Roland XP-30 synthesizer
|Synthesis type||Sample-based synthesis|
|Aftertouch expression||Yes, channel|
|Storage memory||1406 patches|
|Effects||40 effect types
Reverb (8 types)
|Left-hand control||Pitch bend with modulation|
|External control||MIDI in/out/thru
The Roland XP-30 is a 61-key, 64 voice expandable synthesizer. Released in 1999, it was produced until 2002. Based on the acclaimed mid-90s JV sound engine built around a super fast 32-bit RISC processor, it is considered to be the best value-for-money of all the Roland JV and XP series synthesizers.
Features and architecture
Designed for live performance, it is small, lightweight but with full-sized keys and insanely huge set of sounds (2078 when fully expanded). Keyboard is truly semi-weighted, with metal weights glued under the keys, feels identical to D-50 and considered one of the best synth-action keybeds ever made. It has a powerful arpeggiator with multiple patterns that can be timed by external MIDI clock (like sequencer or drum machine), nine built-in drum kits (you'll need an external drum machine to use these). The XP-30 is aimed at expansion by giving the user 2 slots for adding Roland's own SR-JV80 range of expansion cards.
- There are 4 sliders on the XP-30 which control envelope settings, tone volumes, and 4 user-assignable parameters.
- A To Host connection for hooking the device up to a computer. This is mainly used as an alternative for a MIDI interface.
- 40-character, 2-line backlit LCD display.
- Large dial for selecting sounds.
- Connectors: Output (L/Mono, R), Phones, MIDI (In, Out, Thru), Computer interface (Mac/PC1/PC2), Control pedal, Hold pedal.
The XP-30 comes with 640 patches in the Preset banks plus a massive 766 patches on the most popular SR-JV80 sound expansion cards: Session, Orchestral and Techno Collection, are included. This makes 1,406 patch sounds available right out of the box, and it has two additional SR-JV80 slots. Many of the sounds were used (with higher bit rate) in later Roland Fantom series synths.
The sound banks are organized like this:
- Presets A, B, C, E - Roland's own patches, most of which came from Spectrasonics and created by renowned programmer Eric Persing. All these banks are 128 patches and 32 performances (patch combinations, same structure what Korg calls Program and Combi mode).
- Preset D is a General MIDI set.
- Expansion banks A, B, C have 256 patches each, same sound chips as in Session, Techno and Orchestral cards, but soldered permanently on the motherboard.
- Expansion Banks D and E are reserved for two SR-JV80 series cards, number of patches varies from card to card.
- User bank has 128 patch and 32 performance memories, where users can store their own created sounds or edited versions of preset sounds.
- 26 factory rhythm sets
In general, onboard presets give you ample of choices for a typical cover band of any style, from oldies to modern dance. Most presets are quite useful, you can edit them if you want and save as user patch (128 memories are available for that). All of them are instantly recallable, by pressing three buttons at most, all you have to remember is bank and patch number. No need to dig into menu layers. Category search feature also makes finding that best patch easy.
Smart Media cards significantly increased user memory capacity, though it's not instantly accessible as older Roland RAM/ROM cards. You have to manually load one of .SVD files from card to user memory bank first, then recall sounds as usual. Though it can be done from the XP-30 front panel, it's still not like direct access to patches an old RAM and ROM cards were capable of. Despite huge memory capacity (4MB card can store 59 .SVD files, essentially a 128-patch banks), these older 5V Smart Media cards are hard to find nowadays, only on eBay.
The smallest form of sound is called a Tone. A maximum of 4 tones can make a Patch. And 16 patches can be used to create a Performance. The XP-30 sound structure most closely resembles the Roland JV-2080 rack synth module. In fact, preset sound banks are identical in both, though the later is more suited for studio work and therefore has 3 multi-effect processors and eight available SR-JV80 card slots. The XP-30 is one of the best synths for live performance, any of its 2,000+ patches or performances can be dialed directly from decimal numeric keypad just like you dial the phone number. (Roland finally gave up the old and odd 8x8 bank-patch scheme in favor of straightforward decimal numbering, what Korg did a decade before with M1). Category sound search is also possible. Most of performance parameters can be altered on-the-fly in analog style, like filter cutoff, resonance, attack, release, there are four assignable sliders for that. Effects and arpeggiator patterns can also be edited on the fly.
XP-30 was sold bundled with Emagic Sound Diver (OEM version), a powerful software editor that allows instant on-screen editing of all XP-30 parameters, pretty much like Reason or any other software synth. A computer can be connected via MIDI or directly to the serial port named "Computer" at the back of XP-30. This requires a special interface cable. The number of editable parameters on-screen is very large. Even though Emagic was bought by Apple long time ago (essentially becoming Logic and GarageBand), Sound Diver is still available as free download, just Google for "Sound Diver Roland XP-30"
Sound samples can be heard at JV-2080 page at SynthMania, they are exactly the same as in XP-30.
Very comprehensive review of XP-30: Sound On Sound
The Roland XP-30 absence of an internal sequencer makes it a pure synth, not a workstation like its older siblings (the XP-50, XP-60 and XP-80). Though today it hardly can be considered a drawback, since music production is done mostly on more capable and flexible computer-based DAW (digital audio workstations). Even the newest Roland Jupiter-80 flagship synth does not have a built-in sequencer (being sold with Roland Cakewalk DAW software suite that also includes a way more powerful sequencer than in any keyboard workstation) . Yamaha Montage doesn't have a sequencer either and most Korg Kronos owners don't use its built-in sequencer, as reported on forums.