Roland JD-XA Review - Part 1

We look at the Analog engine      13/07/15

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12:17 mins    

Buying Choices

It's been a while since Roland released an analog poly synth, we think around 1984 - with the JX8P? But with the new JD-XA Crossover Synth, Roland are back with four analog voices - which can play mono or poly. Earlier in the year, the JD-Xi was released which was good value, but only featured a single analog voice.


There's also a 64 voice SuperNatural synth engine in there - with 64 voices - so you could have up to 21 voice poly+4 analog  if you were using 3 partials per voice. It's essentially the same as the Integra-7 engine.

Roland snaffled us a pre-production model, so we could get an early look at their new flagship synth.

In this part of the review we focus on the analog structure of the JD-XA.

Oscillators

Two OSC each with SAW, TRI, SQUARE, PULSE,SINE, tunable over +/- 24 semitones. Nothing unusual here, they sound fine if a little bright. Cross Mod and Ring Mod are available Osc 1 ->2 but you can also mod via the AUX input which gives you (noise, digital voices, Mic) as modulators. There is no Sub oscillator, so if you need that lower support, you can either sacrifice one of the Osc or layer up another of the four available parts  - assuming you don't want to play poly mode.

Poly Mode

Speaking of modes - selecting any of the four analog parts means you are editing that part, you can select multiple parts to edit simultaneously. Hit the poly stack button and the selected part is now the master voice for all four- which you can play polyphonically.

Filters

Multi-mode analog with 3x LP - first being a regular 24dB, second 24dB ladder, they do sound quite creamy with not too much bass rolloff on the resonance. 3rd LP is 12dB (2-pole) and can sound quite different, though in this pre-production model there was an issue with the gain structure - any level past 10/11 o'clock on the OSC would drive the filter into warbling madness - pulling it back got you the sound you'd expect but you have to crank the gain elsewhere to get a decent level out of the synth - ditto with the other High Pass and Bandpass modes, though when not driven, you get the lovely sing-song harmonics you'd expect from these - the resonance does not exhibit stepping.

We are told by Roland that they are aware of this issue affecting some pre-production models and this will be fixed in the final shop versions.

HP and Drive

Additionally, there's a simple High Pass filter - as with some of Roland's legacy polys - nice to see, not all sounds need to be fully formed. The drive knob gives the filter a little extra boost, in the case of the LP1 +2 this adds a nice smudge and throaty quality. Perhaps they could have given us a little more on this parameter for something edgier - though there are plenty of effects that will do this too.

Envelopes

Three - two ADSR (Filter/AMP) and an AR for pitch modulation - capable of snappy action, though missing some more advanced features such as looping and delay. We found we could get whippy drum sounds without difficulty.

LFOs

In the Analog voice, you get two LFOs with Pitch, Filter  and Amplitude with plus/minus values - useful for Saw/inverse Saw and a fade/delay time. Both are syncable to the master tempo and can free run up into audio rates - a little higher than I expected.

Effects

It's possible to create some complex voices using single parts, or layers of parts, but the real fairy dust comes from the abundance of effects - with each part, you get a dedicated MFX  with 67 algorithms covering delay, reverb, chorus, eq, drive and many others - these are good quality and take their heritage from the SuperNatural engines elsewhere.

Additionally, there are two TFX, which are inserted pre-output, plus a master reverb and delay. You can really go to town with these and create some stunning  sounds.

But...

For me there are downsides - red on black - I just can't see half of the writing, especially in low light - shame. Also, there are still quite a lot of menu driven parameters you need to access to get deep inside and there is no data entry knob/wheel/slider. This means you will be prodding those +/- buttons a LOT.

Numbers

49 note velocity and aftertouch keyboard. Stereo output, analog mono out, click out,

USB MIDI and Audio (2 in, 2 out only).

4 analog voices

64 digital supernatural voices

Next Time

We'll be covering the other aspect of the JD-XA - so please leave any comments or questions and we will endeavor to answer them.

Available shortly,  priced £1549 /$2199

http://www.roland.com/products/jd-xa/


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