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Roland JD-800

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Roland JD-800

Manufacturer Roland
Dates 1991-1996
Price US$2,895
Technical specifications
Polyphony 24 voices using 1 tone.
6 voices using 4 tones.
Timbrality 5 + 1 Drum Part (61 note assignable)
Oscillator 3MB of PCM ROM with 108 waveforms + 1MB expansion
Synthesis type Digital Sample-based Subtractive
Filter Resonant multi-mode (lowpass, bandpass & highpass) referred to as TVF (Time Variant Filter)
Attenuator 3 multi-stage envelopes
Aftertouch Yes
Velocity sensitive Yes
Memory 64 patches, 256 KB RAM card
Effects Chorus, Delay, Distortion, EQ, Phaser, Reverb, Enhancer
Keyboard 61 Keys
Left-hand control Pitch, modulation
External control MIDI

The Roland JD-800 is a discontinued digital synthesizer. The synthesizer featured many knobs and sliders for patch editing and performance control - features which some manufacturers, including Roland, had been omitting in the name of 'streamlining' since the inception of Yamaha's DX-7. The JD-800 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 with this synthesizer, Roland intended to 'return to the roots of synthesis':


  • Technology 1
  • Editing and Playing 2
  • JD-990 3
  • Expandability 4
  • Notable Users 5
  • External links 6
  • Notes 7


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.[1]

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 key 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.[2]

Editing and Playing

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.[3] However, 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.


Roland released the JD-990 Super JD in 1993. This is an enhanced 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.

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

In 1993, Roland produced the JD-990 (or Super-JD), an expandable rackmountable version of the JD-800 with enhanced capabilities.

Notable Users

External links

  • Vintage Synth Explorer page
  • Harmony Central reviews
  • JD800Center -Fan page
  • JD-800 page at Dancetech
  • Retrosound - JD-800 info, demo and pics
  • JD-800 Info/pictures/sounds (Flemish/Dutch)
  • Convert JD-800 Sysex messages to CC messages
  • Polynominal JD800 manual, schematics and audio demos


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  2. ^
  3. ^
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