A PERSONAL LOOK AT THE ROLAND VG-8

Wouldn't it be cool if, for your next recording session, you could line up a selection of the world's best-sounding guitars? Like a 1959 Les Paul, a '57 Strat, maybe a '62 Tele and a '67 12-String Rickenbacker. Of course, if you had access to all those classic axes, you'd want some very cool amps to plug into. Like maybe a tweed '59 Fender Bassman, a full Marshall stack and one of those versatile Mesa/Boogie amps Carlos Santana plays through. As long as you're wishing, you might as well add a selection of cabinets, from a single 12- inch speaker up to a full 4x12 stack and a wide range of exceptional mics to capture the killer tones you'll be producing by this time.

Oh, you say you can't afford all that great-sounding gear? That you'd have to spend about a year's salary on just one of those vintage guitars and a single amp? Well, that may have been true a year ago, but that was before Roland introduced their VG-8 V-Guitar System. Now for about the cost of just one really great guitar you can have access to the sound of dozens, as well as countless amps to match, and all without having to lift a single speaker cabinet or spending the hours it usually takes to set up a mic to capture a killer tone to tape or hard disk!

Okay, if you're a guitar player, you probably figure this is all a lot of hype, right? No electronic gizmo could possibly give you the sound you're after! I mean, people are lining up these days to spend like $10,000 bucks on a vintage Les Paul, aren't they? So let's take a moment here to separate fact from fiction.

True, I'll admit there's nothing like owning a spectacular guitar - whether it's a brand new flame-top Paul Reed Smith or a '60s western orange Gretsch Nashville. After all, these things don't grow on trees. It takes skill and a high degree of craftsmanship to build a fine guitar. But we're talking about tone here, and it's 1996, not 1966 (and realistically, who would ever want to take such a valuable instrument out to gigs anyway? Not me!). So the product designers and engineers at Roland took a long, hard look at what makes for a really incredible guitar sound, took that sound apart piece-by-piece, and using the very latest physical, electronic and magnetic modeling technology, came up with a way to accurately reproduce the sound of just about any guitar/amp/speaker/mic combination.

No, it's not magic, just the culmination of years of intensive research and development on Roland's part. And take it from me, the proud new owner of a VG-8, it really and truly works! By adding a GK-2A pickup to any guitar you want - mine happens to sit on a pretty nice (though remarkably inexpensive) Peavey Tele copy - you can dial up any guitar sound you've ever heard (including basses and 12-strings) from the built-in presets or create your own using the very user-friendly EDIT mode. One of the coolest things about this thing is that you can find a relatively inexpensive new or used guitar that plays well, add a GK-2A and you're in business. Doesn't matter if the pickups aren't the best in the world since you won't be using them. Thanks to the VG-8, your tone will always be killer.

Still not a believer? Well, up until two months ago, neither was I. But here's a suggestion: if you haven't already gotten your hands on a copy of Roland's exceptionally well-produced audio CD which effectively demos the VG-8's sound, I'd suggest you call your Sweetwater sales engineer immediately. It will make a convert out of you. My guess is that Roland will unveil an upgrade for the VG-8 at the Winter NAMM Show (Editor's note: they did), but for those of you lucky enough to have one of these killer boxes already, here's a patch I created that I believe really nails the sound of a Les Paul through an overdriven Soldano tube amp.

First off, select the LP (for Les Paul) configuration from the PICKUP mode under the INSTRUMENT Menu. For now, let's use the FRONT (neck) pickup, though you can edit this later to access the REAR (bridge) or BOTH pickups. Set TONE to a value of -5 and LEVEL to 100. PITCH SHIFT should be normal. AMP should be set to "Classic Stack" with OUTPUT set to 50, Volume at 55, IN-BALANCE at 41 and MASTER at 100. On page two of the AMP menu, set PRESENCE to 20, BASS to 70, MIDDLE to 93 and TREBLE at 50. Under MIC and SPEAKER, set the SPEAKER TYPE to "1x12", MIC on "large dynamic" and POSITION to "off cabinet". In the EQ page, set the Mid-freq to 1007 and Mid-Q at 1.0; Lo-Gain should be at 2.5, Mid-gain at 2.0 and Hi-gain at 2.5. On Page two of the EQ menu, set Low freq to 125, Hi-freq at 7999 and Hi-type at peak. Your P-MASTER (final volume) should be adjusted to taste, as should your effects. You should now have a very accurate overdriven Les Paul tone. Play and enjoy!

If enough of you VG-8 users like this patch, call or send an e-mail to your Sweetwater sales engineer and I'll try to include a few more next issue, or maybe we'll post some on our Web site. For those of you who don't own a VG-8, call for Sweetwater's special pricing and/or a copy of the demo CD. You'll wonder why you waited so long.

- David Trevor


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