Roland JD-800

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Roland JD-800.jpg
Technical specifications
Polyphony24 voices using 1 tone
6 voices using 4 tones[1]
Timbrality5 + 1 drum part (61 note assignable)
Oscillator3MB of PCM ROM with 108 waveforms + 1MB expansion, 4 waveforms (tones) per patch
Synthesis typeDigital Sample-based Subtractive
FilterResonant multi-mode (lowpass, bandpass & highpass) referred to as TVF (Time Variant Filter)
Attenuator3 multi-stage envelopes
Aftertouch expressionYes
Velocity expressionYes
Storage memory64 patches, 256 KBit RAM card
EffectsChorus, delay, distortion, EQ, phaser, spectrum, reverb, enhancer
Keyboard61 Keys
Left-hand controlPitch, modulation
External controlMIDI

The Roland JD-800 is a digital synthesizer that was manufactured between 1991 and 1996. The synthesizer features many knobs and sliders for patch editing and performance control – features that some manufacturers, including Roland, had been omitting in the name of "streamlining" since the inception of the Yamaha DX7. The JD-800 thus became very popular with musicians who wished to take a "hands on" approach to patch programming. In the introduction to the manual, it is stated that Roland's intention with the JD-800 was to "return to the roots of synthesis".


The JD-800 combines sample playback with digital synthesis, a process that Roland calls Linear Arithmetic synthesis, a technique Roland had been using to great effect in the Roland D-50. The JD-800 has 108 waveforms built-in, but these can be expanded via PCM-cards. There are waveforms in a variety of categories, like; analog synth, acoustic instruments, like guitars, woodwind, brass and voices. Most of these waveforms are very short and are designed to give character to the attack portion of a sound, while some longer ones are designed for creating pads, or the sustained part of a patch. The JD-800 was the first instrument from Roland to have its core sound set of waveforms developed entirely in the United States, under a short-lived branch of Roland's R&D-LA office in Culver City, California. The core sampled waveforms and Factory presets of the JD-800 were created by Eric Persing.[2]

A patch, or single sound, in the JD-800 consists of up to 4 tones. As every tone consists of an almost completely independent synthesizer voice a patch could be considered a layer of up to 4 different synthesizers. In single mode the JD-800 plays one patch at a time, but in multi mode it is possible to play 5 different patches, over MIDI, plus an extra "special" patch. The special patch has different waveforms assigned to the 61 different keys on the keyboard, so is used for drums and percussion sounds. The JD-800 has one effects section. In single mode 7 effects can be used simultaneously, in series, so all tones in a patch go through the same effects. In multi mode 3 effects can be used at the same time, all patches sharing the same effects, though a patch can be routed to bypass the effects.[3]

Editing and playing[edit]

Using the "layer" buttons, the player can switch the 4 tones in a patch on and off, while playing. When in "edit" mode, the layer buttons are used to choose which tones' parameters are changed using the sliders on the front panel. The "palette" sliders allow the player to edit the last active parameter of all 4 tones individually at the same time. While playing, the palette sliders can easily be used like a little mixing board to set the balance between the 4 tones in a patch.[4] Nonetheless, due to the limited accuracy of the sliders, and because edited parameters jump from the value in memory to the value corresponding to the position of the slider, when the slider is moved, it is hard to edit sounds while playing without creating sudden "jumps" in the sound.

The JD-800 manual stated: "[T]he 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?' ... '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."


Roland released the JD-990 Super JD in 1993. This is an enhanced rackmountable sound module version of the JD-800, without sliders, a larger display, and the ability to expand the device with PCM cards for extra sounds.[5]

Roland JD-990 rack


The synth was expandable by the inclusion of slots for PCM and RAM cards. The former increased the number of waveforms available to the user, the latter increased the number of patches that could be used. Roland produced a number of expansion kits for the synth (and other compatible models) comprising a pair of cards - a PCM card containing new samples, and a RAM card containing a bank of new presets.

PCM add on cards:
Roland later released 8 add on cards for the JD 800:

  1. SL-JD80-01 Drums & Percussion STANDARD
  2. SL-JD80-02 Drums & Percussion DANCE
  3. SL-JD80-03 Rock Drums
  4. SL-JD80-04 Strings Ensemble
  5. SL-JD80-05 Brass Section
  6. SL-JD80-06 Grand Piano
  7. SL-JD80-07 Guitar Collection
  8. SL-JD80-08 Accordion

Notable users[edit]


  1. ^ Reid, Gordon (January 2005). "The History Of Roland, Part 3: 1986-1991". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2011-08-21. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2011-08-21. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "The History Of Roland: Part 4". Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  6. ^ Bell, Matt (February 2003). "1 Giant Leap". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  7. ^ The Classic Album: A Guy Called Gerald - 28 Gun Bad Boy, Future Music, FM230, September 2010, page 20
  8. ^ Senior, Mike (August 2009). "Armin Van Buuren". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Coldcut: Ninja Tune". Sound On Sound. October 1997. Archived from the original on 10 January 2012.
  10. ^ Inglis, Sam (January 2003). "Future Bible Heroes: Stephin Merritt, Chris Ewen & Claudia Gonson". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Gary Barlow: Recording, Production & Songwriting". Sound On Sound. November 1998. Archived from the original on 16 September 2014.
  12. ^ Jarre, Jean-Michel (1993). Chronologie (Media notes).
  13. ^ Sturrock, Patrick (November 2010). "Labrinth: Producing Tinie Tempah". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  14. ^ Doyle, Tom (April 2005). "Laurent Garnier". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  15. ^ Tingen, Paul (November 2003). "Mouse On Mars". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  16. ^ Tingen, Paul (April 2000). "Tom Lord-Alge: From Manson To Hanson". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 4 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]