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lachrymae 08/05/2018

Roland JD-Xi : lachrymae's user review

"This tiny synth could have been a giant – alas..."
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Value For Money : Excellent Audience: Anyone
I’ve tried the JD-Xi at length for almost a month, but I haven’t kept it in the end.

It’s a nice small synth with many an asset but also too many flaws (some related to its youth maybe?) led me to return it. It’s a real pity as this small machine is very inspiring, you reach very interesting results in no time and the more you play the more you feel like a great musician – and you don’t see time pass!

I won’t get much into its look or minikeys – you like it or don’t – but the keys are not what disturbed me most.

I really liked:
-the digital part with absolutely awesome sounds that remind of Roland (how logical!), the pads are perfect, warm-sounding and very expressive.
-the drum sounds, especially the CR-78
-the vocoder, rather efficient and intelligible
-the arpeggiator which I found great – especially used with the analog part
-the musical aspect of it, as a whole it sounds right away and really great (especially considering the size and toy aspect)

I liked a little:
-the analog part: it’s a great news that Roland has gotten less stubborn and FINALLY accepts to go back to analog, but don’t expect anything exceptional either – it does the job, nothing more or less than that. Now, it’s not bad at all for bass lines. The DCO is reminiscent of Roland’s great era of the 70s-80s, though it’s not as juicy as a VCO, or even the Juno-60’s DCO which is a role model. Please note that the filter sounds much better since the latest update, it’s more musical very much more efficient, but most important, compared with the Prophet-600 (before the GliGli mod, for those in the know) you no longer hear these unpleasant steps when closing the filter with a high resonance setting.

I didn’t like:
-the lack of direct commands
-the sequencer is way too limited and not exactly flexible, you end up turning round with the same mini loop that repeats endlessly. You still can have fun with it (if only the sequence could be transposed…)
-no song mode or pattern chaining
-the acoustic sounds (but I’m biased, I don’t like these sounds on any synth)
-bugs that happen here and there, as the synth freezes from time to time when you push it a little, the notes freeze which make you reboot it entirely. A real problem if you play live…

I hated:
-a single knob for ADSR, you need to get through thousands of sub-menus to set the envelope, which is both a stupid choice and a real scandal
-you can’t transpose a sequence using the keys (even my old SH-101 can do it)
-editing is very laborious, with many menus and submenus that kill the inspiration and the straightaway aspect of the machine
-this is especially the case to edit effects, as while they have offered many direct commands they are of little use in the end. An unlogical decision quite typical of Roland! (sometimes you wonder what they drink at R&D!)
-the shiny surface is VERY FRAGILE (it easily gets scratched) ans seems to attract all sorts of dusts you could imagine.
-the red-over-black inscriptions are impossible to read with a dim light (but not only), and the mirror effects only makes things worse and initially I had to keep a pocket torch around!

Hopefully, Roland will know how to straighten up some of these problems and make some functions better thanks to future OS updates (as for instance allowing to transpose sequences using the keys), but for sure the single knob to set the 4 envelope parameters will stay and to me this absurdity in itself is impossible to forgive and is definitely a critical flaw. Too bad, it’s a real pity, I wish I could have loved it...