Roland VK-8 Reviews2.0/5.0 based on 1 customer review
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from Milwaukee, WI
October 31, 2012Music Background:
Part-time professional musician, producer and engineer
NopeOkay. If you love the Hammond organ, don't buy this keyboard. I have previously owned a Roland VK-7, and was recently given a Roland VK-8. Knowing that it's a new generation, I expected some improvements over the keyboard I had previously owned. While there have definitely been vast improvements made at Roland, bottom-line is that this keyboard does not feel like or sound like a Hammond organ.
Compared to the VK-7, the chorus/vibrato on this model are vastly improved. Sadly, that's about as positive as I can get. When I dial in familiar drawbar settings, the sound is not what I expect. It's not terribly off, it's always just enough off that it's distracting. The amplifier overdrive simulation is better than it used to be, but still doesn't sound like a Leslie. The Roland's internal Leslie simulator is probably the weakest point of the whole instrument. In stereo or in mono, it introduces way too much frequency modulation, and not enough of the "smear" that comes from the sound of the Leslie bouncing around inside its own cabinet and off the walls of the room it's in. There's nothing realistic about it.
Another long-standing criticism of these Roland organ keyboards is that the response of an attached expression pedal is nothing like the response of the expression pedal on a real Hammond organ. A real Hammond's expression pedal has a very linear response, where as the Roland seems to have an exponential response. That is, backing off on the pedal almost always decreases the volume more than I expected or wanted to. Again, when this keyboard doesn't respond the way I expected to, it distracts me from what I'm trying to play.
Finally, there's been some criticism of the keyboard. If you ever played a real hand, you know that the feel of the keyboard is somewhat magical. The weight and "give" of the keys is perfect for lightning fast solos and amazing responsiveness. In comparison, this keyboard feels heavy and sluggish. More importantly, as has been discussed elsewhere on the Internet, staccato playing commonly results in a note being double struck, as it comes up after you release it and bounces back down under its own weight, sounding the note a second time. This would never happen on a real Hammond.
I almost forgot, there are several settings within this keyboard to adjust keyclick, percussion volume and decay, leakage levels, split point, transposition, you name it. However, this organ has no LCD display. All functions are accessed through an obtuse system of holding down these three keys while you simultaneously push this one, et cetera. The instrument is not labeled for this functionality. The user must either memorize several pages of the user manual, or keep it on hand to refer to whenever he wants to do something as basic as adjust the fast speed for the Leslie. It's a huge pain.
I gigged with this instrument once. Never again. It just didn't respond the way I expected it to after years of playing real Hammond organs. If that's your experience base, you likely will not be happy with this instrument. I would recommend looking at the very fine offerings from Korg or Nord for your purchase of a digital organ.
Roland's new VK-8 Combo Organ is an updated version of their groundbreaking VK-7. Like the VK-7, the VK-8 uses Roland's Virtual Tonewheel Technology to accurately recreate the distinctive sounds of the classic drawbar organs of the 60's and 70's, right down to the mechanical inconsistencies (such as tonewheel leakage and key click) that make a vintage organ sound just the way it does. I'm a keyboard player with an affinity for vintage instruments, and I found the VK-8 to be exquisite, not just in sound, but also in the overall feel of the instrument.
Along with a full set of 9 harmonic drawbars, the VK-8 boasts a waterfall keyboard, which I found to be especially handy for pulling off the trademark sweeps that make a tonewheel organ such a joy to play. The VK-8 also has two MIDI in ports, which makes it possible to simultaneously connect a second keyboard controller (for the lower manual) and a pedal keyboard (such as Roland's PK-5) for the ultimate tactile recreation of a classic tonewheel organ. What's more, most of the controls for the VK-8, such as percussion, vibrato/chorus, and controls for the rotary speaker are laid out exactly as they would be on a classic tonewheel organ, giving it an instant familiarity for anyone who's at home on the original.
The VK-8 also makes use of Roland's COSM technology, offering three types of amplifier models (with overdrive), reverb, chorus, and, of course, rotary speaker modeling. A D-Beam controller on the VK-8 offers a modern twist, giving the player control over crescendo, rotary speaker speed, a tonewheel brake, a ring modulator, or 'spring shock' (the sound made by jarring a spring reverb). I found the D-beam to be a powerful performance tool, adding an extra (touch-free) dimension to an already solid recreation of the classic tonewheel organ.
To put the VK-8 through its paces, I hooked up with some of my fellow Sweetwater sales engineers (a guitarist and a drummer) to lay down some jazz funk. I started by using the VK-8's presets, but soon found myself primarily using the drawbars to shape the organ's sound. I ran the organ directly into the mixer, and was delighted to hear the COSM amp models on the VK-8 blending almost seemlessly with the mic'ed tube amp the guitarist was using.
The Roland VK-8 is an excellent keyboard for anyone that needs the classic sound (and feel) of a vintage tonewheel organ. Whether you're playing jazz, gospel, or flat out rock n roll, the Roland VK-8 brings you everything the original had to offer (except a backache)!