Sense & Sensitivity - The JX-8P
Best selling synth for 1985? The JX-8P and its accessory PG-800 programmer retail at £1250 and £180 respectively: and you don't need to be a mathematician to make your own sounds!
The Roland JX8P is a five octave, six voice polyphonic synthesizer that not only has velocity sensitive dynamics but also has after-touch control of vibrato, brilliance and volume. It has two sets of DCOs with advanced synthesizer functions like cross modulation for metallic sounds and phase synchronisation for cutting solo sounds. Having two envelope generators is extremely useful, especially as they feature the option of key follow function which gives a quicker attack for high notes and slower for low notes. Just like a trumpet, which plays high notes and has quite a sharp attack whereas a tube is much lower in pitch and slower in attack time.
It is fairly normal for keyboard dynamics and envelope generators to control the filter for brightness and amplifier for volume but, on the JX8P, they also control DCO frequency (useful for phase synchronisation) and the unique voltage controlled mixer which gives great percussive sounds by letting an envelope generator determine how long DCO2 passes through it. Good use is made of the dynamic control of this voltage controlled mixer in the factory preset flute sound which, when played normally, is quite mellow but played more aggressively brings in DCO2 which sounds like the overtones produced by overblowing.
The JX8P has 64 non-volatile preset sounds which cannot be permanently altered. They, can, however, be edited and stored on 32 of the player's own presets. An optional RAM cartridge gives an additional 32 user patches. Custom made sounds can be named with up to 10 letters in a bright LCD window which also makes editing easier by displaying each parameter and its current value.
Programming is even quicker and easier when using the optional PG 800 programmer which attaches to the JX8P by magnets and becomes part of the instrument. Parameter values are even displayed when using the programmer and a useful Edit Recall function allows comparison of the edited sound with the original.
The JX8P is not only easy to programme it is also easy to play in live performance as eight sounds can be programmed in a Patch Chain, which remembers the preset, key mode, aftertouch assignment, bender range and portamento time and switching. Pressing just one button instantly sets up all these parameters for immediate use.
The MIDI functions of the JX8P are the most comprehensive yet and the MIDI options can even be written into a patch programme. One of these options is the ability to disable the JX8P's synthesizer so that only the sound of a satellite MIDI module can be heard.
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