Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

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Sabaja
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Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 1:37 pm

Hi all

I bought my first and only synthesizer back in 1980. It was called an Octave Cat. It cost me £1000 or so and I wasnt rich so had to buy it on HP. The things was a monster but I never got round to forming a group so it got thrown in the shed. My idols were Vangelis and and Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk. Well I was a New Romantic lol. Now forward 36 years and I want to start again but im a bit lost. So many choices. I want to get back into the Vangelis stuff. Room is very limited so im looking for an all in one. I know this may not be perfect but an approximation is good enough now. Ive been looking at the Roland jd-x1? Will this be able to get me those great analogue spacey sounds. Are there enough features on this synth? My budget is up to 1k. Ive got good software but a slow. So id prefer a synth with multitracking on it. My biggest concern is getting a cheesy digital sound. Ive seen countless on youtube that sound so false. But a few great ones that resonate so well.

Any help is much appreciated.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by alan partridge » Sat Jun 11, 2016 2:42 pm

The JD-XA (not JDXI ) is going to be your best bet for all in one. Bear in mind it will sound 80s analog + 90s digital rather than 70s Analog + 80s digital and you might find you love it. Only one that's your criteria for your price, but if you want to add a really 70s vibe to it I'd get a cheap string machine and a cheap mono too , later when you can afford it. If you can record audio on the jdxa ( dunno if you can ? ) then you'd even be all set up without a computer.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 2:56 pm

Thanks Alan

Yes I looked at the JDXA too I am so tempted but there was a few nayslayers out there as to this machine. Tell me if im wrong here.

No drums???? What is this. I know Vangelis didnt use drums but there must be some drum effects on this synth that will do the job.

The learning curve is high?? Is this true. It says the Jdxi is much simpler and easier to use.

The plastic overlay is hard to read?? Is this such an issue. I dont know but im not outdoors so glare isnt an issue.

Thanks again.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 3:23 pm

It is true that the JD-XA does not have samples of drum sounds on board, but you can SYNTHESIZE drums on it. In this video, I made some drum sounds using the analog voices:
[youtube][/youtube]

The JD-XA is really a synth for advanced programming since you can combine the analog and digital sections together.

The JD-Xi is a great synth and, in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck instrument out there. It is very easy to use, but if you want to make your own sounds, you do have to do some menu diving.

As I mentioned in another thread, I'm in my mid 40s and have no trouble reading the text on the new JD synths.

You mentioned Vangelis "not using drums". His 70s works used acoustic drums and he later made drum sounds on synths (as I did in the video above) until moving on to using drum machines. If you end up getting a JD-XA, I recommend getting a stand-alone drum machine. In the video below, I start with a rhythm I made on the JD-XA, then bought in a drum pattern on a Roland TR-8.
[youtube][/youtube]
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 3:30 pm

Z wrote:It is true that the JD-XA does not have samples of drum sounds on board, but you can SYNTHESIZE drums on it. In this video, I made some drum sounds using the analog voices:
[youtube][/youtube]

The JD-XA is really a synth for advanced programming since you can combine the analog and digital sections together.

The smaller, JD-Xi is a great synth and, in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck instrument out there. It is very easy to use, but if you want to make your own sounds, you do have to do some menu diving.

As I mentioned in another thread, I'm in my mid 40s and have no trouble reading the text on the new JD synths.

You mentioned Vangelis "not using drums". His 70s works used acoustic drums and he later made drum sounds on synths (as I did in the video above) until moving on to using drum machines. If you end up getting a JD-XA, I recommend getting a stand-alone drum machine. In the video below, I start with a rhythm I made on the JD-XA, then bought in a drum pattern on a Roland TR-8.
[youtube][/youtube]
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:28 pm

Thanks Z that is very helpful.

Im steering towards the XA only because of the few videos ive seen there is a bigger sound?

Am I correct in this? Or are the acoustics of the room what im hearing. It is difficult to know the difference without hands on which im not able to do.

So really is the difference very noticeable in a small room?

Cheers. Glad I found this forum.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:55 pm

I'm not sure I understand your question. My recordings are direct audio, so you are not hearing any room ambience.

If you want BIG sound, then the JD-XA is what you're after as you can layer up to 4 monophonic analog voices (each with 2 oscillators) and 4 polyphonic digital voices (each with up to 3 partials).

Check out Gattobus' videos of the JD-XA on YouTube - he's made some great demos of the synth.

MODS: I'm not sure how my post above got duplicated, but feel free to delete the duplicate.
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:13 pm

Hi Z

Are you able to say there is a,noticeable difference between the two. Im just looking for a similar reproduction but not overkill.

So im really after the sound live rather than not. Thanks again.

Ps. Is there a built in amp/speaker in these or do I need a specialized amp for a small room. Thanks

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:54 pm

Even through both JD's sound engines are pretty much the same, they're different beasts.

I call the JD-Xi a "groove keyboard". I call it that because there is a trend of "groove boxes" (drum machines that also produce melodic sounds but repeat a 1-4 bar pattern over and over). The JD-Xi is fun and east to use and perfect for laying down grooves or getting ideas for songs. I was really hoping the JD-XA was going to be a much more powerful version of the Xi, but it's not.

The JD-XA is a programmer's dream being able to layer many types of sounds. It does have a pattern sequencer as I've shown above.

Neither JD have built-in speakers, as with most professional musical instruments. You could use a keyboard amp, but to fully appreciate these synths, or any synth made after 1983, you'll want to amplify it with STEREO speakers. Most of us use powered monitors (you can get a decent starter pair for under $200). I used my hi-fi system in the 80s and early 90s.
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 8:58 pm

Thanks Z

So for a Vangelis cover the extra ability to reproduce the unique sounds would make the xa better. As the xi is more preprogrammed. That puts the ball firmly in that court.

One last thing is saving and exporting. Is it all through a pc or can I transfer what I play to usb first. Or is it best to save each track individually rather than one master track?

It does seem there are not many choices for an all in one that can do the job. I watched the Gattobus vids and theres not much difference between his older stuff and the latest on the jdxa. Not quite as analogue sounding but good enough. And it seems he has nothing but praise for it. So buy once is my motto. Thanks again.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:43 pm

By saving and exporting, are you referring to sequencing and/or recording audio? I really don't do either. I just play live straight to camera's stereo input.

Most people today use a DAW (digital audio workstation) on their computer which can both sequence MIDI and record & manipulate audio. I still use tape machines for multi-tracking or I'll use the multi-track recorder built into either of my 2 Roland Fantom X6 workstation keyboards (one at home and one at my furniture shop). But like I said before, I mostly perform live to camera.
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:05 pm

Im just referring to one master track with all the sequences put together. I think a no pc involvement is a great idea as I cant be bothered to mess around. Just get the sounds store them in memory and playback. Then save somewhere.

Edit. I know this a bit fly on the wall but ive just seen a Zoom R16 multitrack recorder. It saves to a sd card. This seems perfect. Am I right in thinking to use this instead of a pc mixer?

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:55 pm

Sabaja wrote: Edit. I know this a bit fly on the wall but ive just seen a Zoom R16 multitrack recorder. It saves to a sd card. This seems perfect. Am I right in thinking to use this instead of a pc mixer?
Yes, those stand-alone recorders will work. You will need to see if it has a "mix down" feature that allows you to make a final 2 track recording of all your multi-tracking. If not, you can use a portable recorder like a Zoom H4N.
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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Sabaja » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:36 pm

Thanks for all this help Z. Its like a steep learning curve. I like the look of that h4n better as I dont need all the features of the R16. One thing though is how do I record. Do I connect from the XA to the h4n directly with a cable or use the mic. I have the Roland XA manual now but boy is it short. Nothing about recording to external devices only PC. Do I need a special cable and can I run an Amp and this recorder at the same time? Thanks once again.

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Re: Looking for my first Synthesizer since 1980

Post by Z » Sun Jun 12, 2016 1:25 am

It's all good.

Just to keep things simple at first, I'd run the JD-XA's MAIN stereo out to a pair of powered monitors with standard 1/4" cables. And then when you're ready to record, use what is called an INSERT cable and plug the single ended side with the TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) plug into the JD-XA's headphone out and the 2 mono leads on the other end of the cable into a portable recorder like the H4N.

I do most of my YouTube videos by running the headphone out from a mixer or instrument directly into the camera's audio input jack.
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