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Once we get out of the humidity of the summer, I'm looking forward to breaking down my partscaster and shooting some paint.  I thought that might be a good time to finally engage in my synthesizer fetish.  I am not a keyboard player (though, given a few minutes I can generally 'play guitar' on keys if need be), but I have been fascinated by synthesizers since I was a kid (I grew up in the 70's after all).

Been looking at this:

Analogue monophonic, digital polyphonic, drum machine and sequencer (and yes, a vocoder for Zapp and Roger covers) in one box.  I've read about pretty much all of the contenders at the $500-ish price point and I think this one is likely the most versatile.

Anyone into this sort of thing and have any thoughts?  

Edited by velorush
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I've definitely developed a love of synths later in life.  So much geeky fun and a great mix of math, physics, electronics, and music! :D 

A buddy of mine has gone through several DSI models (Evolver, Mopho, and Prophet 6 and 12), a Moog Voyager, and recently picked up the OB-6 module reissue.  That's just the big stuff.  He's got a Shared System too and is increasingly pursuing modular "noise music" rather than his old school keyboarding ways (FWIW, he was the kid at parties who could play Mozart upside down at the family piano a la "Amadeus").

I've got a Nord Lead 2, a "vintage" Casio SK-1, and a bunch of software stuff (Reason, Omnisphere, a few others).

If it was me shopping, I wouldn't prioritize "versatile".  Software can give you versatility for writing and recording, but for the zen-like experience of sitting down to explore music with an instrument, I'd prioritize that "response" you have to it.  I'd want something that makes me smile when I play it.  

Analytically, here's what I would do:

  • Decide what I'm expecting out of it.  Do I want just analog subtractive synth stuff or do I want something else (Additive?  Granular?)?  Sampling?  Sequencing?
  • Set a price point
  • Play 'em all
  • Go home
  • Buy the next one I fantasize about going back to play again :)

My assumption is that in that price range, when I go back to get another instrument, I'd get the Minilogue or Monologue.  If I was going higher budget, I'd probably get the Sub 37 or the OB-6.  Higher budget?  I'd just plan to get multiple synths. :D  

The Vintage Synth Explorer forums are a pretty decent place to lurk and do research.  Most of the synth world is analog crazy at this point, but there are folks there who do a lot of FM and other stuff as well.

Good luck with your decision!

Edited by sixesandsevens
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Thanks for taking the time to consider this so thoroughly.

I have played with soft synths back when I had my SynthStation25 up and running, but I rather doubt the iPhone 4 that powered it still works.  I really enjoyed the soft synths, but wanted an actual physical machine that could be taken out of the house if I wanted.

I am trying to avoid the inevitable - going to an actual store to play through the options as it will require a lot of driving and likely a full day.  The JD-Xi just seems to do it all - analog monosynth, digital polysynth, drum machine and sequencing, but you're right.  What if it gets here and sounds / feels like junk?  The reviews (and I'm weary from reading so many) do seem to be rather positive on the Roland, however.

The contenders all seem to do one thing well:

  • Moog Sub Phatty (a bit more than I wanted to spend)
  • Korg MS20
  • Arturia MicroBrute
  • Korg MicroKORG

There was an interesting quote on the JD-Xi that sounds like where I'm at:

Quote

The most gateway-like synth on this list, in a way. If you are looking for a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none type synth, the Roland JD-Xi really is the way to go - and none of this is a bad thing. Let’s explain. You essentially have four parts to manipulate: two digital synths, a monologue analogue synth, and drums. Then there's also an arpeggiator and the built-in sequencer; with this, you are able to record and playback your tracks in real-time. The instrument samples are good and they don’t sound too digital or over-processed. There’s also basic effects: reverb, distortion, flanger, phaser, etc. What really makes the JD-Xi different from anything else on this list, especially in its price range, is the included hybrid analogue synth. If you feel like messing with waveforms and sculpting your own unique sound, you are able to do this with the JD-Xi. But if you just want to play some organs or pads, and not mess with any of the knobs, you can do that too. You are able to accomplish almost anything with the JD-Xi and it's a great learning tool for first-timers, as it presents several different options, allowing you to eventually discover the type of sound you like best (and this comes in handy for upgrading, later on, of course). Also, like the microKorg, this synth has a vocoder.

But in the end you're right - I need to play it.

Unless I buy it somewhere with a generous return policy... :)

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19 minutes ago, velorush said:

Unless I buy it somewhere with a generous return policy... :)

You know, that was the old me that wrote that post.  Just a few days ago I listened to a talk from Barry Schwartz about the "Paradox of Choice".  The tl;dr on it is that we can end up less happy even with a better final outcome if we have too many things to choose from.

So I'd take the other route.  Order the JD-Xi and it makes you happy, keep it.  If it doesn't, ship it back and order the next one down the list until one of them makes you happy. :)

FWIW I really like the Sonic State reviews.  I may or may not have gone to sleep listening to them review synths on more than one occasion. :D

Just out of curiosity, why is the Minilogue not on your list?  Is it missing something in particular?

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That was one I checked out early on.  Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all, I just thought the greater polyphony, added drum machine and greater parallel voicing capabilities of the JD-Xi made it more appealing.  Of course, that's like asking me why I prefer the F4U Corsair to the F6F Hellcat - all I know is what I have read and all that's provided by someone with an agenda... 

The Korg appears to be better made (more sturdy) and might sound better.  

An actual hands-on experience would be much better than guessing.

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I love synthesizers. I guarantee that you will love that Roland straight out of the box... you'll need to do some manual reading and tutorial watching but it's an all-in-one powerhouse.

Who cares if it's plastic and flimsy feeling... you aren't going to use it to beat home invaders/intruders over the head with it right?

I never played a synth before I bought it... it was always based on a set of features and the sonic reputation of the machine.

This little guy is portable and looks like you could create music with it just about anywhere that has access to an electrical outlet. I've been very impressed with Roland's new analog line... sick little boxes. Too bad I have dumped my money into vintage synths because this little box pretty much makes my synthesizers and sequencers obsolete.

Edited by zenmindbeginner
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That Roland is fantastic. It's what Missus Polara uses, and it can do pretty much everything you want. Very versatile, great sounds, as long as you can deal with not having 61 or 88 keys. We also use the much-despised Akai Timbre Wolf, because although it can make precisely ONE sound, the sound of all four analog voices slightly detuned with a bit of distortion is massive.

You won't go wrong with that Roland.

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I say go for it. That's a really hard to beat synth in the bang for the buck category. The only real complaint I could see somebody having is the mini keys. That's usually more of a problem for somebody who is used to playing full size keys but I suppose it's something to consider if you have very large fingers. 

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Found this variant - white with black labeling.  I think this would be far easier to see.

unwalulhf9rgw7u1oryu.jpgroland-jd-xi.jpg

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Wow, the Edit button is gone.  At any rate, anyone think the white version would make for greater visibility / contrast?  I'm sure after several hours the whole thing would become familiar, but red on black doesn't afford a great deal of contrast during the learning stages. 

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If they'd had the white I'd have gotten it. Looks much more usable.

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I like the white panels too (or black with bold white lettering - red, not so much).  I have an old Oberheim synth with black lettering on white panels, and its easy on my tired old eyes.

That Roland looks like a good bet for the money.  Behringer DeepMind might be worth a look too, although the minimalist sequencer and lack of onboard drums might not give you everything you're seeking.  And no... I'm not much of a Behringer fan either, but these seem to have gotten some decent press.

I've had a Waldorf Q, which sounded wonderful.  Not sure what prices are like these days, but I got mine for ~600ish at the time.  Some of their stuff might be worth a peek (XTk, etc).  Also had a Quasimidi Sirius for a while, which had very similar feature set to that Roland (inc. the vocoder).  It's sound seemed a little too 'techo' for me, though.

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A JD-Xi in white with a full cabling kit and gig bag should be here tomorrow.  Thanks everyone for the assistance and allowing me to bounce this around.

In the mean time I ran across a set of fourteen instructional videos from Roland!  :)

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It is (or was) also available in red. I am holding out for yellow! :-)

Roland has had enough complaints about the low visibility of the red writing on the black top panel (and I think the top panel getting scratched) that they have offered a label kit. You have to call and ask for it but I am pretty sure it's free.

 

 

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1 minute ago, HAMERMAN said:

It is (or was) also available in red. I am holding out for yellow! :-)

Roland has had enough complaints about the low visibility of the red writing on the black top panel (and I think the top panel getting scratched) that they have offered a label kit. You have to call and ask for it but I am pretty sure it's free.

 

 

Yep, I loved the look of the red, but it's only red on the periphery - most of the control surface is still black with red labeling.

jd-xi-rd_t_600_fnl_1.jpg

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I'm looking at the JDXi for a gig where I play synth bass on 1 tune.  It's small, compact and I have no problem with minikeys.  Problem is, I've been enamored with the System 8.

Check out the Roland Axial site for new patches for your JDXi.

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Quick update: got this in and have been slammed!  I've had about an hour in total with it (over the course of a week :wacko:) but so far it is magnificent!  Seems to do everything I wanted it to do.  I was afraid I was going to have to buy multiple instruments to accomplish this but all three are here and I'm really enjoying it.

I have started with the analog synth and learning "subtractive synthesis" (a new term for me).  I found this simple article at Reverb. Reading it with the instrument in front of me provided an amazing leap forward in understanding what's going on (haven't watched the video yet - doesn't anyone read anymore?). 

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Veloruch when you are ready check out the archived articles  Synth Secrets from Sound on Sound magizine . It is a wealth of information on synthesis starting with the basic building blocks clearly explaning concepts in full . 

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1 hour ago, Roshark said:

Veloruch when you are ready check out the archived articles  Synth Secrets from Sound on Sound magizine . It is a wealth of information on synthesis starting with the basic building blocks clearly explaning concepts in full . 

Yeah some good stuff there.

...and if you really want to geek out, the (now ancient, but still relevant) ARP 2600 manual actually offered a good primer on subtractive synthesis:

http://guitarfool.com/ARP2600/Arp 2600 Owners Manual.pdf

(love the diagrams/illustrations/scribbles)

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11 hours ago, Roshark said:

Veloruch when you are ready check out the archived articles  Synth Secrets from Sound on Sound magizine . It is a wealth of information on synthesis starting with the basic building blocks clearly explaning concepts in full . 

https://web.archive.org/web/20160403115835/http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/allsynthsecrets.htm

 

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This is great stuff!  Thanks!

I also found a basics tutorial here: http://synthesizeracademy.com/  The Roland tutorials are actually very good, as well, specific to operating the JD-Xi.

This has been great fun, but also the venerable 'taking a drink from a fire hose!'  I am starting to get used to how to change sounds into what I want them to sound like, but I am a loooong way off from being able to match the stock Roland sounds.  I haven't even ventured into the sequencer and I am still getting my actual keyboarding skills up to a decent level.

One other thing: the Wurlitzer model is really nice on this thing.  The grand piano, however, sounds way too bright to my ears.  It can all be tweaked, however!

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5 hours ago, velorush said:

This is great stuff!  Thanks!

I also found a basics tutorial here: http://synthesizeracademy.com/  The Roland tutorials are actually very good, as well, specific to operating the JD-Xi.

This has been great fun, but also the venerable 'taking a drink from a fire hose!'  I am starting to get used to how to change sounds into what I want them to sound like, but I am a loooong way off from being able to match the stock Roland sounds.  I haven't even ventured into the sequencer and I am still getting my actual keyboarding skills up to a decent level.

One other thing: the Wurlitzer model is really nice on this thing.  The grand piano, however, sounds way too bright to my ears.  It can all be tweaked, however!

If you stick to the subtractive synth, all you really need to know is "detuned saws" (as many as you can get) set the filter to 4-pole low-pass mode, turn the resonance up to taste and work the filter cutoff for dramatic effect.  ;)

Jokes aside, I love the fact inside of a synth (and I'm not even talking ROMpler things like pianos and whatnot - just a subtractive synth) patches are entirely different instruments.   The guitar in a sense is a really specific setting for the ADSR amplitude envelope and stuck there.  :D 

Unless you buy the Moog guitar which specifically set out to let you monkey with the ADSR on the guitar in the physical realm (it has a vague explanation at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moog_Guitar).   Subtractive synthesis gave me a much better framework for understanding how that's different from a keyboard and different from a regular guitar.

Upgraded mental models FTW!

Edited by sixesandsevens
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@velorush:  Are you still digging your keyboard?  How's the sequencer?  I've been looking for something that will let me sketch out backing tracks and I'm wondering if the JD-Xi might be a good fit.

Edited by sixesandsevens
Typo

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Sorry to be so long in answering but it was a really busy weekend.  Still digging (read: still learning about synthesis, still learning how to make chords on a keyboard, etc.).  

I have tried to discipline myself by learning the synthesis side before jumping into the sequencer (why learn to sequence if I can't play anything to sequence?), but I've used the sequencer and it works flawlessly.  Really easy to get patterns and edit on the fly.  The only thing they don't have on the JD-Xi is a "song mode" that would allow complete songs to be built.  Search the webs as there are a few ways around it, but also there is the hope Roland can solve this with a software upgrade (the upgrades have been great.  The last upgrade had an extremely useful modification involving maintaining sequenced patterns but allowing for key changes, for example).

A sketchbook was exactly what I was looking for.  I think eventually this will do it, but for me there is quite a learning curve.  Still extremely pleased with the purchase.  I bought mine in a bundle from kraftmusic.com.  Great service and quite a deal.

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I've been looking for a Korg PS60 for a while now (for the right price).  After reading this thread, I found this one on eBay.  It was used as a prop for the show Glee.  It was $300 shipped from California.  The seller told me that the gold won't come off without leaving residual glue that won't come off.  I told him I won't be attempting to "get it off"!!!

D1mFZp6.jpg

 

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