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re-appreciating the alpha juno 2


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[Longish and comepletely unsolicited paean to the Roland Alpha Juno 2 follows, apropos of nothing. Read at your risk (of boredom or irrelevance]


I know that in purist circles the alpha junos are considered notably inferior to the Juno 60 and 106, etc. Why, our own weasely one called his Alpha Juno 1 something like an insult to the great Juno tradition--or was it a deprecation? A desecration! That was it!


By gums, right now I am absolutely loving the Alpha Juno 2. The presets are hideous but the synth itself is pretty damn sweet, funky, a refreshing antidote to the insane over-programmability of my Z1, softsynths, even Evolver (all of which I love).


For a synth that has only 1 shared envelope, 1 shared lfo, and 1 minimally tweakable effect (a nice rich chorus), the Juno 2 is surpisingly flexible. Why?


1. An expanded 4-stage envelope, i.e., the decay stage is a true env. stage with a level and a time. This is a pretty powerful env (for a hardware synth, heh heh)


2. Velocity sensitivity. It was, I believe, the first Juno to have it. I have determined that I can't live without velocity. Even my pads must have it.


2. PWM on certain pulse and saw waves. In addition to lfo and chorus modulations, and long env. times, you can get some serious swirling and shiftimg harmonics going with this thing.


3. While the one envelope has to be shared by pitch filter and amp, the Juno 2 overcomes that limitation with a nice little variety of envelope types, for instance: for the filter you can choose envelope, inverse envelope, dynamic enevlope (responds to velocity) dynamic inverse envelope or (and this is the kicker) just DYN, meaning the filter bypasses the envelope but still responds positively to velocity. Thus you can reserve the enevelope for, say, a precise pitch effect but still have vel-flt modulation going on. Clever use of limited resources.


Same for pitch and amp--a variety of ways to use or bypass the env. With amp, you can bypass the env by selecting either gt (gate--on/off, of course) or dgt (dynamic gate, same principle as above.)


Almost NONE of the presets make substantial use of the Juno 2's velocity sensitivity. It was as if they added the feature but the Juno programming team just didn't know what to do with it! Well, I do.


Many people complain about the filter. I can sort of hear what they mean; it's not the sharpest tool in the Juno's shed, but it responds beautifully to velocity and it has a nice moody thickness when the cutoff is set low. It sounds pretty crummy when it's more wide open.


In lieu of knobs and sliders, the Juno 2 has a "performance editor" which gives you quick access to mod rate and depth, brilliance (filter cutoff, I think), and env. time. It's a so-so system. One would certainly prefer dedicated knobs.


In fact, I would love this synth most of all if it chucked its preset memory altogether and gave me single function knobs for everything--but kept the vel sensitivity.


These go for rather cheap (cheaper than many softsynths) therefore I can recomend one without reservation. Since I don't have room for it in my mixer or my MIDI interface, I've moved it up to the living room and play it through a little practice amp. It sounds wicked and muscular. I'll be damned.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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I was working with a guy yesterday and he played me a track he had just finished of another project. The synth bass sounded great. I asked what it was expecting to get a reply of, Nord, minimoog,etc.. It was the juno 2. Now I want one.
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Thanks for this post.


I still have my alpha juno 2 I bought new over 15 years ago.


I actually traded my Juno 106 for it. I never ventured passed the presets, so I never really used the alpha juno very much.


I only use it as a Midi controller.


My question is - is there a way of interfacing the Juno 106 with my notebook, and loading it with other peoples patches.


I dont have the time or interest in programming synths, especially with the Alpha dial.


Thanks for bringing my attention to the potentials of this synth. (I was going to sell it, to fund another keyboard.)




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Originally posted by alby:


My question is - is there a way of interfacing the Juno 106 with my notebook, and loading it with other peoples patches.



Alby, my pleasure!


Yes, I believe you can load new "Memory Banks" and maybe individual sounds via sysex, though this something I've never done before (with any synth!). Yahoo has a Juno 2 users group. That might be a good place both to find new sounds and to get walked through the process of loading them into the M bank.


Obviously, this synth is never going to meet all your needs, but, as cliche as this is ging to sound, I find it has a certain warmth...

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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