Jan 24

NAMM 2015: Roland Unleash the JD-Xi Compact Crossover Synth

This is a lovely looking synth, the only thing I hate is 37 mini keys – great if you are a child. I don’t understand why they could not make it like the Roland SH-01. Admittedly it would be more square-shaped but at least it would be nicer to play. Actually looking at this a bit further, this would make a great rack unit. I know many companies seem to not be making rack units anymore, but it is a real shame, especially as if it was rack you could have it right in front of you to connect up to you favorite keybed like my Fantom G 88. Come on Roland make this little beauty into a rack unit as there is a limit to the amount of keyboards one can own.

However, also in the news but not for release yet is it’s bigger brother the Roland’s flagship’ JD-Xa Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer also on preview at the 2015 NAMM Show. The Roland JD-Xa maybe available by the next great show at  Musikmesse 2015. The Roland JD-Xa briefly has a keyboard jam packed with knobs and controls but with full size keys. It also has four independent analog monophonic voices, so you can use it as a four-voice polysynth. As you would expect it comes with four additional synth voices, based on Roland’s SuperNatural technology and lastly it has eight channels of step sequencing.

Anyway, let’s not get carried away with things to come let us focus our attention on the Roland JD-Xi.


Roland describe the JD-Xi as “Tiny, mighty, and affordable with a true analog synth engine not forgetting that amongst other goodies, it has the famous Roland SuperNATURAL sounds onboard, a pattern sequencer, drum kits, and the ability to make some great vocal sounds with an attached gooseneck mic, Vocoder, and AutoPitch. I suppose this has been done before by Novation and Korg. The Ultranova comes to mind in this respect.

When you read about this synth they say the Roland JD-Xi is an ‘Interactive Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer’ – but what does this mean? Well it has a crossover sound engine which combines both analog and digital so as well as the digital sounds that we are all too familiar with you also get that warmth and fat analog sound.

Roland’s JD-Xi synth engine provides you with saw, triangle, and square waveforms with pulse-width modulation and an analog filter, plus an independent sub oscillator for low-end power. The Roland JD-Xi synth has two digital synth sections offer 128-voice polyphony and a wide range of SuperNATURAL-based PCM tones for playing any style of music you wish.

For those of you that want to enhance the sounds further, you can do so with their extensive effects section which has delay, reverb, a Bit Crusher, Slicer, Ring Mod, and others.

The Roland JD-Xi has a good quality gooseneck mic and onboard vocal effects.  With it’s Vocoder you can have great fun by singing into this mic and at the same time you can control the tone and pitch of your voice by the soundsyou play on it’s keyboard. If you have a go at the AutoPitchfacility it is really easy to get those robot type sounds. If you choose the Auto Note function it will give you the chance to sing without touching the keyboard.

OK so what is the built-in pattern sequencer like? Well, it gives you four separate tracks, two digital synth parts, an analog synth, and drums. You can get some great loops in no time at all. There is also real-time and step recording modes provided plus a special TR-REC mode for programming in the style of Roland’s classic TR-series beatboxes. When you get into it you will be queuing your patterns up and manipulating them to your heart’s content all  while you hammering out on the keyboard. If this is all too much there are many preset patterns  included for you to start jamming away immediately you have unpacked from it’s box.

As you would expect from the drums onboard you get a variety of electronic and acoustic kits and to assist you still further the drum instrument assignments are conveniently labeled above the 37 keys for quick identification. You can modify the sound of the kits if you want to by use of with filter, envelope, pitch, and pan parameters.

You get MIDI and audio over USB with the added advantage that with USB you can download  free new sounds which are available at Roland’s Axial sound library site. It is all sounding good and its only £399.

I can imagine this would be a great addition to MIDI up with the Roland GAIA. If you have a Roland GAIA already, don’t forget to check out my sound patch collections of which there are three – just click on the image below:-


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