One of the first couple of synthesizers I really felt was outstanding is the Juno DS88 by Roland, simply because of how powerful and memorable the sounds were. Of course, that was an 88-key keyboard which I am often more comfortable with. Fast forward a couple of months, and I had the opportunity to try out the smaller version of that synthesizer – the Roland JUNO DS61. My first impressions of the instrument were that the keyboard felt like a more crammed version of the larger brother, and it wasn’t favorable over the 88-key version. However, since then I have had more time to play around with the synthesizer and really digest the product. I have come to the conclusion that this keyboard deserves to be noted as one of the best 61-key synthesizers of 2018, and it is definitely comparable to the JUNO DS88.
The DS61’s UI is almost the same as that of the DS88 as far as button layout and orientation goes. Yes, since this keyboard is slightly smaller and has fewer keys, the layout is a little bit more crammed than the larger version of this synth. Is it one of the best synths to look out for during the year? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not close. The Roland JUNO DS88 made that list and since this keyboard is nearly identical to that one, it definitely has a case for being in the top 20, at the very least. The style is nice and soft on the eyes. The 61-key layout might not be your favorite, but the shortage of keys actually makes for a more lightweight, portable product. This is great for those who like to travel, yet still need a high-performance instrument (i.e. not a toy). Thankfully, the smaller size does not come at much of cost, other than the lack of fine-tuning which you get from those extra keys. Everything else remains the same, for the most part.
The reason the Roland JUNO DS88 won me over was because I instantly fell in love with the sound quality of the instrument. It sounds as powerful and deep as other strong synthesizers like the TYROS 5 and the Montage 8 but it comes nowhere near those options in terms of pricing; the DS88 is much more inexpensive. When you take a look at the Roland JUNO DS61, you see that it’s even more inexpensive than that, yet you keep many of the same features and all wonderful, authentic Roland sound quality. This has made the DS61 a very popular option over the last few years, and the only reason you would want to upgrade to the 88-key version would be to get more control over the sounds. Obviously, if you can afford it and it is something you want, then it is pursuable. The variety of sounds is pretty great too.
Because this is essentially a smaller Roland DS88 synthesizer, you’ll get many of the same features. If you’d like to find out what those features are, check out my reviews. It comes with enough features that anyone musically experienced can have quite a bit to work with, yet it is not so complex that it would make a newbie overwhelmed. It’s not my first option for a beginner, and click here if you want to see some better options. Some of the features of the Roland JUNO DS61 are:
- Lightweight, gig-ready instrument with pro sounds, enhanced performance features, and battery-powered operation
- Includes all the sounds from the popular JUNO-Di, plus newly updated acoustic and electric pianos, additional organs, and other stage essentials
- Wave expansion slot enables users to download new sound waveforms, available for free at Roland’s Axial website
- Sample import function for playing user WAV files on the JUNO-DS61’s keyboard
- Intuitive eight-track pattern sequencer with non-stop recording for quickly developing song ideas; USB audio/MIDI and DAW Control model
I have a massive amount of respect for this synthesizer keyboard, mainly because of my prior experience with the larger version. I am very big on sound quality and if that’s how you feel as well, then consider checking out either this model or the 88-key DS88. Something else I did not get a chance to mention in this review or my other reviews of Roland synths has been build quality and durability. Over the couple of years of touring and playing with my Roland JUNO’s they remain almost exactly the same as when I had first bought them. They are very durable and wear/tear does not show on these synthesizers as they would on some other synthesizers, like the MS20.