Roland's little known MKS50 synth module was their Alpha Juno synth in a slim, 1U rack mount unit.

In 1982, Roland had pioneered a new, affordable breed of polysynths with their Juno 6 but this lacked any ability to store sounds.

It was Korg who pipped Roland to the post with an affordable programmable polysynth with their PolySix. Roland retaliated with the Juno 60 and later the Juno 106 which also added MIDI and other refinements.

Some years later in 1986, Roland released their Alpha Juno series which carried on the tradition of their Juno range but, to get costs right down, they dropped the sliders and instead used a data entry method where all the parameters were adjusted with a single data wheel. It was cumbersome but you could buy the optional PG300 programmer (below right) to alleviate this. A year later, Roland released the MKS50.

The data entry method on the MKS50 was even more cumbersome as you used up/down incrementor keys to adjust values. However, Roland had the good sense to make the PG300 programmer compatible with the rack mount version as well.

All the Junos had the same basic specification - each of the six voices had a single DCO (digitally controlled oscillator) into a lowpass filter and then into a final output amplifier. The filter and the amplifier shared a single envelope generator and there was a simple LFO for vibrato and sweeps of various kinds.

On paper, the Juno synths were totally unremarkable and in theory, they should have just died in obscurity.

Except that all the variations on the Juno theme sounded fantastic!

The single oscillator was not the limitation you might imagine as it had a rich PWM sound and a sub-octave to add depth. The filter sounded great and the chorus unit that Roland strapped across the main output added substantial depth and movement to the sounds.

Some claim that the later Alpha Junos didn't sound as good as the originals but to dispel that myth, Nostalgia has a huge, brash, fat synth sound from the MKS50 with thick chorus and PWM and with a sub-octave thrown in to add weight. It has a distinctive pitch slur on the attack.

The sound was donated by Rob Lawes who originally had them meticulously multi-sampled by a friend for use in the Propellerheads Reason NN-19 sampler. The original samples were then passed on to be re-edited for Hollow Sun. Rob says of the sound:

"If it's not the factory setting, it's pretty close to the classic 'What The?' patch from the MKS50 and is the famous 'hoover' sound from 'Charlie' by the Prodigy and 'Dominator' by Human Resource."