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Review: Arturia Jupiter-8V

An Arturia analogue emulation is always worth investigating, by Jupiter.

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22 March 2008

The Jupiter-8 is one of those vintage synths steeped in analogue folklore. Tales of lush voltage-controlled oscillators and LFOs that forever undulate, surround this legendary pre-MIDI marvel. Like all keyboard legends, the Jupiter-8 is hard to find and – if you do stumble across one – even harder to afford. Roland only manufactured around 2000 of these flagship monsters originally, so spotting one in a pawnshop is about as likely as finding a Neumann at a jumble sale. Fortunately, the Jupiter-8 didn’t suffer from failing voice chips like many other vintage Roland synths, so if you do manage to get your mits on one, you’ll stand a good chance of keeping it up and running for the next decade or so.

The inevitable alternative to this scenario is hoping for some switched-on virtual instrument designer to clone a Jupiter-8. Now, of course, wouldn’t you know it… someone has. Arturia has come to the rescue once again! This mob has a good reputation for bringing to life some of the great classic analogue synths. My personal favourite is still the Arturia CS-80V (I even have the T-shirt to prove it!) but the programmers at Arturia have done justice to several other rare and desirable classics since, and the Jupiter-8V is now one of them. The Moog Modular V and the MiniMoog V are also incredibly realistic simulations.

LIFE ON JUPITER

Behind the Jupiter-8V (along with Arturia’s other plug-ins) is its not-so-secret weapon, TAE, or ‘True Analogue Emulation’ technology. Arturia claims that TAE doesn’t produce aliased upper frequencies, and that this results in a harmonic character that’s very close to the original analogue oscillator. The same technology is used in Arturia’s virtual filters, providing resonance that will self-oscillate when pushed to extremes. The 8V certainly self oscillates, and overall the plug-in sound pretty darn good to my ear.

While Arturia may well have created some spiffing imitations of original synthesizers like the one reviewed here, it’s never been afraid to mix in a generous touch of modern amenity. Typically, Arturia will add in expanded modulation options, along with the expected additions of sync’ing to MIDI clock and various effects processing sections. In the case of the Jupiter-8V, these effects can be driven via mod sources within the synth. There’s also a 32-step sequencer as well, with glide and accent points, that afford you many more creative possibilities than a hardware Jupiter-8 ever could.

ORBITING A GAS GIANT – IO

Opening an expanded panel in the Jupiter-8V plug-in immediately presents the step sequencing section, which can be used as a modulation source for a variety of destinations: pitch, filtering and resonance, and pulse width etc – up to three different destinations can be affected. Additionally, keyboard attributes such as key-scale and aftertouch can modulate a number of destinations. Adding further to the modulation mayhem is a section dubbed ‘Galaxy’ which provides a further set of modulation possibilities via a rotating X+Y axis device. This allows some rather convoluted modulation shapes and patterns to combine the Galaxy section’s two LFO shapes. Bear in mind, these are separate to the standard Jupiter-style LFOs. A further effects section rounds out the modern touches to this Jupiter-8 reincarnation.

I must admit, I held off writing this review for a number of months, disappointed as I initially was with the performance of the first Jupiter-8V release versions. Of primary concern was the amount of processing power the plug-in consumed. Admittedly, I’m still driving an antiquated dual G4, but the first versions tipped the processing scales completely upside down! Judging by the discontent on various users forums that followed, this was a problem endemic to even the more powerful G5 and Intel machines. Only after newer beta versions of the plug-in appeared was I happy enough with the CPU performance to pen this article. As it stands, the Jupiter-8V is quite usable with my lowly G4, and a number of other bugs and indiscretions are mercifully absent from the new beta versions. Nevertheless, a G5 is probably the minimum spec’d computer you’d want to be running to drive an 8V, as any more than three instances of this virtual synth will bring most G4s to a standstill (originally only one instance proved too much for my G4, but thankfully that’s now changed). There are a few foibles remaining in the current version, but you’d imagine these to be eradicated in the commercial release. [Jupiter-8V was officially released just prior to the AT dealine.]

ENTER THE PANTHEON

As it stands, the Jupiter-8V is a highly usable device, and judging by the various comparison files I sourced from the web (the only original Jupiter-8 I knew of having been recently sold off), the Arturia version is very close to the original. If you’re after the sounds that made this synth one of the high points, then the Jupiter-8V is as close as you can get – all without the tuning and timing concerns present in the hardware version. Not to mention that the virtual Jupiter-8 will cost a pittance compared to the original hardware model, and offers tons more modulation options and 32 voices per instance. Copy protection is via Syncrosoft USB dongle, which has undergone some upgrades as well (for instance, Logic Pro no longer crashes if the protection dongle isn’t plugged into the computer). The Jupiter-8V is conversant with both Windows and Apple operating systems, and will slot into AU, RTAS and VST plug-in formats. The 8V is a great sounding soft synth from a company with a growing reputation for superlative keyboard emulation.

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