomed to spending much more time experimenting. Luckily it does come with all the old patches and the more aggressive timbe of the original, so at least you’ve got some starting points to jump off of. If you’re looking for that 90s electronica and dance sound, this is this right place to begin.

It also has an on-board sequencer, so one trick you might try is to load a sequence in your DAW, let it run freely through the JD-08 and then start messing around with the controls to shape the sound on-the-fly. You might just stumble onto a great sound or patch that you otherwise wouldn’t have got. With plenty of on-board storage, we recommend saving patches often so you don’t lose them.

Look, we’re not going to pretend we’re experts on Linear Arithmetic synthesis, but we do know that we love the D50, and this certainly carries over that vibe. You’ve got iconic samples and PCM waveforms, plus the digital synthesis controls to mess about with, all in a tiny form factor that dispenses with the multi-octave keybed of the original. You also don’t have to try tacking one of those down in working order on Reverb, which can be a nightmare in itself.

So, if you want to add a bit of digital-retro vibe to your rig, this might be an -off-the-beaten track type of module to slot into your workflow, especially if you missed out on the original run of D-05 Boutique modules that are now out of production and fetching premium prices on the used market.

Anyway, the JD model sounds really cool if you’re into that specific vibe, seems to be easier to program than the original, comes in much cheaper, and even contains all the same sounds. So, what’s not to love?

Full disclosure: even though we were sent a unit for review purposes, the initial reviews were so good I ended up purchasing one anyway, adding it to my small collection of Roland Boutiques including my JU-06a and TR-08.


compact, great sounds, good price


the official keyboard option isn’t great, might be too complex for a beginner to really program well