Roland JD-XA Synthesizer Review – ‘Massive Sound-Sculpting Potential’

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This video, via sonicstate, takes a look at the SuperNatural synth engine and sequencer of the new Roland JD-XA hybrid synthesizer:

This is part 2 of Nick Batt’s review. Part one is a review of the JD-XA analog synth engine.

Batt notes that “The JD-XA has a pretty massive sound sculpting potential, with the four analog voices plus 64 SuperNatural and effects you can create some huge soundscapes.” But he was less impressed by the JD-XA’s plastic case and the readability of the synth’s black on red color scheme.

Roland JD-XA Hybrid Synth Architecture

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.

16 thoughts on “Roland JD-XA Synthesizer Review – ‘Massive Sound-Sculpting Potential’

    1. Batt’s unusually mamby-panby on the pricing, because he goes on to say that the sum of the parts is clearly a reasonable value, too.

      From my perspective, the synth engine on this is spot on, but it’s unacceptable for a $2k pro keyboard to be ‘plasticky’.

      1. oh what wonders a little palm grease can do to a ‘final opinion’ on a product 😀
        these guys get paid to make demos that seem favorable, keep that in mind. They get sent the unit as a promo and either keep it or take a marketing fee or both, in order to keep their series going. Every now and then you see the undiluted excitement for a new synth however, like Batt on the CS80-filter Boomstar

          1. I’m not sure of how to compare the sharing of illicit stock tips with possible payola in the synthesizer biz. Its apples and netbooks. Its hard to imagine Roland having to buy good reviews, since they get so much right. Oh yeah, Nick lives in a penthouse from his industry review riches! Its a huge web of conspiracy that robs grannies and topples stock markets! No, he’s ‘one of us’ and at least half-boffin. He’s proven himself over a good run to date, so just appreciate his input and focus on whether or not the new wunderbox suits you.

        1. I think they do a really good job of being objective actually. Nick’s generally great at touching on all the point’s you’d want to know in a new synth, while letting the sound and feature set speak for itself in relation to the price point.

          It’s pretty obvious that the JD-XA is capable of some pretty ‘massive sound sculpting potential’. It does have pleasant and obvious ‘Roland’ characteristics but absolutely nothing to really get excited about though, in my opinion. Four analog voices is not enough at this price, even with all of the ‘SuperNatural’ bells and whistles. I think the Integra-7 is a better buy. But I’ll stick with the JX-10!

          Sadly, it’s also absolutely hideous and very tacky for an instrument at this price point. I can’t imagine how scuffed and disgusting they’ll look in 15 years.
          Not to mention the highly limited sequencer and fairly uninspiring layout.

          I think you’re wide off the mark there with your ‘palm grease’ comment. These videos are billed as reviews and I would be very surprised if they are getting paid by Roland at all. In summary, Nick states “it does sound actually pretty good, it’s just the sequencer lets it down”, hardly the glowing praise you would expect from a brown envelope scenario.
          Sonicstate benefit by attracting traffic to their site where they run ads for UA Apollo etc. and perhaps some YouTube ad revenue. And long may they continue!

        2. That’s a pretty douchy comment.

          Batt’s one of the most even-handed and detailed reviewers there is, and doesn’t hesitate to call it like it is.

          Do you really think Roland would pay for a review that questions the build quality, styling and value of one of their flagship synths?

        3. You are aware that he stated in the Part 1 demo that it was actually a preproduction model and that specifications may change on the synth upon release? My understanding is that Nick get these synths to review and then they are actually returned to the manufacturer after the fact. As much as I disagree with elements of this part 2 review I still think the inference you’ve made of “palm greasing” is actually rather douchy and based purely on your own opinion and not on the facts. Pretty sure the team at Sonicstate wouldn’t be particularly enamoured with your claims either.

  1. Nick generally does great reviews and while you can disagree with his opinions, it’s silly to think he is somehow getting paid for favourable reviews.

    His review on the JD is fair. I do disagree with his assessment of the sequencer after seeing what it was capable of. This is not the machine for sequencing tracks or patterns to make complete songs. Maybe this will change in a firmware upgrade but as it stands the sequencer is best utilized to control parameters at the patch level to create patches that have a lot of movement in them. The sounds you can create can be really animated and deep – perfect for soundscapes and soundtrack work.

    The CV was probably added simply to be able to interface with new Roland CV gear and old gear if you have it. I would not hesitate to consider it as superb poly and sound design tool. See the videos on the gearslutz thread by RonF to see what it can do. I don’t think amateur synth programmers really get what this is capable of doing.

    As for the aesthetic design choices Roland made. Other than the lack of data dial, shine, and red-on-black printing the synth is fine. When you are complaining about a synths look you should really ask yourself what you are in this for – telling people about the gear you own and collect, or getting out the sounds in your head to make music. I go for the latter but that’s probably the outlier perspective.

  2. I really like the big sound, which befits a JD/Fantom-level Roland, so that’s no issue, but… the sequencer is stillborn, that stingy display is straight from 1982 and a red-on-black GUI means the graphics department is blind. Its almost as bad as blue-on-black. The text all but disappears, yeesh. I think they were trying to cross-breed a workstation with a DJ rig and missed some key points. I’d rather program this thing from an editor than fight that dark panel, although I can imagine a few people really melding with it because of its range. I’d sure like to hear the vocoder; it’ll add a lot to it if it has a big enough VP-style voice, beyond mere robots. Big Kronos/Motif workstations will always be around to some extent, whereas this feels like a noble attempt at a hybrid. I think it needed a bit more tweaking to be worth that MSRP, though. Its not a total FAIL at all, but that kind of money can buy you a nicely varied rig. I wonder how many people will really plug it into AIRA and Eurorack rigs via those CV options…. that might make it more surprisingly popular than we may think right now.

    1. …and a red-on-black GUI means the graphics department is blind

      Probably not. It more likely means the marketing department has more board room swagger than the design department.

  3. Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran said he was going to play a stack of three of these and a V-Synth with its fun “Korg Kaoss” pad thing. Make of that what you will. 😛

  4. I like it.

    If Roland wants me to endorse the JD-XA and use my name and photo in their magazine and Internet ads, I’d be okay with that.

  5. Why oh why music instrument manufacturers insist on adding half baked, limited to the max sequencers to their flagship keyboards..?
    Don’t they realise that it is 2015 already and everyone uses computers and tablets for much more compehensive DAWS..?

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