Boutique freak

I'm late to the Boutique series of Roland's products, but have been fascinated.

The Boutique range always seemed like a reaction to the Aira series not being enough of a recreation of the classics.

Then one commentator I heard on Youtube recently explained that it required negotiating the company ethos of innovation. 

Did the Roland circuit-modelling framework provide a way for the company to look backward while moving forward?

The consumer demand for Roland classics seems a direct result of the massive influence they’ve had in popular culture.

So, in a world where Roland heritage is being raided by many competitors, it’s interesting to see the balance between outdated and new possibilities when a Boutique iteration is released.

I developed my ABS (Acquisition of Boutique Synths) after buying a TR-06 drum machine, which caught my interest for the Autechre vibe and built-in effects.

In contrast, the TR-08 that arrived secondhand soon after seemed of offer less functionality than the original drum machine.

Synths weren’t initially appealing to me, but I tried the SH-01A and loved the Chemical Brothers sound.

As I started looking around and thinking about another, I became curious why the Juno synth has had two Boutique iterations: JU-06 and JU-06A.

It’s not uncommon for products to be refreshed within short timeframes, but it seems interesting that a recreation was relaunched rather than a new firmware.

It has a switch to move between Juno-60 and -106 sounds, with the former having a wonderfully gritty low-bitrate sound that is beautifully underwhelming at recreating brass instruments.

No wonder the Juno makes me think of Zelda soundtracks.

Anyway, maybe I don’t understand building synths but it does appear that Roland are 100% behind the “limited edition” wording in the Boutique marketing.

I hope they’ll look at the ridiculous prices being published alongside TR-09s and release a new version with built-in EQ sweep effects.

Another aspect that attracted my eye is the design.

When you put a bunch of Boutiques together, have a look at the Roland logo.

As a sometime graphic designer who works with corporate style guides, it seems curious how the placement and size of the logo varies.

Then, while you’re hooking up those Boutiques that you’ve assembled, have a look at how to access a basic function like assigning MIDI channel input.

There are a different series of buttons to press, depending on the Boutique module.

While some might protest that the original hardware mightn’t have had MIDI, it’s surprising how much this aspect of the architecture varies.

It’s like each Boutique has their own character, which is the sort of thing a parent says.

When the parent is named Roland, I hope they’ll start sleeping around and create more Boutiques.

The collaboration with Studio Electronics that gave birth to the SE-02 offered the only analog Boutique, so who knows what IVF treatment could provide for Roland fanboys like me.

I was stoked to see someone had developed a mock-up of a Boutique modelled on the TR-707 (with a switch for 727 sounds!) and hope that Roland will announce this product.