The Alpha Junos are the last analog Juno synths made by Roland, and unlike their predecessors they are not blessed with a bunch of faders – instead, for sculpting the sound you have to rely on lots of membrane buttons and a single Alpha dial. That would’ve been a bad idea even in case of a simpler synth, and the Alphas are considerably more powerful and complex than their older siblings, even the envelopes are not your grandma’s ADSR. Combine that with a filter that doesn’t self-oscillate, unlike the older Junos, and no wonder the Alphas were a flop. As a result, they still aren’t even half as expensive as the more famous models, despite being able to cover 95% of their sound and then do much more.
If you’ve bought an Alpha Juno, you can commit to doing it the hard way with the buttons and the Alpha dial. Or you can use one of the numerous software or hardware programmers/editors/librarians/whatever that can ease your life. In this post I’m trying to make a comprehensive list of software editors for the Alphas (which should also work with the MKS-50 and HS-80). Part 2 will cover the hardware ones.
Personally, I’m using a free Ctrlr panel (Windows/Mac/Linux) to adjust every parameter from your computer. Configuration is a bit tricky, but still manageable even for someone as dumb as me. You can also export it to a VST plugin, but I haven’t had any luck with DAW automation. Overall it’s a bit ugly and slow, but it’s free and it works well, plus the randomizer is fun.
Another free option is the Alpha Juno Control (Mac only), but I’ve failed to make it connect to my Juno. The developer reached out to me to troubleshoot, but by that time I had already sold my Macbook. Anyway, it’s great to know that it’s not abandoned and it has an active developer who is willing to fix it. The world needs more people like that.
Finally, you can get the free Alpha Base Editor (Windows only) which some people seem to prefer over the Ctrlr panel.
TAL-Pha (Windows/Mac) is $80 but that makes sense, since it’s not just an editor, it’s a full-blown synth like Redominator (but reportedly way closer to the original). Probably the most functional plugin out there, it even has MPE, no graphical envelope though. I wish it had an iPad version.
VST-AU Alpha JUNO Editor (Windows/Mac) costs $30 for a single OS version or $50 for both (used to be $70/$120). Looks nice and seems to be structured well, but I’d definitely want to see a graphical envelope for that price.
Roland Alpha Juno 1 Editor and Librarian included in the Patch Base app (Mac/iOS) is available for $29.99. It’s also included in the monthly and yearly subscriptions, along with a bunch of other editors. Despite the name, it should work with the Alpha Juno 2 and MKS-50 as well. It sports a touch-friendly interface that looks a bit alien on a Mac in my opinion.
ReDominator stands out as it’s not just an editor and a librarian, it actually emulates the synth itself. It will cost you $95, but it was the only app here that is also a synth (not anymore since we’ve got TAL-Pha). You can find a sound comparison here.
Alpha Juno Editor is a Max for Live device, which means it only works in Ableton Live (Windows/Mac). On the plus side, it’s only $9, which looks like a great price for something with a nice interface and apparently great DAW integration, even if that DAW can only be Ableton Live.
Alpha Editor (iOS) seems to be a comprehensive iPad app with a touch-optimized interface, randomization and a nice price of just $5.99. Unfortunately, seems to be unavailable at the moment. I tried reaching out to the developer but haven’t received a reply so far.
iPG-800 (iOS) is emulating multiple Roland programmers, including the PG-300 which was specifically designed to alleviate problems associated with not having faders on your Alpha Juno. For just $4.99 you’re getting a faithful recreation of said programmer, up to the absence of a graphical envelope unfortunately.
These are all the software Alpha Juno editors (correct me if I’m wrong), stay tuned for the hardware ones.