Roland JX-3P

Roland JX-3P Image

The JX-3P is something of a hidden treasure – there is more to it than meets the eye. It came out about the same time as the venerable JUNO series, but represents a shift away from the traditional analog synthesizer interface and towards a less hands-on format. The JX-3P was mostly aimed towards players looking for those great stable Roland sounds of the time, but with immediate Preset-based access to them, and only the most basic and newbie-friendly of on-board controls to adjust them. (Note the space reserved on-board for holding sheet music in place.)

That is not to say this is a dumbed down synth, but rather, the digital technologies being explored by Roland at the time allowed for greater programability while simultaneously reducing the need for dedicated hands-on controllers per parameter - a path most synth manufacturers walked down during the eighties. This means that sliders and knobs were being phased out in favor of push-buttons, fewer sliders and a powerful programming interface tucked away “under the hood”.

The JX-3P shares the same great analog filters and VCAs as the JUNO and even the JUPITER series. Just like the JUNO, it’s a six voice polyphonic feeding digitally controlled oscillators (DCOs) through analog filters, envelopes and amps. However, the JX-3P has two oscillators per voice instead of the single osc. found in the JUNO synths, and while that does allow for greater flexibility, the onboard programming interface is a lot less fun and hands-on than that of a JUNO, no doubt contributing to the popularity the JUNO series enjoys over the JX-3P. You will need the optional PG-200 programmer if you want a real hands-on experience with the JX-3P.

Roland JX-3P Image

Surprisingly, the JX-3P is MIDI equipped, in fact it was Roland's first MIDI synth. However, its MIDI was limited to basic note on/off information only. Synths like the JUNO 106 had far better MIDI implementation. But the JX-3P also featured an on-board 128-step sequencer and came in a (slightly modified) rack-mount version called the MKS-30.

Roland JX-3P Image

Although the JX-3P may not be as popular as a JUNO, it makes a great vintage synth capable of creating some lush, classic analog sounds. And without the cult status of other synths similar to it, they can also be found at bargain prices, making them a definite synth to consider when looking for those classic early eighties Roland sounds. And aftermarket upgrades (like the KIWI-3P) can make it just as good, if not better, than any other polyphonic analog synths out there! It has been used by The Future Sound of London, Astral Projection, Vince Clarke, Orbital, Luke Vibert, Stevie Nicks, Asian Dub Foundation, and Thomas Dolby.

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217 Visitor comments
August 8, 2012 @ 6:34 am
@ Emile

I've got a Juno 106 which I think is fantastic. The JX compliments it really well: between the two of them you can cover a large sonic spectrum.

I'd say the JX3 is a little brighter sounding overall and maybe not quite as rich in the low frequencies but that may be to do with the PWM and Chorus on the 106 rather than the filters. They both have their own strengths so I'd hesitate to say one is better than the other. 2 DCO's is a definite plus point though.

I paid £220 for the synth and £200 for the PG200. You really don't need one to get the best out of it - save your money!
emile bernard
August 7, 2012 @ 8:09 pm
I got mine a couple of months back and I absolutely love it!
I'd be curious to A-B test it with a Juno but it's cool to have a second oscillator, also it's nice to have something different.
I don't have the pg200 either but editing is so easy anyway, way easier than on MicroKorgs anyway.
The guy I bought it from only used the presets, so I had to figure the editing out on the spot and it only took me 5mins!
I wouldn't mind getting the PG200 though but prices are ridiculous, £250-300? I paid 250 for the jx3p...
@Phil if you don't use your PG I'll take it ;)
now prophet 5 and CS80 :)
August 7, 2012 @ 6:47 pm
An amazing machine for the money they go for. Hugely under-rated and therefore underpriced. My synth tech suggested getting one after I sold my Jupiter 6. Believe me, you don't need the PG200 to get the best out of it (I've got one but prefer not to use it). The onboard editing is very simple to get to grips with and you'll be flying around the edits in no time. Onboard sequencer is fun and the cross mod is excellent. Don't hesitate to get one if you can. Warm, harsh, mellow - it can do it all. Looks a lot nicer in the flesh too!
Tutone Tim
July 23, 2012 @ 10:46 am
I believe this synth sounds awesome!! I know you are not supposed to like presets, but most of these weren't bad..or maybe I suffer from 1983 nostalgia! I am no expert on synths, either, but I did not find the JX-3P hard to program w/o the PG. Sure it would be nice to fiddle with knobs, but it is not as hard as is made out in the review. Also the keyboard has a good, solid feel that I really like, even w/o velocity or's from 1983! I Midi'd this up with my Korg DW-8000 last night, and WOW, pure analog-digital hybrid heaven!! I can't wait to experiment more!
July 18, 2012 @ 12:44 pm
Same here - it's an under-rated gem. I sold mine aeons ago and bought a 106 instead. What a d*ck! The JX has way more character than any Juno (although the Alphas were useful). I wished I'd kept it (still may buy another one one day). I particularly liked the osc sync - it was warm and musical, and highly unusual to have sync on a poly and at that price. Not in the same league as say a Jp6, but a good investment if you want a cheap poly. Limited and difficult interface but still sounded good. Still can't understand why Junos are still more popular (knobs I suppose). To newbs - JX3p beats Juno.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.46 (1221 Votes)

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  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 6 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 DCO's per voice
  • Memory - 32 preset, 32 user
  • Filter - Resonant Low pass and High pass filters
  • Effects - Chorus
  • Arpeg/Seq - 128-step Sequencer
  • Keyboard - 61 keys
  • Control - MIDI (no velocity except with a special ROM upgrade)
  • Date Produced - 1983
  • Resources & Credits
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    Review updated January 2012

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