Roland JP-8000 Distorted Low Output and Repair

Roland JP-8000 Distorted Output
Roland JP-8000 Distorted Output

Recently I acquired a second Roland JP-8000 that actually was in like new condition, but it had a couple of output problems. The first was that the outputs L and R would no longer work, thus they were dead silent. In addition, the headphone jack would output a good signal but only up to level 6 or 7 and would then crackle or produce a loud distorted sound.

After some reading and research, I first changed the battery and did a memory reset. Nothing changed.

I then ordered and changed all of the OP AMPS on the Jack Board and Board B. Something changed! I now started to get output out of my L and R jacks but only to a level of 2 or 3. I also began getting some very bad distortion at higher levels that was very erratic. The OP AMP replacement seemed to have brought the jacks back to life but only to a point.

Thus I’m still faced with having a JP-8000 that doesn’t really produce any useable output. My next step is to replace the caps. I’ve read that replacing the caps on the Jack board didn’t fix much anything with others who had the same problem. However, I did find that if you change the caps on the Main Board, it does apparently fix the output distorted issue. I am now in search of the replacement caps as shown in the photo attached to the article.

It appears the Roland JP-8000 is one of those synths that is doomed to have some major failures as it ages. Not all synths are like this as some age better than others. I’d say pretty soon we’re going to see more Roland JP-8000 synths on the used market broken. Most likely they are going to have the distorted output problem. Note the JP-8080 rack version uses different caps and components than the JP-8000 which maybe is a hint that Roland knew the components used in the JP-8000 were not all that great. The Roland JP-8080 is pretty rock solid and I would recommend that over the JP-8000 if you are looking to invest in this particular synth.

In any event, once I make some progress on the Roland JP-8000, I’ll update this post. Also note that this again is my second Roland JP-8000. I have another in perfect working order which I may use to swap out boards to try and 100% isolate the problematic board. I did this with a couple of Roland Juno-2 synths I had which saved a huge amount of detective work. That certainly would help great in finding the problem with the distorted outputs on the JP-8000.

Stay tuned!!

Dual Boss RC-300 Loop Stations

Dual Boss RC-300 Loop Stations
Dual Boss RC-300 Loop Stations

This week I found another Boss RC-300 at an old secondhand shop in Nagano-city. I actually use my first Boss RC-300 quite extensively and probably will never sell it unless something better comes along. Although I love the RC-505 Loopers, you can’t effectively use it with your feet. So the Boss RC-300 is still “the Boss” for the floor..laugh. What I wanted to do was understand better how to sync the two RC-300 Loop Stations together as explained in the manual. After working with the pair for about an hour I discovered some important points about this setup.

Most importantly is, YES, two RC-300 Loop Stations sync perfectly when setup exactly as indicated in the manual. Set the slave to sync via midi and make sure the Sync All Start/Stop is set to Start/Stop. Also make sure of course that your midi cables are setup properly with the Master out going to the Slave in. You only need one connection from the Master to the Slave.

One MAJOR omission from the manual is that you cannot have the master in “Singular Track Mode”. Singular Track Mode is where you run each of the three tracks in singular fashion rather than layering them. The reason is that when you press the “All Start/Stop” on the Master, it will NOT start the Slave RC-300. You must have it in Layer “Multi” Mode and THEN it will start the Slave RC-300. Now the Slave RC-300 can either be in Track or Layer Mode. It doesn’t matter which, so this is nice as you can then use the slave for your Track Mode if necessary.

On the other hand, you CAN set the Master to Singular Track Mode and it will send the midi clock signal to the slave RC-300. It just won’t start playing any of the tracks. This isn’t a problem if you don’t mind starting the tracks on your own. If you then press “all stop” on the Master, it will successfully stop all tracks.

Basically, my initial plan was to put three different drum loops on the Master RC-300. I then wanted one Bass Loop running on the Slave. I wanted the Track 1 drums to start and have the Track 1 bass start at the same time, however this won’t work as the Master RC-300 is in Singular Track Mode. If I set it to Multi Mode, then all three drum tracks will start playing along with the Track 1 Bass on the Slave. So I basically have to start the drums and THEN step over and start the Track 1 of the Slave if I want it to work my way. Indeed it all will be in perfect sync but it literally means I have to add an extra step…laugh.

Everything else so far works great and MUCH better than trying to sync a Boss RC-50 with the RC-300.

Stay tuned for further updates as I research this setup a bit more.

Nord Lead 2 OS v1.06 Upgrade

Nord Lead 2 v1.06 Chip
Nord Lead 2 v1.06 Chip

Wow! Long time no post!

I picked up a used Nord Lead 2 this week in Japan. They are VERY cheap in here compared to the States, so I’ve been lucky to now have three in my arsenal. I happen to really like the Nord Lead 2 the best actually which I’ll probably explain in a later post. The latest OS version is 1.06 while the oldest is v1.03 if correct. I have two synths on v1.06 but this latest NL2 came with the old v1.03. I found out that the chip used with the version 1.03 NL2 was an ST M27C4001 DIP32 chip made in Singapore. The v1.06 chips are AMD AM27C040 DIP32 chips made in Malaysia. I decided to rip both the v1.03 and v.106 OS to create .bin backup files. I then proceeded to erase the v1.03 EPROM chip using a UV Light Eraser. I was then successfully able to burn a new v1.06 chip using my MiniPro IC chip burner which has been working fantastic. I’ve burned so many chips with that thing. Upon powering up the Nord Lead 2, I was able to see the v1.06 version pop up onto the screen. After testing the sounds, everything seemed to work great. To order a chip from someone with the latest v1.06 OS on Ebay would have cost me about $50 plus a week or two of waiting. I found swapping the OS versions using the original chip worked out great. I highly recommend investing in an IC Chip Burner and UV Light eraser. It really makes updating, programming, and working with your own IC chips much easier and of course less expensive.

By the way, I’m back on the blog front after a nine month hiatus attempting to move my “growing” family from Japan back to the United States. After several setbacks and a few turn of events, I’ve decided to stay put in Japan. I’m so very glad to be out of the job search and agony of deciding whether to move or not. Ultimately I decided to follow the idea that if you’re life ain’t broken, the stop trying to fix it…laugh. Now I’m happily back into music stronger than ever.

Hope to respond to comments and add new posts regularly from May. Thanks everyone for the continued support and viewing of my blog. – Jim

The Original Korg RK-100 in RED!

Jamming on the original Korg RK-100 in red. I bought this about a year ago and I love it. There is a new RK-100s out, but I actually like the original because of the three mod wheels. I am running the Korg RK-100 through a Korg EX-800 which originally was also paired with the RK-100 when released in the 80’s. They make a terrific analog synth combo and I think it sounds great. In this video I recorded some drums and EX-800 loops into the Boss RC-300 on the floor. I then created a custom EX-800 patch for the jam. The RK-100 size, weight, and shape are just perfect for me. Yes, some might think the RK-100 is heavy, but coming from working with a Gibson Les Paul Custom for some years, it’s definitely much lighter than a Les Paul. I don’t mind having a bit of weight on my shoulders anyway. I’ll upload more videos over the next couple of weeks with the original RK-100 from Korg. I’m still a tiny bit rusty with it.

Here is the Korg RK-100 and Korg EX-800 in my studio.

Yamaha TG500 Tone Generator 1992

Yamaha TG500 Tone Generator
Yamaha TG500 Tone Generator

The Yamaha TG500 I recently picked up is turning out to be one great little sound module. If correct it was originally released in 1992 and was used on quite a bit of records during the 90’s. In particular I am very fond of the drum kits so far. They are really punchy and loud. I also like the fact that they are not setup in GM fashion. What I mean is the sounds are spread across the keys in a way that it’s much easier to play drums with. I also found that many of the keys had similar adjacent sounds which helped to vary the feel when tapping with your fingers. It just seems that whenever I “feel like” hitting a certain key, a relevant drum sound is attached to it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it seems the drum kits were very carefully laid out across the keys to enhance finger jamming. Much is the same with the Yamaha RM-50 drum module from the same time period.

The synth sounds overall are very good. The pads in particular are fantastic. Lately I’ve been using the TG500 in multi-mode with the Roland Fantom X6 and find the editing is pretty easy. In fact you just press edit and you can scroll to the left or right to find the parameter you need to edit very easily. I can also edit the parameters in more detail using a program like MidiQuest which works perfectly. Both Performance and Voice modes offer a healthy selection of both musical and useful patches. Overall I’m pretty pleased with the module and I highly recommend it if you are looking for some classic yet still useful sounds.

Roland Lucina AX-09 Keytar Synthesizer

Roland Lucina AX-09 Keytar
Roland Lucina AX-09 Keytar

A couple of days ago I was in a local music store here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. While paying for a guitar pedal, the Zoom MS-70CDR, I turned around and saw two brand new Lucina AX-09’s for $250 on Sale for New Years. What caught my eye other than the price was the black model. I immediately liked it. I’ve always been a big fan of keytars but never really jumped on the Lucina because I wasn’t particularly fond of the white color. I also already had the Roland AX-7 in white and didn’t want to double up on color.

I then asked why so cheap, and the sales manager said they didn’t sell well and were getting rid of them. I said even the black one? He replied that the black one had always been in the back room. The white one was always on display which might explain why. He didn’t say if Roland would stop making them, but he definitely said people at least in his circle were not buying. So I bought the last black one.

I brought it home and I’m extremely happy with it. The sounds are decent, but it’s the midi out that was important to me so that I could connect to external sound modules. The weight was perfect for me too plus the smaller size body is great. Having the Lucina battery powered with on board sounds makes it fun to roam the house or studio while practicing. A lot of people don’t like the USB stick gimmick but I actually think it’s useful for throwing on a sampled track and jamming to it. Or you can music minus one a track on a song you’re creating and work out some solid lead lines on the go.

Also, if you’re into the loop thing with the Boss RC-300 or RC-505 for example, you can easily record tracks while quickly being able to get the Lucina on and off your shoulders. Or you can easily set it on a stand if you have quick strap locks.

Note that I also have and use a Roland AX-7, Korg RK-100, and a Yamaha KX-5. I don’t like the weight of the KX-5 at all really and it’s a bit tiny for my big hands. The AX-7 is nice but a little big and VERY squeaky. The plastic noise drives me nuts and it doesn’t feel very solid. The Korg RK-100 hands down is the best experience I’ve ever had with a keytar. The problem is that they are ultra hard to find and expensive generally if you do, so I don’t recommend it…laugh. Oh boy, the RK-100 is great though if you find one. I’m also a guitar player and the RK-100 is the closest to the feeling of a real guitar with the wooden body, weight, and all.

Here are is how I use and have my Lucina AX-09 setup.

1. I have the DBeam set to “CC66 ( SOSTENUTO)” so that I can hold notes and play over the top of them. I actually found I don’t use the DBeam too much but when I do that works the best for me. Any other effect and it doesn’t really quite work so well. I also found if you use something like volume it adjust the volume and I can’t get it back to normal without a patch change. I may be doing some wrong or there could be a firmware bug. Not sure. For now, the Sostenuto control is perfect.

2. The Modulation bar I have set to both Sustain and Modulate. This works best for me in that it sustains better the notes and modulation is subtle so it’s there but not overly noticeable. The sustain trails a tiny bit which is nice to so you can quickly modulate like on those electro funk tracks and it works great.

3. The Favorites section and save 12 patches. It’s actually quite easy to adjust parameters such as attack, release, etc and save them to the favorite section.

4. I attach a foot pedal for an additional Sostenuto effect control. If I can reach the DBeam, I can use my foot which works great. I sometimes change this to hold instead of Sostenuto if I need that effect. There is a dedicated filter and pitch effect for the DBeam so I don’t need to assign those to anything.

5. Midi Out works great, so you can plug the Lucian into virtually any sound module. I wouldn’t have bought it without a MIDI OUT function most definitely.

6. The sound on the Lucina have been hand picked from the collection of sounds found in the Roland AX synth. I actually feel Roland did an excellent job of selecting the better sounds and even included a bit more sounds on the synth side than the AS Synth. Thus I am very happy with the on board sounds.

7. The USB Wav/MP3 playback function works fantastic. You can alter the volume of the patch to mix it well with the Wav file. No, you can seamlessly switch to the next song, nor can you rewind to a certain section. However, for straight up jamming and playing along with a song it works very well. I use Audacity to copy and past a loop for about 10 minutes. Then I add the backing tracks to a 4GB memory stick. Works great!!

8. The key action feels like a Roland. The keys are relatively easy to play fast on, but for some reason my hand gets a bit tired after while. Perhaps the keys are a bit stiff, not sure. The keys are decent though, so no worries.

9. There is no Software editor, but you can edit patches on the AX-09 itself ok and save to a favorite. I find I only need to adjust volume, release, and reverb or delay. I don’t find the cutoff or resonance work too well adjusting with DBeam or pedal so I just dial that in manually if I need to make changes.

10. The size and weight is perfect for me. I also find the Sparkle Black color to be fairly cool and sexy for a keytar. It plays nicely on a stand and it’s quite easy to strap on with the included strap that Roland provided. Strap locks can be attached if needed. The Lucina runs on batteries and has a good head phone jack. It’s a great synth for walking around back stage to practice different sections or for just warming up.

The not so bad CONS for the Roland Lucina AX-09 are as follows:

1. No keyboard split. You can do this with the sound module so it’s not that much of a problem. For example with the Roland XV5080 you can program splits easily. If you use a decent sampler you can trigger samples too. Note that the Lucina does not have LOCAL OFF, so you need to switch your volume off to trigger samples which can easily be done with the foot pedal, volume know, or DBeam.

2. No Midi In. This is minor as I really don’t need to trigger sounds externally, however it might have been nice for programming.

3. Some people might wish for more patch storage but then again that can depend on your sound module.

4. It would have been nice to have a dedicated sustain button on the back of the neck like on the AX Synth and all my other keytars, but using the modulation bar, foot pedal, or DBeam is at least an option versus nothing at all.

5. Some people might be turned off by the loop around grip which might cause them to get their hand stuck. However, I haven’t had this issue at all really and it just means one has to get creative a bit. The current design does work pretty well I think.

I’m very happy with the Roland Lucina AX-09. I’m glad I bought it and probably only did because of the price and black color. If you are looking for a reasonable priced controller to jump around with and look good, I think the AX-09 will work great.

Here’s a good basic demo of the Roland Lucian AX-09 black version.

Roland JX-3P Synthesizer Delight

Roland JX-3P Synthesizer
Roland JX-3P Synthesizer

This month I picked up a used Roland JX-3P with PG-200 programmer pictured in the photograph above. The JX-3P Synthesizer is an absolute sweet synth to work with. When I pulled it out of the case, I noticed it was rather light weight which was a nice surprise. The Roland JX-8P which I also have is rather large and heavy. I found the PG-200 Programmer to be built very solid and it had a kind of magnetic base to it which allowed it to adhere to the top of the JX-3P nicely. Overall, the Roland JX-3P is a very solid and cool looking retro synthesizer with the colorful red, blue, and green stripes.

What I absolutely love about the synth is the on board sequencer. It has 16 steps and it’s extremely simple to program cool basslines, melodies, and all sorts of arpeggiator like grooves. In fact, the JX-3P does not have an arp, BUT I find the sequencer is almost better because you can program your own. You can also transpose the sequencer up and down the keyboard using the transpose button. You simply have to press down on this button while hitting a key to trigger the sequencer in a different key. Sure it’s one extra step and may requires an extra hand, but otherwise it works exactly like an arp. Another brilliant aspect about the sequencer is that while it’s running you can solo or play notes over the top of the sequence. You can’t change or adjust the sound without affecting the sequence, but it is musical and useful enough to have the ability to play over the top of the sequence. Oh boy, is it fun too!

Another great feature is the LFO trigger which is not quite close to the keys, but still manageable. You can adjust the LFO parameters using the PG-200 and then press the LFO trigger wherever you want the effect applied. There is an on board chorus which sounds great as well. There looks to be a whole bunch of other interesting features I’ve yet to experiment. Overall the Roland JX-3P is a joy to play and dare I say a bit more fun than my Juno synths including the Juno-60. If you sync a drum machine with the JX-3P via the Sequencer trigger input and jam over the top of your sequence on the JX-3P, you can create some really great 80’s Italo Disco oriented grooves with ease while only using one synth!! Couple the JX-3P with either a JX-8P, Juno, or other analog synth an you have a nice setup indeed.

If you are into Analog synths, I highly recommend the Roland JX-3P. I definitely recommend the JX-3P over the MKS-30 module because it doesn’t have the voice chip issues that the MKS-30 and Juno synths have. In additon, I do feel the PG-200 is required to get the most out of this synth and it raises the fun factor as well. If I had a choice between the JX-3P and the Juno-106, I think I’d take the JX-3P. The reason is that while the Juno-106 might be better in sound slightly, the JX-3P with the sequencer just adds more “stuff” to work with in a musical performance. In fact, the JX-3P with the sequencer reminds me more of my Roland SH-101 than anything else in functionality but without the tuning issues I often deal with on the Sh-101.

The Roland JX-3P is a solid performer with a lot to offer. If you are looking for an old Roland analog synth that is fun, versatile, retro looking, and overall a good sounding synth, then you can’t go wrong with owning a Roland JX-3P. Snap one up while you can because I honestly feel these are getting harder to get and the prices will likely rise.

Here’s a great video showcasing what the Roland JX-3P is capable of. The Roland JX-3P simply ROCKS!!