Last Updated: 7/30/2023
The System-8 comes with three Plug-Outs from the factory. As well, the 3 plug-out slots can accommodate any plug-out from the System-1 as well as the new Juno-60 for the System-8. I figured that it would be best that I reviewed these plug-outs and their VSTs here. The best place to get the VST/Librarians below is via the Roland Cloud Manager application.
Mathematically, here's how their patches line up. Please see the end of this article where I detail what specific church-related voices (like timpani and saxophone, etc) exist on each system. You can quickly see that, with the System-8, you have the perfect "desert island" synthesizer. I doubt you'd ever run into a situation where you can't find a patch that works for any sound you hear on worship music (think MultiTracks).
Update: 7/30/2023, Roland continues to add patches for all of its products. My advice is to subscribe to Roland Cloud to take advantage of updates and new patch releases!
80s: any patch Roland releases with a year prefix ("1981" for Jupiter-8, etc.)
The System-8 is easily the flagship of the AIRA brand series. All of its factory patches sound great! And then if you add the tons of other patches Roland has released for it, you have a synthesizer that is more than capable on its own. Adding the plug-outs to it only makes the System-8's value go from good to "steal."
The System-8 VST is what I am reviewing here, along with its patches. In the VST mode, you cannot split the keyboard like you can with the real System-8, but in a DAW environment that's not a problem.
There are some piano patches that sound "close enough" on the System-8 to be convincing in church. But I think the place where the System-8 shines is with modern sounds and retro sounds like Synthwave. The "KY Random Sparks" preset is incredibly beautiful, for example, and is my favorite.
As of right now, the System-8 has 213
patches that are immediately useful in church worship music, way
more than the 64 it can contain, so selecting just 64 of these
has actually been difficult. I had to pick and choose
based on which patches go with songs our church actually
does. I did this in part by cataloging what patches go with what
song (although I'm probably going to have to even split
this page out into separate plug-outs).
The System-8 also has an incredible
assortment of pads, plucks, and sequenced stuff. By
itself, the VST is worth a Roland Cloud subscription, and the
real System-8 is worth the money. Especially, there are so
many oscillators for the System-8 that you could easily build
100 unique pad patches just from oscillator choice. I used
the System-8 to synthesize a very convincing cello patch, as
well as harp patches. The options and effects make the
System-8 superbly versatile. Well worth the money!
Please consider seeing my System-8 page.
Some have called the Juno-106 the "queen of synthesizers." And to a point, I must agree, so long as the Jupiter-8 is the "king" of them, and both the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106 are seated side by side ruling the synthesizer kingdom.
In some ways, the Juno-106 seems like a polyphonic SH-101. Their oscillators seem to sound a bit similar, though obviously the Juno-106 has more options and is more complex.
But though the oscillators sound almost "childlike" and simple in their sound, the patches that can be made with the Juno-106 sound absolutely amazing! And this is the #2 reason why you should buy a System-8 for church: the pads! Oh my goodness, the pads on the Juno-106 Plug-Out sound absolutely amazing!
The Juno-106 plug-out, alone, makes the System-8 a complete bargain. But then again, the Jupiter-8 just makes the deal even more incredible!
I end up using Juno-106 pads on almost every single song I play in church. And even though Roland included just 24 of the "original 1984" patches with this plug-out from the factory, they then released all 128 of the real originals recently, which makes this a complete nostalgia synth!
Now for church use, this plug-out does not have enough decent "piano-like" patches. This is a big deal in church because most churches still expect to hear a piano somewhere in all their songs. But the System-8 has a patch or two that get close, so that's not a big deal for now. I only mention this in case you're expecting some piano sounding stuff. Piano sounds are not really the domain of true synthesizers. But some synthesizers like Nord include decent piano patches.
Currently, the Juno-106 has 253 patches that
sound fantastic for church worship music, just the way they
are. I usually normalize output levels and set up the
expression knob to be a LPF filter sweep, but I digress.
All in all, the Juno-106 is indispensable
for church use. Again, if it only did Juno-106 things, the
System-8 would already be an incredible deal. But now we
turn to yet another reason the System-8 is worth it: the
This amazing synthesizer by itself is why buying a System-8 is a steal! You get the Jupiter-8 in all its lush beauty, re-released for the System-8, for a fraction of what you would pay to even own a real Jupiter-8, much less the amount required to fix one up.
The Jupiter-8 is such a work horse! There are so many keys and pads on this synthesizer that are amazing in church! Even if Juno pads sound slightly better to my ear, the complexity and beauty of the Jupiter-8's patches is amazing! It comes already from the factory with 64 amazing sounds, and then the Roland Cloud gives you a huge selection.
I love the strings on the Jupiter-8. I end up using "1981 Mellow Strings" on many church songs that require strings. The pads are excellent as well. While I usually ignore synthetic instrument simulations (like oboe, trumpet, violin, etc) because they don't sound much like the real thing, this synthesizer does a great job simulating a few like harps and xylophones.
As of writing this, the Jupiter-8 has 117
patches that are already perfect for church worship music.
Which is more than the 64 it can hold at one time.
This is the #1 plug-out I end up using for church songs, with the Juno-106 being a close second. Roland really did a great job with this one! I tend to like how Jupiter family synthesizers sound (hint: multiple oscillators).
I had never heard of this synthesizer until
the day I got my System-8. I can recall the day I fired it
up and started listening to the patches. At the time, I
didn't have Roland Cloud, so I only had the "factory" set of
patches (i.e. not the original 1984 patches, but the ones
included with the plug-out). The factory set doesn't have
a lot of incredibly useful patches for church worship.
At first I didn't like it. It sounded too "pop" for me. So I mostly didn't use it. Until I discovered the Organ sounds it had. Me and my worship leader at the time (a man who spent decades in traditional classical music and teaching music school) went through all the organs on my System-8 and found the JX-3P to have the best sounding organ patches.
As of right now, however, with the
additional patch sets from the Roland Cloud, the JX-3P finally
has at least 64 patches that are immediately useful in
church. But even with five patch sets (one it comes with,
and four from the Roland Cloud), it only has 64 suitable church
patches. It would seem, on the surface, that I should be
looking at the Jupiter-4 and Juno-60. I think the "pop"
sound makes most patches sort of "meh."
So far, I am keeping the JX-3P because of
its organ sounds and "PD Emotive Pad." PD Emotive Pad is
easily the most useful pad patch of any Plug-Out on this
synthesizer, and worship leaders love how easy it is (with a
flick of the bend/mod stick) to make it calm and subdued or
bright and majestic. But the Juno-60 and Jupiter-4 are
very close competitors to the JX-3P. So mostly, it's like
you have two organs and one pad you cannot do without, but then
a whole bunch of so-so patches.
In February of 2021, Roland released the Juno-60 Plug-Out. This was a brand new Plug-Out, and I think it did a good job of silencing critics that claimed Roland had abandoned the System-8.
I already love it! The funny thing about my mind is I think that the Jupiter-8 would be more my forte (more options, more oscillators, etc.) but the more I listen to Juno-106 and Juno-60 patches, the more I find myself loving the beautiful simplicity of the Juno family oscillators.
The Juno-60 has deep, beautiful oscillators and patches. I think this makes it very suitable for beautiful deep pads for church, as well as some good keyboard sounds and leads. If it can be beautiful, the Juno-60 has it. The JX-3P has more of a "synth pop" sound, which means its pads aren't as full sounding as the Juno family's. However, the JX-3P somehow does a better job with organ sounds than the Juno instruments in this review.
The question is: do I need "another" Juno in my System-8? That's difficult to say. I love pads, but I know that if I load 64 pads on all three plug-outs in my System-8 (Jupiter-8, Juno-106, and Juno-60 in this case) it will quickly get boring. You can have too much of a good thing.
So I began the task of listening to and rating the patches. If this synthesizer was going to be on my System-8 in church, it would have to be more useful than the JX-3P. The JX-3P, despite having fewer Roland patches, has some indispensable sounds like "PD Emotive Pad," with its beautiful high-end shimmer.
As of right now, the Juno-60 has 139 useful
patches for church, mostly pads. The pads on the Juno-60
seem more raw, which sounds beautiful to me.
So after I thought about it, I decided it was a preference. Both the Juno-60 and JX-3P have their advantages. This synth could replace the JX-3P, but I still need the JX-3P's organs, and "PD Emotive Pad." After consideration, I decided to keep the JX-3P on my System-8. However, the Juno-60 is great, and it works well in church. I keep it ready in my DAW in case I need it.
Then not to be outdone, Roland released the Jupiter-4 in June of 2022. By the time I sat down to write this review, in November of 2022, there were already 266 patches! Now there are 459. So I set about to test it.
As I reviewed them all in June of 2022, I noticed that at least 50 were very suitable for church. As of now, it has 94 patches that are suitable for church, more than the JX-3P. The Jupiter-4 itself sounds complex like a Jupiter-8 but more rough and analog like a Juno-106 or Juno-60.
I don't like how the controls in the VST are so large. However, Roland is practically raining synthesizers on us! So it's difficult to be upset.
All in all, it's nice to have another synth. It gives more options. As with all the others, what I end up using in church depends on the songs on the list, and how useful the synthesizer is. And to be honest, the difficulty is that if I just start using random synthesizers, I have to modify and re-modify the performance modes to work. It's tough sometimes to justify replacing the JX-3P, my least favorite of the stock synthesizers on the System-8, with any others simply because of the Organ 2 and PD Emotive Pad patches being so useful in so many songs. Really, if Roland could release some modification to the System-8 in which you could get two more onboard synthesizers, I would gladly load the Jupiter-4 and Juno-60 in addition to all the stock synthesizers.
As of right now, the Jupiter-4 has 94
patches that are immediately useful in church worship
music. As I predicted, the number of patches increased
So the Jupiter-4 definitely gives me even
more flexibility. But ultimately, until there is a
"killer" patch that I can't do without, I'll have to wait to use
When I heard this iconic Linear Arithmetic synthesizer was coming to Roland Cloud, I was very excited! I couldn't wait to use it! But then I realized it's not a plug-out for the System-8.
Still, it has 512 patches that should be useful for church. Undaunted, I began playing with it in my DAW (Zenbeats).
But I faced a few problems. First, the patch names don't have the typical Roland prefixes like "LD" for lead, etc. So I couldn't really analyze them and "stack" them in a spreadsheet like the other plug-outs. And even using "wildcard searches" in Excel wouldn't help, because not everything with the word "bell" in it is a bell patch, etc.
For church, it may not be as quickly accessible as the other instruments. I can't just flip through all the patches that start in "KY" to find keyboard-ish sounds, etc.
But it does have incredible sounds. So I would suggest giving it a try. I felt like it sounded great!
Note that you can buy the D-05 sound module,
which is like a D-50 "re-release" from Roland. This is
probably also a great idea, and you can use the VST as a
librarian to work with it. I found plenty of sounds that
would be great in church. So it's up to you.
Because Roland released a huge number of patches for the System-8 and its plug-outs, one could easily get overwhelmed with one's options. I wanted to briefly touch on how I select what 64 patches (per System-8 / plug-out) that I use.
First, I consider whether or not I need to include drums and bass patches. If I am serving at a church with a reliable drummer and bass player, and/or a church that has a good Multitracks setup, I can usually leave out drum and bass patches.
I go to my spreadsheets that I keep per plug-out when new patches are released and I try out each one naively in my System-8. I use "X" and "/" to denote "yes" and "maybe" for marking how useful these will be in church. I also put notes in the spreadsheet for what patches work with what songs (from experience).
After that, I "rack and stack" patches so
that I sort by type and usefulness. Then using math,
I select patches from among totals on the instrument, so
that the selected patches are in ratio to the number of patches
on the instrument. That keeps me from loading up 64 pads
on the Juno-106 for example.
Then I hook up my laptop and adjust the
patches to taste. This process actually only takes 1-2
hours for the release of a new set of 64 patches, but the result
is that I am completely ready for church. And it's more
fun than it sounds!
Church Instrument Patches
Just in case you need to select a plug-out
based on your need to emulate a solo instrument (which may or
may not sound incredibly accurate to the real thing), here's a
handy comparison chart:
Note that the D-50 has a very large amount of real instruments it can synthesize, so if I had the money, maybe a Roland Boutique D-05 would be a good investment. But as I already have Roland Cloud, I can even use sample-based VSTs, so I already have plenty of ways to simulate real instruments.