Quick guide: MIDI Sysex Automation on Roland Boutique JX-03

Roland JX03 front PanelI bought a JX-03 on the night of Oct. 22. Today I finally had a chance to test this. Here’s what I found:

The knobs send MIDI System Exclusive data (sysex) only while the unit is in chain mode. The device will respond to sysex regardless of whether it is in chain mode.

Unfortunately, MIDI data coming in on the Roland’s input seems to always be repeated at the output. So to set this unit up with your DAW, you must:

  1. Set the DAW to filter out notes that come from the Roland. This prevents an endless loop of note data.

  2. Set the DAW to not echo MIDI data to the Roland while recording. This will prevent an endless loop of sysex data while recording.

  3. Put the unit into chain mode when you want to transmit knob movements. Take the unit out of chain mode when you want to play back normally, without the risk of notes being missed.

If you wish to record tweaking on top of tweaking (i.e. play with the filter cutoff on one take, then play with the envelope on another take), you must either:

  • “mute” the sysex that you recorded first pass. Otherwise, its data will be recorded will be re-recorded with the knobs on the second pass. This is not ideal, because you won’t be able to hear the initial tweaks while you record the next tweaks.
  • OR

  • don’t mute the sysex that you recorded on the first pass. The data will be duplicated in the recording of the second pass. After you have recorded the second pass, delete the data from the first pass (or else it will be playing back twice). This is not ideal, because the initial tweaking may not have identical timing when re-recorded into your sequencer.

So… the answer is … yes, you can automate the front panel controls from your external MIDI sequencer, but there are a few annoyances. I did my testing on the JX-03, but it is reasonable to assume my findings will apply to the JU-06 and the JP-08 as well.

I hope post more details, with a demo video of how to do this with Logic, in the future.

6 thoughts on “Quick guide: MIDI Sysex Automation on Roland Boutique JX-03

    • Thanks for asking – Yes I do still plan to make a video, but I got busy with a few projects. I’ll try to put something together soon.

      Rather than use this kludgy solution, I’d prefer for Roland to polish up the firmware in these synths. Besides poly chain on and off, I’d like to see a third mode called “MIDI Automation” in which the knobs send data, but the synth does not echo data from its MIDI in to MIDI out. One can hope.

  1. Have solved the issue by part for my live rig using an ipad mini+midi interface (irig2) and tbmidistuff. This way i create a loop with my sending gets the midi cc translated into sysex by tbmidistuff which is then latched onto the incoming note-information on another midichannel by sending it to the same channel on the midi device the note information is being sent from, thus creating a loop, in which the sysex is latched onto the midi. it is still far from perfect with certain timing issues in the begginning and a not very responsive automation, but it DOES work.

  2. Great news! I have tested Roland’s new “System Program 1.10″ for the JX-03, which was released last week. It allows the JX-03 (and other Boutique synths) to send and receive MIDI controller data for their front-panel parameters.

    I have tested this with my JX and it does work. The details are somewhat scattered through Roland’s support documents, so I plan to post a quick tutorial. In the meantime I can confirm that it works.

    One caveat remains: all MIDI data received at the Boutique’s MIDI IN (DIN) port is echoed to MIDI OUT. This means that if you connect to your sequencer / DAW via old-school MIDI (as I prefer to do), twisting a knob will create a data feedback loop! Fortunately, its USB MIDI does not exhibit this annoying behaviour, so that’s the way to go, but it does mean you need to Roland’s drivers on your computer – something that I have resisted until now.

    More soon!

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