First Look: The Roland JD-Xa Flagship Hybrid Analog Synthesizer

roland-jd-xa-analog-synthesizerAt the 2015 NAMM Show, Roland is offering a preview of their ‘flagship’ JD-Xa Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer

The Roland JD-Xa is not being officially introduced, because it is still under development. But they expect to give the new synth its official introduction at Musikmesse 2015.

The JD-Xa is described as a ‘flagship’ keyboard in the JD-X line – offering:

  • a knob-filled interface & full size keys
  • 4 independent analog monophonic voices, each with fairly deep synthesis capabilities, that can also be used as a four-voice polysynth;
  • 4 additional synth voices, based on Roland’s SuperNatural technology;
  • 8 channels of step sequencing

Official details are to be announced.

129 thoughts on “First Look: The Roland JD-Xa Flagship Hybrid Analog Synthesizer

  1. Looks like the SH-201 had a kid who grew up to be a linebacker. Not hating, definitely not. But it looks like it should have Terminator clanging noises coming out of it. Come vis me if you vant to rave.

      1. Ooo, didn’t know the Internet was a limited resource. Sorry. But it has the same knobs as an SH-201, and the lights from a Korg. I think an SH-201 and a Korg Radias got together and created something new with a great big voice. Can’t wait to hear the demos. Roland don’t even have a mention of it on their site. I had to get rid of my V-Synth GT a while back and miss it, but I wonder if this would be a better replacement. They might have to change that shiny black plastic surface, though. Nick Batt put up a video and you can see smears and scratches in the unit at NAMM just from a day’s noodling. I suspect this is a prototype.

        1. Or…as my parents once said to me when I was a young child and asked an awkward question… ‘the SH-201 and the Korg Radias ‘hugged in a special way’….

    1. I think it looks awesome! All my roland-hating has stopped dead, it’s a little bit Star Wars with the brassy metal and imperial lights. But four voice polyphony?! 8 track sequencing!? Wow.

      1. I think the design is actually quite awesome. It has this black plastic sheen futuristic spaceship thing going on. I think we have all seen enough of the 70s style, wood ends, Moog style knobs etc. Nothing wrong with those of course but it’s becoming a bit passé. I hope this roland actually sounds good/unique because I might have to get one if it does because I really like that design!

  2. The return of Roland.
    Four seperate mono synths, seems like a tetra on acid.
    The layout looks good and reminds me of a Jd .
    I have had a lot roland analogue gear, and that has included, mc 202s, Alpha juno,106.
    Looks really good this.Lets hope the price is a good one.

    1. It looks really cool, for sure. I’m not sure anything classified as a “flagship synth” should only have 49 keys, though. Can’t wait to hear how it sounds.

  3. Hey, good for Roland. It’s a step forward from the polarizing Aria line. Maybe it’ll be really good and will restore some needed cred for that company. I wish them success with it.

  4. Ok that’s more like it Roland, better late than never suppose & a little more exciting than the JDxi. If the synthesis is more complex (x-mod & fm) & has interesting sound characteristics (nice filter distortion) this could b a good poly synth, looks amazing as usual but looks alone are not enough. This years Namm has been epic but I suspect more poly synth action to come later in the year.

  5. I like the idea. Play some bass with the left hand and chords with the right then sequence a couple of other lines along with modulation. I would prefer 8-12 voices of VA, though, for two-hand chords.

  6. They finally gave in and put wheels on the synth (good) but they put them inconveniently high on the panel (not good) and kept the pitch bend lever (bad). The JD-Xa is shiny and lights up like a Christmas tree but something in my old-school heart has me leaning more towards the Prophet-6.

    1. It is really hard to decide what is the most exciting synth at Namm 2015. The smaller “brother” is quite cheap, so I believe this synth will not cost more than a 1000 bucks, so no comparison with the new Sequential…. we shall wait and see. Best would be able to afford both!

  7. Get Klaus Schulze to do a CD using only this keyboard, like he did with Andromeda and Ion. Andromeda is a really good work of his.

  8. Surprisingly cool. If the sequencer has Elektron style parameter locking, this will be very powerful indeed. 4 voices of PCM-sounds seems a tad light especially in comparison with the 128 voices of the JD-Xi.

    1. I wonder if the description is a little vague and that the 4 digital voices are in fact polyphonic and it is 4 part multi-timbral. After all, the smaller unit has 128 note polyphony, it would be surprising if the flagship had fewer.

      This could be a really great machine. And a welcome change from Roland’s ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ analog’ stance.

  9. very interesting! at last Roland return with something that grab my attention. The lights on every knob and fader makes me thing that additionally it also includes something similar to the “plug out” capability from the AIRA System-1. Maybe is a mix of Analog, SuperNatural and Plug-out.

  10. yet another “flagship” poly thingy with the number of keys you’d expect on a monophonic synth.. It looks stunning, but I cannot use this.

  11. so it has 4 “analog” voices….I am sure everyone is assuming they are VCO…. I bet they are DCO for starters….that would be a typical Roland mis-fire kind of mistake. Can anyone confirm?

        1. I couldn’t agree with you more, these days my SH-101 doesn’t see much use. The Bass Station II has got to be one of smartest and most satisfying purchases I’ve made in the past 10 years.

          1. There’s a convergence of Roland fans and anti-DCO urban legends at play. If Roland had brought out a synth with the identical engine as the Bass Station II, there would be parades in the streets.

            The JD-XA is a 4-voice analog poly with digital effects, lots of controls, full size keys, knobs, sliders, VA engines – so I’m definitely interested.

            But I’m not getting mad at Roland for not making the perfect little affordable analog mono synth. Novation already did it.

            1. Definitely. I’m very interested in this, and I’m also a big fan of hybrid synths. If the price is right and it sounds good, I’ll give it serious consideration

      1. I agree. Roland started it with DCOs in the JX-3P and I don’t recall hoards of unwashed Deadheads storming Roland’s headquarters with torches and pitchforks. Then Korg brought out the Poly-800. It’s nice to have a predictable smoothness available even with analog. If you really want to remain pure, save up for an Oberheim or get a DSI with a slop knob.

          1. No JX-3P was 1983 actually (JX-8P was 85 and sounds like shit next a 3P). But you are both wrong becase the first Roland synth with DCOs was the Juno 6 in 1982! 😉

      1. Well VCOS actually only matter if you have control voltage inputs on the synth to control them.

        If it is Midi only, then it may as well well be DCOs for stability.

        Honestly though, most modern VCOs do not drift like the old ones did, so the stability argument is a bit moot now.

  12. with these new keyboards, plus the new aira “performance mixer” – i feel like Roland is trying to step to Elektron…

    im diggin it

  13. Looks like they nailed it together in the machine shop Wednesday night. I like it! dCOs wouldn’t bother me, but I hope it’s a dedicated fat polysynth and not the usual bizarre grab bag of pro/amateur Roland tech they usually do. (If you blow up the image really big, there’s a preset button called “Wacky Cat”)

    Just kidding.

  14. I wait from yamaha a sequencer with 16 (or better 32) track , with analog, digital, sampler, and finaly with a serious multi efx. A RS 7000 with analog many poly sinth. How many year?

  15. The entire next paycheck is going toward lottery tickets. When I hit it big, I will buy this, the Prophet 6, and a bunch of other synths.

  16. Good god yes. Finally, an analog (sort of) Roland. And a JD no less. This makes me happy, though I’m not so sure about the 4 octave keyboard on this guy as well as the Prophet 6. Is that the new normal? I’ve always felt that 5 octaves is perfect for a polysynth; enough room for an octave bass and chords at the same time. Maybe that’s just too 80’s for today;)

    1. I agree with you… but would the extra octave increase the price that much more? So is that why they went with only 4 octaves? … still, I would not mind having one of those synths. I can always use my 5 octaves controller if needed.

  17. if they want to really sell alot of these they’ll make a desktop/rackmount version upon keyboard RELEASE ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  18. I am pretty sick of all the lame assclowns who sit behind their PC keyboards and complain and whine about new gear on these sites ..i am starting to think that most of the negative comments are made by jackoffs who can’t even afford a casio keyboard and somehow critisizing new gear that is beyond their financial abilities makes them feel important…piss off and stop complaining jerkoffs!

    1. Not true – I can afford a GX-1 if it came up for sale. I would probably NOT buy it anyway tho’. And – I do not HATE the new instruments.. Actually I don’t hate anything at all. There’s shitloads of stuff that I don’t want, and stuff that I’m not a very big fan of – but it’s NO hate involved. I like new instruments – I also like the new Roland – but I will not buy it. I want proper keys. Actually – the keys are my only complaint on most new stuff that companies launch these days. I’m a synth-tweaker – but more than that I’m a keyboard player. If they don’t want to add a proper keybed, then leave the keys completely – is my main view (a comment I’ve dropped quite a few times in this very fine forum recently). Have a nice weekend. 🙂

      1. What are you talking about? These are proper keys.

        It seems, like you forgot to use your own instincts before letting the reflexes type a comment and submit in such an anger, that you didn’t even read it first.

    2. I don’t think it is about money, some clowns use soft synths and somehow think that the world of soft synths is somehow related to the world of synthesizers. I asked one guy on here what Roland synths he owned and which ones did he use regularly, NO REPLY was given. People into soft synths seem to dispise hardware as it makes their setups seem like a joke? I have had synths 30 years now.It would be great to see a site for the softies and a sight for those who use synthesizers. I am bored shitless , by every tom dick and harry trying to tell me an Ipad is the business . Also sick of stupid rendered images of shit sofware.
      Long live Drexciya, Model 500. Roland , Yamaha, Korg, Black Power, Charlie Hebdo,Cabaret Voltaire, Martin hannet, LFO, Tricky disco, Perverted acid house, Ilegal parties, 1210’s,etc

      1. An asshat is when you choose to use your own anus as a hatband and then complain when people notice it. An assclown is someone who wears an asshat on both ends. An asshat hates a specific new instrument; an assclown hates the entire company for it. Also, a titmouse is a mouse with tits. So much for this being a family site.

  19. I guess Roland hasn’t decided on wheels or the joystick? With all the red Tron lighting, I say wheel, where the joystick is, and slap a pair of ribbons where the wheels are now. Other than that, I like the design.

  20. Just out of curiosity. Had Roland done what Korg had done with the ARP Odyssey or Dave Smith with the Prophet 6 and instead released a Juno 106 with no difference except USB input/output, would you have been happier with that ? I suspect yes, but I’m curious to hear the answer.

    1. Nope. Had a Juno 106 for years that I bought in the 90s, great sounding synth, but pretty limited. My An1x, Nord Lead, and Korg Z1 got far more use. Also, if Roland were to do that now I don’t see how it could sell for less than $1200 (likely more), and you can get an original for that. I rather see new concepts, I welcome hybrid synthesis, poly/mono options, built in sequencers etc.

    2. I’d take one if it was specified along the lines of the kiwi 106 upgrade. Oh and with chips that don’t toast themselves, obviously.

  21. All well and good, but Roland still need to produce a true JP series analog that can compete with the likes of DSI…There are still alot of us long time Roland users waiting for that type of machine, and not just for nostalgic reasons…C’mon Roland, give us what we really want (a request, not a gripe!).

  22. If this has a good price-point, and I’m thinking under $1k, I think this could be a real winner. If it’s more than $1k I suppose it really depends on what kind of features are offered for the analogue section, and what kind of sounds are included in the SuperNatural engine, but it could still be appealing.

    1. Why not push it below $500 while at it?

      Of course it would be a real “winner”, if you sell it at loss.

      Analog 4 costs over $1k. It has very few knobs and it’s a module.

      FA-06 is $1k-ish. It has very few knobs and no analog parts.

      This will cost more, than $1k, or Roland has hired wizards, that pull these bad boys out of their hats.

      1. I’m assuming the JD-XA is not as full-featured as the Analog 4, although I could be mistaken. And Roland has a significantly larger sales-base than Elektron, and greater manufacturing capabilities than Elektron, which would allow them to sell products for less while still returning a profit. If Sequential/DSI can offer a full-featured, 6-voice poly-synth, with a dynamic keyboard for $2.5k it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a 4-voice polysynth with (presumably) fewer features could be manufactured for around $1k.

        1. Analog 4 is a module, and costs $1300. No matter how big the Roland has ever been, this will have to cost more, than a 4 voice module.

          Korg’s latest synth, the KingKorg still costs $1k, and came to market costing $1,5k, without lots of knobs, without analog synth, without sequencer and with just one rather simple digital bi-timbral synth engine. This one has to cost more, that KK.

          P06 is not very comparable. It is monotimbral synth without sequencer(yeah, it has a simple recorder).

          Plastic tells me, that it will not be much over $2000(could still be, considering the stuff it has), but the R/D of all these features weight AT LEAST 1,5k$.

      1. If the JD-XA costs “3k or higher” who in their right mind would buy a JD-XA instead of a DSI / Sequential Prophet 6, which judging by the information we currently have is a much superior product that costs less.

        1. It will not be 3k, but I would still consider it vs P06. I want both as much, but only one of them is multi timbral and has a(n usefull) sequencer.

          1. You might be right about the JDXA being under 3k.
            I just saw online that the JDxi, the little brother of the JDXA is available for pre-order at $499.00
            No telling on the price of JDXA but it could be well under 3k?
            It just seemed that in the past Roland’s flagship synths have always been pretty expensive., but one can only hope for a reasonable price on this????

  23. Some guys in lowered Honda Civics ornamented with cheap stickers, etc. designed the irritating green neon AIRA line and looks like the same aesthetic design team here, only from a different aisle at the Autoworks. However, the concept is brilliant and I will buy one if it looks like a revival from Roland.

  24. Wow, it does look like John Conner from Terminator designed this, does it have WIFI that connects to SkyNet? and will help in the rise of robot machines?

    Seriously I think i am going to have to buy this when it comes out, I think Roland has a hit with this beauty!
    Great job Roland. Wow!

  25. Been a synth collector and alt / techno / house / new beat / rave / tech-house DJ since ’84. My current studio:

    After Dave Smiths remarkable Prophet-12, Pro Two and now the stand-up-from-your-seat-and-cheer Prophet-6, this JX looks like a toy for Guitar Center kids on a Saturday. Probably will sound and function well but, Roland – if you are listening – FIRE your UI team. How can Roland be so disconnected from what people want? Green neon?? and now.. orange and burgundy? Terrible!

    Roland – make polyphonic keyboard synths that look like modular Eurorack systems without the wires.

    DSI FTW. And he’s mighty entertaining too. SEQUENTIAL IS BACK!

  26. Hey Roland, why doesn’t this synth have mini keys? That’s what all synth players want these days.*

    *I am so sick of small keys. I don’t get the whole mini key thing. Hey Korg, would it really have cost that much more to make the Odyssey 14% larger with full size keys?

    1. The JDXA does not have mini keys! This will be a flagship synth which means it will probably have a really good keybed…….definetly no mini keys.

  27. i think it might surprise a few people, the price will be the true test of its sales, any thing under 500 and its a winner, over and we will have to see.

        1. Hahaha funny! For a start this is the Xi not the Xa. He might be a “nob” but don’t let him ruin a good thing for you, there will be more demos of it before it is released, by people who can review gear well like Nick from Sonicstate.

      1. It’s 1500 or up. Take KingKorg for an example, add a little bit of everything and see, if you can put them there for free.

        Pro tip:
        This is not going to be cheaper, than KingKorg.

        I also want to believe in magic.

        1. “I also want to believe in magic.”

          I can respect those with differences of opinion, and those with different information, but comments like this make you quite an unpleasant person to converse with. I find myself taking everything you say with a grain of salt, which I suppose suits your username but also hurts the whole reason you’re posting in the first place.

          1. Hmm, it’s just that Salt has put some reasoning behind his/her opinions.

            If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it’s not his/her fault.

            1. I’m not uncomfortable with his/her reasoning. I welcome it. It is strictly that they should behave as though minor disagreements warrant snark and subtle insults. It’s exactly that kind of attitude that destroys communities, and makes narcissists of us all.

              1. Wow!

                The magic reference was because of my wizard joke earlier, and if it REALLY offends you, you are far too overly sensitive for internet being healthy place for you.

                Even if I was jokingly talking about magic, my comments in this thread are not conjuring anyone into narcist, let alone destroying any communities.

  28. i don’t know if it is VCO or DCO but from some pics if the left of the panel it seems that is 4parts analog with 2 osc and 4 parts digital with 3 partials. To be compared with 1 part analog and 2 parts digital of the Xi.

  29. This is not a prototype. This is a mock-up. It doesn’t have any jacks. There’s a power cord and a power switch, but no jacks at all. The top is Plexiglas secured by aluminum strips with lag bolts. Look closely at Nick Batt’s short video: If this is going to be a real thing it still has a lot of development going on. This is not a synthesizer. It is a proof of concept. A prop.

  30. I love how this looks! Knobs are the tits, and I love to see more synths having lots of them.

    This eats KingKorg, and it is still left hungry.

  31. The verdict will be out for me until I *hear* more of it. I’ve found Roland’s overall sound a bit too homogenous, although their instruments always perform brilliantly as layer-enhancers. I’ve had a couple of Junos and they were great workhorses. One of the best things Roland has done is to include a PCM bank lately, which really broadens the range of playable patches. A sampled string ensemble stacked with an analog one = considerable beef neither has alone. So let’s see how the voice allocation really works. If both of those sections are “righteous,” then the general fun-playability of most Roland gear will carry the rest of it.
    +1 for the LEDs, too. Black buttons on black backgrounds really suck. I don’t know if all of those lights will last at least the 5 years minimum I want from a synth, but a sci-fi as synths are anyway, its a good look. Roland seems to be refining their lines well lately, incl. the new RD-800 piano. Maybe it will lead to that Jupiter-8 grail. Admit it, you want the real thing to light up like the JD does. 😛

  32. DCO’s… Would prefer a VCO, but far from a deal breaker. I own a JX8P and I am content with that tbh. I’d more likely buy the Prophet-6.

  33. This synth is the one that is giving me hope about Roland. In my view the Aira was a disappointment and the JD-XI is just a toy. But this…. this looks more like it. Of course, I need to hear it, play it, and see what price they are asking – if its a ‘flagship’ that could mean higher price. But indeed if it really does replace the V Synth GT, and has analogue as well, then that’s a huge step forward for Roland after a fairly dismal period of disappointing, cheesy EDM boxes. I think it looks awesome, and can see one sitting above my Korg Kronos 88X actually. So looking forward to Musikmesse 2015 which is where it will be formally announced. One hopes they’ll have a working model by then.

  34. Oh my… I can’t believe my eyes how awful it looks, the colour scheme of this synth is just terrible. But at the same time I love to think how mega retro cool it gonna look in 20 years…. it will probably be the most awfully beautiful retro synth design in the 2035.

  35. I like the lights for several reasons. They make it easy to see knobs in dark places, and they also give you information at one glance. And if a sequencer doesn’t have lights, it is gimped.

  36. 4 analogue voices is too little too late. And frankly it would have to sound astonishing in order for me to get over that disgusting bling. Yeah, I’m going to go against the flow here and say I’m still feeling pretty salty towards Roland.

    Still got infinite love for my 106 though 🙂

  37. i like the look of is..not major bothered about the LED’s as the sound is more important but i am very positive about the knobs and sliders!

    I’ve been hoping for a FA-06 but with Gaia style knob encrusted editing…. and here we are!
    sort of!…not a complete FA-06..looks to have the supernatural synth section and 4 part multitimbral
    plus a 4 analogue monophonic section too! BONUS time!

    and bonus bonus!
    drum section with TR editing and 64 step length patterns
    not sure about ‘song mode” hope they don’t do a korg and omit song mode like what korg did with the electribe 2 recently.

    so…FA-06 or JD-XA?

    ..HMmm… not sure!

    both maybe!

    1. Yeah pattern chaining is vital for all sequencing, they need to stop leaving it ou. It’s useful for the synths not just the drums too.

    2. I agree with the “not sure”. To find out, I ordered one (thru Guitar Center) and now have to wait until mid summer when they should be out. Final engineering problems are being worked out. They might be changing the top panel design as it is hard to read and is very fragile (to scratches). Not sure of the intergrity of the analog oscillators (true sinewave generation). Have to get the thing to find this out!

  38. Having watched a demo of the xi, I’m disappointed at the amount of menu diving, the demo guy was constantly getting confused about where he was and having to switch to a different parameter, and he knows the machine better than anyone.

    The xa looks a bit more knob per function, but I still see that digital menu screen, which I don’t mind as long as the workflow isn’t too confusing.

    This has always been a problem with digital, the depth offers too many options, and accessing them all becomes a serious chore.

  39. The Packrat in me is telling me to buy it, no matter how good or bad it sounds. I’m 45 and still have this stupid voice in my head that screams “BUT JUST LOOK AT IT!!”

    1. Listen to the voice Dave, listen to it. It knows!

      The same voice is telling me I need a white ARP odyssey despite it doing nothing I can’t already do elsewhere.

      And the SQ-10 well that’s just made for my monotribe surely?

    2. I totally agree. I (a packrat too) now have over 200 instruments in my collection. I ordered a JD-XA and will put it thru it’s paces. Thats the only way to do it. This looks to be a very good synth (though not perfect).

    1. The engineers just might be changing this. JD-XAs should be available by mid summer (hopefully after some changes).

  40. The design is a bit strange indeed, looks like a shiny surf tab grrr, but I’m interested in the sound, I feel a bit excited asking myself if Roland still got the analog knowledge. It’s a darn pity that they gave it a shiny surface, otherwise it would be very cool.

  41. I just bought the RD 800, and am curious if this would work well in “concert” with the RD 800? Or tandem, or whatever you want to say.

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