Over the holidays I purchased the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit for the Roland Juno-6. Unfortunately the product doesn’t really work as advertised and can’t recommend the product. Perhaps other kits might work for the Polysix or Mono/Poly, but definitely the Roland Juno-6 kit does not work.
First the installation was actually very easy and straight forward. It required soldering only two wires and everything else was plug and play. When I hook up a midi cable and connected my sequencer, I was able to send note on/off messages in sync without issue. So far so good and with just that one taks, one might think the product is a success. However, there are several MAJOR problems with the CHD JU6-KBD Midi Kit which I outline as follows:
1. The Software doesn’t work. Included is a software sysex generator that builds sysex strings for you to send to the JU6-KBD. The software generates the strings, but when you send them, they don’t work at all. This is a HUGE problem because it means you can’t change any of the parameters with the kit such as Midi Receive Channel. It’s stuck on Channel 1 at all times!! That sucks! – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.
2. The Arp will not sync using the JU6-KBD via midi at all. In fact you can’t get it to switch from INTERNAL to MIDI because the software stated above doesn’t work. So you you still have to trigger the arp the old fashion, BUT RELIABLE, way of using the trigger input on the back of the Juno-6. – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.
3. While doing some research online I found a few others with the same kit experiencing the same problem. None of the internal parameters of the JU6-KBD could be changed at all via sysex. The software and/or the JU6-KBD kit does not accept the changes. Note that the JU6-KBD is also the same kit for the Juno-60. – UPDATE – I found the fix, see bottom.
4. Default values that come with the CHD JU6-KBD Midi Kit are not written anywhere in the manuals. You have no idea what the default parameters are so you can’t really test to make sure things are working. I know the default midi channel is 1 simply because that’s the only channel the JU6-KBD responds to. It would have been very helpful to have a list of default settings in the manual.
5. Due to the fact that the JU6-KBD has MIDI input only, you cannot in any way determine if values sent are getting registered in the interface. There is no signal LED on the interface to show that midi messages have been received or processed. By trial and error I am only able to determine that sysex settings are not getting processed. It’s crazy when you send a sysex string and there’s no way to know if the hardware received the transmission. This is a major flaw with the CHD Elektroservis Midi products.
6. Watch out! The screw that secures the Ju6-KBD kit inside the Roland Juno-6 is too long. It will go right through the bottom of your synth if you are not careful. I found this out ahead of time and used a shorter screw. Nothing like having a sharp screw sticking out of the bottom to rip or scrape your pants. Be careful!
7. The instruction manual sent with the kit is all in black and white. I recommend using the PDF manual on the website as it shows the colored wires of the synth. This is minor and not a big deal, but definitely makes the process much easier. After I realized the black and white manual wasn’t going to cut it, I jumped on the web and thankfully found the colored manual. Much better!
The good news is that I can sequence the Roland Juno-6 using the kit ONLY on Channel 1. The bad news is that I can’t sync the arp without resorting to the trigger input. I also can’t and won’t buy any other of the CHD Elektroservis kits because I obviously can’t run them all on Midi Channel 1. I need to be able to change the Channels.
The CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit is cheaper than the KIWI kits, but if I had known I was having this much trouble I would have just gone for the KIWI and enjoyed a hassle free experience. The only bad thing I’ve heard about the KIWI kits is that they are VERY expensive. I know you get what you pay for but with both CHD Elektroservis and KIWI I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.
In any event, I’ll keep testing the CHD Elektroservice JU6-KBD. I emailed the developer but I’ve heard communication is not that great with the company so I’m not expecting much. We’ll see.
If I can get the CHD JU6-KBD midi interface to respond to my midi sysex commands, than I’ll give the product 4-5 stars. As it is, I don’t recommend it at all and would just go for the KIWI. I’m coming off a frustrated weekend wasting a lot of hours trying to get the JU6-KBD to work, so probably I sound a bit negative…laugh. I just go crazy when products don’t work as advertised.
UPDATE #1 – SYSEX PROBLEM FIXED!!
I’m happy to report that I found the problem and everything appears to be working well with the CHD JU6-KBD. Several manuals were sent with my kit including the installation, operation, and sysex communication reference manuals. I actually read each one, especially the operations manual over and over. It is when I had trouble with the sysex generator that I decided to read the sysex reference manual to create my own custom sysex string manually. I read this manual many times and determined that my custom string was the same output as the sysex generator. I did a little head scratching after that discovery. Only after reading the sysex reference manual a 5TH TIME did I see the perhaps most important sentence of the entire manual:
“Performed changes of parameter values become evident after next turning-on of the instrument (during the interface reset).”
This is sentence is critical!! You have to turn off the Roland Juno-6 and then back on again for any changes to take place after sending sysex commands. This goes against my regular practice for regular sysex transmission, so I didn’t think to do that at all. For some reason I just couldn’t notice or even wrap my head around that very important part of the instructions at the bottom of page 4! With comments I’m reading about the same issue around the web, I recommended to the developer to highlight that part more….laugh. In fact, I so far don’t see that statement even in the regular manual which most people I presume would read first. So if anyone is having any problems with getting their CHD Elektroservis midi kits to respond to sysex, just turn off and then on again your synthesizer. You’ll likely be presently surprised that everything works great.
Also, I found that creating a template using Midi Designer for the iPad worked great to organize and send sysex strings to the JU6-KBD. I created a knob to change the midi channel, plus an on/off switch for the arp sync. I then created a knob to select arp divisions. Works great! Midi Designer for the iPad allows you to quickly enter sysex strings attached to a button, knob, or slider. Then via Midi you can send that string really fast and easily. I highly recommend it.
I can also now upgrade my thoughts of the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD for the Roland Juno-6 to highly recommended!! It just took me an entire day of absolute frustration trying to work out the sysex issues until this morning when I finally discovered that darn sentence to reset the JU6-KBD…face palm…laugh! Oh well.
Here’s a Roland Juno-6 Demo Track by The Outsider who also installed the CHD Elektroservis JU6-KBD Midi Kit.