Roland JX-8P Aftertouch and Key repair notes

Roland JX-8P Synthesizer
Roland JX-8P Synthesizer

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!!

UPDATE

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!

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15 thoughts on “Roland JX-8P Aftertouch and Key repair notes

  1. Here is a great tip I found recently about the key contacts on the Roland JX-8P.

    “To stop a note playing the key system on the 8P need’s it’s contact to touch the top (velocity) tab again to signal ‘return to released’ but sometimes, even if they appear to touch, oxidation can set in so you need to clean ’em up a bit – maybe with some very fine sand paper if they are really film covered.”

    On another note, I received some emails about the grease I use with the key repair. The product I use is SUPER LUBE – Synthetic Grease with PTFE. This stuff works great for my experience and have not had any issues yet.

  2. Around the web I find many people reporting that the Roland JX-8P is not that great for basses. I have found that most of the JX-8P factory patches are not bass related. In fact, it’s not that the JX-8P has bad bass sounds, rather there simply aren’t that many programmed in the preset or internal patch banks. If you want basses, you’ll need to acquire 3rd party bass patches or create your own. Sure the quality of bass sounds is subjective, but keep in mind that many reporting such information “could” be basing it on the presets and internal patches alone. I actually find the bass sounds to be very good. As an owner of all the Juno synths, I find the JX-8P can have excellent bass sounds. They’re just not located in the preset bank. Enjoy!

  3. 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!

    1. TOBIAS

      http://www.maplin.co.uk/thumbscrew-for-pc-case-x-50-37605
      jim i used these screws for the 6 side panel screws. the screw socket plastic for side panel housing on mine was broken on both sides making it loose. speficifcally the flat part under the screw head.
      these screws fit the cylindrical well which was still intact. they fit after some persuasion as the grooves to give the ‘unscrewer’ some friction from their thumbs, are tight against the jx8p housing. in addition – the screw on the thumbscrew seems to have a bigger diameter than the jx8p native ones. i had to persuade them in to the jx8p screw socket. 5 of them screw in and out no problem, but i sheared one of the screws so its shaft is stuct in there with no head! because they are such a tight fit they make the body rigid. worth a shot (maybe find similar screws with a marginally thinner shaft diameter?)

      1. TOBIAS

        just occurred to me that the screws i used are in metric and a jx8p probably uses imperial measurements screws, hence i had to use ‘persuasion’.

    2. Mark

      At the risk of being self promotional (please feel free to delete if necessary) I currently manufacture the FIP coil replacement for the 8p/10/mks70. You can find us on eBay (US) at billybobs_garage. Thanks

  4. Michael

    Very useful information here Jim, so thank you! Oh geez, I wish I would have read this before taking off the side panels because…. You guessed it, some of the plastic screw holders broke in small pieces. : / I bought this JX8p yesterday for only $100,( beautiful cosmetic condition) but it is Stuck at 12 in the count down upon startup and therefore I cannot access the banks of sound. Ever hear of this problem? I did owned a JX-10 that had LCD pixels missing, and that was easy enough to work around. My current JX-8p works and sounds flawless. I’ve never had key issues with it, nor the other JX8p I owned about 4 years ago. Now Korgs Poly 61, and Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 key beds are another matter. You’ve got to clean those contacts at least twice a year! Yeah, highly under-rated synth are the JX-8ps! I’ve created a wide range of sounds on mine from Sample and Hold detuned OSCs to rather punchy JP8 like basses to Juno 60 like strings… these synths in my opinion excel at pads for the most part and FX sounds. I absolutely nailed Eurythmics “Sweet dreams” sound on mine. I think they made that on a Juno 60, but it sounds identical to me!

    1. Hello Michael, thanks for the comments. Unfortunately I haven’t heard about the issue you are having with regards to the countdown freezing on the JX-8P. I’ll keep an eye out for sure and will post an update if I find anything. I own three JX-8P synths right and love playing them. One has the infamous coil issue with the LCD which you can find now on Ebay “Roland JX-10 and or 8P display screen FIP Coil Driver”. I haven’t fixed it yet because my other two are working perfectly and I’m not ready to spring $70 for the part yet. I use CaiKote 44 on my Poly-61 key contacts and that appears to be working fantastic. That stuff sure is great. My JX-8P keys are also working great once I figured out how to adjust and bend the key contact legs appropriately. I have a little system for that which is hard to explain but it works well and haven’t had any issues. It’s very interesting to me. I have the JX-8P, JX-3P, Poly-61, and Polysix for example. Most aspire to get the JX-3P and Polysix. Those are exceptional synths no doubt, but I seem to migrate more towards the JX-8P and Poly-61 when I play. I can’t explain it, but I just use them more. In Japan the JX-8P and Poly-61 can still be found for very cheap prices as well which is why I have so many of them. I love the “junk” rule in Japan. If there is anything wrong, they call it junk and practically give the synth away. It’s crazy sometimes.

  5. JX-8P user

    Great info, When doing the aftertouch job, what do you mean double sided tape? how exactly do you put it back together with the tape or other means? How do you get the strips to stay together?

  6. mark pigott

    Check the 7805 in regards to the countdown problem. A bad regulator, or rectifier on electrolytic on the 5V line can cause all sorts of grief for the 8P. I got rid this very problem by replacing the 7805 regulator.

  7. Tomashin

    Hi, I’ve just fixed after-touch today, cleaned thoroughly all surfaces: rubber housing, metal plate, conductive rubber and copper contact strips… I used heavy-duty household degreasing spray for copper and metal, then a type machine eraser pencil to clean the copper to perfection. For conductive rubber I used pharmaceutical gasoline (the one used for cleaning the sticky tape leftovers) until it was as clean as possible. I also refreshed double sided tape’s surface that was on the chasis to make it stick again when I reassembled the whole thing. I’ve decided to replace the felt tape with new, the self adhesive one you can find in stores… just cut them to needed width.
    Did all that, and it works, we’ll see in time how it would act, I’ll report as soon as it fails again but I think it will be years before it happens…

    As far as keys contact problem goes, I’ve sanded every single contact for all the 61 keys: the bottom one, lower side of a middle one that makes contact with a key and upper side and upper contact at the same time (if you look at the keyboard upside down) with folded sand paper strip… and all keys that were “funky” now work perfectly… except one, but I’ve folded the middle contact bar a bit more to the lower contact and now it works perfectly also…

    Hope this is helpful, I’ll report if something breaks up again…

    Regarding the mentioning of key springs being different for black and white keys, I think it’s false. They all look the same when they’re removed and if you look them carefully when they are mounted, you’ll see that they are spread across shorter lengths to compensate for shorter keys and enable less tension to be used for black keys as they are shorter and need less force to raise back after release… at least I’m sure about my JX-8P that that is a case.

    Next thing on my list to find out if JX’s filter can be modified. It’s kinda whimpy in comparison to other filters. I’ve read that it was intentionally made that way to help bring more natural sound to acoustic instrument style sounds. Still, if I can make it brutal with couple of caps and resistors, why not :D.

    All the best!

  8. Karl

    Hi Jim – Loving the site and I have had the same key problems with my Jx8p’s. I had two of them with the same problems and I have since sold them, because they are high maintenance. I am also having the similar problems with my D50’s and have sold one of those, but can’t bring myself to let my last one go. The Jx8p is an amazing and powerful piece of gear that I miss, but it annoys me how most Roland synths seem to have keybed problems (infamous red epoxy). To keep these puppies working you have to play them weekly. On a side note, I have older Korg and Yamaha gear which seems to have aged better. It is great to see another keyboard player with a serious GAS problem 🙂 Keep up the good work. K

    1. Thanks Karl! You are absolutely correct about regular play with old vintage keyboards. One really does need to play them regularly in order to keep them alive and in top condition. I just bought another JX3P just this last week from a guy who was getting rid of it due to buying the newer Roland replacement. Unlike the JX8P, I’ve found the JX3P to be very reliable in all areas. The JX8P is still great though and I live it very much. I actually sold all of my D-50’s but kept my two D550 rack modules which work well. I also have one of the VariOS racks with the D50 card. It’s similar but I like it because in the mix it works fine, not to mention the hundreds of patches you can flip through quickly. It’s cool. Anyways, thanks for visiting my blog and posting your thoughts. Kind regards from Japan. – Jim

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