Roland JD-XA Analog Engine Review

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This video, via sonicstate, takes a look at the Analog Engine section of the new Roland JD-XA synthesizer, the company’s new flagship hybrid analog + digital synth.  featuring both a SuperNatural digital engine and 4 analog voices:

The JD-XA’s analog side features a discrete, four-part engine with true analog filters and a direct dry output.

Each part has two oscillators, along with filter and amp sections and four envelopes with incredibly fast attack and response times. There are also two LFOs with super-smooth coverage from ultra-slow to ultra-fast.

After building an analog sound, users can route it directly to the dry output, or send it to the onboard digital effects to shape the sound further.

On the digital side, the JD-XA is equipped with a four-part, 64-voice sound engine powered by Roland’s SuperNATURAL synthesizer technology. The engine is compatible with the synth engine from the INTEGRA-7 sound module, a favorite of top producers, composers, and sound designers. This allows users to take advantage of the large library of custom INTEGRA-7 sounds, available for free at Roland’s Axial website.

For more info on the Roland JD-Xa, see the Roland site.

42 thoughts on “Roland JD-XA Analog Engine Review

  1. I like these synth. Makes me remember the workflow and felling of the old digital Roland JD800.
    The filter layout is odd. I use to have the Jupiter 6 and I hope these one is a good evolution from that amazing classic synth.

    ¿how can you see the position of the mirror knobs in a dark room or stage? (time to buy a small LED lamp to work with these one).

    1. As a JP-8000 owner I can inform a bit…

      No. Very different front panels. Very different specs. Very different sound. Very different VA oscillators (modeled on the JP, sample-based digital on the XA).

      I don’t even understand the intention of your statement. Same interface because it has sliders? knobs? Envelopes, LFOs, and a filter? Do you mean to say that the interface is an older outdated one? Or Roland isn’t doing anything new? Are you talking about the LCD and menu system?

      I’m not trying to pick you apart on this… just that the comment is vague. Could you elaborate?

      1. A JP-8000 is very different from a JD-800, except that both are true Roland synths.

        What is it with you folks that you always compare an instrument with another one? When a new synth or instrument is presented judge it for what it is and for what you need. All other remarks are essentially useless.

        And 20 minute wide bandwith talking videos, dear Sonic State, do not allow the target buyer group of musicians to appreciate an instrument or judge it for what it is.

    2. Strange comment. It’s nothing like the JP-8000 (Had one and now have a JD-Xa and still have a JD-800) JP-8000 was the worst of the three. JD-800 is an epic synth, very well built and beautiful – a proper cult classic.

      JD-Xa is phenomenal though, real analog + class leading digital. It’s a real “Synthesizer” and probably the most interesting and useful one on the market today. Looks way better in reality too.

      Anyway your comment is strange because the XA interface is not at all the same as the JP-8000 other than like any synth with a control panel they have knobs/sliders.

  2. I’d swap a $700 synth for a $2,100 synth myself!

    It looks as if 49 keys is becoming the new normal for synths. Even with cutting down on the number of keys this thing seems very spendy. Top of the line workstation keys were about $1,200 in the early 90s and all are now over $3,000. It looks as if my keyboard buying days are through.

    1. When I bought my Korg Triton in 2001 there were only really two good workstations on the market — the Triton was in the $2600-$3200 (depending on # of keys) and the Kurzweil K2600 was $3500+. Roland had a mediocre workstation with a flimsy plastic body and metal siderails which looked like afterthoughts. Yamaha’s best offering topped out at $1200 but was hardly a full-fledged workstation.

      With the dozens of awesome synths available for less than $1k, many less than $500, and with Yamaha, Roland, and Korg making great workstations for under $2k, and with softsynths being dramatically more reliable than they used to be for a fraction of that cost, I really think contemporary keyboardists have absolutely nothing to complain about.

    2. My Korg 01/w cost me £1500 in 1992. That’s £2900 in today’s money, and I’d say the Kronos has a bit more oomph.

    3. This does seem pretty up there in price although analog voices plus flexible VA, lots of hands-on control, decent size keyboard with velocity and aftertouch is a strong spec. To be fair $1,200 was worth alot more back in the 90s than it is now, according to a few inflation calculators looking at the U.S. dollar that $1200 in 1990 would be equivalent to 2,183.37 now so probably pretty spot on.

      1. True that. I just found an inflation calculator and checked the original price of a Sequential Prophet 5 in 1978 ($4995) which, today would cost a whopping $27,774.17. Suddenly the price of a Prophet 6 looks like chump change – I’ll take 10 please Dave!

        Incidentally $27,774.17 is fairly close to half the average house price in America at the time.

      1. Are you lolling at “spendy” as a word or the idea of this synth being expensive? Spendy is a regional substitution for “pricey”, mostly in the Pacific Northwest. People here think it’s a real word. 🙂 When I first moved here, I misheard it as “spindly” a few times and then asked about the word. Many heated arguments later, I just gave up and let people say it.

    1. Looks way better in reality. esp if you turn the slider/pot LEDS off (this leaves plenty or nice red lights like pitch bend etc but turns the ‘too many’ lights off) THEN it looks better.

      Also the glossy surface, if kept clean, looks nice in reality and not as bad as people think. It photographs badly if you use bad lighting or if it’s dusty but I’ve got one in my studio among many other nice looking synths (inc JD-800 which is a beauty) and it’s up there with the best, and in many ways looks even better. It’s a mean looking thing once you turn the LEDS off and just have SOME red accent lights.

      More importantly it’s probably the best all round synth I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had 50+ inc many analog, this beast is a sound design dream and very inspiring. I had a Prophet 6 too which sounds good but I actually got more use out of the JD-Xa, for real music (not EDM btw) and sold the Prophet 6.

      If I could only keep one synth it would be JD-Xa, it’s super flexible can do almost anything and is a lifetime of sounds, very easy to program once you know your way around and very intuitive for most things (again the digital side is a bit menu-divey but you get used to it).

      Anyway who judges from looks on a photo or sounds on a video are missing out. It can do literally ANYTHING the user wants from it (other than super fat mono moog style analog but it can do a version of that) and the digital side is way better than any digital synth I’ve owned (for analog sounding stuff).

      Give it a week, dig in, love it.

  3. This synth seems capable of some great sounds. The gain stage issues with the filter would be a deal breaker for me if Roland doesn’t get it sorted. I am impressed by the sonic character of the filters (when driven), cross modulation and ring modulation. I can conceive of some wicked, morphing, metallic sequences if the parameters can be recorded per step. The power here is in layering the analog voices with the digital to achieve textures unlike a straight analog or digital synth. I thought that the effects sounded surprisingly good and really add value to the synth instead of just a “bells and whistles” afterthought. I will wait until the first round of buyers purchases these and then hopefully it won’t quite be what some of them are looking for and I can purchase one secondhand for a little under 2k.

    1. Picked one up used, half the retail price!!, it’s like new. My new favouite synth. AWESOME! replaces my JD-800, JX-3P, Juno 106 and some functionality of my Moog Sub 37 all in one shot. And does stuff none of those could do, am downsizing so this could be the only synth I end up keeping (have had 50+ synths in my time)

      Get one!

    1. if they had made a V-synth 3 with this kind of interface (and of course……………. DUAL D-BEAMZZZZ!!!)… i would be lining up at the store right now

  4. I think it’s great to see Roland making a real comeback with an innovative hybrid digital and ANALOG synth. They’ve done a good job of integrating both sections too! The digital synth can be routed through the analog filter, and the analog synth can go through the digital effects – that’s pretty cool. My only gripe: I’d really have wanted 8 voices of analog, or at the very least 6 like my old Juno 2, I can easily think of chords that use

  5. I think it’s great to see Roland making a real comeback with an innovative hybrid digital and ANALOG synth. They’ve done a good job of integrating both sections too! The digital synth can be routed through the analog filter, and the analog synth can go through the digital effects – that’s pretty cool. My only gripe: I’d really have wanted 8 voices of analog, or at the very least 6 like my old Juno 2, I can easily think of chords that use up more than 4 voices 🙂

  6. If I ever had that kind of money from music making! Jeez, ill have to become a DJ again to see that kind of money…

  7. Too pricey, if it were just a 6 voice analog done well, maybe. But I trust sequential to do the job better than Roland.

  8. To anyone who owns both the JD-Xi and the JD-Xa: Despite the fact that the JD-Xa has no drum track inside, please try to load JD-Xi data into the JD-Xa and vice versa. At first you have to copy the JD-Xi file that you backed up on your computer onto the USB memory stick that you use for the JD-Xa. My guess is that there are some hidden features regarding data compatibility that well’ll never come across unless someone tries to enable them.

    @Roland: Please make the JD-Xi´s drum sounds available for the JD-Xa. Without them I´m screwed! One thing´s for shure, Roland CTO: I won´t purchase the JD-Xa if there are no drum sounds to dowload from your Axial website. I want the JD-Xa to be a full-fledged “pattern workstation” including a decent SONG MODE!

    Roland presenter Scott Tibbs told Nick Batt at Musikmesse that the JD-Xa´s sequencer has no swing. WHAT WAS HE THINKING?? Cos now it turns out: IT HAS! PLUS: THE DEGREE CAN BE SPECIFIED! Wow! The JD-Xa sequencer is entirely different from the one inside the JD-Xi! IT´S JUST LIKE THE FA-06/08, QUANTIZE-WISE! Here´s the relevant excerpt of the JD-Xa manual:

    INPUT QTZ (Input Quantize):
    OFF: Quantize is not applied during recording.
    GRID: Grid quantize is applied during recording. Use this when you need accurate timing, such as for drums or bass.
    SHFL (Shuffle): Shuffle quantize is applied during recording. Use this when you want a bouncy rhythm such as shuffle or swing.

    RESO (Resolution): Specifies the note timing value at which quantization is applied.
    GRID: 1/32–1/4
    SHFL (Shuffle): 1/16–1/8

    STRENGTH (0-100%): This setting is used with grid quantize. It specifies the degree to which your notes are moved to precise intervals of the note values specified by the RESOLUTION setting. If this is set to “100 %,” the notes that you record are moved all the way to exact intervals of the specified RESOLUTION. With lower percentages, less correction is applied. If this is set to “0 %,” the timing is not corrected at all.

    RATE (0-100%): This setting is used with shuffle quantize. If this is set to “50 %,” the notes sound at equal intervals. Raising the value produces a bouncy feel as with dotted notes.

  9. +++ URGENT +++
    Contrary to what was previously said, IT IS VERY POSSIBLE TO HAVE INTEGRA 7 DRUM SOUNDS INSIDE THE JD-XA AND USE THEM WITH THE SEQUENCER! @ NICK: BE A TREASURE AND AN ANGEL AND SHOWCASE THE FOLLOWING PROCEEDINGS. Here are my findings:

    According to Synthtopia, “the JD-Xa engine is compatible with the synth engine from the INTEGRA-7 sound module. This allows users to take advantage of the large library of custom INTEGRA-7 sounds, available for free at Roland’s Axial website.”
    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2015/07/13/roland-jd-xa-analog-engine-review/

    THIS IS HUGE!
    Simply go to
    http://axial.roland.com/articles/integra-7-euro-attack-synth/
    and download the free INTEGRA-7 “Euro Attack Synth” drum sounds. Here there are:

    111|DRM – Kick 1|DRM|
    112|DRM – Kick 2|DRM|
    113|DRM – Kick 3|DRM|
    114|DRM – Snr 1 |DRM|
    115|DRM – Snr 2 |DRM|
    116|DRM – Snr 3 |DRM|
    117|DRM – Cow |DRM|
    118|DRM – Tom |DRM|
    119|DRM – CHH |DRM|
    120|DRM – OHH |DRM|
    121|DRM – Shkr |DRM|

    Or go to
    http://axial.roland.com/articles/nyc-nightlife-remix-collection/
    and download the free INTEGRA –7 “NYC Nightlife Remix Collection” which gives you 29 dancefloor-ready sounds including five pumping kick drums and one snare drum.

    1|NR L Kick |DRM|
    2|NR S Kick 1 |DRM|
    3|NR S Kick 2 |DRM|
    4|NR Rev Kick |DRM|
    5|NR NoBs Kick|DRM|
    6|NR Snr |DRM|

    Best

  10. For the same money you could buy Dune 2, Sylenth1, Komplete, Omnisphere, Groove Agent 4, and more… I hear nothing from this that makes it sound better than any of the above VSTs…

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