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Don Solaris 29th September 2011 10:07 AM

Roland JX-3P

Roland JX-3P

JX-3P at the first glance looks like a two oscillator version of a Juno 60 as it shares the same VCF and VCA. The sound is however quite different. Many people wonder is it a little brother of a JX-8P then. The answer is negative. JX-8P has a totally different VCF and VCA chips and is more related to Alpha Juno than to a JX-3P.

Juno 6, Juno 60
DCO: Standard Ic.
VCF: IR3109
VCA: BA662

DCO: Standard Ic.
VCF: IR3109
VCA: BA662
ENV: Software

DCO: Standard Ic.
VCA: M5241
ENV: Software

Alpha Juno
DCO: MB87123P-G
VCA: M5241
ENV: Software

So what is JX-3P then? From what i can tell, JX-3P is a synthesizer with a great sounding strings - that's one thing for sure! In fact, about every owner i know mentioned these strings. The sound itself is definitely unique. Resonance behaves on its own way as well and the sound gets somehow a "metallic" texture in the background. Unfortunately, the filter by default won't go into self oscillating area, but luckily this can be fixed using the internal adjustment trimmers.

Editing is, IMO pain in the a**. First thing i did was to upgrade the unit to be able to use the software editor, and without paying big $$$ for the programmer. Once i've installed the upgrade, things were much easier. However, editing via front panel wasn't fun for me at all, hence i gave the low marks.

What else can this synth do? As a DCO based synth you can expect hard and punchy bass lines out of it. Just disable the chorus and you'll be in the game. Squelchy acid lines are possible as well once the resonance is added, though, the resonance on this synth is unique sounding and some analogue aficionados might not like it.

I sold the synth to a kid who's just starting out. Prior to selling, i've sampled some of the strings that i got used to and that i just couldn't recreate anywhere else. Overall, a cool synth, as long as you don't use chorus too much as it tends to make the things sound a little bit the same.

dhollmusik 29th September 2011 03:49 PM

An above-average DCO analogue polysynth, which to my ears shares a character with the modern DSI Prophet 08: it has that fuzzy, sparkling electric sound, yet is clean and not very huge. The sound is quite samey and can be easily picked out in a mix (not always a good thing). It does have a decent perceivable depth, tho'. If you're slightly synesthesia-inclined then the sound is a deep shiny red.

I like it for sparkly arpeggiators, and poly-drones can sound quite interesting...much better with external effects. It's not versatile enough to surprise you with weird sounds, nor did I find its strings, leads or bass good enough, tho' the envelopes do have some nice snap.

The synthesis itself is quite easy once you figure it out, so is using the sequencer. It's just a little annoying sometimes - knobs and sliders are ALWAYS better - the PG Programmer solves this problem, but creates another one (doubles the price of the synth).

The sequencer is a pleasant addition for little jam plays. The synth also offers a basic midi function and a version of the famous Roland Chorus. Tho' this Chorus is not that amazing, it is necessary for almost all non-bass, non-arp patches. It's a synth that requires dynamic outboard to really come alive.

The JX-3P is limited and not that exciting, but it can do well if you:

a) enjoy its sound character
b) can skillfully mix it in your tracks

I wouldn't buy it again, but I would jam with it's quite fun. The Alpha Juno is far superior, tho' - and at the same price too. Review of that coming up at some point.

Pro5 14th October 2011 09:22 AM

This synth gets a lot of flack and is misunderstood and under rated not because of it's sound but because of it's interface, and in recent times because of it's bargain price. If this thing had the sliders of the Jupiter 6 on it many people would be drooling over it as a cheaper version with a harder DCO sound going on and with less features.

Sound quality. causes a lot of debate, some love the edgey metallic vibe and the ability to do a variety of things WITHOUT sounding the same all the time (ala Juno 6/60/106) others don't like it's basic tone, that's fair enough. If you spend some time programming this you'll find stuff you didn't think was possible on such a relatively simple synth. It's way more advanced than any Juno but still has a bit of the 'sweet' juno sound (ok it's not as good for bass and it doesn't have true PWM; other than that JX-3p is every bit as capable and then some).

Chorus on this, like juno, should be used sparingly. There is a massive variety of sounds you can get from a JX-3P that I've never found in my (sold) Juno 6, the Alpha Junos had a bit more going on and were slightly more interesting than the Juno 6/60/106 but unfortunately had a really weak filter. That leaves JX-3P as a unique sounding, but with some of the Roland DCO sound you may crave, synth that hasn't been over used to death for 30 years.

You can get some beautiful soft sounds out of it, or some gorgeous clean bells that ring out with charm and clarity. Bass wise it can do some kinds of bass. And actually sounds quite punchy low down even given it's software envelopes. The 2 Osc design does add quite a bit to both the texture and variety of the sound, and on DCO synths that is pretty important in my book. PWM is pretty sounding (on Juno) but only gets you so far, not everything can be a 1 OSC PWM thing and still be exciting after years of use. JX-3P goes beyond using PWM as a crutch to mask an inherently lacking architecture on the Juno.

When these were released they cost more than the Juno 6 yet many wrongly assume the JX series were the 'budget range' based on current prices. Wrong.

JX-3P was a kinda weird offshoot from roland's main synths, almost an experiment some may say, involving their guitar division IIRC. Whatever the reason behind it's birth it's it's obvious Roland wanted to get the power and stability of a 2 OSC synth into an affordable packaged, so of course the sliders had to go! The add on PG-200 cost pretty much the same in 1983 as it does today £250-£300 so that was an expensive addition in the early 80s and the marketing of this synth was perhaps a little off. Aimed primarily at the 'preset' market (ala DX7) and this adds to the confusion to many 2nd hand buyers. I don't care about 1983 marketing, I care about architecture, features, sound quality and the 3P has them all if you dig in. It's hardly a complex synth anyway, it can be programmed from the keyboard easily enough but you won't always come up with the best patches that way and that is why many under rate it.

I have a mod on mine so i can use a BCR2000 with it and since I did that my patches have improved, it's a fact, no matter how good you think are with the button press/one slider, it does take a lot of the feedback out of programming which is often essential to creating nuanced patches that you enjoyed making. Once you plug a PG or BCR etc into it you realise what a great misunderstood synth it is. It does have some short comings and it's resonance is not the best I've heard (even after trim pot tweaks) but it really doesn't matter, this synth does what it does and isn't trying to be anything else (except perhaps a baby Jupiter 6 ;) ) - actually for many things I believe the 3P sounds 'better' than the JP-6, they are different synths with different characters afterall.

Some of my best music was written using the 3P and my most popular song is full of JX-3P, because it can sound retro/analog but 'different' and that appeals to a lot of listeners who are tired of hearing VA and JUNO on everything.

Ease of use standard could be better - 6 for that - but as it has midi it scores over the older junos, it's very usuable if basic as standard. And with the mod, or the PG-200 it's every bit as usuable (more so) than a Juno 60 while also having midi and better features. So it would score an 8 in that case. So I'll settle on 7. It's relatively simple but advanced enough to stretch your legs and have fun with. Discovering the JX-3P takes time but it's fun getting there if you have a Programmer and don't mind searching for the sweet spots (there are more/varied spots to enjoy on the 3P vs a juno but the Juno has it all laid out for you - ultimately making the Juno more limited and a little boring to program)

Features? It's packed with them for such a cheap (now) and compact synth. Removing those real time controls has led to being able to include much more sound shaping tools for less money. Simple. And to find a synth with this tone and that sounds this analog (for DCO) at this price is amazing in the current market. If this had sliders it would be going for 3x the price guaranteed.

Bang for buck. One of the higest bang for the buck synths out there! they regularly sell for less than £200. There are now a couple of mods of varying prices that will allow you to use any programmer, and one that adds on some amazing features. Factor in a hundred or so extra for those and you are STILL cheaper than a Juno60 with a synth that is unique, a secret weapon in the studio and can do so much.

And we must factor in price. This synth costs 3x less than a juno 60. And yet can do 3 times more and sound just as good (depending on tastes and needs). That is what is reflected in my scoring. If this synth cost £1000 2nd hand then of course my ratings would be lower but at the prices these go for it's a steal!

Deep Control 22nd June 2013 10:07 AM

I seem to come across a lot of opinions on how this synth costs a quarter of the Juno-60 and can do 'so much more'. As I own both synths I find this a bizarre claim. That argument kind of reeks of 'mine's better!' petty childishness. It may have a feature or two that the Juno-60 lacks (although the same argument can be reversed back onto the Jx3p) but it's certainly not capable of many useable sounds that the Juno cannot pull off with a hell of a lot more aplomb.

The truth is that the Jx3p is an endlessly inferior synthesiser to the Juno-6/60. It's basic tone is cheap, brittle and thin whereas the Juno is warm, thick, lush and emotive. This isn't to say that the Jx3p isn't useful though, in the same way that it's nice to have a thin trashy cheap-sounding guitar in a mix with a les Paul it can really come in handy and it always seems to find a way onto my tracks.

The Jx3p can't do thick and upfront basses that give a good foundation to a track. If you want to use any of it's low end for a bass it needs layering with other synths. Despite the Jx-3p being a very bright and trashy machine the sound somehow has a murkiness to it, there's always a few nasty frequencies that I'm forever trying to eq out, only to find they hold all the weight of the sound!

I'm afraid to say that the strings on the Jx3p aren't all that either, mainly due to a vastly inferior chorus feature in comparison to the Juno. The sound somehow doesn't seem to get any bigger when using two different oscillators. The strings are certainly useable though and the brightness can add some nice upfront top end to mixes if you're blending a few different sounds.

My main use for the Jx-3p is for coming up with oddball little sequences of notes on the sequencer. It's great for weird, thin squelchy techno arps and riffs. Because of it's brightness and midrange punch it always sits in a mix well, something that can sometimes be a challenge with a few tracks of warm analogue synth. The sequencer is a great writing tool and despite the Jx3p's questionable sound quality, it's odd cheapness somehow always proves inspiring in some shape or form.

I'm torn as to what to do with my Jx-3p. If you're just after one analogue polysynth to use live and in the studio as a workhorse then I wouldn't say the Jx-3p is for you, the lack of a sub oscillator to thicken the sound and give you big basses and giant warm pads really f's things up. However if you're after a cheap analogue poly to add a bit off eccentric variation to your collection then it's worth a shot. I'm sure prices with only raise as vintage synths get rarer so there's little to lose. I paid £300 for mine with original box and manual.

One last word on the programming - you don't need the PG200 to program easily. You'd have to be crackers to spend £2-300 on one. Editing can be a bit frustrating in all honesty an it's easy to lose sounds as you're working on them but with a bit of practice it starts to come easily as you familiarise with the edit map.

Deleted User 30th October 2013 04:16 AM

JX-3P review
I own two JX-3P, and together I can make some amazing sound with them.

A perfect example, is to make a normal pad sound with the first JX-3Ps ADSR, and communicate with the second via midi.

Adjust the second JX-3P so the envelope is inverted, so you only get a sound on the release portion of the envelope. A=0 D=0 S=127 R=80 (approx, assuming that 128=base100)

Technically, with two JX3Ps configured this way, you have 4 oscillators to set your tone.

My favourite secret is the noise as modulation on the LFO, accessed with parameter B-10 and the fourth position.

Works great with ring modulation, or on the VCF.

With two in tandem, I can sometimes get thicker pads than the Jupiter 8.

No velocity accepted, but I have learned to live with this.

For a 30 year old synth as of 2014, I feel it is underated, in my humble opinion.

Rayek 23rd December 2013 01:23 AM

Very Vanilla
After having three years to absorb as much of the "JX-3P experience" as I possibly can, I can honestly say that, for around $300 a unit, you couldn't get many better deals.

On paper, the slightly-over $300 spent gets you:
  • 6 voice polyphony
    2 oscillators per voice
    Resonant lowpass and highpass filters
    "Juno-like" characteristics, due to it having the same DCOs, the same filter, and the same amplifier.
    Chorus Mod

In practice, however, I found that the 3P lacks a few things that many other synths provide.

I noticed that it's particularly bad at filling the low end. Many of the sounds I came up with are thin and hissy, despite having oscillator detune and chorus available. This problem wouldn't necessarily be so apparent if one were programming "bass synth" sounds that were meant to be played on the lowest two octaves, but for pads and other 'long release' sounds, the higher notes end up being far louder and present than the low rumbles, a problem I almost immediately recognized this synth had.

Another problem that seems to be a regular occurrence with these machines is the noisy chorus. I've taken the synth in and had it looked at once, and the technician suggested replacing the chorus chip.

That being said, I really like creating long string sections with the JX. There's something about its character that smooths out the waveforms into the perfect sheet of notes. If you're into making ambient, I recommend this synth (especially if you get one with a clean chorus).

I've never used the interface as I bought a PG-200 at the same time as the JX-3P, but I cannot imagine it being worse than many of the other 'membrane button' synths or rackmount synths I have used. If you're concerned about using the front buttons, there are a few options but most require spending additional money.

I really recommend buying a PG-200, especially if you aren't impressed with making minor tweaks to the default patch set. It really does allow you to mess around with a greater degree of freedom.

Price is the best reason to buy a JX-3P. For $300 dollars, there are few other purchases which give you more than what you get with the 3P. The problem, though, is that it requires many additional purchases to fix its flaws. Getting a programmer could set you back as much as $300 additional dollars. Fixing the chorus, should yours be noisy, ??? Integrating it into a modern setup (proper MIDI implementation) could run anywhere from $150 to $250.

Essentially, the JX-3P has the capability, through a lot of extra purchases and some soldering, to be a capable machine with a good interface. A stock 3P with nothing done to it, I find, is actually WORTH around $300, despite its long list of features.

A piece of gear is only worth how much you use it, and by that measure, the $600 I spent on the unit itself and the programmer hasn't been worth it. I have consistently found more uses for my DW-8000 (a lower-priced and more feature-filled synth) in almost every case. I think I've recorded the 3P about 10 times in three years, and every other track I've finished has the DW.

The JX-3P is a decent polysynth for beginners. Unfortunately the sum is actually worth less than its parts.

analogTinkerer 22nd June 2018 10:38 PM

Wow! I can't believe this synth isn't more well regarded, most people might compare this to a Juno 106 but its much closer to the Jupiter 8 in sound and features. This thing can cover alot of ground, spacey pads, luscious strings, Fat bass or even delicate piano like sounds. Only drawback is really the lack of knobs, so it's not quite as easy to program as some of the other Rolands, but not super difficult either. The presets it comes with are actually pretty good sounding and make this a good keyboard for live performance.

A few features I wish it had were the ability to modulate the VCA with the LFO and the ability to get noise without losing oscillator #2 .