For decades, Roland has been a frontrunner in synthesizers, sequencers, effects, amplifiers, and everything sound-making. It’s no surprise that the JD-Xi packs a hefty amount of tech into a small package. In this Roland JD-Xi review, we’ll take a look at some of the key features that make this synthesizer so unique.
What Is a Crossover Synth & How Do They Work?
A “crossover” synthesizer is one that contains both analog and digital sections. The Roland JD-Xi contains a monophonic analog synthesis section producing saw, triangle, and square waves with an analog filter. Plus, it has a sub oscillator to generate low-end weight. Rounding out the instrument are two digital synthesis sections notably taking advantage of Roland’s SuperNATURAL tone technology. Sounds from the digital sections include pads, strings, electric piano, effects/noises, and much more.
Benefits of an Analog/Digital Synthesizer
Hybrid analog/digital synthesizers are a “best of both worlds” type of instrument. On one hand you get smooth, round, fat textures from the analog section; on the other, you get the detail, clarity, and expansive range from the digital section. It’s hard to beat a synth that basically does it all.
Realistically, in today’s world, producers get the most bang for their buck from virtual instruments and plugins. So when you do throw down for a hardware synth, you’re either springing for a very specific sound that’s hard to replicate, or you want something that’s extremely versatile. The JD-Xi falls into the second category.
Roland JD-Xi Review
At a glance, the Roland JD-Xi is a hybrid analog/digital synthesizer with 37 keys, 128-voice polyphony, a four-track sequencer, a gooseneck microphone with vocoder and AutoPitch effects, and a whole lot of variety in a super portable shell. It is indeed impressive what Roland managed to cram into such a small desktop synthesizer, and it would make a great first-time synth for sheer versatility alone.
The JD-Xi features a host of standard connectivity. I/O includes a 1/4″ headphone output, a pair of 1/4″ outputs, a singular 1/4″ input, XLR input, MIDI in/out, and USB. This covers pretty much all the bases for recording or live performance. USB is particularly convenient touch for locking straight into your DAW and getting to work.
Size & Portability
One of the biggest selling points of the JD-Xi synthesizer isn’t just its sound capabilities — size/portability is a major factor. It utilizes 37 mini keys to shrink the size down to just under 23″ long and 10″ wide. The JD-Xi also weighs a smidgen under five pounds, so obviously this is a small and virtually weightless instrument. Roland makes a custom JD-Xi gig bag for it which makes carrying it around that much easier.
At the core of the synthesizer are its crossover capabilities. It contains four parts: two digital, one drum, and one analog. The JD-Xi features a maximum of 129 voices (128 digital/drum, 1 analog) and 64-voice polyphony from the digital sections. The analog sounds are about what you’d expect: thick, rich, round, and dare we say the dreaded W-word, “warm.” From the digital sections you get all of the versatility of Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound creation for a massive range of usable tones for any style of music.
Design & Playability
The first thing to take into account is that this is a “mini” synthesizer. For lots of folks, that means limited playability. Surely, the shrunken keys aren’t for everyone — especially someone coming from a full-sized keyboard/piano background. It can take some getting used to in order to feel comfortable with small, unweighted keys. That aside, the variety of sounds is inspirational in and of itself, so even if the JD-Xi isn’t the most playable instrument in the world for some people, it manages to win hearts anyway.
Who Is the Roland JD-Xi Built for?
We’d wager that the JD-Xi is as good a first-time synthesizer as it is for veterans with established collections. For one, it’s affordable. That alone makes it highly accessible. It’s also quite unique as a crossover/hybrid instrument, appealing to synth enthusiasts out of curiosity about its capabilities. Marry a huge range of sounds with a desktop-friendly footprint and you have a perfect addition to any home studio, live rig, or backpack.
Our Take: The JD-Xi Crossover Synth Brings a Ton of Versatility in a Small Package
We like the Roland JD-Xi a lot. The analog section, if somewhat gimmicky if we’re being hypercritical, does what it promises in terms of classic synthesizer sounds. Not surprisingly, the instrument’s digital sections truly shine, providing an overwhelming collection of high-quality sounds. To summarize our Roland JD-Xi review, this is certainly a desert island synthesizer that can do it all.
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