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At 11:23 PM -0700 8/28/08, William Walker wrote:
> So would any one on this list who owns this beast care to shed
>some light on it. Is it easy to get around on? How's the manual? Oh
>its Roland, need I ask? How is the modeling? Can you get a dynamic
>clean sound ala' blackface, can you get a singing sweet women tone
> type overdrive with it? I haven't used my GR30 guitar synth in over
>2 years but I'm wondering if this beast might get me interested in
>guitar synthesizer and elaborate effects usage again. I'm also
>fascinated with the possibilities of altered tuning the VG99 offers.
Bill, first I just want to apologize again that I didn't get a chance
like I promised to bring mine over to your place after the LY2k7
Looper's Brunch, so that you could give it a runthrough. With a sick
wife sleeping back in the car, I just couldn't take out any more time
(not to mention I missed Matthias' demo as well -- drat!).
That said, you gotta try one of these out. First, let's get the more
disappointing part out of the way: amps. It's still not a tube amp,
even though it's got some of the best sounding models out there.
Some of the models, like the Fenders and Rolands do sound
outstandingly good, but you're just not going to get that kind of
push/pull interaction of a real tube (there's a Dynamic function
which might be used to emulate it, but I've never really gelled with
the feel of that). As far as that high-pitched digital graininess
you've mentioned in the past, I'm not hearing it in any of the amp
models here, but I couldn't really make that out in my Tonelab
either. I'm curious to hear your take once you hear one. Also, the
amps squash the stereo imaging of the individual strings on the COSM
models down to mono (what?!? why???). Since you've got two
completely separate guitar modellers in one box, you can get around
that by making them identical then panning one hard right and the
other hard left. But then you've used both modellers just to get a
stereo effect. :P
I usually use the amp models more for tonal shaping/EQ (or as
distortion "stompboxes") than as real amps, although the Fender and
Vox models are quite nice on clean stuff. I know more than one
person who is using the multiple outputs to "split" into a clean feed
run straight to the board and a line out to a small tube amp. I do
that only because unfortunately there are no models in the VG of the
strange gated boutique fuzzes that I enjoy so much (Devi Ever,
Lastgasp Art Labs, etc.) so I just put them in a separate line before
a small external amp.
Second, and final caveat, the presets on this thing just blow for the
most part. When I first got it, I didn't think they were so bad.
But as you dive deeper and see just how cool this box is, the factory
presets just become more and more lame by comparison. Aside from
only about a half-dozen factory patches, Roland really should feel
ashamed at publishing such crap to show off the box. Maybe it'll get
a few more of them sold to the "big hair" guys, but please don't
judge the capabilities of the box solely on a scroll those.
Okay, with that out of the way, the best point is that the quality of
the instrument modelling is amazing. I've also got a Variax 300, and
I've barely picked it up since getting the VG-99 -- the Roland just
leaves the Line 6 in the dust. Not only do most of the models sound
like what they're supposed to, they also have enough "stretch" to
sound really interesting when you're building completely new (as in
"not on this earth") instruments. Ethnic and folk instruments
(sitar, dobro, mandolin) are no problem. The synth models are very
good as well (even if I do still miss VIO from the original VG-8).
The GR-300 is very, very cool, but -- to answer the inevitable
question from the owners here of the original -- it's not the real
thing. Still, I've never even had an opportunity to purchase a real
GR-300, so if I find a model that'll get me 90% there, I'm happy.
Finally, if one model doesn't work well with what you're trying to
do, there's a good chance that you can find another one that will
work better -- even if that's not what it was originally designed
for. For instance, when the P-bass and J-bass models let me down, I
was able to make a great sounding upright bass by tuning the Nylon
Guitar down an octave and playing it on my fretless guitar.
Speaking of tuning, the alternate tuning section is fantastic. You
can retune any string on any model (aside: GR-300 can get a little
weird here) to plus or minus ~36 steps, IIRC. While you get some
munchkinization at the extremes, it's pretty amazing how far you can
go before it starts sounding unnatural. Then, there's a polyphonic
12-string effect that you can add to the alternate tuning, so you can
easily do things like a 12-string DADGAD. Also, the 12-string
section doesn't have to be limited to octaves; you can tune the
harmony voice on each string to any interval you wish. Next there's
a Detune section that will allow you to add thickness to each string
individually (BTW, you can also detune inside the 12-string section
without even having to go here). Finally, there's a intelligent
polyphonic harmonizer that can be used to retune individual notes to
match a particular scale/mode (i.e. +3rd Mixolydian, for example).
That latter effect doesn't sound too useful at first, until you take
into account that YOU CAN SET UP COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ALTERNATE
TUNINGS ON EACH OF THE TWO GUITAR MODELS. So, you could leave one
model at a standard tuning, then use the intelligent harmonizer to
keep the harmony voice in whatever key you've chosen. Or you could
do this with two completely different 12-strings... with one set to
Nashville tuning and the other tuned down like a Baritone... oh, and
now let's make one a dobro and the other a synth... So yeah, f you
thought there might be enough in just the alternate tuning section
alone to keep you entertained for days, you'd be right.
Next, the polyphonic effects are outstanding. Of couse, poly hex
fuzz is always lovely, but I'm surprised at how useful the poly
compressor is. And, everybody's favorite, they've finally fixed the
polyphonic Slow Gear effect so that it works pretty flawlessly. You
can get some beautiful swells by setting the fade-in time long, then
individually swelling and holding each string as you pick them. My
only regret here is A: do to CPU restrictions, you can only apply
poly effects to one of the two models at a time; and B: there are
some effects in the regular effects section that would have made
fantastic poly effects, like de-fretter and intelligent
I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time going through the Effects
section. Suffice to say that there's a truckload of them, they can
be put into almost any order you like, and they sound good. I will
mention that if you are impressed by your brother Rick's new Slicer,
that there are potentially four of them in here (two for each
available model/effects chain). Also, you can route your mags
through the Effects and COSM Amp sections, as well as any external
device you can plug into the "Normal Guitar" input on the back.
Also, the VG really shines with the availability of EQ and Gain
Staging at a half dozen different points on the chain at least. This
includes within the model or mag inputs themselves, all the way
through to the final EQ on the mixer, and an output EQ that can be
used to tailor the whole box for a particular live venue. This
flexibility is especially important when doing clean sound design.
My only gripe here is that the EQ is a graphic, and I would've really
liked to see some parametric functionality built in.
Finally, he various controls you have are pretty impressive too. Not
only are the D-Beam and Ribbon Controller fun to play with, but you
can set up just about any function you like for footpedal control
(this is especially easy with the FC-300, which is very plug-&-play).
Even if you use a different foot controller, the assignments are dead
simple, and there's even a computer editor you can use to program
everything if you're so inclined. MIDI is okay. I don't use it much
(spoiled by the tracking on my Yamaha G-10) but I've heard people say
that the tracking is not as good as the GI-20. The one handy thing
that I do use it for is to record both raw MIDI as well as the audio
from the VG simultaneously. Later, if I want to double-track another
part with the guitar, all I have to pull up that pre-recorded MIDI
track and feed it into a soft synth or other MIDI sound source. Or
additionally, if I'm improvising and later have no clue what notes I
actually played on a part (yeah, happens a whole lot more often than
I'd like to admit) I can pull up the MIDI file and read the notes.
However, there's one more nice little surprise hidden in the control
section: the Wave Pedal. Roland has implemented a function generator
that can be effectively used either as a "one-shot" control, or as an
LFO. This can be routed to pretty much any function on the box, and
you can think of it as having an invisible friend with magic fingers
who can move any of the dials in real time as you play. You could,
for instance, route a square-wave from the LFO to the Alternate
Tuning section, so that you're notes trill between the root and a
fifth above. Then you can connect an expression pedal into the rate
of the LFO, so that you can control the speed of the trill with your
foot. That's just a very simple one, but there's a lot of really
cool possibilities here. You can apply this same sort of function to
almost any control on the box.
Anyway, that's enough from me for the moment (wife's yelling at me to
come run errands). Hope that gives you at least a little insight
into this beastie. Bottom line is that it's very cool and sounds
very good, and you really need to borrow one for a day or two and
dive into it. I think you'd be really impressed.
"when you think your dreams are shattered, it's time to dream new dreams"
- Re: VG99
- From: Mark Hamburg <email@example.com>
- From: "William Walker" <firstname.lastname@example.org>