As I mentioned in my initial review, my GO:KEYS had a defective key right out of the box. The key was in a particularly bad spot: A below middle C. While practicing music for Sunday, the key was nearly dead and I just couldn’t live with it. So, I returned the GO:KEYS to Guitar Center. The folks at Guitar Center offered to get a replacement from Roland, but I didn’t want to take another chance on the first production run. I chose a refund.

Happy to say, the salespeople at Guitar Center (Nashua, NH) were very helpful and understanding. This is the first time that I received a keyboard with an obviously non-working key. Guitar Center handled the situation quite well and efficiently. It pays to be courteous and kind to the staff of your local musical instrument store!

I think Roland have a good concept with the GO:KEYS. But, even the best of ideas are thwarted by bad components, poor manufacturing, or ineffective quality control. Overall, this is a shame. The GO:KEYS clearly is a little brother to the JUNO-DS workstation. The basic sound of the GO:KEYS is quite good, especially its electric pianos.

After writing my review, I spent a few hours producing a demo track. (Here is the MP3 file.) The GO:KEYS is MIDI class compliant and I had Ableton Live Intro communicating with it in seconds. I pulled in a few ambient loops from Equinox Sounds Total MIDI: Funk and assigned MIDI channels according to the GO:KEYS’ convention:

Ch#  Part       Allocation
---  ---------  ----------
 1   PIANO      User/Panel
 2   ORGAN      User/Panel
 3   STRINGS    User/Panel
 4   BRASS      User/Panel
 5   BASS       User/Panel
 6   SYNTH      User/Panel
 7   FX/GUITAR  User/Panel
 8   Bass       Loop Mix
 9   Part A     Loop Mix
10   DRUM       User/Panel
11   Part B     Loop Mix
12   Part X     Loop Mix
13   Part X     Loop Mix
14   Part X     Loop Mix
15   Part X     Loop Mix
16   Drum       Loop Mix

Each of the GO:KEYS panel categories (PIANO, ORGAN, etc.) has its own MIDI channel. Each of the Loop Mix parts has its own MIDI channel. When sequencing in Live, I assigned tracks to the “User/Panel” channels.

The GO:KEYS tones follow the Roland JUNO-DS patch map. This is further proof that the GO:KEYS is directly derived from the JUNO-DS. I recommend downloading the JUNO-DS Parameter Guide which contains the JUNO-DS patch list. Finding the bank select and program change for a GO:KEYS tone is simply a matter of scanning the JUNO-DS patch list for the equivalent voice. A few of the patches have been renamed. See my partial tone list for examples. (I won’t be finishing the list now that I’ve returned the GO:KEYS.)

For example, here is a partial list of drum kits and patch select values:

    Hex            Dec
-----------    -----------
 56  40  03     86  64   3  HipHop Kit
 56  40  04     86  64   4  R&B Kit
 56  40  00     86  64   0  Pop Kit 1
 56  40  08     86  64   8  Pop Kit 2
 56  40  01     86  64   1  Rock Kit
 56  40  05     86  64   5  Dance Kit 1
 56  40  06     86  64   6  Dance Kit 2
 56  40  07     86  64   7  Dance Kit 3
 56  40  09     86  64   9  Dance Kit 4
 56  40  02     86  64   2  Brush Jz Kit

 78  00  00    120   0   0  GM2 Standard Kit
 78  00  08    120   0   8  GM2 Room Kit
 78  00  10    120   0  16  GM2 Power Kit
 78  00  18    120   0  24  GM2 Electric Kit

Mind the index of the program change values (zero vs. one). Remember, in Live, all indices start at one, including bank select values.

Additional experiments with MIDI OX show that the touch strip sends both modulation (MIDI continuous controller 1) and pitch bend messages. Like the JUNO-DS, the GO:KEYS “includes a GM2 compatible sound set.” Neither the JUNO-DS or GO:KEYS implement all of the CCs, NRPN, etc. required by the General MIDI 2 standard. The GO:KEYS does respond to the same CC messages as the JUNO-DS. Nice.

Once I had things grooving in Live, I went through the tedious process of exporting each MIDI track to a Standard MIDI File (SMF), and then importing each SMF into SONAR to form a merged SMF. Come on, Ableton, people have been begging for proper full MIDI export for years. Please implement this feature! It’s ridiculous that it hasn’t been done already.

Once I had a complete SMF, I used the GO:KEYS restore function to transfer the SMF to the GO:KEYS. Just to be safe, I named the file to “SONG02.MID” to keep the GO:KEYS happy. The GO:KEYS successfully played the (loaded) SMF and I recorded the audio output of the GO:KEYS on a Roland Micro-BR. (A handy little recorder, that.)

In the end, I’m left with considerable respect for the JUNO-DS sound. I wish that the JUNO-DS had built-in speakers as well as battery power, given its more robust build. The Roland GO:KEYS has potential to be a successful, portable, little brother to the JUNO-DS once Roland resolves its quality issues.

Copyright © 2017 Paul J. Drongowski