Aug 5, 2010

There are many iconic synths from the 80’s whose sounds were the hallmark of the era.  But of the many great synths of that decade, probably the most iconic was the Jupiter 8 by Roland.  It was the primary synth used throughout Duran Duran’s “Rio” album, and Howard Jones practically made his career playing a Jupiter 8.

The Jupiter 8 was very flexible and you could sculpt an incredible range of usable sounds with it – anything from drum sounds to organ or choir-type sounds to chirpy arpeggiated sounds a la “Hungry Like the Wolf.”  Can you tell I worship that album?  So great, let’s go buy one!  Woops… an original vintage Jupiter 8 goes for about $7,000.    🙁

Fortunately Arturia has created a soft synth version for us called the Jupiter-8V that has fully won people over.  In fact, it’s so amazing that Mr. Jupiter 8 himself, Howard Jones, has given it his endorsement.  It sports all of the same modules as the original (LFO, two VCO’s, filters and envelopes, of course the famous arpeggiator, etc.), plus the folks at Arturia have added some new things – various LFO types, a step sequencer, a suite of built-in effects and more.

I downloaded the demo and I had a blast flipping through the presets and making my own sounds.  That’s a great headspace to be in when you’re making music.  After all, the most important thing about a piece of gear is whether it inspires you to create.

So what’s the downside?  Well, my experience using analog synths versus virtual synths is that the virtual instruments generally lack a certain “grit.”  I don’t know how else to say it other than that the real thing creates subtle anomalies that are pleasing, whereas the virtual examples seem just a tad cleaner.  But you might consider that a good thing, depending on your point of view.  Let’s weigh all of the factors and name the winner:

Price: Arturia Jupiter-8V.
Convenience (physical storage space and setting recallability): Arturia Jupiter-8V.
Features beyond the original design: Arturia Jupiter-8V.
Subtle je ne sais quoi that will mostly get lost in your mix anyway: Roland Jupiter 8.

For me, having an actual vintage Jupiter 8 is cost prohibitive, but if it weren’t the advantages over Arturia’s Jupter-8V are slim-to-none.  This software really is something that you have to check out.  Visit www.arturia.com and demo the Jupiter-8V for yourself. – Michael Vecchio

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