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Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

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Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Kevin Nolan » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:21 pm

Just read Paul Nagle's review of the JD-XA, and two issues really annoy me:

1. He neglected to mention the brutal Aliasing issue on the PWM wave on the JD-XA- digital engine - already well known to be a problem on the JP80, JP50 and Integra 7. It's horrendous above about C4 and renders all PWM programs in the upper end useless for any earnest work.


2. He says this is "Light Years" beyond the JD800. As a user of multiple JD800s in my set up for 20 years, I deplore superficial, trite comparisons like this. I suspect Paul Nagle doesn't even know the JD800 - any comparison is essentially pointless - but - on many like-for-like comparisons I could indicate how the JD800 is "light-years" ahead of the JD-XA.

Here are just a few:

- A 5 octave keyboard

- Aftertouch & Velocity - and - realtime aftertouch and velocity controls on the front surface instantly adjustable - there are only two other polyphonic instrument offering that immediacy to so many aftertouch and velocity parameters on the control surface - the CS80 and the Prophet T8. But in many respects the JD800 goes beyond even those - because - the aftertouch and velocity parameters and controls are independent to all 4 sounds that can sound simultaneously. That is - you have instant access to 4 separate sets of aftertouch & velocity controls, across four distinct layered sounds, in realtime! As a realtime performance environment, it is unparalleled - even today.

- Hugely more sophisticated engine, with significantly superior Envelope Generators

- The choice of the waveforms on the JD800 was nothing short of 'inspired' - in that all 100 or so waveforms were not instrument samples like on the M1 or SY77 but rather sound 'types'. To me, each of the sound waves on the JD800 are as useful as a sawtooth wave on an analogue synth - and it is so easy to configure four complete engines over a vast range of parameters and octaves that even now, a single JD800 can compete with the likes of Omnisphere in terms of sound sculpting.

- The JD800 filters, chorus and enhancer are perfectly matched and as 'classic' as it gets for Roland - i.e.- the JD800 represents one era / incarnation of "The Roland Classic Sound" - and why the JD800 is on thousands of well know tracks. Lets see how "Roland" the JD-XA sound turns out to be, and on how many tracks it features on.


I could go on.

However - whether you agree with my points or not is not 'the point'. The point is that such comparisons are always subjective - and for a reviewer to come out and make a claim like he did - which on a forum would be classed as trolling - is just poor journalism - and indeed - plain inaccurate.


But my biggest beef is the lack of any sort of stress testing of this instrument in what is essentially a meaningless review. We can get everything he said off web sites and brochures - and the one huge, gaping problem with the digital engine - he didn't even spot, let alone flag as something that Roland should bloody well fix! Poor, poor - annoying - review.

Kevin.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby tea for two » Sun Nov 22, 2015 12:49 am

There is a simple solution.

Prior to review, SOS requests owners of a particular gear to post their review : on the forum.
From which an amalgamation is printed : forum reviewers & magazine reviewer
with full credit to every author.
Thereby ensuring a broader more comprehensive experience of a gear.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby BJG145 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:02 am

This should be under Magazine Feedback. I actually found this one of the more readable synth reviews I've seen of late, and an entertaining general introduction. A certain amount of subjectivity and comparison with other products is always going to be inevitable, but everyone's capable of making up their own mind whether they prefer X or Y. As for the aliasing issue, I wouldn't expect every reviewer to adopt Gordon Reid's forensic style of analysis, but it's a point well made and useful to have raised it here on the forum.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Zukan » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:03 pm

Kevin, do you want me to move this to feedback or leave it here?
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Dave B » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:58 pm

I held off commenting until I read the review, but I've just done that over (a thoroughly excellent) breakfast.

I'm a bit torn here. On the one hand, I can't fault Kevin's comments as I too love the JD800. It's a great synth both physically and in terms of the engine. Only the original JV80/880 sounded anywhere near as good - that later ones all sounded slightly flatter and lumpier to me. It was an attempt to build a quality synth that would complement a workstation, not replace it. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darned good.

On the other hand, I really do trust and respect Paul's reviews. He is someone that actually uses the gear in anger so a review is not theoretical or academic. And the review is interesting - he keeps pulling up the new Xa's failings - bad manual, incorrectly calibrated pots, can't write when the sequencer runs, can't change patch with the sequencer running - as well as pointing out important shortcomings (whoever in Roland thought that sequences can only be in 4/4 needs shooting / firing as far as I'm concerned). And yet he's happy with the machine being what it is.

And here's where I disagree. I don't see the architecture as being strong. Multiple digital voices through a single analogue filter is a modern take on paraphonic for me. I could get any synth and a mooger fooger pedal and I've just achieved the same results. That's not an analogue synth - what we really have here is almost a cheap Juno digital synth and a DSI tetra for 50% extra cost. Oh .. and missing an octave of keyboard (another bizarre thing - why have 8 controller zones on a 4 octave keyboard?? particularly one that's too flimsy to be a proper controller..)

Yet Paul loves it. Fair enough - agree to disagree here. But I'll agree with Kevin - calling it light years ahead of the JD800 doesn't seem to be a fair assessment. It seems to be a totally different beast which Roland have hastily slapped 'JD' on as suddenly those are now cool...

(a bit like the Jupiter 80/50)
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby zenguitar » Sun Nov 22, 2015 2:04 pm

Magazine feedback is really for comments and questions about SOS magazine itself rather than the specific content of articles and reviews.

This thread was originally posted in Keyboards & Synthesis, someone reported it using the :SOS: button (I forget who, I delete the email alerts once I've looked into it) suggesting it should be in Magazine Feedback. As I thought it was posted in the correct forum I left it alone, but it appears that another Mod on receipt of the email alert decided to move it to User Reviews. And it is appropriate to be in User Reviews, however because of the broader comments about similar issues in other Roland models I felt it was a better fit in Keyboards (especially as the OP has commented on the issues previously in posts in the Keyboard forum).

A quick look across the forums shows that members regularly post in response to articles and reviews in the magazine. Reviews of microphones & pre-amps, and articles on mic'ing techniques generate posts in Recording. When an engineer or producer claims that one DAW sounds better in an Inside Track piece, the questions and comments appear in Production.

I believe the OP was right to post in Keyboards & Synthesis, User Reviews is OK, and Magazine Feedback is completely wrong.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Wonks » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:03 pm

I thought it should go in Magazine feedback (and I flagged it) because the general gist was more a criticism of the magazine and Paul Nagle's views and the way he reviewed the synth, and less about the synth itself. Without editing to make it so, to me it didn't sit at all happily in the Keyboards and Synthesis section.

Please note that I am not saying anything negative about Kevin's comments at all, just that they seemed to be in the wrong place.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby desmond » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:38 pm

Dave B wrote:I don't see the architecture as being strong. Multiple digital voices through a single analogue filter is a modern take on paraphonic for me.

I agree, weird architecture which seems to me to be more about trying to work around limitations (not enough space/too expensive for a full proper analog voice count).

And it's too red, plasticy and cheap looking. I loved Roland's design aesthetic back in the day, but since the 2000's they changed their design into cheap looking horrible chunky novelty stuff. Maybe it appeals to today's teenagers, but I think it looks ghastly, both aesthetically and in terms of usability.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby pilot-wave » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:13 am

desmond wrote:
Dave B wrote:I don't see the architecture as being strong. Multiple digital voices through a single analogue filter is a modern take on paraphonic for me.

I agree, weird architecture which seems to me to be more about trying to work around limitations (not enough space/too expensive for a full proper analog voice count).

And it's too red, plasticy and cheap looking. I loved Roland's design aesthetic back in the day, but since the 2000's they changed their design into cheap looking horrible chunky novelty stuff. Maybe it appeals to today's teenagers, but I think it looks ghastly, both aesthetically and in terms of usability.

Can't do much about the architecture, but for anyone still drawn to this synth while harbouring all the doubts about the panel aesthetics (I too thoroughly dislike them) all is not lost as there's somebody who feels the same and is working on this right now. SynthGraphics make high quality panel overlays (I've just ordered a Kiwi-3P overlay from their final batch) and they're about to release a design for the JD-XA in more tasteful and practical 'retro' style Roland graphics.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Paul Nagle » Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:28 pm

I had a JD800 for a year or so and its layering/filtering synthesis didn't excite me very much. I was happy to part with it and move on.
I found the JD-XA's panel to be really fast and direct, you've got 4 analogue parts with some lovely filter choices, you've got synthesis that includes PWM, sync, audio-level modulation, inter-part modulation etc. plus there are effects on each part, an arpeggiator and a sequencer. These things are all important to me and the kind of music I make, hence I rate the new JD light years beyond the 800.

I mentioned that I felt the keyboard should have been longer (because of its many parts) but I didn't put this as a 'con' because, ultimately, I was happy with the size and the tweakability. I'd not have been as keen were it any larger. My approach to synthesis is typically to play with one hand, make timbral changes with the other. It's the timbral manipulation as part of a performance that brings a synth to life, for me anyway. YMMV. Hope this helps explain where I'm coming from.
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby Dave B » Sat Dec 05, 2015 11:40 pm

Cheers Paul. I guess the line in the review should have been qualified but hey ho. As with all things, if it suits you then it's great - if not then ... meh. I know people who couldn't stand the 800....

:)
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby forumuser793939 » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:47 am

Kevin Nolan wrote:Just read Paul Nagle's review of the JD-XA, and two issues really annoy me:

1. He neglected to mention the brutal Aliasing issue on the PWM wave on the JD-XA- digital engine - already well known to be a problem on the JP80, JP50 and Integra 7. It's horrendous above about C4 and renders all PWM programs in the upper end useless for any earnest work.


2. He says this is "Light Years" beyond the JD800. As a user of multiple JD800s in my set up for 20 years, I deplore superficial, trite comparisons like this. I suspect Paul Nagle doesn't even know the JD800 - any comparison is essentially pointless - but - on many like-for-like comparisons I could indicate how the JD800 is "light-years" ahead of the JD-XA.

Here are just a few:

- A 5 octave keyboard

- Aftertouch & Velocity - and - realtime aftertouch and velocity controls on the front surface instantly adjustable - there are only two other polyphonic instrument offering that immediacy to so many aftertouch and velocity parameters on the control surface - the CS80 and the Prophet T8. But in many respects the JD800 goes beyond even those - because - the aftertouch and velocity parameters and controls are independent to all 4 sounds that can sound simultaneously. That is - you have instant access to 4 separate sets of aftertouch & velocity controls, across four distinct layered sounds, in realtime! As a realtime performance environment, it is unparalleled - even today.

- Hugely more sophisticated engine, with significantly superior Envelope Generators

- The choice of the waveforms on the JD800 was nothing short of 'inspired' - in that all 100 or so waveforms were not instrument samples like on the M1 or SY77 but rather sound 'types'. To me, each of the sound waves on the JD800 are as useful as a sawtooth wave on an analogue synth - and it is so easy to configure four complete engines over a vast range of parameters and octaves that even now, a single JD800 can compete with the likes of Omnisphere in terms of sound sculpting.

- The JD800 filters, chorus and enhancer are perfectly matched and as 'classic' as it gets for Roland - i.e.- the JD800 represents one era / incarnation of "The Roland Classic Sound" - and why the JD800 is on thousands of well know tracks. Lets see how "Roland" the JD-XA sound turns out to be, and on how many tracks it features on.


I could go on.

However - whether you agree with my points or not is not 'the point'. The point is that such comparisons are always subjective - and for a reviewer to come out and make a claim like he did - which on a forum would be classed as trolling - is just poor journalism - and indeed - plain inaccurate.


But my biggest beef is the lack of any sort of stress testing of this instrument in what is essentially a meaningless review. We can get everything he said off web sites and brochures - and the one huge, gaping problem with the digital engine - he didn't even spot, let alone flag as something that Roland should bloody well fix! Poor, poor - annoying - review.

Kevin.


Sorry but what a load of horsesh*t.

I have had 2 JD-800 (probably my favourite all digital synth ever made) still got one, beautiful machine in looks and sound, but not without it's issues (namely filter distortion with high res). I also own JD-XA. Your issues, other than the 5 octave keybed, are non issues.

The JD-XA literally does destroy the JD-800 in basically very area of sound creation, to call the JD-XA's engine 'limited' next to JD-800? is entirely wrong. The analog engine alone is far more advanced than the JD-800s *other* than the multistage envelope vs the typical ADSR but I'll tell you, that actually annoys me on the JD-800 as it's just more clunky for many typical sounds.

The JD-XA turned out to be a stunner of a synth, with extremely robust analog sound, epic digital sound, a massive powerful engine and proper controls/hands on of all the main areas along with sorting some of the 800s issues (if you'd used both you'd know this).

Now that is not to say the JD-800 is an also ran, they are different synths in many ways, but the fact is the JD-XA can near as damn it do everything the JD-800 can but never will the 800 do even half of what the JD-XA can, nor does it sound as good as the JD-XA for most sounds.

JD-800 still has a very epic, digital filter that is beautiful for long sweeps, probably my favourite digital filter, but JD-XA along with its 5 different analog filter types also includes a ton of digital filters, and one of them (I think LPF4 from memory) sounds very very close to the famous JD-800 filter. It has way more USEFUL synthetic building block PCM samples on board (not guitars and stuff but saw waves , synth samples etc) in that respect it's more like the JD-990 with a vintage card plugged in, it also has the analog feel parameter, panning and just a whole lot more the JD-800 never got.

Also JD-XA does indeed have velocity AND aftertouch and it's easy to use from the front panel (hold shift key then turn env amount knob for velocity>filter and amp knob for velocity to VCA).

To sum up, the JD-XA sounds every bit as good/epic/amazing as the JD-800 ever did but is a different synth. The analog synth(s) in it along are a whole different class, especially if punchy analog bass lines, leads or jupiter style PWM is your thing. JD-800 doesn't really do that, it can but it doesn't sound as good as analog. JD-800 excells at pads and FX, but again JD-XA can do that and then some, esp when you invoke both engines and do X-over or layering.

Lastly you have no need to force a digital part through an analog filter, though you can do it there's little to gain unless you are specifically doing it for a reason, just use the digital filters if you want SIXTY FOUR (not 24 dropping to 6) voice digital poly, just like on JD-800. Use analog filters for the analog side, job done.

Also the JD-XA has 3 partials per layer, so 12 oscs, 4 whole synths, while JD-800 has 1 per layer so 4 oscs. Don't talk about the 800 being 'so much more powerful' because it really isn't.

All this said I still love the JD-800 as there's nothing like it looks wise, and I enjoy the metal control panel and general good looks. Yet also the JD-XA, esp with the new free roland matte cover panels, looks just as good in a different way, and you can turn the blingy lights off and then it looks classier and more expensive. It's a nicely portable synth, you can sit on the bed, sofa, out the garden and program it all day/night. Try that with a JD-800 and prepare for severe leg crushing ;)

THey are both great synths, and a lot of the issues in this early SOS review were bugs. I've had ZERO problems with mine, it's solid built, knobs and switches are beautiful, better quality than the Prophet 08 I recently got rid of in fact (and sounds way better too). The filters are beautiful and varied, the utility is through the roof (can be a real nerve centre of your studio with so much control inc over soft synths, and upto 8 external devices from the seq).

I'd give JD-XA a 10/10 in context and JD-800 and 8/10. Both score highly on sound, looks and "X-factor".
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Re: Paul Nagle's JD-XA review issues

Postby forumuser793939 » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:51 am

Paul Nagle wrote:I had a JD800 for a year or so and its layering/filtering synthesis didn't excite me very much. I was happy to part with it and move on.
I found the JD-XA's panel to be really fast and direct, you've got 4 analogue parts with some lovely filter choices, you've got synthesis that includes PWM, sync, audio-level modulation, inter-part modulation etc. plus there are effects on each part, an arpeggiator and a sequencer. These things are all important to me and the kind of music I make, hence I rate the new JD light years beyond the 800.

I mentioned that I felt the keyboard should have been longer (because of its many parts) but I didn't put this as a 'con' because, ultimately, I was happy with the size and the tweakability. I'd not have been as keen were it any larger. My approach to synthesis is typically to play with one hand, make timbral changes with the other. It's the timbral manipulation as part of a performance that brings a synth to life, for me anyway. YMMV. Hope this helps explain where I'm coming from.


I agree, I've got both here now and am a big fan of the JD-800 for it's looks, sound and feel, but it does have drawbacks from its vintage era (1991). To me one of the best digitals ever.

The JD-XA however is indeed 'light years ahead', both digital and especially analog, but more the sum of its parts.

The build is good for plastic, very tough, very smooth (esp with new covers from Roland) and it has ALL the features and utility we'd always wanted the JD-800 to have.

The only thing you could level at it is the smaller keybed, true, but then this has its payoff in the cool semi portable size of it, it packs a LOT into a small space and looks very very cool (with lights off on sliders/pots and the matte covers fitted).

most importantly is sound, and the analog engine on JD-XA is up there with the best modern ones. I've had almost all the old Roland analogs (all the DCO one and a couple of the VCO ones) and JD-XA doesn't disappoint there, it's punchy, rounded, warm, capable and can mimic a ton of other synths (inc moog if you know how). JD-800 won't be doing that, nor does stuff like Prophet 08.

A severely misunderstood and under-appreciated synth, the JD-XA will become a cult classic in 10 years or so, just like all the misunderstood Rolands did in the past. And it'll always deliver on sound (if you know how to program).
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