Roland JX-305 (1998)

Roland JX-305

 
UNDER THE HOOD
Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

Inside Roland JX-305

 
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IMPRESSION

And here is my favorite digital synthesizer, the Roland JX-305. A pure marvel ! I have often argued on the fact this synth could really do everything. It’s also a workstation like the Korg M1. It has an even more sophisticated sequencer (but again I do not use it, nor even ever tried), a synth section, drums section, and finally an effects section.

It’s also a multi-timbral synth, able to play up to 8 different sounds, and has a 64 notes polyphony (in fact rather 64 oscillators) … However a sound may use up to 4 oscillators … Like the Korg M1, the oscillators are based on samples player. However, on the JX-305, there are several Mo of sounds that cover absolutely all the domains, but more particularly the domain of « techno » and « trance » electronic sounds. So sounds resolutely oriented towards electronic dance music. Far away to reduce this synth only on techno sounds, so it has tons of sounds very interesting and not specifically oriented « techno » precisely ...

There are 24 drumkits, including the famous TR808, TR909, TR606 and TR707 … And many more. So it will be a real pleasure to use its mythical sounds. They can be placed in stereo space, and there are many effects that will give depth to the whole ensemble.

I used a lot of JX-305 sounds on the first Modern Cubism album : « The complaints of an Icarus« , and for the records, the first three tracks were composed exclusively on this synthesizer.

The big difference between the Korg M1 and the JX-305 is the engine synthesis. Here we find ourselves with a classic synthesis and a resonant filter… and besides of excellent quality. Of course one feels the « digital » aspect of the filter, but by adjusting it well, it can sound in a very efficient way!
In addition, a sound can be composed of 4 PCM waveforms (so 4 oscillators). And thus produce an extremely rich and sophisticated sound. There are many parameters to modulate the oscillators and the filter. Unlike the Korg M1 (which, with its large 2-line LCD display, allows for quick and easy editing), the JX-305 has only a small LCD screen that is totally undersized to display the tons of information you would like to see at a single glance. My criticism, almost my single one, to this machine lies precisely there: its programming interface …. It will be necessary to juggle between the 10 pages menus, the10 functions attributed to a single button, etc … Fortunately there is a library/editor available for PC/Windows which help to unleash the huge potential of this machine.

There is also a conception issue that must be reported with this machine. It’s about a specific circuit, the one containing the operating system (a sticker is stuck on it when you look the motherboard). After 8 or 9 years, this circuit seems to present a functional trouble. In fact the problem does not come from the circuit itself but the welding process on the synthesizer motherboard (Roland having changed its assembly process to avoid welds containing lead in order to follow current standards). I’ve been a victim of it (fortunately this type of repair does not cost very much. Something between 70 and 100 euros approximately if we ask the authorized Roland repair center). The synth simply refuses to start up … Or it starts up, but « freezes » few seconds later. By reading the forums, we can see that many owners of the JX-305 have experienced a similar bad experience … To fix this, we must re-weld the circuit properly … Now that it’s fixed, let’s hope this problem will not happen anymore !

Other than that, I have nothing but good to say about this machine. Roland wanted to focus on the « Groovebox » aspect of this machine, namely a live machine for DJs … In my opinion, this caused a great loss of credibility among those who wanted to obtain a powerful and effective sound research machine . The « Groovebox » term indeed tends to limit the use of a synth and especially to give a pejorative color to the obtained sounds… But I’ve to insist, the JX305 can do everything. Nice « vintage » and analog sounds, as well as « DX » digital cold sounds, or even able to sound totally hybrid using the internal sampled loops… Some « ambient » oriented pad are absolutely sublime. Probably an under-exploited machine and misunderstood for the specialists … But that, nevertheless, has a fantastic sound quality and an almost infinite creation potential !

Looking at the motherboard of this machine, we must realize the incredible technical progress realized since the 80s … If you compare it to the Korg M1 motherboard, it is pretty bluffing. The DSPs have grown in strength, the ram chips becoming much smaller and having 50x capacities higher than those released just five years ago…
Can you believe that this machine contains 4 MB of sounds, an advanced sequencer integrated, 24 effects, 64 voices of polyphony… processed using only 2 or 3 DSPs on a motherboard with very few electronic components welded on, we quickly realize how much progress is really present in the music industry...