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Roland JD-XA

Roland JD-XA
« on: December 21, 2015, 08:51:26 AM »
The Roland JD-XA - appearances and build aside - has lately impressed me (although it allegedly has quite a few bugs still to be fixed).  I haven't played or heard one in person, and perhaps the sound is thinner than I think, but I do like the complex ethereal pads that I hear people making with it.  Nick Batt criticized its sequencer, but that doesn't matter much to me.  The digital pads seem quite beautiful.  It reminds me of the sound of the JD-800.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6USFYFyQ60U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td4lfhCuQYY
« Last Edit: December 21, 2015, 09:09:39 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
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The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2015, 08:00:00 PM »
Does anybody here have firsthand experience with this instrument?  Any comparisons with DSI quality?
The Musical Synthesizer YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChLGwGiRVs7rlZXnOG9_mUw

The Musical Synthesizer Blog: https://themusicalsynthesizer.wordpress.co

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2015, 10:01:11 PM »
I wouldn't dare to give you a full review as I haven't played it enough times. But it happens to be placed next to the Prophet-6 at my music store around the corner. I guess I can state the obvious, i.e. that it is made of more plastic than DSI/Sequential stuff. I've never been a fan of the AIRA design and its derivatives and I guess the shiny plastic top would annoy my over time, especially after you collected fingerprints and dust all over the place. Aside from its outward appearance it sounds solid to me. The filters are nice sounding. The analog oscillators didn't quite blew my mind. They sound okay, but are definitely weaker sounding than those of Prophet-6. I don't find the control panel to be as intuitive as the ones DSI designed, but after a couple of days one should get familiar with it. What I don't like is how you have to select the single waveforms. I absolutely agree with Nick Batt's review in that regard. At least a shuttle wheel or a different type of display would have been a nicer solution. If I knew how to initialize a patch, I could have tested it more. There are always lots of effects used on the factory patches, so everything sounds a bit generic and glossy to the same degree. Those were my first impressions. With regard to the features, I think it's cool that it offers cross modulation and a different approach at hybrid designs on top of synths like the Evolver. The latter, though, has more of a unique character in my view. But in the end it depends on what you wanna use it for. It certainly can do great pads and in that regard people might like it just about the same as the JD-800.

Shaw

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Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2016, 03:18:52 PM »
The Roland JD-XA - appearances and build aside - has lately impressed me (although it allegedly has quite a few bugs still to be fixed).  I haven't played or heard one in person, and perhaps the sound is thinner than I think, but I do like the complex ethereal pads that I hear people making with it.  Nick Batt criticized its sequencer, but that doesn't matter much to me.  The digital pads seem quite beautiful.  It reminds me of the sound of the JD-800.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6USFYFyQ60U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td4lfhCuQYY

There's another JD-XA thread, and I'll copy/paste what I said there, but bought one and returned it 24 hours later -- officially returned it because of a burned out LED... but I didn't order another...

On paper I loved this synth... But the menu diving on a tiny LCD screen with just + and - buttons to do menu diving and parameter selecting... Jesus, I couldn't stand it.

Sounded pretty, but the UI designer should be shot. Twice.
"Classical musicians go to the conservatories, rockīn roll musicians go to the garages." --- Frank Zappa

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2016, 03:27:02 PM »
Sounded okay to me, although a little weak on the analog side. I agree with you about specs vs. actual interface. Looks and feels absolutely cheapish. The shiny surface of the control panel is really awful and the keyboard itself doesn't feel great at all - about as bad as Nord Lead keyboards.

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2016, 05:18:00 PM »
On the JD-XA, there appear to be some interesting possibilities once you mix in the AUX Src through the filter (MIX, per part) or as a cross-mod source (OSC 1 Mod Src). For example, one could pass a (polyphonic) digital part through one of the analogue filters, allowing one to create a paraphonic setup, or, to use the waveform from a monophonic digital part to modulate a sine wave, among other possibilities....

In general, the unit's analogue section reminds me of what one might have hoped a fully-analogue JP-08 module (released instead as a four-voice digital emulation) would sound like.

The sound quality itself is pretty decent, once you turn off the effects (though for similar money, I keep comparing it to a used Poly Evolver keyboard, which I feel I'd be much happier with) - as always, your mileage may vary.

I own both a JX-3P as well as a Juno-106/HS-60, and I'd expect no less in terms of sound quality, but the JD-XA does seem to be missing the same punch* (even when using the purist, mono analogue out). At $500, the single-part JD-Xi is forgivable in that respect, but a $2K instrument does not have that luxury.

* - due to faster KiwiTechnics software-generated envelopes, to be fair....
« Last Edit: June 18, 2016, 06:13:58 PM by DavidDever »
Sequential / DSI stuff: Prophet-6 Keyboard, Prophet 12 Keyboard, Mono Evolver Keyboard, Split-Eight, Prophet 2000

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2017, 03:57:54 AM »
Hi,

I've been playing and making sounds with synth for the past 35 years or so, ranging from analog to digital, from hardware to software to iOS apps, and once had 40 hardware synths, most of them without MIDI. I had Jupiter-8, prophet-5, Pro-One, ARP 2600, D-50, nord lead 1 expanded, Kronos, and so on, but now my arsenal shrunk to about a dozen or so as you can see at the bottom of my post.
Recently, after long consideration, I got the JD-XA new unit at the price of about 1,500 USD, and am overall quite satisfied with it. Here are some of my personal views:


<<Operation>>

It's true that the XA doesn't allow editing every single parameter from the front panel physical controllers, and some require menu diving, but so is Roland JD-800, and Access Virus.

Fundamental waveforms of both analog and digital synth parts like sawtooth, square etc can be selected by front panel knobs. But digital variation waveforms are hidden under the LCD menu system, and needs to be scrolled through the waveform list using - and + buttons. I did at first thought having a rotary encoder would be nicer, but within a couple of minutes I got used to this thanks to the shortcuts being provided, like for example:

1. Press and hold either - or + will have the screen scroll at jet speed.
2. Press and hold either - or +, and then press the other button will have the screen scroll at warp speed.
3. Press Shift and - or + will allow you to skip the values by 10's.

The rotary encoder on the old JD-800 had a lag problem that makes you always over run the destination you want leaving you frustrated, so I find this XA method actually better.

There are a whole bunch of these sort of short cuts being listed on the manual such as: 

4. Press Shift and left or right arrow buttons will allow you to skip to the previous or next section in the LCD menu.
5. Press Shift and TFX1, TFX2, MFX buttons will allow you to jump access to the corresponding effects processors instantly.
6. Press Exit and turn a knob or push a slider will show the parameter value without changing it. Same as DSI PRO2's Show button.
7. Press and hold Part On button, and play low end then hi end of the key range to create keyboard splits.

Many shift key operations? Well so is my Clavia nord wave, or nord lead synths.
I know everybody have their own tastes, so if you wanna shoot the UI designer twice, fine go ahead :) but I'm happy with mine :)


<<LFOs and Envelopes of the Analog Synths Parts>>

I've never tried a synth with Kiwi mod before, so if they have faster EG attacks than the XA, then it must be so.
Still, as far as I know the XA's analog synth part has one of the snappiest EG I've ever heard from a synth.

The LFO runs from very slow rate to audio range. And the transition from slowest to the fastest is extremely smooth.


<<Analog Synth filters>>

The cutoff frequency again can be changed extremely smoothly. Also, there goes another short cut to fine tune the cutoff frequency:

8. Press Shift and turn Cutoff for fine tuning the cutoff frequency.

This reminds me of the old Memory Moog VCF that had coaxial coarse and fine tune knobs for the cutoff frequency.
The LPF3/BPF/HPF has very unique character. When the resonance is cranked up to self-oscillation, the whistle sound will start to chirp like a flock of little birds. I read on a Japanese web article that this is due to the filter cutoff tracking the incoming signal. This is something you can't find with any other synths, and when used together with Filter Drive function and/or LFO at audio range, you'll get very wacky interesting noise.

Yes, you can feed the entire 64 voice polyphonic digital synth part together with its own effects processing to analog VCF as a paraphonic synth. And since there are four analog synth parts, you'll have up to four paraphonic synths. Running SuperSaw wave through a VCF saturates the filter and provides very exciting thick sound with guts for example.
Cross modulating analog oscillator with a digital synth part is also very wild and insane, in good sense.


<<Overlay Sheets>>

Mine came with matte overlay sheets supplied from Roland, and it does help to make the front panel more legible so I use them.
Again I know people have different tastes but I do like the original shiny black and red color scheme that reminds me of the kewl movie "Tron" though :) But then again, yes the overlay sheet is a practical choice and having a choice is an improvement.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you one thing. The red and black cosmetic design matches pretty well with my DSI PRO2.


<<And the sounds?>>

Since Version 1.5 came out the preset sound changed drastically. All the instore display units that I've seen are with lower version and therefore with rather poor preset sounds that fill only first four banks. Ver. 1.5 fills all the sound program banks with variety of colorful sounds. Of course it's a programmer's synth to create your own sound but when I got my PRO2 I was surprised to find very good presets on my DSI PRO2, and good presets always encourages me to do better. Same goes with the XA 1.5. There is even a program that emulates Art of Noise "Moments in Love" with Fairlight CMI-like synth voice associated with various sounds, and by running the onboard step sequencer you can enjoy playing that tune all by yourself.

The analog synth parts on the XA doesn't have a wall of big low ends like a DSI or a moog synth, but still does sound fat and solid. Compared with my DSI MEK and PRO2, the XA's analog synths parts sounds somewhat more delicate and even articulated.
BTW, I read in a Japanese article that XA analog synth parts are made with all discrete circuits.
The digital synth part with virtual analog waveforms plus 450 PCM waveforms adds colorful palette to the sounds, and I enjoy them, namely making swirling pads etc.
On the whole, the XA nicely complements the DSI synths, I guess, well again my personal subjective view though.

The real essence of the XA that I believe is the fact that its a multi-timbral synth that is rather rare for analog and virtual analog synths. You can layer up to eight parts, or up to 16 synths in a single program. D-50 was already a revolutionary synth with its four synth layers. Now you have quadruple freedom.
Also you can drive each parts individually from the onboard step sequencer.


<<etc>>

I do wish if the XA, and also my PRO2 had sample import function, that would be amazing.
I also feel that my V-Synth have better keybeds than the XA, I know its a subjective matter though.
I apprecaite that it's a light weight synth, like my nord wave. DSI synths are rather heavy, even my PRO2 is a bit heavy for its size.

For me, the XA, as someone wrote on another thread, is a wonderful weird strange great synth. Whether you'll like it or not, is a whole different story.


Thanks a lot for reading this lengthy post.
Sorry for my broken English, Iím not a native speaker.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 04:14:22 AM by NemoSynth »
DSI: PRO2, evolver keyboard, ensoniq: VFX-SD, Roland: V-Synth, JD-XA, TB-3, Clavia: nord wave, Kurzweil: PC361, Arturia: microBrute, KORG 800DV, monotribe, monotron, monotron DUO, kaossilator 2, MakeNoise 0-Coast, lots of iOS/Mac soft-instruments
Roland A-50, KMI QuNexus
Logic Pro, KORG SQ-1

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2017, 04:26:16 AM »
I've had my eye on it for a while. It's not perfect (Terribly hard to read-but can be fixed with decals) and the analog side is a bit weak (but the fact Roland even attempted it is noteworthy) but there's one thing that it is: Unique. There's been a lot of analog/digital crossovers but those are usually focused on wavetable and FM synths mixed with analog filters. I'm more interested in the samples of choirs, strings, etc mixed with analog filter sweeps and pads. That is unique. Oddly I find myself more drawn to the idea of having a sample and running through the analog filters and effects and adjusting the ADSR all on the front panel than the analog section itself. Reminds me a bit of an Emulator. Something that I think it's lacking on the market now is a sample based keyboard that has an analog interface. This is about as close as I've got to it.

The sequencer takes a bit to get used to but the fact it can sequence internally and externally is a bonus and can easily compensate the weak analog section when you start hooking it up to your other gear. It could easily be a center piece for a studio in some regards.

It's not perfect by any stretch but it's so unique and there's nothing else like it on the market that it makes me want to work around it's flaws just to have something so different.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano, Fender American Stratocaster, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii, Origin Effects Cali76 and SlideRig compressor, ASUS Zenbook Pro Computer, Soundcraft MTK 22 Mixer, Mark Of The Unicorn Digital Performer 10 Software.

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2017, 04:30:34 AM »
I do wish you could chain the sequences on the fly though.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano, Fender American Stratocaster, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii, Origin Effects Cali76 and SlideRig compressor, ASUS Zenbook Pro Computer, Soundcraft MTK 22 Mixer, Mark Of The Unicorn Digital Performer 10 Software.

Shaw

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Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2017, 05:24:25 AM »
Does anybody here have firsthand experience with this instrument?  Any comparisons with DSI quality?
I bought one on the quality of sound... and you're right, it is a very beautiful sounding synth. 
The build quality is typical Roland.  Everything is well attached and seems to be able to withstand normal use... but it's cheap plastic.  (Note: IMO, all plastic is cheap plastic. Cheaper than aluminum anyway.).   Still, the build quality is adequate.


But I returned it the same week simply because from the standpoint of editing your sounds, the design is so poor.  Menu diving with 2 or 3 buttons, no scroll wheel.  They've lost their minds.
If they ever re-designed the user interface, I'd be on it again in a second.
"Classical musicians go to the conservatories, rockīn roll musicians go to the garages." --- Frank Zappa

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2017, 11:42:55 PM »
Does anybody here have firsthand experience with this instrument?  Any comparisons with DSI quality?
I bought one on the quality of sound... and you're right, it is a very beautiful sounding synth. 
The build quality is typical Roland.  Everything is well attached and seems to be able to withstand normal use... but it's cheap plastic.  (Note: IMO, all plastic is cheap plastic. Cheaper than aluminum anyway.).   Still, the build quality is adequate.


But I returned it the same week simply because from the standpoint of editing your sounds, the design is so poor.  Menu diving with 2 or 3 buttons, no scroll wheel.  They've lost their minds.
If they ever re-designed the user interface, I'd be on it again in a second.


Then you don't like the shortcuts? :)

1. Press and hold either - or + will have the screen scroll at jet speed.
2. Press and hold either - or +, and then press the other button will have the screen scroll at warp speed.
3. Press Shift and - or + will allow you to skip the values by 10's.
4. Press Shift and left or right arrow buttons will allow you to skip to the previous or next section in the LCD menu.
5. Press Shift and TFX1, TFX2, MFX buttons will allow you to jump access to the corresponding effects processors instantly.
6. Press Exit and turn a knob or push a slider will show the parameter value without changing it. Same as DSI PRO2's Show button.
7. Press and hold Part On button, and play low end then hi end of the key range to create keyboard splits.
8. Press Shift and turn Cutoff for fine tuning the cutoff frequency.


Like my Clavier nord wave or any other nord lead synths, these above make the operations a lot easier to me :)
DSI: PRO2, evolver keyboard, ensoniq: VFX-SD, Roland: V-Synth, JD-XA, TB-3, Clavia: nord wave, Kurzweil: PC361, Arturia: microBrute, KORG 800DV, monotribe, monotron, monotron DUO, kaossilator 2, MakeNoise 0-Coast, lots of iOS/Mac soft-instruments
Roland A-50, KMI QuNexus
Logic Pro, KORG SQ-1

Razmo

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Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2017, 01:47:20 AM »
The digital part of this, and also the smaller machine in this series is basically the Supernatural Synth part of the Jupiter 80 and INTEGRA-7 ... it's sample based, and generally the "grown up" version of VariPhrase... samples with realtime timestretching, pitch shift and formant modulation.
If you need me, follow the shadows...

Shaw

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Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2019, 04:22:17 PM »
Call me Razmo the Second...  but Iím gonna have to give this thing another go.
"Classical musicians go to the conservatories, rockīn roll musicians go to the garages." --- Frank Zappa

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2019, 04:13:23 PM »
Call me Razmo the Second...  but Iím gonna have to give this thing another go.

I feel the same way about the System 8.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano, Fender American Stratocaster, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii, Origin Effects Cali76 and SlideRig compressor, ASUS Zenbook Pro Computer, Soundcraft MTK 22 Mixer, Mark Of The Unicorn Digital Performer 10 Software.

Re: Roland JD-XA
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2019, 04:12:49 PM »
Such an underrated synth! I really find it to be flexible and inspiring from a sound design perspective, even without a proper mod-matrix.
  If only I could swap out the keybed...