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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216 Visitor comments
December 18, 2013 @ 12:49 am
Yes, you can progam this without the PG200, quite easily. The PG200 just makes knob tweaking more fun - say, as the sequencer is playing back. Sequencer CAN sync externally, but not to MIDI.

However, I have found a work-a-round: program a drum machine (bass drum...something thumpy) to play quarter notes, and feed that signal into the JX. Sync the drum machine to your MIDI system and the JX should slave to your MIDI clock.

I love the dual osc much more than a single osc. You just get more flexibility.

Bought mine in '86 - still have it. Original battery still stores my patches!
November 20, 2013 @ 9:49 am
The JX-3P was my first synth back in '84. Cost me $1450 CAN. Then shortly after I bought the Juno 106. I ran them through a Boss/Roland Chorus Echo module and that gave me some awesome variety.
I finally found a used PG200 years later but could never find the connecting cord for it. Turns out Roland discontinued it. I sure would like to tweak it by changing more than one setting at a time via the dashboard map. I'm curious about this Kiwi upgrade or Mod but I'm not sure I want to mangle the synth to get it : )
October 31, 2013 @ 9:13 am
To ebola virus: You can beef up the resonans and also the speed of the LFO by readjusting the 6 x resonans trims and the one LFO speed point (the lfo speed might not have a trimpot but then you can put one in, instead of the resistor that controls the speed. Help for how to adjust the 6 resonans trims can be found on the web. Use google to find it.
October 14, 2013 @ 5:34 am
In regard to the comment claiming that Rush had once used the JX-3P, I don't believe that's correct. The closest they ever came to it was the Jupiter 8, which they used rather extensively on at least three albums.
September 13, 2013 @ 2:51 pm
A stock JX-3P is a very capable instrument. It is also pretty easy to program without a PG-200 as the panel is very well laid out. It possible to get some very lush detuned pads from this synth, I paid just under £300 for mine and consider it a sound investment.

That said I could not resist the Kiwitechnics upgrade. This significantly entrants the sonic possibilities. However at a price, the complex possibilities now make panel programming difficult. But for a total of around £600 you get a great sounding six voice dual oscillator beast.

Get one while they are still unfashionable.
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Rated 4.46 (1218 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • 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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