Model 84 is a fantastic Juno 106 emulation, actually my favorite at the moment. Embrace its limitations, close your eyes, and relive your Eighties dream!
Accurate modeling, no-frills approach
Fully scalable UI
7 separate modules for Softube Modular users
Chorus bonus for Amp Room
Full MIDI CC implementation
— — CONS
Preset management could be better
Lack of arpeggiator (easy to overcome)
No standalone version
I hear you, we’re late on this. Softube Model 84 came out last year, so why bother talking about it now? Three reasons: 1) I finally got to spend some quality time with it, 2) it’s never too late to talk about quality products… aaaand 3) we’re getting close to the Black Friday/holiday season so you might be able to get a great bargain on it.
What Is This Model 84?
Model 84 is Softube’s take on the iconic Roland Juno 106. Introduced in 1984, the Juno-106 is a polyphonic synthesizer with six voices. It is an analog synthesizer but with digitally controlled oscillators and chorus effects.
At this point, you might know everything about the original synth and Softube’s version, so I won’t go over each feature here. Here’s a quick overview of the instrument to cut straight to the chase:
Embrace The Limitations
It’s certainly not the first time we see a (more or less 1:1) software emulation of the classic Roland Juno synths. Roland have their own virtual Juno 106 version as part of their Cloud platform, Arturia offer the “hybrid” Jun 6V (a modern take on the Juno 6 and 106 with plenty of extras), Cherry Audio has recently introduced the aptly named DCO-106 and the pioneer TAL-U-NO-LX is still going strong after all these years – and I might be forgetting something else too!
These (more or less accurate) emulations bring all something different to the table, whether it’s about the modulation path, the effect section, extra features like sequencer/arpeggiator, etc. Model 84 is different in this regard. Softube’s intention was clearly to be as accurate as possible, retaining and modeling the tone and the features of the original instrument, and adding only what was strictly necessary for a DAW-based plugin. Good choice? Bad choice? Well, I’ve read reviews criticizing Softube for not following their competitor’s approach and not adding all the bells and whistles those products have.
I understand the reasoning behind these critics, and yet I praise Softube for what they have done here. The market is oversaturated with incredibly versatile virtual instruments, boasting tons of features. Model 84 is no more no less, in Softube’s words than “a perfect facsimile of the original hardware with all the same quirks and linearities.” I actually like the fact that Model 84 is “only” a faithful reproduction and not a Frankenstein synth. In a music production world plagued by an overdose of options, playing a “limited” quality instrument like this can be more inspiring and productive than dealing with the endless possibilities of other soft synths.
True, Softube could have added an arpeggiator, some extra envelopes, and whatnot, but let’s think about it for a moment: would it really add something to such a timeless design? I don’t think so. My advice is: get a good MIDI keyboard controller, fire up your Model 84, assign some MIDI CC parameters, close your eyes, and get ready to relive your Eighties dream!
Then, if you feel like you need some extra features, most (if not all) modern DAWs make it extremely easy to “customize” your synth tracks using their built-in MIDI fx. During my test in Logic Pro, for instance, I had some great fun adding Logic’s Arpeggiator and Modulator MIDI FX on the Model 84 track – and I made some pretty cool ’80s sounding generative music using the recent K-Device TATAT!
How Does It Sound?
In one word, fantastic. To me, as of now Model 84 is the most accurate and effective Juno 106 software emulation on the market. Softube is second to none when it comes to modeling, and it shows. They captured the original instrument’s character, staying true as much as possible to its design – both visually (well, I’d do without those tacky discolored keys though) and sonically.
Some features have been streamlined, a sub-oscillator has been added. Extended unison mode enables a more pronounced attack to the start of a note. Velocity and aftertouch support promote enhanced dynamic performance with command over the amp, as well as the filter and PW. And the expanded control panel, with added velocity and aftertouch parameters, makes it easier to fine-tune sound and behavior.
Overall, Model 84 is a joy to play, and thankfully it’s not as resource-hungry as its Roland’s counterpart (not to mention the annoying Roland’s protection method – Softube uses iLok, far from ideal but much smoother in my experience).
Check out Jamiroquai’s Matt Johnson playing Model 84 in the video below:
Matt is also one of the preset designers for Model 84. The synth comes packed with both the original presets and many artist presets.
Icing On The Cake
As with other Softube instruments, Model 84 offers some extra benefits to Modular and Amp Room users. Seven fully integrated modules allow you to easily combine pieces of the Model 84 Polyphonic Synthesizer in a modular workflow. Also, the iconic Juno chorus is now available separately in Amp Room, so that you can use it with your bass and guitar tracks (or maybe with your reamped synths?).
Model 84 has won me over and has quickly become my favorite Roland Juno 106 software emulation. Softube did an excellent job at modeling this classic instrument, and I appreciate their effort in keeping Model 84 as respectful and simple as possible.
The lack of extra features, such as the ones that can be found in its competitors, is not a problem for me. There are times when you don’t want to be a Richard Devine wannabe and/or hyper-modulate the f**k out of your synth. There are times when you just want to sit with a quality, classic instrument and enjoy its sound as well as its limitations. If artists like Vince Clarke, Vangelis, Tame Impala and Caribou (just to mention a few of the original instrument’s notable users) made the most out of them, I don’t see why you shouldn’t.
Small niggles? I’m not a fan of Softube’s preset collection design. The extra window on top of the instrument is an awkward solution. I wish they would follow Arturia’s route on this. It’d also be nice to have a standalone version, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
If you haven’t already put your hands on Model 84, do yourself a favor and check out the demo version. I think you’ll end up buying it (and forgetting about those silly prices on the second-hand market!)
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