Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

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Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Infrasound » Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:01 pm

OK, obviously this is highly opinionated, but I've owned a V-Synth original and the more I play with it, the better I think it is, to the point where I'm quickly losing my 'I need one knob/slider per parameter' attitude, as the V-Synth is such a joy to use.

Essentially, I think Roland have encased a fairly sophisticated piece of synthesis/sampling/fx software inside a very functional and easy to use controller. Yes, there is software for PC/Mac that does more/has more power, but the interface through which the instrument is controlled (mouse/midi controller) does not allow the same level of movement around the instrument, nor the ease with which one can access various functions.

At the end of 2012, in a world dominated by colour touch screens all around us it's easy to see the V-Synth original screen as slightly primitive. There are no 'real-world physics' animated icons which ever so gracefully flick to the next screen, but this doesn't matter. Navigation is quick and easy. Between the touch screen, the data wheel, and the cursor/arrow buttons, so much navigation can be done so quickly in a number of different ways.

Plenty of real-time knobs and sliders, which are laid out in an standard easy to understand layout.
The simple way the structure of a patch can be viewed by looking at the lit up buttons next to the data wheel is also cleverly done.
The unassuming interface which gives the user a choice of ways to input data and control the instruments.

IMO the time trip pad takes up the most space, but I've personally not yet found as much gratification in this as it would appear to offer. This is something I need to explore more, but I'll reserve judgement until it provides either greater, or no more satisfaction.

I've always found D-beams to be a kind of twee thing, but it is useful to be able to assign parameters to be modulated in a different fashion to the standard knob/slider. Perhaps a slight self-consciousness at looking like a knob instead of turning one, but as a guitarist, it seems a keyboardists way of pulling off Hendrix style facial contortions.

As a VA I think the V-Synth is awful. I believe it shares the same V engine as the JP 8000, but IMO it sounds a lot worse. As a machine for manipulating samples, it still shines 10 years later. Yes, Melodyne may be 'more transparent', but Melodyne gives me RSI with all the clicking.

As an instrument which tries to bridge software and hardware the V-Synth is amazing. Add-on cards, which give a completely new (or old) synthesizer is a great idea. A few negatives are the slow loading projects, the quite stupid USB functionality (from what I remember most devices connecting via USB worked better than this), and the lack of support Roland provide for this, because there are newer and sexier V-Synths is in my eyes a wasted PR/feel-good opportunity.

Overall however, despite the protestations of the Jupiter 8 faithful, the V-Synth didn't just build on old technology, but tried something new. To a programming moron such as myself, who can actually understand some of the intricacies of this quite complicated synth is a small miracle itself. If only Roland could go one better, and continue to utilise and improve upon the point where the computer meets the musician, instead of trying to compete in the hyper-realistic/how many more string/trumpet players can we emulate/replace marketplace with Korg, they could retain customers with goodwill to spare. Instead, the smaller companies fill the gap, and while this is in no way at all a bad thing, companies like Roland can shift paradigms, and not just units. Unfortunately moeny appears to be their main focus, to the detriment of synthesis, and all they have done before.

Obviously they're a business, and they are tied intimately to shareholder happiness, but while companies like Korg may appear to throw a bone to the analogue loyalists, Roland seem only to want mass-market dominance. Maybe innovation is too expensive, but I hardly see the re-issue of 'classic analogue' sounds created with a VA engine in an instrument which does not appear to be setting the world on fire as a market winning strategy either.

It's a shame, because 10 years ago they were at the top of their game, and IMO had plenty more reserves of goodwill from loyal customers.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Phenom » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:11 pm

Interesting opinion, and the V synth is just wonderful. The detail in it's sounds is just stunning. I will have one one day.

On a similar note I got thinking recently about the JD800 and would like to propose that it was possibly the bravest thing Roland ever done.

Consider the time of it's launch, the M1 and latterly 01/w were dominating the pro synth market. Looking at the Korg synths one would have possibly learned these lessons for the pro synth market at the times.

Lots of patch memories
Have lots of multi-timbral parts
Have lots of multi-timbral memories
Have multiple banks of effects, lots of preset algorithms
Nobody programmes any more, a single data entry slider is enough for tweaking
Have a sequencer, workstation are where it's at
Nobody wants a dedicated performance synth anymore
Be strong on drum sounds
It's a numbers game on the spec sheets, get as many samples in as you can, the fidelity is less important
Analogue has been commercially dead for a decade, no one wants that interface anymore
Keep it mid-priced (the M1 was selling at £1000 in 1991, the 01/w had an RRP of £1800, with street price of about £1600. The JD800 launched with an RRP of £2400)

Considering all this, launching an expensive performance synth with a slightly compromised multi mode and an interface that looks alien to any synth player arriving after the DX7 was commercial madness. 6 note poly on the biggest sounds probably didn't do it any favours either. But whatever else, Roland deserves respect for remaining dedicated to the dedicated "big synth", the Jupiter 8, the JX10, the D50, the JDs, the Vsynth etc.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Hybrid88 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:38 pm

Yes, to the point where almost a decade on it is still the centre of my hardware rig. And I didn't like the direction they took with the GT, so here it stays. :D

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Infrasound » Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:57 pm

I looked at the GT and passed, instead getting the original, for a much more reasonable price.

I never understood why Roland scaled back the realtime control aspect on the GT.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by madtheory » Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:38 pm

In a way you actually have MORE real time control on the XT/GT. Another great feature is the built in Boss pedals. :)

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by _seph » Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:35 pm

I agree completely.

The V-Synth is without any doubt Roland's pinnacle achievement and arguably one of the greatest synthesizers ever conceived. It is unquestionably my "desert island" synth and comes closer to what I've envisioned as my dream instrument than anything else. It is too bad the GT just didn't quite go the direction I'd have liked to seen, had only they done more with APS and perhaps expanded their modeling technology. So close yet so far.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Sweep » Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:43 pm

I'm inclined to agree. I have the V-Synth XT, and it really takes off when you use your own samples.

`Grey Seal' on my website is a case in point. That whole track is basically various sea creatures turned into V-Synth patches. The raw sound of the grey seal at the beginning becomes a synth lead line, and there are frequency shifted whales and so on.

I also found I could go beyond remixes and do `replays' using the XT. I made a complete CD out of Nik Turner's twenty minutes or so of flute recorded in the Great Pyramid. Playing keys with the samples turned into patches allowed the original recording to open up into completely new areas.

I've also sampled an EMS Synthi A and also several software Synthis and created very useable EMS patches that do things an EMS Synthi can't do, and other new synth patches such as unheard FM stuff.

It also makes a great signal processor.
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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by vladimotor » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:57 am

I also prefer original V-Synth over GT, i don't give a rat's a*s about the flashy color screen, AP synthesis is nice, but the whole thing does not live up to the price tag. I also wish they did not abandon card add-ons after just two.
My only issue with V-Synth is that i always thought it should have had a third oscillator or at least a separate noise generator.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by _seph » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:13 pm

vladimotor wrote:...My only issue with V-Synth is that i always thought it should have had a third oscillator or at least a separate noise generator.
why stop at three? with the X-Y pad I would think four would be ideal. The Timetrip Pad could then double as a vector controller.

the greatest miss I see with the GT is that it just wasn't quite taken far enough. with Roland's COSM modeling and the new Articulate Phrase Synthesis they could have given birth to a new generation of Physical Modeling synth and that married to VariPhrase would have been incredible. imagine routing VariPhrase samples or the Vocal Designer through physically modeled resonators of all kinds and alongside the conventional virtual analog waveforms, having realtime brass, reed and string models to morph and modulate. Then if they had actually fully implemented APS and one could then apply those dynamics to such a fluid sound... and with its well thought out UI, editing/using PM could finally be manageable for the more general user versus the experience of a Z1 or EX5.

that would be my perfect synth and Roland essentially already possesses the tech to do it, but I somehow doubt that we will see another. anyway, with Physical Modeling and VariPhrase being perhaps my two favorite things.. this is my great lament as it was almost there...

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by sizzlemeister » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:53 am

Infrasound wrote:As a VA I think the V-Synth is awful. I believe it shares the same V engine as the JP 8000, but IMO it sounds a lot worse. As a machine for manipulating samples, it still shines 10 years later. Yes, Melodyne may be 'more transparent', but Melodyne gives me RSI with all the clicking.
I will agree with the intent of the thread, which is to praise the Vsynth. And, overall, I think your assessment and opinions are pretty fair.

Except the above quote.

It's pretty common to see people talking down the VA side of the Vsynth, but with all due respect, I think it's a pretty good VA.

The only thing different between all things on the Vsynth you praise, and its VA side, is the oscillators. And the VA oscillators sound good to me. Lots of detail and flexibility with them.

Just had to put my $.02 in on the oscillators. Carry on with the praise.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Black Tomorrow » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:50 am

vladimotor wrote:I also wish they did not abandon card add-ons after just two.
My only issue with V-Synth is that i always thought it should have had a third oscillator or at least a separate noise generator.
This.

The V-synth is an incredible machine that can do so much just by itself. The card add-on idea makes its potential nearly limitless... nearly any synthesis engine imaginable on a card that can interface with enough knobs/sliders/buttons to make anyone happy. Oh, well.

And yes, a 3rd oscillator would have been great.

But you can't have everything, right? The V-synth is still a wonderful machine. I've seriously downsized lately, and this is one of the few that I will not sell.
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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by shaft9000 » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:18 pm

the VA is good, but is clearly deficient at higher modulation speeds, and the filter resonance is pretty horrible approximation of analog.
the ringmod and x-mod/FM capabilities are pretty weak, too. yeah you can 'do it' technically, but I have yet to get very good sounds using them.

but that's not why you get a V-Synth.

few (no?) other boards lets me take one single sample of my voice and build a choir instantly; or get instantly-whacked up drums and rhythms.
it's a splendid controller, and while I'm not thrilled about D-Beam and time-trip - response can get choppy and positive/tactile feedback is nil - they're still effective, unusual mod sources that can shine in ways other input devces don't. you just have to search the sweet spots.

strange that it is so smooth and 'organic' sounding with samples, yet the VA/synth sounds aren't
i'd love to try a nord wave to compare, but i wouldn't want to be without the elasticity of the V even with the wave
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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by balma » Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:52 am

Best of my V-synth came with sampling experimentation. The formidable sampling capabilities are like open doors to new sounds. These rewards come only after years using it. I don´t see it as a VA. I see it as a synth really apart from others of its kind, if we can classify it as a VA.

IMO is a magnific piece of gear, designed to by one of its kind, its own animal. The sinergy between the variphrase sampler, patch organization, superb interface, designed in a really dedicated way, and a wide arrange of oscillator possibilities and its bizarra filter/effect section. The touchscreen, speeds the programmation process in a very friendly way.

V-synth is a beautiful synthesizer. Will NEVER ever get rid of it. Not the center of my setup. It´s just there.... love it.
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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Infrasound » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:43 pm

I just scored a VC-2 card and I'm further blown away by the power of this instrument.

I see plenty of people griping about Roland not producing analogue, but why should they when every man and his dog are doing so? My own opinion is that Roland should continue with developing the ultimate armour with ribbons and touch screens and knobs and faders, and develop the internal software in tandem. The V-Synth is revolutionary and I still think it's the best thing Roland ever did.

It is a real digital synth and anyone who says you should buy a computer instead because it's far more powerful is talking garbage. I would perhaps accept that argument for a DX7, but a V-Synth - no way.

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Re: Why the V-Synth is the best thing Roland ever did

Post by Hugo76 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:22 pm

Infrasound wrote:I just scored a VC-2 card and I'm further blown away by the power of this instrument.

I see plenty of people griping about Roland not producing analogue, but why should they when every man and his dog are doing so? My own opinion is that Roland should continue with developing the ultimate armour with ribbons and touch screens and knobs and faders, and develop the internal software in tandem. The V-Synth is revolutionary and I still think it's the best thing Roland ever did.

It is a real digital synth and anyone who says you should buy a computer instead because it's far more powerful is talking garbage. I would perhaps accept that argument for a DX7, but a V-Synth - no way.
Totally agree

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