This week I picked up another Roland JX-8P in cosmetically great condition, but had both aftertouch and key issues. I’m finding out that the keys and aftertouch are a relatively easy fix, but a huge pain in the neck with the Roland JX-8P.
First aftertouch. Knowing what aftertouch sounds like and how it GREATLY impacts the sound of the Roland JX-8P, I would most definitely not even go near a JX-8P if I couldn’t get it to work. What a WORLD of difference an operational aftertouch function is on the JX-8P. My goodness, the difference it makes on patches is unbelievable. On both of my JX-8P synths, I had to completely strip down the keys and remove the aftertouch strips which required major cleaning. There are tutorials around about how to do this. Many have trouble with putting the strips back together. I found adding fresh double sided tape and slowly layering the metallic colored strip, silicone strip, and then the rubber piece on top to be relatively easy ONCE I had fresh double sided tape to back me up along the way.
For best performance I buff the crap out of the embedded metallic strips so that they are nice, shiny, and clean!! Usually you will find very clear marks on the strips and I complete remove that so they are like new. Let me tell you that the aftertouch will sound great if you take the time to clean everything slowly and properly. Also, you may find that the the silicone or rubber strips are slightly longer after putting it back together. How that happens I am not sure, but simply snip the end and you’re good to go. Also note that the silicone strips do break into 4 or 5 sections. This is normal to my knowledge and does not affect the aftertouch system IF properly cleaned and put back together.
It’s also very important that you try and clean the aftertouch strips evenly. You want it to sound great on all keys. On one of my JX-8P synths, I had to remove the strips again in order to re-clean a couple of sections that had an uneven sounding aftertouch effect. Once put back together it sound just fine. I usually eyeball this, but you will need some good light so you can scan along the strips to ensure they are all nice and clean evenly. You don’t want any spots or blemishes or even fingerprints if at all possible.
The Roland JX-8P keys can also have several issues such as stuck or sustained notes and dead keys or skipped notes. Add to this the fact that while the problematic keys are generally consistent, they don’t always skip or sustain when you play them. This lead to the unpredictability problem that many have had with the JX-8P. So how do you fix that?
I haven’t found the supreme answer, but I have found a few things that clear up the issue tremendously. First and foremost, the Roland JX-8P needs to be exercised or played! That’s right! This is NOT a synth that can sit idle for very long without issue, especially if you had issues in the first place. I have found that by playing it regularly, both eliminates many of the problems with the keys AND it can allow you to better assess which keys or areas are likely to re-occurring issues.
To fix many of the problems directly, I first remove each and every key to ensure it is clean. I then clean the copper contacts thoroughly. Remember there are “3″ copper legs or strips for each key. You need to clean BOTH sides of each one. I used Deoxit on one JX-8P and that seemed to work best. You then have to be VERY CAREFUL when reinserting the keys back into the key bed. It’s better to get it right the first time, then to jam it in there bending one of the copper legs. You “may” find yourself tweaking that thing until the cows come home to get it to sound right. Finally, you need to grease the appropriate areas, otherwise keys will stick which can often cause the sustained notes. ( Note grease is not required, but is recommended and it does help ).
YES! All of this requires time, patience, and work. Once you have it done though, you’ll likely have at least 90% of all your issues solved. The other 10% is simply fine tuning, luck, playing it regularly, or in some cases, it’s simply the nature of the JX-8P beast.
Although there are always exceptions, I gather most Roland JX-8P users are going to have issues with their aftertouch and keys. If you play your JX-8P regularly then it’s highly likely you won’t have any issues now or in the future. However, the Roland JX-8P is not a synth to be stored….laugh. It’s meant to be played. In fact, I’m finding with analog synths in general, it’s better to keep them running in order to best keep them in top shape.
The Roland JX-8P is a sweet synth. I use the Behringer BCR200 to program it and the my MacBook air to transfer patches to it. It’s of course a splendid synth for 80′s synthpop which is where I’m at right now in music. I would also advise to grab a cartridge if you don’t already have one and either program or grab some good sounds for it. Note that if your aftertouch is working well, you can really tweak the presets nicely in realtime as well.
If anyone has found any tips, tricks, or experiences with fixing the Roland JX-8P keys or aftertouch, please comment. I’d love to hear about your observations and experiences. My JX-8P synths are working about 95-98% right now with an occasional blip on the radar with regards to a sustained or skipped note. It’s got ghostly bugs dancing around in there, but it’s definitely got character. I just love, love, love it! Thanks!!
I now officially have three, yes “3″, Roland JX-8P synthesizers sitting my room. I have worked on all three and can say with absolute certainty that ALL Roland JX-8P synths will exhibit the following problems at some point in it’s life cycle if not already.
#1 – The keys on the Roland JX-8P design wise, SUCK!! The three copper leg contact system is horrible and the reason why so many sustain, skipped, and dead notes occur. As far as I’m concerned there is no solution, BUT you can clean until your hearts content which will help, but will not prevent the problem. What I’ve done is mark the key or keys that often get stuck. When I perform live it’s then easy to recognize which key is likely to stuck ahead of time. I can then tap it again and 90% of the time the sustain will go away. This allows me to find the key quickly. I’m getting the hang of stopping the stuck notes now but I wish there was a way to completely eliminate the problem. It’s a serious design flaw with the JX-8P in my book and something that a JX-8P user will have to get used to.
#2 – The LCDs go out in the JX-8P synths. Oh boy!! Do they ever! I have one with a bad LCD or COIL. Not sure which, but if the LCD is bad and you require it, then stay away from the JX-8P. THERE IS NO FIX!! I’ve heard a couple of people are working on a replacement, but until that time, THERE IS NO FIX! The good news is that the JX-8P is not hard at all to operate, program, and play without an LCD. In fact, it’s quite easy. If you have an iPad or computer to program with it’ll give you the visuals back, but honestly, it’s not hard to work without an LCD. The only real bad thing is that it will bring down the value of the JX-8P obviously. Oh and did I mention….THERE IS NO FIX!!
#3 – The Aftertouch “EVEN WITH THE FIXES OUT THERE”, is not reliable at all. Yes, you can fix/clean it and I’ve fixed two already, but on the third synth it died a couple of days right after I fixed the aftertouch. Like the keys I mentioned above, it is not reliable by a long shot even when fixed. If you REQUIRE aftertouch, then either use MIDI which works great controlling the JX-8P or skip the JX-8P or just forget the aftertouch which most do I suspect.
#4 – The screw holders on the plastic sides break on all of these. You have to be very careful when unscrewing the screws on the side of the Roland JX-8P. It’s another design flaw. The weight and pressure causes the screws to crack the slots they go through. The bad part is that the plastic holders crumble and fall into many tiny pieces which get scattered and stuck around the PCB boards. I bet if you pick up 2 out of 3 JX-8Ps and shake them you’ll hear pieces rattling around inside. Those are the plastics bits crumbling each and every time you open the hood.
Fortunately despite these issues, the Roland JX-8P is otherwise solid and a great sounding synth. I like it very much even with the small issues as I don’t plan selling them, although I “may” sell one sometime. Just beware that you will eventually have issues with the aftertouch, LCD screen, and keys. It’s just a matter of when and not if. If I find solid solutions, I’ll update this article again. For now despite heavy cleaning, it’s a design flaw with the aftertouch, LCD, and keys that are preventing a total cure. However enjoyable the Roland JX-8P synth is, it is definitely a strong candidate for the high maintenance club..laugh. Enjoy!