Roland JD-Xi Synthesizer Hands-On Demo

This video, via keyboardmag1, is a hand-son demo with the new Roland JD-Xi synthesizer.

The Roland JD-Xi is mini-synth that offers an analog monosynth, dual digital synths, 808-style drum sequencing and a digital effects section.

According to the company, the JD-Xi gives musicians the best of both worlds: the warm, smooth response of classic analog, and the clarity and versatility of modern digital.

The JD-Xi is the first in a planned line of hybrid analog synths. A full-size flagship hybrid analog & digital synth, the JD-Xa is also being previewed at the show.

The Roland JD-Xi synthesizer has a street price of about $500.

68 thoughts on “Roland JD-Xi Synthesizer Hands-On Demo

  1. Yes, another (!) JD-Xi demonstration that focuses exclusively on the concept of multitrack sequencing, followed by Baby’s First Techno Jam ’96. This is would be like reviewing the new MacBook by explaining how to type URLs into a browser.

    How’s the synth engine? What’s the analog filter circuit – diode ladder? How’s the stepping on the controls? How are the envelopes? How deep is the modulation? No one doing a review seems to care. But that’s what going to determine the value of this thing for people.

    Maybe the answers to these questions are not very favorable to Roland, or maybe everyone just forgot about the fundamentals. Another WFNBRASS.

    (Wait For Nick Batt’s Review at Sonic State.)

    1. Why are you extrapolating so much from nothing. It’s not out yet and the guy probably had limited time with it. The video is not a review but short demo. THe JD-Xi is also most likely aimed at the beginner market that something like the MicroKorg has filled for years now. I doubt the main message is the envelopes or whether the filter is a diode ladder to the audience they are hoping to reach. It’s about being able to sketch out a track quickly and easily.

      1. The reason I’m asking these questions – which are fair game, IMO, is that no one else is. They’re the same questions that get asked of every synth – and more importantly, the same info every reviewer and demonstrator communicates.

        I’ve watched maybe a dozen of these videos, and they almost follow a script. They explain sequencing, as if it was just invented. They don’t address the synthesis capabilities, other than generally describing it as 2 VA voices, a drum machine, and an analog monosynth.

        I’m not knocking the synth – it has some very attractive features. I’m just baffled by the mysteries and how no one seems all that curious. “It’s got analog, bro, so shut up!” is what I’m hearing when I ask questions.

        Great – it’s a preset-geared genre-knob groove synth for beginners. So does that mean that no one programs patches from scratch on MicroKorgs, MiniNovas, and Microns?

        If I had one to demo, I’d create a patch and talk about the engine, it’s features and limitations. We already know how looping 4-bar sequencers work.

    2. Nick Batt is the only reviewer I trust so that’s not really a condemnation, more of a constant state.

      I like the idea of this. I’m also in the market for a small synth with limited drum sequencing for a duo I’m starting up, so it’s well timed for me. If it can control my Nord drum while letting me play either pad sounds or mono lines over it, then it can do everything I need it to. But I never really demand much from gear other than “be attainable and reasonably versatile”

        1. There is some stairstepping in the analog filter. I made wav files illustrating this and submitted them to Keyboard. They’ll probably post them with the review when it is printed in May.

        2. This isn’t a high-end polysynth that costs 2K and it’s not going to do what a high-end polysynths can do. So trying to judge it on that basis is insane.

          Compare it to other $500 minisynths, and it is more powerful than any of them. The MiniBrute is a better analog, but the JD-Xi has 128 more voices, a drum machine, effects and a vocoder. The JD-Xi completely blows away the MicroKorg. And it blows away the MiniNova.

          Speaking of stair-stepping, you’ll hear more on a vintage sequential polysynth when you tweak the filter than you’ll hear on any good modern digital synth.

      1. I like nick and his reviews are the best of any out there..having said that there is 0 chance his review of any roland product ever comes up with an overall negative tone.

        1. I seem to remember Nick making a Roland rep sweat a little during a workstation demo a few years back.

          I think when Nick reviews, he’s looking at the intent of the piece and thinking about the audience. So for example, he was positive about the Roland Gaia and Aira, while being honest about the shortcomings. I don’t think he has any use, personally, for a plastic poly VA.

          He was positive about the StudioLogic sledge, while highlighting the mid-range build quality and modulation possibilities. He was honest about the M-Audio Venom, talking about the silly focus of having a ton of slightly different oscillator flavors – and the editor-only functions and cheap key bed.

          When he gets excited is when he wants something personally – like the Sub 37, Dominion, MS-20 rack, Pittsburgh Modular stuff. Or when he’s impressed by the power/price point, like with the Bass Station II and MiniBrute, or the Kaoss Quad.

          You can tell when he’s soft on a product – his body language and tone say a lot. Guys like him have to balance honesty with an eye towards future access to a company’s pre-release stuff.

      2. This was a quick demo – not a review. The full review will be in Keyboard Mag in a month or so . I’m sure everything you mentioned will be addressed there. Let’s try digging for facts before jumping to conclusions.

    3. I think no one says more about it cuz there isn’t something else to say.
      I’m sure there are great presets but no much to tweak on those, hope I’m wrong but I think that’s the way this synth is.
      It’s a modern rompler with no envelopes and a basic sequencer.
      What I don’t get is why can’t you switch drum sound without hearing a sound???

    4. Looks like your post generated an internal email at roland to thumbs down you…I once put a roland critical post up here and it had 101 thumbs down

      1. Interesting that you’d think a bizarre conspiracy theory – that a company would send around emails to ask their employees to waste their time at work going to websites to downvote your comment – before you’d believe that people just thought your comment was stupid.

    5. Hello “Astro Spy”,

      I’m the fellow in the video. My instructions from Keyboard Magazine for this video was “If possible, make a quickie video (3 to 5 minutes) of you walking through its features.” So that’s what I did, although I made it about 10 minutes because I was having fun.

      This is not a review but rather a demo. The full review will be in the May issue of Keyboard Magazine. But to answer your questions the best I can:

      1) How’s the synth engine?

      It’s good for what it is. It is very basic and most of the parameters are buried in the menu system. This is primarily a preset machine. There’s not too much you can do to the digital sounds. The analog section is very limited; think SH-101. As mentioned you cannot intertwine the two engines, digital and analog.

      2) What’s the analog filter circuit – diode ladder?

      I have no idea and Roland was not forthcoming with this information. I do know that the analog oscillator is a DCO.

      3) How are the envelopes?

      The “one knob” envelope control is covered in the review. It’s an interesting adaptation of the standard ADSR. The full ADSR envelope can be edited in the menu system. The analog envelope is quick but not snappy.

      4) How deep is the modulation?

      Not very. Four destinations for the digital side (pitch, filter, amp, pan) and three for the analog (pitch, filter, amp). That’s it.

      I hope that helps. Again, this video was not meant as a review but rather an overview of features. The features are obviously designed for the EDM crowd and hence the focus on that. I’m looking forward to seeing how Roland develops this concept with the upcoming JD-Xa and hopefully other synths.

      Thanks for watching,
      —-Jim Alfredson

      1. Jim – thanks for the reply. Your answers are exactly what I’ve been trying to find out.

        As I said, your quick feature demonstration was maybe the 12th one of these videos I’ve seen. Official Roland reps, retail and industry people, NAMM interviewers, gear press, Europe and the US – all giving an exclusive first look which focuses almost entirely on sequence-creation. A factory patch arranged into someone’s else’s sequence does not provide much to chew on.

        I’m not accusing you or anyone specifically, it just felt like Roland has a script in mind when they distribute units, and to preserve access people are not being specific or expressing opinions.

        These look fun and you did a fine job, and I look forward to the full review.

    6. I’m surprised nobody has stated the obvious…

      If it had Korg written on the front everyone would love it…

  2. Why is “disco” the default style for almost every demo? Why are people so wild for instruments that seem highly focused on that above all else? Sure, its up to the player to make one sing, but because its the easiest thing to present, all too many people seem to think that’s all they’re for. You can dis Rudess all you like, but at least he can really play, so I always get a deeper sense of the device’s breadth. Its not a bad synth at all and I respect guys like Ed Diaz who can really cook, but disco needs to be knocked in the head and buried in a shallow grave so animals can dig it up & eat the remains. The synth world could make a nice leap ahead in surface perceptions if demos would banish disco and smooth jazz. Those fields are too narrow to be allowed to hamper such capable gear.

    1. Most of the synths, samplers and drum machines are completely tailored towards dance music these days. That’s what the bulk of the buyers want.

      This thing is a keyboard groove sequencer, so it makes sense to demo it with dance music.

      The challenge to synthesists is to look beyond the presets and mainstream marketing and to figure out if these boxes can do more. That responsibility rests with us, to be creative, rather than to be force-fed sounds and beats.

      Think for a second about how Roland originally intended the 606 & 303 to be used. There’s an old ad that features Oacar Peterson using a 303 & 606, which now seems completely absurd:

      http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2009/03/19/oscar-peterson-roland-pianoplus-tb-303-tr-606/

      The first time I saw that, I thought it was a bad Photoshop!

      1. >>> Most of the synths, samplers and drum machines are completely tailored towards dance music these days. That’s what the bulk of the buyers want.

        That’s what’s making me ITCH! Then I have to nut up AND shut up. 😀 No one forces me to listen to it or play it, or buy gear that’s below my goal set. Please understand, I am biased from having seen the live tail-end of a few careers like George Duke’s. When you come out of the hall dazed because the bar has just been set that high, its hard to casually live with that Daft Punk hit, what was it, “I date a Mexican monkey?” You can’t show me Asgard and then plop me down in east L.A.. BIG impedance mismatch there! Its a mini-battle between wanting to hear something more engaging more often versus trying not to be TOO much of an opinionated twat. I’ll always have some base respect for anyone who chooses any kind of musical play over crack. 😀 The AIRA line is far too simple for me and I’m not worthy of a Solaris. Verdict: First World Problem.

      1. HA! Those are good, informative examples of both the variations and the “problem.” There are so many claimed variations in dance and jazz that the debate can become comical. I included “smooth jazz” because far too many players do those wild leads that come across like diluted Jan Hammer on Nyquil, full of fury, but signifying little. If you listen to Derek Sherinian, for example, you hear a different breed of honest sweat. Don’t let the pre-packaged trends decide what you’re going to do so often; its more fun if you explore bits of styles outside your comfort zone a little more.

        1. This isn’t the smoothest Montgomery example, but he most certainly created the genre in the mid to late 60s. It’s not his fault that people heard him and picked up soprano sax and made elevator music.

      1. I’ve been listening to almost everything and disco is a fair term for THUD THUD THUD. I love a good beat, but when its that machine-like and overpowers the melody, yeah, disco. Its so fundamental, its too easy to fall in line behind it. If its gonna happen, I like it in a form similar to Orbital’s “In Sides.” That’s big on The Beat, but man, do they dance AROUND it and make it come to life with interesting colors and counterpoint. That’s what turns that tide for me. Ever see a great female singer suddenly belt it out over that beat, or someone do a searing solo that makes it feel somehow more complete? That’s the ticket.

  3. The JD-Xi looks like a cool little machine.

    But couldn’t Keymag put a little more effort in the video? Was it shot in someone’s living room?

    Oh, by the way, tuck your shirt in and I think it’s time for a new pair of sneakers!

    1. perfectly right.

      come on, guys. if you do not know how to properly frame a picture, do not record your own videos. there are lots of guys around who do know. just call one of them.

      1. If you’er worried about tucked-in shirts and fancy videos, watch the official company ads.

        The whole point of videos like this is to get an informed user perspective on the gear, or an audio preview that’s not a canned demo.

        The moment it’s professionally produced, it costs a lot of money to make, which means the reviewer would have to suck up to advertisers more than they probably already have to do.

        So high production values = bullshit reviews.

        1. So you fall for the poorly done review to give the feel of street cred? Its like the high budget – low budget movie or like homemade….well you know.

          I dont think the commentor was looking for a corporate guy in a suit but i agree you can still do a better job shooting and get someone who comes across more confident

        2. you are right. we want consumers’ views, not commercials. although bad quality does not guarantee it has not been paid for. let’s better be careful there. 😉

          but adjusting a camera angle in a way it does not point on dirty and worn shoes is another story. anyone can do. and looking at these shoes for 10 minutes really put me off.

          consumers can record proper sound. and consumers can adjust a proper camera angle. there are lots of examples on this site.

    2. Hi “Elektro815”,

      You’re right about the sneakers! I forgot I had them on and my wife, when she saw the video, said, “Uh… maybe you should put on another pair of shoes.” But other than the “24 pole” faux pas (sorry, you all know what I meant to say), I thought the video was good. Those are my “bum around the house” shoes and yes, I was in my humble home studio. Sorry the production value isn’t up to Hollywood’s standards but I think the goal of demoing the main features of the instrument was met, no?

      This might become my trademark. For the next video maybe I’ll don my Spongebob slippers!

      —–Jim Alfredson

    1. Cheap and powerful I can get behind.

      When you call micro synths ‘toys’, it’s clear that you don’t have any experience with them. They generally are companies’ high-end synth engines packed into a budget cases.

      That was the case with the MicroKorg, when it was released, the MicroKorg XL and the MiniNova.

      They can make them cheap because they’re repackaging an existing synth. Also, 90% of what you pay for in a synth is always the physical hardware, not the synth engine.

      1. And an easy bake oven can actually cook food, but that doesn’t make it a professional tool.

        I’m not against using budget synths, but there is a distinction that should be made:
        You can make profound art with toys. But the moment a talented painter decides to use crayons and finger paints as an experiment, or as part of the over-arching statement, it does not suddenly turn crayons and finger paints into professional tools.

        Also, there is the question of the definition and use of “toy”

        toy
        toi/Submit
        noun
        1. an object for a child to play with, typically a model or miniature replica of something.
        2. an object, especially a gadget or machine, regarded as providing amusement for an adult.
        3. a person treated by another as a source of pleasure or amusement rather than with due seriousness.
        4. denoting a diminutive breed or variety of dog.

        Number 2 seems appropriate.

        1. and Professional Music gear is used by people who make their living making music.

          Most of the people who complain about “toys” just like to feel better about buying more expensive “professional” toys for them to play with, not because they need it for a job.

          I’ve said it many time before, the huge majority of all musical instruments from guitars, to pianos, to violins, to synths are sold to amateur hobbyists.

          1. See this is my stop. Lames take it some kind of personal affront when a synth they like – or use, or would like to use – is referred to as a toy. And yet I’m sure they refer to certain Luxury-class cars as “toys” or giant mechanical machinery as “toys” without giving a second thought to it.

            A $5 Ax is not a toy, but it sure as hell looks like one when you put it next to a $50 Fire Ax. However, you can still use a $5 ax to chop down a door when your house is on fire and nobody is going to be able to tell whether you used the $5 model or the $50 model.

            That does not mean they are of equivalent quality or value. And you won’t find a “professional” fireman using a $5 ax when it’s go time.

            Just admit that this is a hobby and these are your toys. Jesus you aren’t going to have your synth card taken away from you.

            I just bought a toy: The MeeBlip Anode. I plan on using this toy in my professional creations. But it’s a toy, not an oscilloscope, or a SPL meter, or a high-quality 1-channel, 3-band tube midrange eq with switchable freq selection, or a number of other professional tools built for ULTRA specific purposes whose value and intent is generally only understood by a particular group of… professionals.

  4. i think roland gets it right!
    to be honest best pad sounds i made i did it with digital synths, not VA or for gods sake not with monosynth 😀 microkorg as all you know is one of or even maybe it is – most best selling synth ever made, and hey here you have roland microkorg with freakin 4 track sequencer and drums! basically same price range.
    keys are too small? no, your fingers just too fat, go buy a foot bass keyboard! 😀
    and how many analogs you need in your synth exactly? damn i hate when many modern artists have ruined their records with that digusting steppy filter oh god what a shame. 🙁

    1. If I can, I’ll disagree!!!
      I make great pads with the mopho, 2 oscillators differently tuned plus self oscilating filter 😉 + smooth modulation and a bit of reverb or delay.
      Same with microbrute arpeggiating super fast in wet reberb, makes it a massive organ!!!
      Sure easier to use the alpha juno for that, I just need to play a pad sound and it’s instantly awesome.

      When I had nothing I would often record feedbacks made with ableton routing, tune it and play it with the computer keyboard. Really special sounds came out, I still use this technique with a lot of variation of tools.

      The thing is how much you want to spend time playing music?? How much designing sound?
      Do you think they’re kind of different degree of the same activity?
      This roland JD-Xi is not made to design sounds at all! It’s only presets you can tweak a tiny bit, while in the mikro korg you can go far deeper in programming your waves and envelopes.

      But I can see how it can be a nice creative tool/toy for creating stuff on the spot, playing on top of it, destroy everything with the effects and from there create something new. Then get back to what you had before…and keep on playing for the sake of it!

    1. No. You cannot combine the analog and digital sound engines simultaneously. This deflates this synth big time.
      Neither the analog section nor the digital section on its own is anything to write home about.

      1. The analog synth engine is basically a bassline synth, simple but pretty solid.

        The digital side, though, decimates the competition.

        It’s got 5-10 times the polyphony of most mini synths out there, and Roland’s engine is a generation or two ahead of the microkirg, the XL or the mininova.

        If you think this is underpowered, what are you comparing it to? Anything in the $500 or under price range?

        My big question is whether it will have a decent editor. All the mini synth editors that I’ve tried have sucked, and editing is the biggest drawback on mini synths.

  5. The demos so far do focus on the sequencer side – and considering it is the year of the sequencer it needs to have deep features to stop me using computer based midi or dropping £100 on a dedicated solution, with real bite. This thing has a lot of questions that need addressing. So, no knobs for modifying a supernatural patch, is this possible? Can it be done, even with a software editor? Same goes for the editing of the analog side, how deep can it go? What about LFOs? The vocoder cuts out the analog synth! It also has an external sound input, which I guess is also going to cut off the analog part to use the filter – is this the case? But the big issues I have with this is that if the supernatural sounds can’t be tweaked, or programmed from fresh, then I won’t be using them. And like most other people, I have my drum sounds already and have spent years getting to this point – I ain’t going to be using Roland PCM drums on anything of worth, I need my sounds and a certain level of control over that. So this leaves me with an analog synth, with mini-key control, that I don’t know how deep I can edit and a vocoder, that I can’t use at the same time as the analog part. And I haven’t been shown what the effects can do, and what works together. I can see why people are calling this a toy, if it is the case that you can’t edit a sound to a certain level. Forget the mini-keys for a moment, I don’t like them – but we do have midi and mini-keys are desirable to some. But this could have been a great product with a bit of focus. Firstly, have a great piece of software for deep editing of patterns and patches. And replace PCM drum bank with a Electribe ESX 2 style sampler for your own sound setup, again with deep editing – and really all this isn’t a hardware issue but a software one. I’d buy this in a heartbeat with these few tweaks. As it stands, I’d be paying £400 for a very limited analog synth – and I have better options in that piece range. For everything else I can get much better solution for very little money – and most already have that in place. I want to like this, but it does seem that it has been purposely crippled to tier the Roland product range – such a shame.

    1. The supernatural engine is fully editable. There is a Japanese parameter guide out which shows this.
      All the envelopes can be edited.

      The big clue is that there is init patches

      During the recent webinar it was revealed that the engine is related to the fa06.

      I agree that it will need an editor as there is a lot of parameters.

      I found this out on a basic google search and by visiting gearslutz.

      You might have saved some time if you had done the same!

      1. Good to know, and thanks for the search. I won’t be wasting time doing random searches that Roland should have listed in the specs on their own friggin’ website.

  6. every video and demo about the JD-Xi brings the sensation that “these is it”… these is everything we can espect from the little synth that try to be too many things for my taste.

    1. Can we refer to this now as “Shoegate”?

      “Why does this keyboard demonstrator where a pair of 15 year old New Balance sneakers?”

      Send me money and I’ll buy some new Nikes. 🙂

      1. I was briefly shoe-gazing, but my eye was then quickly drawn to the ugly rug. All that’s missing here is a mangy dog.

  7. don’t understand why everybody get’s so heated up about what style a demo is using and i think
    the guy did a fair job presenting the synth. No, it is not a full review, he doesn’t do into the details of the engines, but i get a good overview on how to operate the synths and this is more important to me as this isn’t obvious in sound only demos that will likely flood the internet in a very short time.

    I’m sure the full review will cover the instrument in more depth.

    For me the bottom line is that it is a well thought out beginner synth with a good featureset for the money that offers some advantage over the already mentioned competitors.

    If i’d be interested to buy it, i check the synth out in person anyway , so i don’t waste my time having to bitch about why all these internet douches don’t make a demo to my personal liking or style.

  8. Maybe I’m just missing it but I haven’t seen any of the sequencer focussed demos talk about

    a) pattern chaining/song mode
    b) keyboard based transposition of the sequences
    c) max polyphony on the drum machine

    1. Hi Will,

      Patterns can be chained either by saving them in sequential order as Programs or by setting up Favorites on the 16 TR-REC buttons.

      I do not believe you can transpose via the keyboard but I could be wrong. I did not find this functionality on my review unit but it could be in an OS update or I could have missed it. The manual is very skimpy and the Parameters PDF that someone mentioned above was not on Roland’s site the last time I looked.

      The drum machine shares polyphony with the two digital synth Parts. The total for all three is 128 notes.

      Hope that helps,
      —-Jim Alfredson

  9. In regard to transposing, you cannot transpose globally but if you only need to transpose a half step down and you play in default concert pitch of 440 A, you can change the setting to 415,3
    It does have a master pitch setting that can be gloally changed from 415.3 – 466.2 Hz.

    Roland seriously needs to add the ability to change the global setting to transpose up or down.

    They also need to add a way to punch in program numbers instead of using the + or – buttons. This is a real pain and makes it useless for live performance. I don’t know why these simple functions were overlooked as these features are common on even consumer grade non-professional keyboards and low budget digital pianos.

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