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edited about 2 years ago
3P + Programmer = Pure Joy
TLDR: I'm fortunate enough to also own a Jupiter 6, a Juno 60, and a pair of SH-101s, but the JX-3P has been my favorite of the lot for many years. It'll fill in the midrange of your arrangement in a way that fits effortlessly and it rewards absent-minded knob twiddling with a diverse palette of funky strings, pads, organs, and lush atmospheric tones... more so than even the (more robust, but more architecturally-constrained) Juno 6/60/106 or the (far more powerful, but with narrower sweet spots) Jupiter 6.
(I can't speak for the Jupiter 8 in this regard, but you could buy at least 14 pairs of 3Ps + PG-200s at the Jupiter 8's current market value)
The First Date: At my Craigslist-facilitated visit to the seller's home, I loved the 3P from the first keypress, but when I got my new prize back to my place, it (initially) sounded a bit anemic when compared directly to the Juno 60. A lot of this can be pinned on the very modest presets it ships with, but the fact remains that the 3P just doesn't have the soaring highs, window-shaking lows, nor quite the same fluid musicality of the 6/60's oscillators and filter. Sadly, and stupidly, the 3P was relegated to my "to sell" pile shortly thereafter. I'm guessing many buyers/owners were originally turned off by similar expectation-laden comparisons to it's (physically) larger Roland siblings. The Jupiters and Juno 6, 60, and 106 set the bar for entry-level analog polysynths pretty damn high.
So why did I rescue the 3P from the pile and give it a second chance? Well, someone on the internet opined that the anonymous(ish) folks behind Drexcyia, Arpanet, Elektroids, etc feature JX-3P all over their releases, and those acts definitely had my respect. I was shocked to hear this synth I had deemed to be "too anemic" was a go-to for a bunch of acts that certainly had a good arsenal of analog classics at their disposal. I plugged the 3P back in listened with fresh ears. I stopped waiting for "those Juno tones" to appear and just listened to what was there: which is a whole lot, with it's own inimitable vibe... and with a hell of a lot less historical baggage.
So What's this synth like in use?
Analogy 1: If the Juno 6/60/106 and Jupiter 6/8 can "sing" well across the bass, baritone, tenor, countertenor, etc ranges, one could say the JX-3P does it's best work in the upper baritone and tenor ranges, a "lighter" voice, but no less essential, and it can give you far more within the limits of this range than the aforementioned synths can (the David Byrne to the Juno's Roy Orbison). That said, I LOVE some of the basses I've made on the 3P, basses I can't duplicate on any of my other synths, and it's "high highs" are pleasing, they're just not as crisp and/or screeching as the Junos and Jupiters. Boo-hoo... must every instrument do everything?
Analogy 2: In guitar-land, Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters were the only 6 string Fenders the market consistently wanted until the late-80s/early 90s grunge and college rock boom(s). Guitarists started picking up old, funky Jazzmasters, Jaguars, and Mustangs in a search for something a little left of center (and cheaper). Nobody is going to tell you that a Jaguar can do everything a Strat can... but those "offset" fenders have returned to production and desirability because they offer a unique feel, sound, and tonal palette relative to the ubiquitous chocolate and vanilla of Strat and Tele. The 3P is like a Jaguar to the Juno's Telecaster and the Jupiter's Stratocaster: a little more comfortable to play, a little smaller, more funky switches and sound shaping potential (compared to a Telecaster, at least). And, like the Jaguar, it's comparatively lacking some of the overall power in the highs and lows, but not in an unpleasant/unmusical way... it's just a less "weighty" sounding instrument, but this lightness let's more of the synth's ragged, primitive, digitally-slaved analog character come through.
In Use: Whenever I'm twiddling the 3P, the world is a wonderful place.
With the PG programmer, the ergonomics of this instrument are so on-point. I remember reading years back that Legowelt felt the 3P+PG-200 had the best layout of all the synths in his museum-sized arsenal... thus far, I have to agree. Having everything you need tidily organized all in the right hand corner is ergonomically convenient. It's also worth noting that the 3P is probably 75% as big as a Juno 60 (which is huge, too huge) and probably not even half as heavy. The 3P is, for me, the prefect size for a 61 key polysynth.
Sonically, this thing came out the same year the DX7 started taking over the world, so it's got (among other interesting touches) a "metal" setting for the cross mod control, which (I believe) is someone's attempt to enable some DX/Synclavier/PPG-style chime within the classic Roland analog palette. Thankfully, the 3P fails miserably at sounding anything like the DX7 or any of the other early digital synths. (analogy alert!) If the DX7 is the TI Graphing Calculator of synths, the 3P is more like a TI Speak & Spell: much simpler, more colorful, and more charming... and the 3P is definitely that much more fun and approachable than the DX synths... in fact, with the PG-200 attached, I find it more fun and easier to get lost in (the good kind of lost) than any other instrument I've lived with. Similar to the Junos, it has a wide sweet spots that ensure things never really sound all that wrong/abrasive, but with it's 2 oscillator per voice architecture (Juno's are just 1-per) you've got a bigger box of crayons to work with... those crayons may be a bit smaller a little more muted than the Juno's big bold primary reds, blues, and yellows, but you can explore the joys of detuned oscillator pairs AND a bucket of classic Roland chorus at the same time: timbres a Juno inherently just can't produce... and let's not forget that none of the Jupiters of this era have built-in analog chorus. Yes, I'm grossly over-simplifying what makes the 3P unique; you'll just have to try one.
Also, while I have nothing against them, I currently have no interest in the later JX-8P/10. I'm sure they're great string/pad synths, but in my experience, they don't have the rough-edged, slightly unpredictable tonal charm of the 3P. The first JX (the 3P) is my pick of the litter for the JX product line: it always gives back a little more than you put into it.
Consider This: Every knob position on a Juno 6/60 or 106 is electronic music history, some artist's classic patch from some classic track... this can often be a great thing, there's a reason everyone used one, but I sometimes struggle to forget all about the weight of that history and just serve the music I'm trying to make in-the-moment. You'll have no such historical struggles with the 3P; it plays/mixes beautifully with all Roland gear of that era, but every new patch I dial-in feels like it's my own voice, filtered through a lot of classic Roland flavoring... which is pretty much what I was hoping for when I bought it.
I was so happy to see Roland include the lesser-known 3P in it's initial trio of "Boutique" hardware reissues. I read a majority of the pro and end-user review of those Boutique boxes, and a surprising # of people from both camps said that the 3P was their favorite of the 3. When going head to head with great DSP-reproductions of a holy grail Juno 60 and Jupiter 8, the lowly, less-famous, less-soaring, less-bass-quaking 3P was the one that kept getting the nod as the reviewer's personal favorite of the 3... think about that for sec...
So... If you want a Juno, get a Juno. If you want a 2-OSC Juno 6/60, maybe get a Jupiter 8 (not the 4 or 6, but that's a different review). And if you want a bone-simple, approachable, inspiring, funky, 2-OSC polysynth from a different, forgotten planet within the same early-80s Roland universe, go 3P + PG-200 (or Boutique JX-03, or Roland Cloud JX-3P VST) and never look back.
still very much underrated, for me the jx-3p is one of the nicest affordable analog synths for creating spaced out pad and string sounds. it sounds a lot "cleaner" than e.g. a juno-60 or korg polysix but still organic and vital. the two DCOs are very stable compared with the VCOs of the JUNO, the filter is not as aggressive and dirty as that of a juno or jupiter - so the synth is always a bit more controlled and precise. though it sounds cleaner, you can still do a lot of hypnotic stuff by detuning the oscillators. a perfect machine for warm glowing aphex twin-ish ambient pads.
another big plus is the easy to use built-in step sequencer, so it works great with the usual tr-606/808 setup.
the additional PG-200 controller ist strongly recommended, this gives you direct access to all parameters.
edited almost 2 years ago
Good even without the programmer.
I've only had this synth for a few weeks, so I still have some exploring to do, but let me talk about a few things that I have come to know already. 1. YOU DO NOT NEED THE PG-200 PROGRAMMER TO MAKE CUSTOM SOUNDS. I bought this with the expectation of buying the PG-200 down the road, but ended up realizing how much I don't need it. Want to edit the release? Hit Bank B, then number 16 and book you have a very nice slider to edit the parameter with. Don't believe anyone that says its useless without the programmer. 2. It's beautiful. The classic bright 80's colors that line it, make it a charmer. 3. It's 1/3 the price of a Juno, with 2x the oscillators. While I love the Juno, and would have one if I wasn't so poor, the JX-3P definitely feels the void for that vintage roland sound. 4. The polyphonic sequencer is so nice and useful.
BUY ONE :)
Despite its shortcomings in the vintage synth market, this piece of music history is nothing but amazing analog. Its like having an even more powerful juno despite not being able to program it without the pg 200. Fat basses, smooth pads and sharp electrical leads. It really can do it all. Lack of an arpeggiator is a disappointment but for everything else this synth can do, its a fine loss. Ignore the reviews of juno only players, having heard both the jx and the juno 106 side by side they both have their own pros and cons (a juno 60 sounds better than both of them however), but the jx seems to sound more present. The juno uses chorus to pump up its sound but the jx's second oscillator per voice really thickens up the sound in all the best ways. One thing great about it as well is it has no reliability issues if treated right. Great synth overall for many types of sounds. Worth it to get the kiwi upgrade as the midi implementation is awful, which is one solid reason you don't see this synth in many modern studios.
Great 6-voiced polysynth
Good filters and does more than the box tells it to. Has that nice Roland sound of the eighties. I use it often for arps as it has a sequencer with a trigger-input, but it works just as well for organ, brass and sometimes bass-patches.