REVIEW: Roland JX-08 Boutique Series Desktop Synth Module

When the original Boutique series synths were announced a few years back, the JX-8P was one of the ones I was most looking forward to – of course I knew they’d have to cycle through the Junos, Jupiters, D-50s and so forth before they hit this sleeper, but here we are. Finally, in 2022 we’ve got a Boutique version in the JX-08.

Now, the Boutique range has its fans and detractors, and I can see both sides. They are certainly not without their faults *cough*notenoughvoices*cough* But for those of us who want that vintage flavor without the headache and expense of actually buying and maintaining aging synthesizers, these are a fabulous alternative. The original JX-8P is one of my all-time faves, but programming it was always a challenge, and made even worse if your unit didn’t have the companion controller add-on. Luckily, the small-format boutique version dispenses with the need for add-ons and makes everything easily accessible on the front panel.

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Size-wise, it’s what you expect from the Boutique series, similar to the tabletop Behringer format in dimensions, just not Eurorack compatible like the Behringers. They also cost about $100 more than most of the Behringer units. Not that we’re complaining, because you get the two digitally controlled oscillators which sound great – nice and crisp but are even better when you engage the on-board chorus. And let’s face it, don’t all Roland synths just sound more magical when you engage the chorus? We just want to place it in context with other things on the market.

If you’ve ever dialed in a Moog or Arp style subtractive synth before, the layout will make a ton of sense, so even novices shouldn’t have option paralysis. It’s quick and simple to get lush pads, killer leads and bass lines down without having to break a sweat. You also get all the presets from the original (plus like 100 new ones to fiddle with), more than a dozen fx built-in, an arpeggiator, polyphonic sequencer and up to 20 (!) voices with splitting options. You even get individual LFO control for both of the DCOs – nice touch for modulation wizards out there.

Whew, that’s a LOT of sound-shaping control at your fingertips, all under $400. Now, you’ll likely want to control this via MIDI, wither with a nice controller or sequenced through your DAW, because let’s face it, the K-25m keyboard Roland insists on pairing with their Boutique line just doesn’t cut it at all.

We’ve fallen in love with the clear, crystalline textures of the JX all over again. We think you will, too.

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

PROS:

simple to dial in great sounds, no need for the external programmer like with the original

CONS:

the official keyboard option isn’t great

STREET PRICE:

$399

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