It is well documented I am a music gear nerd. Every once in a while, I go back and dig out the manual for a piece of gear I have had for a while to get reacquainted with it and to spur new ideas for sounds and music. Last night, I cracked open the manual for the Roland V-Synth XT, which I’ve had for about 6 years now but haven’t really used that heavily.
I’m glad I did. I always thought the V-Synth sounded amazing, and I remember playing the keyboard version in the store when it was released. I liked how one could warp loops and samples using the touchpad, and I thought the overall sound of the machine was great. Then, Roland released the rackmount XT version which also includes a vocal modeling program as well as a D-50 model. I splurged and spent some of my signing bonus at Microsoft on the XT.
Last night I read the XT’s manual cover to cover and switched on the V-Synth to play with some of the features I read about. The effects section on this machine is amazing, with three distinct processors. There’s a multi-fx processor, a chorus/flanger, and a reverberator with flexible routing across the modules. The multi module has just about every effect you can think of plus some stacks, like phaser and delay in one program. The chorus sounds amazing and even approaches the richness of the Juno-60’s chorus. One of the oscillator types in the voice architecture is “external in,” so one can use the V-Synth as a fancy effects processor. Fancy in this case means up to four filters with envelopes/amplifier running into up to three powerful effects algorithms.
With a synthesizer of this complexity, it is easy to get overwhelmed with depth. But somehow Roland managed to keep it intuitive. The analog-style waveforms sound pretty good, and the VariPhrase/PCM oscillators have a great deal of depth. Some surprises to me were that the V-Synth has a built in sampler that actually seems more full featured than the dedicated samplers I have. You trade polyphony (e. g. 64 voices in the e6400/S5000) for the ability to play back sounds and change speed and/or pitch independently. There’s also this cool mode in which you set up a sample with specified temporal points and each successive key press steps to the next one – great for sampled beats.
While I was trying out some ideas on the V-Synth after reading in the manual, I stumbled upon the first limitation that made me feel a little disappointed. I was using the square wave oscillator and the LFO to modulate pulse width. Then, I wanted to route an LFO to pitch as well. I assumed there would be independent LFOs for each, but that isn’t the case. I thought there was just one LFO in the V-Synth’s voice! I reconciled this by thinking the Juno-60 which I love so much only has one LFO… but then I found that it turns out each section on the V-Synth has its own LFO. Each section also has its own ADSR envelope, key tracking, modulation… so yeah, it was way deeper than I imagined. Score!
The D-50 emulation in the V-Synth is also awesome. The D-50 was one of the first synths I lusted after in the late 1980s. While I don’t have room for another 61-key keyboard in my small room, the emulation in the V-Synth sounds just like the real thing, and it even is 100% programmable just like the D-50 using the PG-1000 programmer. I left the manual for this for another day, but it’s nice to know it’s sitting right there waiting to be rediscovered.
Also on the rediscovery pile is the manual for the Eventide H3000 D/SE. This effects processor has been a studio mainstay since the 1980s, and to me the sound even surpasses some of today’s modern processors. When I’m ready, I want to crack open MIDI control of this guy and see what ideas arise.Posted: December 28th, 2011 | Tags: gear | No Comments »