Creator's description

Recreation of Roland JD800 synth using 128 internal waveforms from the original.





DSP Usage:

Heavy - probably no more than one voice on a Pulsar1.

Signal Flow:

See below

Samples: Here


The Roland JD800 was, in some ways, a precursor to the current trend for virtual analogue synths. Not so much in terms of its sound, but in terms of its 'hands-on' programming interface. Released at a time (1991) when synth manufacturers seemed to be trying to reduce the number of physical controls on the  synth to a data entry wheel and a few knobs to navigate around a small menu, the JD800  broke the mold by covering the front panel with a vast array of knobs and sliders, grouped into their relevant sections and clearly labeled.


Here's an extract from the Manual which explains exactly what Roland had in mind - to "return to the roots of synthesis".


The origin of the JD-800
In the days before electricity, musicians had only acoustic instruments as a means of making music and sound. When electricity became available, musicians had a way to make those acoustic sounds louder. Later, electricity was used to record and reproduce acoustic sounds. Later still, the "synthesizer" was developed. "Synthesizers" were originally developed as a way of "synthesizing" or making sound. Over time, however, synthesizers came to be used as distinct musical instruments that allowed for the creation of unique sounds.

In the past, all synthesizers were of the analog type. Those synthesizers had lots of knobs; one knob for each function. This meant that the process of making sounds was a visual and fairly intuitive process. These synthesizers emphasized the process of sound creation.

As digital technology advanced, digital synthesizers appeared. These synthesizers were able to simulate acoustic instrument sounds that analog machines could not. Overall, digital instruments offered a wider variety of possibilities, but with one major tradeoff- sound creation became much more complicated.

Today, fewer and fewer people actually create their own sounds, and simply play presets or sounds created by programmers.

However, the original purpose of the synthesizer was to "create sound". It's easy to simply select a preset you like, but that sound will always be "someone else's sound". We at Roland asked, "Why don't we return to the roots of synthesis; the enjoyment of creating original sounds?" We considered many different ways in which we could bring back the fun of creating sounds, and the result is the JD-800 before you.

"Creating sounds" may seem like a highly technical process, but it's actually just a matter of moving a slider to make the sound change! This is easy for anyone, and the sounds that you get will always be your very own.

The JD-800 is designed to make it fun to create sounds. So please go ahead and move those sliders! We hope you will make lots of different sounds; original sounds with which to play your original music.

The JD800 was my first synth and and what really attracted it to me was that it was clearly a synthesist's keyboard, as opposed to a keyboard player's keyboard.  Its primary aim was not to provide as many presets as possible, emulating other instruments, but to encourage experimentation with the parameters of the sound. The knobs and sliders just beg to be tweaked.


The hands-on interface and clearly laid out front panel (see pic. below) really helped me understand the basics of conventional subtractive synthesis. The different envelopes are graphically represented on the panel of the keyboard, and the envelope sections are positioned above the functions that the envelopes control. You don't need to be an expert in Synth programming techniques to be able to understand what's going on, or to be able to produce some interesting, unusual and powerful sounds.

Look at all those sliders ! Click on the picture for a bigger, more legible version.


JD800 description.

The JD800 is in many ways a 'typical' Roland synth of the S+S (Sample and Synthesis) variety. This is the model which has been favoured in many Roland (and other) synths since the 80's and is used in their very popular JV & XV series synths.

S + S synthesis is the description given to synths which have a 'library' of digital waveforms (samples) as their oscillators (as opposed to either analogue VCO's (Voltage controlled Oscillators) or wavetables) and which then allow modulation of these samples using conventional (but normally still digital) synthesis techniques (e.g., LFO's, Envelopes, Filters, etc.)


The JD800 can work in Patch or Multi mode, multi mode being the mode where more than one 'preset' can be played simultaneously (ie, multitimbral mode). The Jaded800 recreates the Patch mode, where only one voice can be played at a time.

In patch mode, a preset is made up of four 'tones'. Each tone is made up of one sample oscillator, with one of 128 internal waveforms to choose from as its fundamental sound source. (The JD can also use extra waveforms from ROM cards - for now I've only sampled the internal waveforms, but you can of course 'expand' your Jaded800 by using whatever samples you like with it.)

Each tone has 2 multimode LFO's and 3 envelopes, one for pitch, one for amplitude and one for the filter.

The structure of each tone is the same and looks like this: 



The waveform (WG) can have its pitch modulated by its dedicated Envelope and by both LFO's  simultaneously.

The Filter (TVF) (Lo, High or Bandpass) can have its frequency modulated by its own dedicated  Envelope and by either LFO1 or LFO2 (but not both).

Similarly the Amplitude (TVA) of the tone can be modulated by its own dedicated Envelope and by either LFO1 or LFO2 (but not both).


The output of each tone is then mixed and passed through the effects section.


The effects section of the JD800 is highly configurable - there are seven slots split across two banks of effects.

Bank 1 contains Distortion, Phaser, Spectrum, Enhancer and Bank2 contains Chorus, Reverb, Delay. You can switch the effects on and off, and re-arrange the order of effects in either bank, but not move effects from one bank to another. After the Effects section comes a 3 band EQ.

The Jaded800

In order to emulate the Jaded800 in the Modular 2, I have created a patch which has 4 identical Sample Oscillator sections, which are mixed in a 4-way mixer before passing to the Effects section.

Each Sample Oscillator structure is organised in a vertical column, so each of the first four columns in the patch is identical. The fifth column contains a few 'miscellaneous' modules, the effects section, VCA's and the text modules indicating the function of the modules to the left of the text box.

Each Sample Osc section is made up as follows, from the top:


Sample OSC


Amp Section

Filter Section

Pitch Mod Section


Here's a picture of one of the Sample Osc structures (the left hand column) next to the Effects column.

You can see the description of the various modules in the right hand column (each text box describes the function of the unit to its left), along with the Mixer, effects and VCA modules. 

Here's one 'Tone' column, alongside the 'miscellaneous' column. The text boxes describe the function of the module to its immediate left.

As I've stripped out three of the four 'Tone' columns for the sake of this picture, most of the LinVCA modules are not connected to anything. 























After the MVC and Sample Osc, we have LFO's 1 & 2.


Then comes the TVA section, comprising an Envelope generator (ADSR vintage), a switch unit and a Mixer.

The Switch is used to determine whether LFO 1 or 2 is being used to modulate the Amplitude of the signal. The Mixer determines the amount by which the Envelope and the chosen LFO modulate the Amplitude. The signal from this goes to the Lin VCA for this 'Tone'.


Next comes the TVF section - a MultiMode filter,  an ADSR, a 4 way mixer and a 2-way switch.

The mixer determines how much the Envelope, Aftertouch and Velocity signals will modulate the Filter cutoff. This is fed to the CFm1 control.

The Switch determines which of the LFO's is used to modulate the Filter CutOff and the output of this is fed to the CFm2 control.


Following this comes the Pitch Mod section. Here we have an ADSR B envelope, a 2-way mixer and a 4-way mixer. Unlike the other sections, here the modulation can be carried out by a mix of both LFO's simultaneously, rather than 1 or the other, so here we have a 2-way mixer to mix the signals from the LFO's, followed by a four way mixer to mix the output of the LFO mixer, the Amp, Velocity and inverted Envelope signals.


Ideally, the normal and inverted signals from the ADSR B would go through a switch module, or at least be passed into consecutive Ins on the 4 way mixer. However, I added the ADSR B quite late in the stage and could not face reworking 50+ presets, and so left it with the normal and inverted signals from the Amp going into ins 2 and 4 on the mixer. Not ideal, but it works fine. 


The signal from each 'tone' is finally fed into a four way mixer (in the right hand column), and the mixed signal from this is then fed into a 'multi-effects' module. Here you can add up to 6 effects in the order of your choice. For the public release version of Jaded800 I have only used effects which are available as standard in Pulsar 3.01, but you can obviously load any effects you like into these slots.


NB A bug in Pulsar 3.01 means that you can't save a patch or a project while there are effects in the Multi-Effects slots.  I have created a patch called 'Default (No FX)' which you can load just before saving your a new version of the patch or your project.


NB2 I have seen occasional problems in 3.01 where the order of effects in the Effects slots gets changed when you save and reload a preset. Sometimes an effect will even get dropped from the slot. Don't know how to get round this - let's hope its fixed in v3.1.


The Sample Pool


It was originally planned to supply a modular Pool with the 128 Internal waveforms from the JD800, incorporated into the patch. However, a bug in v3.01 of Pulsar results in the entire contents of the pool getting saved with each preset. As the pool is just over 2 MB in size, this meant that each preset for the patch was also over 2 MB in size.


To get round this problem I have put all the samples into a standalone Sample Pool module, kindly supplied by John Bowen at Zarg Music. This pool must be loaded in the project that contains the patch for the Sample Oscillator module to be able to 'find' the sample that it needs for each preset. Just drag it into the project window, as you would any other device.


The advantage of providing the samples in this standalone pool is that they can of course also be used in any other Sample capable synth, such as Zarg's Ambient, Rotor and Prophet Plus synths, or Wavelength's GeminiWave synth. If you do create any presets for these synths using this pool, please let myself and the synth creators have a copy !


The samples were created by recording the output of a single tone at Middle C from the JD800 with as little modulation going on from the various modulation sections as I could achieve. After recording each tone the samples were top and tailed, normalised, and then where appropriate, sample loop points were set using SoundForge.  


It has to be said that some of the samples in the pool have breakpoints which are not very clean.  However this is also true on the JD800 - It's only since I started trying to create presets which match those on the JD800 that I began to realise this!

However, the sampling process has occasionally introduced some unpleasant aliasing noise in some samples, particularly in the upper registers. On the whole though, I think the pool offers some interesting new possibilities for use with the Modular and other sample based synths, and most of the samples are very usable across the entire keyboard.


The Sample Pool can be downloaded from the Downloads page in both Modular and Standalone formats.



There are one or two known issues with the synth.


I've found that sometimes when I'm changing presets, the synth goes a bit mad. For example sometimes, the polyphony is reduced to one half - ie, it only plays every other note! At other times the Sample Osc's get 'stuck' with a 'loading sample x' message. I think these are not problems specific to this patch but to the Sample Osc in general. Sometimes loading another preset fixes the problem, but often the only thing to do is restart Pulsar. One thing that definitely makes a difference is avoiding playing the keyboard (or having your sequencer running) while switching patches.  The golden rule I follow is not to touch the keyboard until I see that the new samples have loaded - this is the last step that happens in the loading of each preset.


Portamento. Not only does portamento not work with the Sample Oscillators, but it seems to mess up the polyphony of the patch. Portamento is switched off for all presets. A shame, as its definitely possible to use Portamento with other sample-savvy synths (eg Zarg's Ambient synth).


MultiFX module. Sometimes (in 3.01) the patch does not correctly load the effects that were saved in the MultiFX slots. I avoid slot 1 as this seems particularly prone to this error.  Sometimes Effects are just not loaded and sometimes their order is rearranged. It seems to be that if it loads succesfully the first time, it always loads, whereas if it fails the first time, it will never work correctly, no matter how often you try and fix this!


Jaded800 vs JD800


Putting this patch together was a lot of work, and I'm still not sure whether it was worth the effort. The resultant patch is far more unwieldy than the JD800 - it certainly does not inherit the tweakability which was one of the selling points of the original. However, with a decent Midi controller its possible to get quite adept at quick programming of the patch.  I have my slider box assigned to control Main volume, Tone volumes 1-4, all 8 LFO's and the Cut Off and Res values of all Filters and this goes some way towards making it quite tweakable.


Another distinct advantage that the JD800 has over the Jaded800 is that on the original synth, you are able to put individual tones into 'edit' mode - this means that you can tweak the settings of all tones simultaneously using one slider, or choose which tone will react to slider settings. There's no way to get even close to this in the Modular .


Obviously, we also lose the multitimbrality of the original, and it has to be said that you need at least 10 Sharc's to match the polyphony (16 simultaneous voices) of the original! The patch is very DSP hungry and each preset takes a long time to load.


There are, however, some good advantages that the Jaded800 has over the original. The ability to use whichever samples you like in the patch is a real bonus - I've used it to process drum loops, etc, and its great for that. Also with the MultiFX unit you can use any effects you like with the patch and this can also be used to great effect.


On balance I'm very glad that I've spent the time on the patch - even if the end result is quite unwieldy. I've learned a fair amount during the months its taken me to build the patch, the end result is capable of some great and versatile sounds, and we all have a pool of waveforms that may be useful in lots of other devices and patches.


Finally, my thanks to all those who've helped me see this project through - particularly Eric Dahlberg, John Bowen, and Rod Burgess. Presets marked (rb) in the patch are from Rod.


80s Seq 71 kb Uses the LFO to generate sequencer like pattern
Arp Pluck 171 kb Nice clear harpsichord-esque sound
Big Church Organ 198 kb Uses the MasterVerb for that big sound
Chiffer 242 kb Fast LFO and noise combination
Creepies 176 kb Creepies !
Fusion Solo 57 kb A less than succesful attempt at recreating a favourite patch !
IceMan 140 kb A recreation of an original JD800 patch - quite close to the original
LifeForms 220 kb One of Rod's - nice didgeridoo type sounds going on here.
MultiStep Delay 122 kb Tried to match another JD800 patch - but failed !
OneOsc NoFX 108 kb Using LFO's & Envelopes to create a powerful sound from a single oscillator
That's No WindChime 172 kb Combinations of LFO's for pitch bend on a single oscillator.
Wave Sequencing 98 kb Another JD800 copy - not quite the same but not bad.
WaveVoice 164 kb Another of Rod's - very ethereal and spooky.
Why 130 kb Fast LFO's for vibrato.


Links to JD sites


JD800 Lovers

Steve's JD800 page

DanceTech review

JD800 page at Retrosound


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