Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

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AnalogKid
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Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by AnalogKid » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:16 pm

For the first time in a long time, I have the financial wherewithal to purchase a new synth. I'm looking at the Prophet 12 and Roland JD-XA among others. What I would like is a synth that is capable of making unique sounds. I am not looking for a synth that can recreate standard gigging sounds (piano, organ, electric piano, etc.), nor do I want to recreate retro synth sounds.

I've read many positive reviews of the JD-XA; however, I've also read a lot here from people who are slamming the synth. The ability to combine (or not combine) real analog and digital offers a huge world of unique sonic possibilities, and that is very appealing. Four voice polyphony would be enough for me.

We all know that most demos on Youtube stink. However, there are a few in which the JD-XA sounds good:



The JD-XA must be a good synth if Dr. Teeth is using it (LOL):

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Thoughts on the JD-XA?

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by alan partridge » Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:07 pm

Looks a genuinely exciting synth to me. Also does genuinely new things in terms of all the complicated digital modulations of the analog voices etc. Best Roland synth since the JD-800 ? could well be I reckon
Last edited by alan partridge on Tue Oct 20, 2015 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Kenneth » Mon Oct 19, 2015 2:17 pm

I think it looks like robot barf. No comment on the sound.
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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Z » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:03 pm

Kenneth wrote:I think it looks like robot barf. No comment on the sound.
Judging a synthesizer by the way it looks is a silly and ignorant way to have an opinion.

I bought a JD-XA when it first came out. It's a great synth for the money, but it's not without its flaws. I was hoping for the same workflow from the JD-Xi, but on the JD-XA, there are no "tones" to build patches/programs/patterns from - everything must be done from scratch or copy from other patches.

I wish there was an easier way to access the PCM waveform selection when editing the digital parts.

Overall, the synth is quite powerful. Don't expect "Jupiter" sounds from the analog section. Think of the JD-XA as a powerful VA/PCM synth with added 4 voices of analog.
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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Bitexion » Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:59 pm

Everyone I have shown the Juno-106 to thinks it "looks like a plastic piece of s**t". So don't judge a synth by it's cover :)

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Jabberwalky » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:20 pm

I'll back Kenneth up, and say it has some poor design choices. It is difficult to read the text.

Dark red on black, on a shiny surface, surrounded by bright red LEDs.

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Z » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:28 pm

I have no problems reading the text and I'm approaching middle-age.
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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Bitexion » Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:21 pm

I had a nice half hour with one in a store the other day. Didn't read any manual, but I still managed to operate the synth pretty well and programmed several neat patches just from nothing. One of my usual "tests" is to make a swirly Jarre-oxygene type strings sound with the onboard phaser on synths that I try. It was lovely on this one, and quite easy too.

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by realtrance » Sat Oct 24, 2015 7:52 pm

Absolutely gorgeous sound, completely extensive architecture. Consider it a Roland true analogue (DCO) integrated with the sound engine of the Jupiter 80/Integra 7 (just four tones with three partials each, though, not the 256-voice polyphony of the other two). The PCM waves are not hard to get to if you have the waveform list (downloadable from Roland) and know how to hold down a shift button. :)

I consider it far more interesting than the Prophet 6, actually; the latter is classic architecture but really, other than an extensive mod matrix and PolyMod, fundamentally it's just another analogue synthesizer. The JD-XA, by contrast, gives you the ability to modulate the analogue section with waveforms from the digital section, for instance, via cross-mod, thus giving it some waveshaping-style capabilities. And the LP3/BPF/HPF filter selection in the analogue parts (four of them, one each part) is just wild.

No problem with the interface, if you can see, and learning it took me about five minutes in the store where I demo'd it, so you can get to finger memory pretty quickly with it. Press each Part button and basically, you're reconfiguring the control interface to be for that part. You can choose Direct or Catch in System Settings to either have the controls affect parameters immediately upon movement, or to not affect the present setting until the control is at the position the setting is at -- both are useful in different contexts.

With all that, if you're really looking for something that's not retro or conventional in sound, the V-Synth/GT would be a better choice. Digital or analogue, the range of what's possible with two-oscs-and-a-filter, no matter how many parts or voices, is a small subset of what you can do once you master realtime sample manipulation, within the monster architecture in V-Synth. OTOH with the latter, you're likely to get so far out of the range of the familiar that the sounds you end up will not be conventionally "pleasant," the way analogue and osc-based digital sound are.

Sample manipulation's really the future of synthesis, Native Instruments and V-Synth have pretty much proven that. :)

Just one lunatic's opinion, don't worry. :lol:

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by AnalogKid » Fri Oct 30, 2015 1:01 am

Thanks for the input. It would seem that I should do what some of you have done, find a music store that sells the Roland JD-XA and take it for a test drive.

It would seem that many who have actually tried out the JD-XA really like it.

Many of the complaints have to do with the physical appearance of the synth. I think it's a great looking synth.

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by amv » Fri Oct 30, 2015 2:29 am

I can't even begin to understand why people are complaining about its looks. That thing looks FANTASTICALLY cool to me.

If it actually is hard to read/see in person, then fair enough. But purely in terms of style that thing looks bad a*s.

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by AnalogKid » Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:32 pm

LOL. Good one. Roland should have The Emperor endorse the JD-XA.

Emperor: "You need the Roland JD-XA for your pitiful little band."

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Pro5 » Mon May 30, 2016 3:45 pm

The JD-XA does look a lot better in reality. A lot of videos make it look scruffy but they seem to have the worst lighting possible to show the flaws of the glossy surface, in a typical ambient lit studio/home studio it's not so bad at all. On mine I never see any fingerprints or scuffs (even though If I drag it over to a window when sunny I would probably see them), and the shape and colouring is, as sad, pretty bad a*s and unique.

Also as someone said above, the fact the writing is a LITTLE hard to read with red on black is a total non issue when you own one because it takes about an hour (if that) to know your way around, you honestly won't NEED to read anything after a while, it's all from memory. 8-)

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by Hybrid88 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:26 am

I only tried one a couple of times very briefly but it certainly left an impression on me. Best synth since the JD-800? Well V-Synth takes that for me, but certainly the best in-depth pad synth since the JD-800. Honestly the layout and user-friendliness is a bit rubbish for me, but that's Roland in general. The sound however is pretty nice, pads are its area of expertise, beyond lush. Bass, nothing spectacular and the rest is just average.

I'd definitely love to have one just to dig into and make awesome quirky ambient sounds with, but at the price point it just seems way too much for what it can do, at least for my money. It seems to be one of those,"hard work to get a great sound but very rewarding when you do" type synths.

Just my 2¢ :)

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Re: Thoughts on the Roland JD-XA?

Post by knolan » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:30 pm

I think you have to like the look of a musical instrument to feel comfortable / good about it. Just like with clothes, cars, phones, ... . And it is an important component to the sound you make. I will readily dismiss a synthesizer that looks horrible to me because I know it will always affect negatively how I use it. Conversely, I love playing synthesizers that I think look and feel right. The CS70M is a case in point. I absolutely adore the look of it - and even though I own and play CS80s too, playing the CS70M always feels special - and I really love playing it. Conversely, I loath the look of the JP8000 - so I never bought one - it was never going to fit into my setup.

The JD-XA seems like a good, solid synth to me. I've no doubt it can sound amazing ( I own the JP80 and it has the same Supernatural Synth Engine which can sound amazing). But, I'd never buy a JD-XA for the following reasons:

1. I own and use multiple JD800's and their capacity for realtime control is extraordinary, and in my view significantly better than the JD-XA (I'l not get into it!)

2. I find it incredibly disappointing that a) it only has a 4 octave keyboard and b) Roland call THAT a flagship - meaning - that's as far as it goes (for the time being). So there isn't going to be a 5,6 or 7 octave version. I find it deplorable that a company like Roland, with their history of polysynths, would call a 4 octave keyboard a flagship

3. Despite the fact that it looks well - I feel that Roland designed it with that shiny surface to maximize their Ad and Brochure glossiness; with scant apprisal of the significant long term problems associated with it : 1) that shiny surface is going to look scratched and shoddy very quickly b) the colour scheme will be challenging in bad lighting

4. As I have flagged on many forums, the Supernatural Synth engine has a problem - namely - horrendous aliasing on the PWM waveform - meaning that any PWM wave above C4 yields aliasing artefacts that are about as loud as the waveform itself, rendering the Supernatural Synth utterly useless for all PWM sounds. On the JP80, about 80% of the presets are affected by this and are unusable in any professional performance or recording scenarios. I flagged this issue with Roland before the release of JD-XA and although they acknowledged the problem - they chose not to fix it with apatch on the JP80 - or even on the JD-XA. Nick over at Sonicstate.com identified it as present during his tests (upon my suggestion). This is not a small point. it is truly horrendous and renders the PWM feature on the JD-XA useless. Almost all other aspects of the Supernatural Synth engine are excellent - in particular its filters are deep, broad, smooth and velvety - so it's far from all bad.

5. 4 note polyphony on the analogue engine. Again for me - hugely disappointing and a reason I won't buy it.

6. Modulation options and keyboard control options for Supernatural Synth are poor


Overall, I feel Roland are close with this one. If the removed the shiny surface with a more normal / robust surface, slightly brighten the control surface text , put a 5 octave keyboard on it, improve the modulation and keyboard aftertouch options, fix the aliasing on the PWM wave and make the analogue engine 8 note polyphony - I believe they would be onto an absolute market dominating instrument. Keeping it at the same price point with those improvements and I believe they'd wipe the floor with DSI. But as is, there are just too many poor implementation issues and too many flaws.

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