Skip nav

Roland MKS-50 (Juno I & II)

May 23rd, 2011 by Fitz, Music Synths, Gear, & Tips, 2 Comments

Roland MKS-50 Screen

The very first synthesizer I ever purchases was a Roland Juno II. That particular unit died at a political rally mere feet from infamous DC Mayor Marion Barry. An errant cotton candy machine that was plugged into the same circuit as the board kicked in and silenced it forever. Sigh. Years later I bought the rack mounted version, the Roland MKS-50, but never ended up using it much. Today it’s sitting on EBay hoping for a good home (and high bidding price).

Here’s some sounds from my MKS-50 unit. No fx or eq.

Thoughs on the Later Roland Junos

Roland’s Juno I, II, and MKS-50 line arrived in the sunset of analog synths’ golden era. Their last stab before romplers, FM, and other manners of digital synths would overrun the keyboard landscape. The sound of the later Junos is very different than the early Juno 60 sound. The newer Junos are more crisp and distinct. Their emulations of “real” instruments like pianos, cellos, and flutes more accurate. And their low end is decidedly more beefy than anything a Juno 60 (or even a Jupiter 8) could muster. The downside is that their electronic and “synthy” sounds are lackluster in comparison to earlier units. It’s my opinion that analog synths shouldn’t try and sound like pianos or cellos and should focus instead on making great electronic noises. I suppose that’s why I’m selling the unit.

From a programming perspective the MKS-50 does have a few interesting features. Unusual waveforms to compensate for it’s lack of cross-modulation, and a really nice envelop generator with separate time and level settings – something you hardly ever see on early analog units. And like all Juno units, the MKS-50 has that fantastic sounding Roland chorus which is noticeably quieter than earlier implementations. I’d love to find a pedal or effect box with that chorus sound so if any readers know of one let me know.

The addition of velocity sensitivity as well as aftertouch (both omitted from the Juno 1) made the playing of these instruments decidedly different as well. I find I tend to play them more like I would a piano whereas on a Juno 60 I gravitate towards synth-style playing. The MIDI implementation is great and the PG-300 programmer is a great option to have. If you get a Juno unit I highly recommend you find one of the programmers. All in all, the MKS-50 is a solid and eminently portable unit that I’d recommend for bass lines and basic synth work. It’s also a great unit to augment the often anemic plugin synths that never seem to get that wide, mid-range sparkle of real analog units (I’m looking at you Arturia). If, however, you want esoteric patch routings or classic early-80s electronic textures you might want to dig further back in the Roland line.


  • Oscillators – 1 DOC per voice offering pulse and various sawtooth waves (you can blend both for various timbers). 1 Sub oscillator offering variable pulse width waves. White noise. Pulse width modulaiion. 6 voice polyphony.
  • LFO – 1 triangle wave LFO with level and delay
  • Filters – 1 VCF 24bd Lowpass with resonance, 1 6dB highpass
  • Envelope – 1 four-stage ADSR envelope with key follow. envelop 1 with polarity control. Each stage of the EG has its own level setting as well as duration.
  • VCA - Standard VCA
  • Keyboard – None for MKS-50, 61 key with polyphonic after touch and velocity for Juno II, 49-key with no velocity or aftertouch for Juno I
  • Effects – a great Roland Chorus
  • Memory – two banks of 64 patches

Recommended Listening

The most famous sound of the later Juno seris is the “Hoover” patch which is itself a derivative of the factory preset “WhatThe?”. Wikipedia has a whole write up on the Hoover patch and names recordings that use it.

2 Responses to “Roland MKS-50 (Juno I & II)”

  1. Evan says:

    I laughed out loud at the claim that the MKS-50 could beat the JP-8 at anything.

    • Fitz says:

      I know it goes against the conventional wisdom but the later Roland units did have a much beefier low end. Now if you put the J8 in unison mode it would be pretty close but the MKS-50 with its sub oscillator and chorusing just had great lows. Not nearly as good as the J8 on anything else, but great lows. Of course if you want REALLY great lows the MKS-80 was probably tops. I owned one for a while but its lack of a switchable 12/24 db filter was a real liability for me and I just didn’t like it that much.

Leave a Reply