Yamaha VL1/VL7

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
ZeeOne
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2005 2:52 am
Gear: Just guitars for now
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by ZeeOne » Sat May 25, 2013 6:47 am

Anyone have any knowledge or experience with these? I don't see a page for them on the Explorer. They seem to be rare and are centered around recreating wind instrument sounds, but if the sound is editible (is that even a word?), then I'll bet you could get sound really otherworldly stuff out of these - especially using the wind controller. They kinda look cool, too, almost like baby workstations as they've only got 49 keys...more of a specialized instrument than a main board, I guess...

User avatar
meatballfulton
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5774
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:29 pm
Gear: Live 9, Logic Pro X

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by meatballfulton » Sat May 25, 2013 4:05 pm

I used to own the PLG150VL expansion board for the Motif ES. That was a watered down version of the VL engine.

Yamaha also made the VL70m module which sits somewhere between the VL7 and PLG150-VL in capabilities. You can find lots of info about it at Patchman Music and SoundOnSound.

Image

There's a reason physical modeling didn't take off, it's even weirder than FM although in other ways it's very intuitive. You can do both wind and string modeling, you select a source (string, reed, etc.) resonators (pipe, instrument body, etc.) and then manipulate those. Want to create a violin using a piano as the body, go ahead. Create a flute with a conical bore? Go ahead.

If you know how to play a wind instrument and use a wind or breath controller it's very responsive to your playing but the sounds are not that realistic (compared to samples, for instance). Creating synthetic sounds that respond like real wind instruments is really the strongest suit. The string modeling is good for making interesting bass and pad sounds. Polyphony is limited to 1 or 2 voices (there was a super rare poly model that only made it to prototype stage).
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

User avatar
philip
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 615
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 6:52 pm
Real name: Philip
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by philip » Sat May 25, 2013 4:33 pm

I know one dude in Japan who's selling his VP1 for 35000$

User avatar
CS_TBL
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1677
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:47 pm
Gear: All "In-The-Box"
Mainly FM8
Location: NL
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by CS_TBL » Sat May 25, 2013 5:43 pm

I've a VL70m, and while it is technically as reactive as a real instrument, its sound is nowhere near the quality of today's samples. In fact, it isn't even near the quality of yesterday's samples. There are five reasons I think it's not really an alternative if you want realistic brass/wind.

1) Playing it requires you to use a breath controller, or else the sound will remain to be as flat as coin. People who aren't wind players will be out of breath soon enough, their lungs just aren't up to that. I know, because I've tried. In fact, when I'm in a tough deadline, working the nights, I'd hate to have to record myself over and over again just because I'm not blowing the thing in a convincing/realistic way. Yes, samples are static, yet I'll live with that - especially considering their quality these days.

2) Its models are basic. It models the reed, or brass mouth piece, it models the pipe, but that's all quite academic blah. I don't get the impression the actual body of the instrument is modelled as well. Put differently: when I hear a VL70m I don't feel I'm listening to someone playing an instrument. When it was released, back in the early 90's, it was easy to be impressed by it: unique attacks, 'flurries' between notes (iirc Roland's Supernatural engine is promoted by demonstrators with the word 'fluries') and over-blowing. In the days of static low-memory ROMplers that was a unique selling point. These days, there are alternatives, or put simply: our harddisks are so huge that people 'just' sample the living daylights out of a real instrument and be complete.. who cares it's 50 GB for 1 flute, who really cares?

3) related to 2: I miss the mechanical noise. Playing a trill on wood winds usually results in audible flaps flapping the holes. I miss realistic breath noises by the player. And whatever breath-noise there is (e.g. with the saxes) sounds rather synthetic and lifeless.

4) If you model an instrument, then you still lose the effect if you don't model a performer as well. What it should've had was an intelligent way to simulate a player so that keyboard players could play the way they want to play, without having to become a semi-wind player. E.g. it should have complete attack-decay-sustain curves (that would be slightly randomized each time) that would be adjusted real-time based on velocity, pitch and previous note. It should have had similar tables for trills, (de)crescendos, automatic progressive vibratos, automatically cutting of when going out of air, etc.

5) If its models had been correct then the pitch range would have to have been limited rather than offering full range piccolos and tubas. This emphasizes point 2: it's just technically a model, it's not the actual instrument.
Last edited by CS_TBL on Sun May 26, 2013 6:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
"You know I love you, CS, but this is bullshit." (Automatic Gainsay)
s: VSL/FM8/EWQL/LASS h: DX7/FS1r/VL70/SY77/SN2r/JD800/JD990/XV88/Emu6400/Poly61/Amek35:12:2/genelec1030 r: Violin/AltoSax/TinWhistle c: i7-4770/RAM32GB/SSD
FM8 vids

User avatar
balma
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 2847
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:52 pm
Real name: Mauricio
Gear: DSI Tempest/Prophet 08/Roland V-Synth/Ensoniq Fizmo/E-mu MP7-XL7/Electribe ESX1/Radias/Waldorf MicroQ
Location: Costa Rica

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by balma » Sun May 26, 2013 12:33 am

The EX5 has a VL engine plus many other types fo synthesis. I´ve kept the EX5 during 10 years only for the VL engine. You can specify several parameters depending of the nature of the instrument. I agree it requires a lot of practice and a wind controller to play it properly.
His sex dungeons are rumored to hold hundreds of people in secret locations around the world.
https://soundcloud.com/balma

TxSynthMan
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:02 am
Gear: Prophet 5, Pro One, Virus TI2, Little Phatty, Juno 106, Prophet 12, Kurzweil PC3X, Yamaha EX-5R, MPC 2500, Yamaha VL-70M
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by TxSynthMan » Tue May 28, 2013 6:29 pm

CS_TBL wrote:I've a VL70m, and while it is technically as reactive as a real instrument, its sound is nowhere near the quality of today's samples. In fact, it isn't even near the quality of yesterday's samples. There are five reasons I think it's not really an alternative if you want realistic brass/wind.

1) Playing it requires you to use a breath controller, or else the sound will remain to be as flat as coin. People who aren't wind players will be out of breath soon enough, their lungs just aren't up to that. I know, because I've tried. In fact, when I'm in a tough deadline, working the nights, I'd hate to have to record myself over and over again just because I'm not blowing the thing in a convincing/realistic way. Yes, samples are static, yet I'll live with that - especially considering their quality these days.

2) Its models are basic. It models the reed, or brass mouth piece, it models the pipe, but that's all quite academic blah. I don't get the impression the actual body of the instrument is modelled as well. Put differently: when I hear a VL70m I don't feel I'm listening to someone playing an instrument. When it was released, back in the early 90's, it was easy to be impressed by it: unique attacks, 'flurries' between notes (iirc Roland's Supernatural engine is promoted by demonstrators with the word 'fluries') and over-blowing. In the days of static low-memory ROMplers that was a unique selling point. These days, there are alternatives, or put simply: our harddisks are so huge that people 'just' sample the living daylights out of a real instrument and be complete.. who cares it's 50 GB for 1 flute, who really cares?

3) related to 2: I miss the mechanical noise. Playing a trill on wood winds usually results in audible flaps flapping the holes. I miss realistic breath noises by the player. And whatever breath-noise there is (e.g. with the saxes) sounds rather synthetic and lifeless.

4) If you model an instrument, then you still lose the effect if you don't model a performer as well. What it should've had was an intelligent way to simulate a player so that keyboard players could play the way they want to play, without having to become a semi-wind player. E.g. it should have complete attack-decay-sustain curves (that would be slightly randomized each time) that would be adjusted real-time based on velocity, pitch and previous note. It should have had similar tables for trills, (de)crescendos, automatic progressive vibratos, automatically cutting of when going out of air, etc.

5) If its models had been correct then the pitch range would have to have been limited rather than offering full range piccolos and tubas. This emphasizes point 2: it's just technically a model, it's not the actual instrument.
Talent and ability to play a Yamaha wind instrument, plus having the Patchman turbochip installed in the VL70M, goes a long way to making this sound realistic.

User avatar
mmp
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2007 11:59 am
Real name: Michael McInnis
Gear: VS VL-1 Varios VoyagerRME MinimoogD CS60 SY-2 Kronos M3X MW1 2600 PS3100 DV-800 Z1 Chroma XT Blofeld k5K PolyMoog Avatar MS20 PE-1000 P6 OB6 m4000d
Band: Iberquez
Location: Portland, Maine USA
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by mmp » Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:31 am

I own a VL1 and a VL1-m. They are the most expressive synths I have ever played in my forty years of synthesis. I often hear the realism/expression debate when people speak of these instruments. I would agree that if you look at emulative sounds, there are now sample libraries like those from samplemodeling that exceed the emulative realism. At least for the eight or nine instruments they have sampled. But, if we are speaking of non emulative sounds, there is no sampler that can approach the realtime complexity of a well played VL1, IMO. No amount of layers/key triggers are gonna come close. Now, like many electronic instruments, not many have devoted the time to learn how to effectively control these beasts to a percent of their capabilities. Certainly not a trigger the preprogrammed synth loop kind of immediacy. So, like many other synth reviews, VLs tend to be judged on rather poor stock presets, played by people that haven't scratched the surface of the realtime performance control that these instruments offer. I will never sell mine.
Michael McInnis Productions
www.mm-pro.com

User avatar
_seph
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 244
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 4:38 am
Real name: Joseph
Gear: Full OCP binary cyborg technology
Location: Iowa

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by _seph » Sat Jul 20, 2013 4:57 am

I've unfortunately not had the pleasure of owning a VL (or for that matter the original Korg OASYS PCI), but I do have an EX5 as well as Korg's Prophecy and Z1 and the Technics SX-WSA1 and along with the Ableton Suite's synths I have my fair share of Physical Modeling.

the opinions expressed above pretty well nail it, these synths aren't really capable of realistic sounds but they have expressive and sound design potential that far exceeds most and they are very capable of producing amazing "otherworldly" sounds.

I've wanted an VL1 for years but they are somewhat rare, seldom come up for sale and have always been rather pricey. As an alternative, I can wholly recommend any of the previously mentioned synths. The VL1/7 are unique but so are all of the others when you come down to it. Unfortunately Physical Modeling synths didn't make it out of the 90's which is sad as we now have the processing power to really do amazing things but I doubt we'll ever see a second generation in hardware as most prefer samples and now sample-based synths have become far more expressive than ever.

if you're mostly interested in their more abstract capabilities then I'd strongly suggest either a Z1 or EX5. Both are greatly undervalued and regularly sell for around $500 or less.

User avatar
CZ Rider
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 265
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 12:31 am
Location: The Edge of Space
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by CZ Rider » Sat Jul 20, 2013 6:19 am

Have one of those PLG-150VL cards. Only paid around $75, although it still needs a host module, they are a great deal. Have it plugged into a Yamaha MU-1000, a small 1/2 wide rack unit. Has 3 of those PLG slots so I found the AN and DX ones to go with it. Not sure how much it models a horn, but for spacey leads it really kicks. Doesn't sound like any other lead instrument and it is very expressive. I guess you could plug two or three of those cards in if you wanted a stacked sound like the VL-1?
Here is the PLG-150 doing a space horn-like lead. I like it!

zukskywalker
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 117
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2004 9:39 pm

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by zukskywalker » Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:31 pm

PlG150Vl in a Motif ES rack here, love it.
Driven by a BC3a plugged into a DX7II. Agreed on the windage issue, you can blow yourself into a stupor trying to do brass/wind/reed emulations. Now experimenting with my sax player cousin on tying together a WX into the system.
Modeling is good stuff but a lot of work. In the other ES slot I have a PLG-AN which "models" analogue synths.
All good.

knolan
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 484
Joined: Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:42 am
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by knolan » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:43 pm

I own and use the VL1, VL7 and EX5. They are all beautiful instruments.

While they will not work in the context of orchestral sample library media type work, they DO allow synthesists to perform with exquisite 'acoustic-like' or 'acoustic-level' nuance, artistry and musicality, far and beyond any sample library.


Admittedly (as a non wind player) it took me about a year (on and off) to get to know how to use these instruments with the breath controller. With good calibration of the breath controller to your taste and ability, the result - especially for wind instruments - is uncanny. Indeed they do sound phenomenally like the instruments they purport to emulate. Every nuance is captured - even down to the level of artefacts such as edge tones on a flute if you play the keys poorly. A Saxophone player colleague of mine was blown-away (excuse the pun) with the sophistication of the sax models. I've used these instruments - up front in a mix - in documentary music, that's how confident I am of their quality.

But it all needs breath control - that's the key to the super realism that is achievable and still a pinnacle of synthesis.

Regarding the differences of the various implementations - the difference is in the depth of editability. But the sound engine quality is the same in them all. In truth - I use the EX5 and EX5R more these days than the VL1 for convenience. The EX5/R offer essentially a VL70M - as in - a choice of over a hundred instrument models and then all of the important features editable. While the levels of editing on the VL1 and VL7 go deeper - I find I use that to attempt new instrument creations, and not for editing otherwise stunning presets, of say a flute or oboe, to improve them.


So - the EX5R in particular - is one of the best kept secrets in the synth module market today. You get the same quality virtual acoustic engine as in the VL1 - no difference in quality - but organised in instrument categories like a VL70M - only - there are more edit functions on the EX5R. Amazingly, EX5Rs sell for less that the VL70M these days. That is purely down to lack of awareness in the market of the capability of the EX5R.

The Z1 (which I also own and use) is a completely different beast and although also very expressive, it is nowhere near the VL1 in true virtual-acoustic capability (or sound). It is a very strong and deep synthesis engine, but it is far more 'synthy' than the VL1 which sounds uncannily acoustic when played well.

To boot, the EX5R has three other synth engines - AWM2 (and still quite respectable) and then the fantastic AN1X (duophonic capability and still one of the best virtual analogue synths around) and the wondrous FDSP synthesis - an unusual synthesis engine that delivers polyphonic effects to each voice. For example, the FDSP Ring Modulator delivers 16 Ring Modulators - one to each of the 16 playable voices (the EX5R drops from 128 to 16 voice polyphony in FDSP Mode). Hence, since each voice (note) has its own ring modulator, you can assign a plethora of ring modulator features to, for example, key Velocity - so that each note played triggers a different level of ring modulation. Of course you can assign parameters common to all 16 Ring Modulators to an individual controller such as aftertouch or modulation wheel (or breath control). This works incredibly well on electric pianos, for example, where by, depending on key velocity, each note has a different amount of metallic-ness to it, delivering fabulously expressive electric pianos with a very unique character. FDSP effects are applied to AWM2 voices - so it's a technology that brings sample voices to a new level. With Guitar pickup, flanger and electric piano pickup effects provided (as well as other unusual ones such as the Water effect), it brings the AWM2 (or your own samples) to a new place. One of the most intriguing FDSP algorithms is Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) - where, amazingly, you get to apply PWM to any AWM sample type - and again remember - it's polyphonic PWM - so if the PWM rate is linked to key Velocity, each note played will have a different PWM rate according to the note-on velocity. This works particularly well with choir / choral / pad type sounds. FDSP is like COSM - only - built in polyphonically as a synth engine feature, and orientated towards performance).

I also own a CS80 and though its Ring Modulator is legendary and among the very best realtime controllable ring modulators around, the EX5 rivals it, and in many ways surpasses it (and, sounds just as good!).

Overall, the EX5 and EX5R offer first rate virtual acoustic capability that is hugely expressive and in performance capability far surpasses even the highest echelon sample libraries - though is only useful for solo performances and not for 'in the mix / orchestra' sample library media work; and with its other synth engines, is a fabulous module to have for any earnest synthesist.

Kevin.

Late Edit:

CS_TBL makes some good points but I'll argue: I think you're being a bit unfair in saying the models are basic. They do sound basic if, as you correctly point out, you do not use the breath controller. And - indeed - some models are better than others. The Violin and string models are very good, and not basic, though it is harder to make them sound real because of the lacking of bowing action and the inability to translate that to blowing action. But, they still do sound very good and acoustic - a good example of their use is on the album Voices by Vangelis.

Regarding modelling the performer, as CS_TBL points out - well - that is not necessary on the VL1 for its woodwind and brass programs because of the level of performability on the instrument - remember it has a keyboard too, both velocity and aftertouch sensitive, the breath controller AND pitchbend and TWO modulation wheels (as well as foot controllers and MIDI CC assignability to the various faders) - to say nothing of acquiring a WX5. And - since the various instruments are programmed with presets and editable features 'tuned' or 'optimised' to those various performance controllers, it al works very, very well. I suppose that's where the VL1/7 and EX5 keyboard come into their own; though the VL70M/WX5 combination seems to be regarded as THE setup to acquire, especially if you are a wind player. CS_TBL's point is fair for plucked and bowed strong models - though again with proper use of all controllers (and especially keyboard velocity - both plucked and bowed strings can be made to play and sound exceedingly good.

So it is all very capable and sophisticated - but wholeheartedly agree with CS_TBL - this is NOT a substitute for top level sample libraries which perform so admirably in rendering virtual orchestrations (though they can contribute in this regard) - these Yamaha instruments are for solo performance - but I repeat can sound incredibly realistic but, more importantly, give THE ultimate performance experience if that is what you are after (and of course which is so central to so much music and emotiveness in music).

and I will also say - I own a JP80 which does model the performance too - but I'm not a huge fan of it. It very often sounds amazing, but I feel 'one step removed' because though I'm playing the keys in, say, a violin arpeggio over several octaves, it is the JP80 and not me which is making it sound like a violin. That of course has its uses because it does deliver a more lifelike performance over a greater range of instrument types than the VL1; but leaves you a little detached from the performance and that has got to be an important omission / limitation if you are truly trying to be emotive in your playing (and on comparing wind performance modelling on the JP80 to well performed wind models on the VL1, the VL1 is, to me, more authentic and again more importantly, more intrinsically linked to the player). But even in saying all of that - I'm splitting hairs - both the VL1 and the JP80 sound absolutely amazing - both are serious musical instruments and offer huge scope for creativity at the highest levels of expectation.

User avatar
CS_TBL
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1677
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:47 pm
Gear: All "In-The-Box"
Mainly FM8
Location: NL
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by CS_TBL » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:42 pm

So, say uhm.. are there any new breath controllers being produced these days? Note that I'm referring to the regular, uhm, "mouthpiece of a diving suit" to control the breath controller CC, not the complex flute/reed-like controllers that create notes. So, kinda like a BC3, but then new ones that can be ordered/sold by a shop.
"You know I love you, CS, but this is bullshit." (Automatic Gainsay)
s: VSL/FM8/EWQL/LASS h: DX7/FS1r/VL70/SY77/SN2r/JD800/JD990/XV88/Emu6400/Poly61/Amek35:12:2/genelec1030 r: Violin/AltoSax/TinWhistle c: i7-4770/RAM32GB/SSD
FM8 vids

knolan
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 484
Joined: Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:42 am
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by knolan » Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:28 pm

You make a valid point - for all of the capability of VL synths, Yamaha do not make breath controllers any more; and any that come up on ebay cost an absolutely fortune. On the face of it that would seem to mitigate against contemplating pursuing one of these instruments, but fortunately it's quite common for second hand instruments to be sold with a breath controller included.

I just bought an Arturia Analogue Experience 49 The Laboratory which curiously has a breath controller socket on the back - very welcome for me as I own a number of these synths - but a curious addition given, as you say, that it's not possible to purchase new breath controllers these days (what the h**l has happened to Yamaha over the past decade? - they have collapsed, synth wise). As a side note - the Arturia keyboard is excellent - the library of sounds coming with it is excellent and if you own any of their plugins then it interacts beautifully with them.

User avatar
CS_TBL
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1677
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 3:47 pm
Gear: All "In-The-Box"
Mainly FM8
Location: NL
Contact:

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:17 am

http://www.tecontrol.se/
http://mrtaudio.com/breath-controller.html

I did find these. One with traditional mini jack connector, the other using USB. But they're merely for sale at their own shop, not sure you can order them from your local shop.
"You know I love you, CS, but this is bullshit." (Automatic Gainsay)
s: VSL/FM8/EWQL/LASS h: DX7/FS1r/VL70/SY77/SN2r/JD800/JD990/XV88/Emu6400/Poly61/Amek35:12:2/genelec1030 r: Violin/AltoSax/TinWhistle c: i7-4770/RAM32GB/SSD
FM8 vids

knolan
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 484
Joined: Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:42 am
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Yamaha VL1/VL7

Post by knolan » Sat Sep 07, 2013 1:13 pm

I checked into the second link you provide - alas it's not a breath controller. Its a device that will allow you to connect an existing breath controller mini-jack into it and it will convert you breath control into MIDI data to control synths that do not have a breath controller connector. Useful in its own right, but alas not a breath controller!

Post Reply