The Roland Juno DS61 is a digital synthesizer with 61 keys.
According to the company, this is a highly versatile, intuitive, and mobile workstation. Do we share the same sentiments? Well, to some extent, we do.
But, of course, we have a few reservations here and there.
In truth, this keyboard looks really well thought out. Plus, it will definitely make a good instrument for writing, performing or recording your music.
But it seems geared more towards to the beginner, than to all players. Advanced players will feel many limitations when using this keyboard, especially those who are used to playing the piano.
Why? Well, we’ll answer that, as we dive further into the review…
Roland Juno DS61 Specs
- Number of keys: 61 velocity sensitive keys.
- Action: Synth.
- Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Modular Lever.
- Max Polyphony: 128 notes.
- Presets: Over 1200 patches, over 64 performances, over 30 drum kits.
- Sound Effects: s Multi-effects type, 3 Chorus types, over 30 Drum Kits types.
- Arpeggiator included.
- 8-track sequencer.
- Audio Playback: AIFF, WAV, MP3.
- Connectivity: Audio Input, Audio Output, Headphones jack, USB (type A and type B), MIDI I/O, Pedal Inputs.
- 1 Wave Expansion slot.
- Dimensions: 39.68 inches x 11.81 x 3.87 inches.
- Weight: 11 pounds.
Features Of The Roland Juno DS61
One of the strongest points of the Juno DS61, in comparison with similar keyboards, is its well-organized interface. The buttons are properly organized and grant the user instant access, to loads of functions on the keyboard.
Meaning the user is able to locate advanced functions, swiftly and easily. This, in itself, is a big plus and makes the keyboard a lot easier to use.
Now let’s compare to this to other synths. When you check out Korg synths or synths from similar brands, you typically find, that they are quite difficult to use. There’s a very steep learning curve, to decrypt the menu arrangement on the Korg Kross 61, for instance.
That’s not the case for the DS61.
On the extreme left of this keyboard, there’s a joystick which you can use to achieve a number of effects. You can even use this to get a very convincing wah-pedal sound, for instance. Although its default function is actually pitch-bending.
Now, above the joystick, on the upper left corner is a set of knobs.
These knobs are everything you’ll need to control certain functions on a pre-selected patch like its cutoff, resonance, release, and attack. And this, for us, is another plus, because of the ability to edit your patch so intuitively is rare.
Besides this already commendable feature, you can also choose to assign whatever function you want to the knobs. Very impressive indeed.
And there’s still more to see on the interface. You’ll find other buttons which perform individual functions like:
- Shift octaves.
- Split keyboard.
- Layer patches.
- Mix sliders.
With this intuitive interface, the musician will be able to efficiently find their preferred sound every time.
Impressive Sound Library
Not everyone will be in love with the sound of this keyboard. And a lot of people will prefer the sounds from other brands like Korg and Yamaha.
But talking objectively, we have to hand it to Roland, this comes with some great sounds for the price. We especially love the organ, string, and acoustic piano sounds. The synth tone, though, didn’t really work for us.
Now, to make these patches easy to access, Roland organizes them into nine major categories. This way, you can easily scroll through them, using the central dial. And thanks to the LCD display, you can always see what patch you’re currently on, in addition to other menu options.
Beware though, the LCD display is nothing fancy, like the touchscreen full-color displays of some other keyboards. So, it can be a bit difficult to use the display for building or editing tones.
It might take you a bit of time and practice to use the Phrase Pads effectively. However, they do take things to the next level. Once you’ve got the hang of them, your performance will literally take a 180-degree turn for the better.
So, what’s up with these Phrase Pads?
They have the ability to play anything you input into them. And “anything” can range from a preset patch to a snare hit. You could even load a backing track from the built-in USB port.
With these Phrase Pads, you not only have pads, but you also have sequencers, as well as a loop-building station. Plus, the Phrase Pads are the very spot where you control preset song tracks and rhythm.
Trust us, if you’re going to be performing live frequently, the Phrase Pads will become your regular buddy.
Loads Of Connectors
Expanding the capabilities of the DS61 is very easy and another reason you’ll love the synthesizer. Of course, in the connectors department, you’ll find the usuals. There are jacks for your sustain pedal, stereo output, expression pedal, MIDI. Just like you’ll find on every regular synth.
However, there are some inputs on the Juno DS61, that you won’t find on many other keyboards. Perhaps the most important is the jack input for a microphone. You won’t even find this on the pricier, Roland Jupiter 80 model.
With this microphone jack, you’ll be able to use the vocoder as well as other effects. Effects like the pitch alteration (auto-tune style).
And beyond that, the mic input also helps the musician get a little more creative especially when recording or performing live.
What else is there to see here? Yeah, there are the USB ports – two of them. You use one to connect your keyboard to your computer. And you use the other for media storage.
So, yes, you should be able to upload songs to your keyboard from your computer pretty easily. And then you can sample them either on the keyboard or on the Phrase Pads.
You can also edit tones using your computer’s sound library. Or you could record directly onto any music production software of your choice.
But here’s something you should know… there are no built-in speakers. But since there are headphone jacks, you can use headphones. But since the quality of sound you’ll get will depend on the quality of headphones you’re using, you should probably think of getting a pair of quality headphones.
61 Unweighted Keys
The Roland Juno DS61 comes with 61 unweighted keys. Yes, the “61” in the name stands for the 61 keys. But, these keys do not have aftertouch. Yes, a downer.
So, about the unweighted issue… If you’ll be using the synth patches for the most part, then the fact that the keys are unweighted, might not be an issue to you. In fact, some players might even prefer unweighted keys. Why?
Well, unweighted keys respond much faster and more consistently when you play arpeggiations or fast runs. Also, a beginner might find it easier to use a keyboard with unweighted keys, than keyboards with weighted keys.
However, we wouldn’t recommend this keyboard, to someone who is looking for something, they could use as a digital piano.
It might be smaller than you’re used to and it might be plastic. But these two features are actually advantageous in terms of portability. Making this keyboard compact and lightweight enough to be easily carried from place to place.
At 11 pounds, this keyboard is lighter than almost every other keyboard within its category. And that’s not all…
To make it even more portable, Roland gives you the option of operating this with batteries. Now, this means that even on a bus or train, you can still engage in making music!
So, in every sense, the Juno DS61 is a super portable keyboard.
Pros Of Roland Juno DS61
- Compact, lightweight and portable.
- Intuitive user interface.
- Sounds are very easy to expand and customize.
- Great synthesizer/keyboard for the beginner.
Cons Of Roland Juno DS61
- Musicians who need a synth with the feel of a piano won’t appreciate the unweighted keys.
- Editing tones using the LCD might be a bit difficult since it isn’t a touchscreen.
- No built-in speakers.
And now, for our verdict on the Roland Juno DS61.
This is a great keyboard and many keyboardists will love it, but not all. Musicians who are looking to get the feel of a piano, for instance, might have to look elsewhere.
Also, for people who want to create some complex sounds, this keyboard might not be your best bet.
But be that as it may, the Juno DS61 is still, one of the best performing keyboards within its category. And most musicians looking for something to work with either live or for recording purposes will love it.