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To cut to the chase - great sounds, best when controlled by a PC, but could be set up for basic live use.
Many have complained about the manual, but it only pretends to talk about how to use the box with its own dials, and it does that fine. If you need to know more, read the additional documentation on the CD. This underscores the basic theme of the JV1010 - to get the most out of it you will need to use it with a PC. Think of it as a pro-quality PC sound card.
The Sound Diver Editor / Librarian allows you to group patches from within the unit with a huge number of patches available on the Internet. You can edit the patches, save them to the unit and save them as a MIDI file or SysEx file to include in your own sequences. It takes a bit of learning and setting up, but ultimately, you can store and organise an enormous number of patches on your PC, so you're not limited by the JV's small user area.
The General Midi implementation is barely adequate, and I don't really understand what Roland tried to achieve here. I could understand if they wanted to emulate the early sound canvas modules in this mode, but it only has 2 GM drum kits (not 9 like the Sound Canvas) and also, it doesn't support GS like the Sound Canvas. On the other hand, it would have been good to use this mode to arrange some of their great sounds in a GM layout, but it doesn't do this either! The other banks have many fantastic sounds, but the GM patches in bank D are the least spectacular by far.
Of course, with a machine of this type, you would want to use the best sounds anyway, and you can do this with a little effort. Modify your sequences to select Performance mode instead of GM mode, then you can access any patch with bank change messages, and also any drum kit on channel 10.
A minor gripe: In performance and GM modes, there is only one rhythm channel, and it's fixed on part 10. It would have been good to allow any part to use either patches or rhythm sets, like several other synths.
It could be used live, but I would recommend saving the patches and performances you want into the user patches. That way you can change sounds just with the one jog-dial (or even better a MIDI controller). I wouldn't want to be trying to line up the fiddly 16-way switches on a near-dark stage!
Some have complained about low volume level - mine's fine! No audible noise as notes decay either. There is some volume variation between patches, and that's OK for home recording. If using the unit live, I would recommend loading your favourite patches into the user bank anyway, and from there, you can fine tune the volume levels the way you want them.
Mostly, I think the sound quality is really good. The Session card in inbuilt, and there's a good range of useable patches and waveforms there as well, specially the pianos.
But reviews are subjective, particularly impressions of sound quality. I remember showing off an older synth module (NOT the JV-1010) to my band. I'm a guitarist, and I thought the piano sounds were OK, but the guitar sounds were pathetic. And yet the keyboard player thought the opposite! I guess some of us get used to the nuances of our own instruments, but don't pay as close attention to other sounds.
So with that in mind ... pianos, keyboards & organs, strings, synths, brass and pads sound great. To my picky ears, none of the guitars sound very much like the real thing, but a few of them, such as the nylon string on the Session card, are as good as anything I've heard in a synth.
Bass and drums are good, but I have the Bass & Drums card installed, and the sounds on this card are amazing for richness and realism. Most of the snares have too much ring and not enough snare for my tastes. The card also has some limited drum kits saved in menu patches, so you can get around the limitation of only one rhythm channel on the JV. The excellent drum sounds on this card only have bass drum, snares, toms, high-hats & cymbals. Other sounds must be found on the JV-1010, and mostly, they're pretty good (but I can't find a decent tambourine or Wurlitzer piano anywhere).
Any items for the wish-list? I would like to have a master switch somewhere to turn off the random and alternate panning effects. The "Natural" drum kit has a crash cymbal that moves around every time you hit it - not very natural if you ask me! It's a pain wading through all of the individual pan settings individually to turn this off so I can record a good stereo sound.
All of us want more features for less money, so I'll avoid asking for a meaningful LCD display - I knew it didn't have one when I bought it. But I don't understand why the sound expansion boards are so pricey - I'm glad there's only one slot in the JV-1010. Sure it costs a lot to gather samples of this quality, but many of these cards are quite old now, and surely they've recovered their costs by now. At this stage, the production costs for the old cards are tiny (8M of ROM) compared to the $695 AU asking price, and I think they should be discounted over time.