9. Roland JD-800
It was a difficult decision, putting the JD-800 on the list in lieu of the massively popular D-50. The latter is arguably the classic between the two and represented a major shift in Roland's approach to instrument design and sales. Yet the JD-800 was, frankly, a far better instrument.
Like the D-50, the JD combined sample-based oscillators with a fairly typical signal path that included a resonant filter, envelope generators and the like. However, the JD-800 offered something not available on any other sample-based synthesizer: a bucket load of sliders. Yep, the JD harkened back to the analogue era, offering scads of real-time control (that, alas, could only be transmitted via SysEx). It was big, impressive and utterly sexy, even if it was made mostly of plastic.
More than that, it sounded out-of-this-world. At a time when manufacturers were doing their best to cram as many grainy 8-bit low-rate samples into an instruments' ROM as possible, Roland used only hi-res stuff, resulting in outstanding sound quality.
Alas, the JD-800 was released a decade too soon. The analogue revival was still years off and sales fizzled (at least by D-50 standards). However, Roland knew what it had, and the technology behind the JD-800 would pop up again and again in its best-selling series of rack-mountable MIDI modules.
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