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Roland JX-1

Posted by brunorc on November 2, 2010

Roland JX-1 Performance Synthesizer


Funky shape, which makes it difficult to put on the side. Four sliders (hello, synthesis!) and a lot of buttons. After the “plastic toy” sounds from PSS-380 it was like all Vangelis’ stuff at once. I bought it around 1994, when synthesizers were still quite expensive, so I couldn’t had even dreamed about buying anything brand new in the music stores (but I remember visiting them countless times – and especially I recall dying in front of some Ensoniqs and GEMs, they sounded so good…). But I went to one, recommended by a friend of my mother, where I met an expert (who later even became my employer, but that’s completely different story), who listened to my points, which were:

    • good piano sound,
      dynamic keyboard,
      the ability to change the sound (so it must be a synthesizer, not a keyboard!).
  • Then he nodded and asked “how much do you have?”. I didn’t have more than the equivalent of 200$ (at that time). So he recommended me the second-hand JX-1. My parents gave me the money for it as a gift for my 18th birthday.

    And man, it did sound well. It had acceptable piano, nice strings, realistic flute, beautiful pads and aggressive leads – it had everything! Once again, it was capable of layering two sounds and featured four sliders, which along with the A/B button gave control over eight parameters of the sound. There was reverb and chorus onboard. And I could have even stored the settings!

    Of course today I wouldn’t say that the piano sound was good, but at that point it was next to Steinway (at least for me). And the storage architecture was somehow strange. There were two banks, A and B, along with the user bank. So I could have selected e.g. Piano sound from bank A, tweak it with the sliders, and then store it in the User bank, of course under the “Piano” button – because soundbanks were represented by two rows of buttons with hardcoded names, as well as underlying samples. That way I was only able to have one user version of each of the sound (choosing bank A or B as the source). Moreover, the layering worked only inside the same bank… so soon I was back to my “paper patch storage”.

    But at least it sounded well. However, the JX apparently stood for “JinX”. I had a lot of issues with this synth. First I had to go to a different city, 70 kms away, to buy it; it had the US power adapter, along with EU -> US power converter, which was hot as the hell itself after 15 minutes of working. It caused JX-1 to hang (or rather reset) which was manifested by a short blink and cutting the sound for a second, then going back to the “initial” state – Piano A. I changed the power adapter, so it worked better, but then I discovered, that it sometimes didn’t react appropriately to the velocity of played sounds. To solve the problem completely eventually I had to travel to another city, this time 170 kms away, to have it fixed (it was the keyboard controller burnt a bit thanks to the faulty power adapter).

    JX-1 with cool custom painting

    I made a good use of it, though. Employed it while playing in several bands and sound was good enough to cut through the mix. In the blues-rock band folks liked its Fender & Hammond sounds; gothic metal band was happy with strings, choirs and immortal “Fantasia” sound; finally synth brasses and leads were good enough to play with some mainstream rock bands. It also had some potential to create some more “signature”-like sounds for the progressive rock project I especially liked. At some point I even managed to connect it to my friend’s Amiga – only to discover, that “Performance Synthesizer” meant “Monotimbral”. What a disappointment. Also the keyboard – although dynamic – didn’t really have the piano feel. However, after three or four years of using it I sold it without losing too much money, and without regrets.

    I really like the “custom green” version of JX-1, photo of which I found on Matrixsynth. In 80’s and early 90’s synths were mostly black or gray, so it predated blue Yamahas, purple Karma, and all this fancy stuff from Waldorf. Right now I wouldn’t recommend this instrument to anyone – well, maybe the green version, because it looks nice. Sounds are a bit dated, the keyboard action is very “synthy”, no multitimbral… and for almost the same price you can get Yamaha CS1x, which is blue (so you don’t have to paint it), has shitty keyboard as well, but at least you can store 128 versions of the same sound if you want – and you have 16 parts of multitimbral, but that’s a different story.

    Then probably I would rather paint my worn off Yamaha SY77 metallic green, but this one is a completely different story…

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    2 Responses to “Roland JX-1”

    1. gridsleep said

      Purple Karma? Did you mean purple Kurzweil?

      • brunorc said

        My fault… “purple” would be the colour of E-mu MP-7. Karma has the color (cherry? amaranth?), which I would call “purpura” in my native language, thus the short circuit.

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