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Microphone Month

Roland VK-8M Reviews

  • Brad Herrington
    from Ontario Canada November 30, 2010Music Background:
    Ex pro musician, played b3s in 70s and 80s

    The best clone on the market

    I have had this unit for 5 years now and I havr nothing but good comments on my tone and hammond sound. Other than the gold inserts on the dials imediatley falling off, the unit has performed flawlessly. The cosm amp modelling is excellent and Leslie sound is extemeley realistic. While a B3 could cut your neck with ther high notes, the VK-8m can cut your head clean off so be carefull.

  • Paul Bosch
    from nashua nh October 16, 2010Music Background:
    live and recording for 20 ys

    Great unit

    Ive traveled overseas with it a couple of times and giged with it for 7 years. I love it. Amazing percussion.

  • David B.
    from Springfield, Mo. January 25, 2007Music Background:
    Started at 41/2 years old and I am 57 now. Played professionally for many years.

    WOW !!!!!!!

    Man, you have the B-3 sounds and so much more. I just got it and I am in awe over this module. There is so many extras to enhance an infinate number of sounds. Great work again by Roland.I use two Edirol M80 controllers, a Roland KC350 amp with the Motion Sound Pro-3 Rotating horn on top. Sounds excellent. I bought all the equipment from Jon Gauthier at Sweetwater. You guys ROCK !!!!!!!

  • Esh
    from Hilton Head, SC September 12, 2006Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    This is the one...

    I love my VK8m, and I'm not really a big Roland fan. This thing growls and/or purrs on cue, and as a one-piece B3 module it stands alone. In fact, Hammond had to resort to a two-piece contraption to come close. The VK8m is very expressive and easy to tote. The only faults are these: no leslie speed footswitch option, that cool D-Beam controller is distracting on stage and very often gets triggered inadvertently, and who on Earth really needs the VK8m's "reverb spring shock" sound? These are minor quibbles to be sure considering how great the VK8m sounds. A lot of attention has been paid to the rotating speaker effect and there are an amazing number of options related to it. Using "Active Expression" you can mix in another sound with the organ sound and control it with an expression pedal - perfect for adding horn stabs over organ parts so that both rise in volume realistically. Utterly cool. Besides the killer B3 you can also recreate many other classic organ sounds with the VK8m. There's not much more you could ask for in an organ module and I believe that VK8m will become a classic. I am using the updated OS 2.0.

  • Ray F.
    from Upstate NY April 19, 2011Music Background:
    Professional musician, Teach piano, drums and voice. Score film and video productions, studio musician.

    B3 in a box

    I just received my unit and played it thought an Alesis 6.2 61 note keyboard. It took a little to set up and I mean very little. The sound reproductiona nd warmth of tone is so close to a B3 it would take an expert to hear the difference. I have a B3 and put them side by side through the same 147. Incredible sound. Of course nothing beats a B3 but this does the job and then some. There is only one drawbcak. The brake for fast and slow needs to be on a foot switch. that would keep both hands free to play duel keys. But I also have a Leslie emulator that can't be beat. Hughe's and Ketner warm tube Leslie emulator. Man what a sound I have now.

  • Ryan S.
    from Jackson, MO April 1, 2005

    The Five Pound B3

    Currently using the latest OS version 2.00 with the SoundSide upgrade. The presets are okay but nothing I'd ever use mostly because some have too much overdrive applied or uses percussion. I prefer to use my own settings. Simply press the H-Bar Manual button and the drawbar positions will apply to the sound, then change them to fit your taste. Now doing extensive editing is somewhat difficult because there is no LCD so you have to press a combination of certain buttons. If you have the SoundDiver software, this will be a ton easier to do. The manual was easy to follow in my opinion.

    This unit has full polyphony which I find rather cool, but since this is an organ, what are the chances you'd run out of notes anyway. There is 4 reverbs (Room, Hall, Church, and Spring) with a knob to decrease/increase how much reverb you want. 3 tonewheel sets (Vintage 1, 2, and Clean) which has adjustable Leakage. I find that rather cool how they emulated that so well. 4 different amp types with adjustable Tone and Overdrive levels. I don't see where the tone knob would come in handy but the overdrive is right on. I don't like alot of overdrive but a little sounds nice. Also has vibrato/chorus and percussion. D-beam controller is cool but I haven't been able to make much use out of it. 9 drawbars which are just like the original, 8 different positions. The feel of them is very realistic too. They are a little sitffer however, but still easy to use and the click noise when you move them has been instituted. The rotary speaker is awesome which I'll go into more detail below. All parameters can be edited, but is much easier if you have SoundDiver. An expression pedal can be used, there is a port in the back. One thing I was disappointed about was the fact that is doesn't have a rotary switch pedal input so you pretty much have to use the button unless your controller can transmit CC80. Fortunately I was able to program my mod wheel to do both slow/fast and brake functions. Both input and output ports are included. Input can be programmed to work with the expression pedal.

    Everything about this instrument is outstanding and so real. You seriously cannot get any closer without having the real thing. I know there have been negative comments have been posted in past reviews but take it from someone who uses a C3 and a leslie 122 every week. You can't get any closer without having the real thing. That's not to say that the Hammond XK-3, Korg CX-3, or nord electro 2 aren't just as good, but if you don't have room or can't afford another keyboard, the VK-8M is the way to go. It weighs about 5 pounds, its not that big at all. Perfect setup for me. The rotary/leslie speaker is as real as can be. Has both slow/fast and brake buttons. The vibrato/chorus scanner was reproduced to the very best. The percussion sounded good to me. Everything about this instrument is so real, you can't go wrong with it.

    Very solid and well built. Has some kind of wood finish for side panels, I guess to give it a B3 feel. All the buttons are easy to press and the drawbars work just like the originals. I mean you'd have to really try to break something on this thing. Now I'm not about to throw mine off a balcony just to see if it bounces or breaks but all in all, it doesn't look cheaply built. If I ever needed it for a gig or something like that, I would definately use this baby.

    Definately would get this replaced if it ever broke or got lost/stolen. Although if I had enough money when that happened I may just get a VK-8 which is the keyboard versino of this model. The sound overal is 5 star all the way. As I've already stated you can't get any closer without having the real thing. Only disappointments are you can't hook up a footswitch to change leslie speed and for some odd reason they used CC80 instead of CC1 so if you can't change CC#'s on your controller, you're just out of luck. The leslie speed buttons were made a little stiff so sometimes I won't actually press it hard enough to switch the speed. But it was made the best it could be made and I'm happy with it.

  • Johan Dalgaard
    from February 1, 2005

    Too disappointing in the long run

    Hello again,

    a little over a year has passed since the review I posted, and I thought it might be of interest to some of you potential buyers that after a year of intensely using this module I have finally had enough. It's terribly noisy, unless you are in an environment with nothing else being on the same power curcuit as the unit, which is rarely the case, on stage as in the studio. This machine picks up every bit of interference from lighting to amps to refrigerators etc. etc. It's a pain.

    The sonic quality has proven to be quite disappointing too. The treble is way too aggresive, and it just doesn't feel or sound close enough to an organ.

    The lack of a leslie pedal has had me go through all kinds of problems trying to make it work, hooking up pedals to controllers etc. It turns out that the designers at Roland have chosen to make the leslie speed variable and thus controlled by an expression pedal... just so utterly un-organlike, another proof that whoever had the responsability of doing this module version of the VK-8 never actually sat down and played a real B3 and a real Leslie, where the Leslie speed is simply either slow or fast. In order to make a switch pedal work with the VK-8m, you'll have to get a "latch" and not a "momentary" (normal sustain) pedal (given that your keyboard controller is capable of sending Controller ID 80). It's ridicilous to spend all this energy and money on pedals etc. just to get this basic functionality right.

    I've had a Nord Electro in keyboard version for a few months, and it's blowing everybody I play with - live and studio - away. I miss the drawbars but I guess you can't have it all. The organ sound is so radically better, that I deal with the LED drawbars.

    Today I just bought a Nord Electro Rack as well (that's how good it is) and put the VK-8m on eBay. Anybody looking to buy an organ module, get the Nord Electro and save yourself of a year of unnecesarry hassle and frustration. On top of it, you'll get amazing Clavinet, Wurlitzer and Rhodes sounds, plus a much wider selection of effects.

  • Walt Kerr
    from Seattle WA January 1, 2005

    VK8M Rocks!

    I've had the VK8M for less than a week and it has inspired me to write a couple new songs. This little B-3 in a box has great Hammond emulations and the Leslie is very good. An unexpected benefit for me is the ability to store not only drawbar settings but also every other console control in the user presets (36 available). This includes percussion setting, chorus, amp simulation, Leslie settings, etc. I play two different "real" B-3's during my work week and I was wondering how happy I would be with this unit. I am totally satisfied with it and will be adding it to my gig setup (MIDI'd to my main keyboard, an Alesis QS8). The bottom line for me is that this thing is plain fun to play and satisfies my craving for great B-3 sounds in a very portable unit.

  • Customer
    January 1, 2004

    VK8M - Great B3

    This B3 Module sounds great. Leslie simulator is OK. Chorus and Vibrato are 1st class. Drawbars are realtime which is nice during a performance. The VK8M provides the many various B3 sounds (sweet to screaming) at a reasonable price. Small, worked the 1st time I plugged it in midi'd to my keyboard and off I went. Been using it for 2 months without any problems.

    I use all of the "factory settings" that more than meet my needs. Editting factory settings is not easy, but possible. Found the volumn pedal to be a bit expensive.

    All in all a great unit for home use or performances in small clubs or private parties. People love the B3 sound.

  • Johan Dalgaard
    from January 1, 2004

    VK-8m

    I just bought the VK-8m module.

    The sound is as good as you would expect, being I believe identical to the VK-8 keyboard, which definately rivals the Hammond XK-2 and the Korg CX-3 for most authentic organ simulator, with the B4 plugin being the Dark Horse in the race. Each have their forces and weaknesses, so it's a matter of taste. The VK is probably slightly inferior to the others, but is for the moment the only one available as a module. Other modules, such as the Hammond XM-1 or the Oberheim OB3ex are definately way below this unit. The Nord Electro Rack sadly doesn't have any physical drawbars, in spite of a great organ sound.

    So the VK-8m is doing good compared to the competition. However, there are a few things to moan about. The various advanced settings are ridicilously difficult to acces. It's a complicated procedure of arbitrarily pressing various buttons, and there is no way to go about this without having the manual next to you. Not a great advantage if you're on tour and need to change a MIDI reveive channel or adjust the speed-up ramp for the leslie.

    An even bigger problem is the lack of a leslie speed foot switch input (!). The only pedal input on the VK-8m is for the expression pedal. You could switch the speed with a pedal by hooking up a foot switch to your controller keyboard and program it to send MIDI controller ID 80, but if all you have is a basic master keyboard, or if you're using a rented keyboard on a gig, you might not be able to specify which controller ID the pedals send. Especially since controller 80 is rarely utilised. They should have assigned the leslie speed to the Hold pedal ID (64), which is available on any keyboard, and who's using a sustain pedal on an organ, anyway?

    The omission of the pedal switch is mysterious, since Roland chose to include a D-Beam controller. This can be used for various purposes, including Leslie speed (this doesn't help you, if you're using both hands to play, unless you are able to swing some other part of your body over the controller), but this is more a toy than a serious tool, and Roland would have been much better off not including a D-beam controller and instead have a Foot switch for the leslie and a lower price tag.

    Another strange feature is the Audio Input. It's OK, if you wanna mix some sound with the Organ while you play, but you can't even pass the external Audio through the Leslie simulation. For submixing an external stereo sound source to only take up two tracks on a mixing desk, it's possible, but a bit of a hassle, since there is no seperate control for the organ volume.

    Another annoying omission is a dedicated perc ON/OFF button. You use the same button to toggle between 2nd, 3rd and OFF positions. I like to switch the percussion on and off frequently, and this is going to be a hassle.

    All together, however, this is the best sounding organ module around, and though it's not cheap, it's still reasonably priced. I've been waiting for this since I bought a VK7 5 years ago, so in spite of the various problems (all showing a total lack of understanding of the basic needs of most organ players), I'm quite happy this unit has finally arrived...

  • Johan Dalgaard
    from January 1, 2004

    VK-8m

    I just bought the VK-8m module.

    The sound is as good as you would expect, being I believe identical to the VK-8 keyboard, which definately rivals the Hammond XK-2 and the Korg CX-3 for most authentic organ simulator, with the B4 plugin being the Dark Horse in the race. Each have their forces and weaknesses, so it's a matter of taste. The VK is probably slightly inferior to the others, but is for the moment the only one available as a module. Other modules, such as the Hammond XM-1 or the Oberheim OB3ex are definately way below this unit. The Nord Electro Rack sadly doesn't have any physical drawbars, in spite of a great organ sound.

    So the VK-8m is doing good compared to the competition. However, there are a few things to moan about. The various advanced settings are ridicilously difficult to acces. It's a complicated procedure of arbitrarily pressing various buttons, and there is no way to go about this without having the manual next to you. Not a great advantage if you're on tour and need to change a MIDI reveive channel or adjust the speed-up ramp for the leslie.

    An even bigger problem is the lack of a leslie speed foot switch input (!). The only pedal input on the VK-8m is for the expression pedal. You could switch the speed with a pedal by hooking up a foot switch to your controller keyboard and program it to send MIDI controller ID 80, but if all you have is a basic master keyboard, or if you're using a rented keyboard on a gig, you might not be able to specify which controller ID the pedals send. Especially since controller 80 is rarely utilised. They should have assigned the leslie speed to the Hold pedal ID (64), which is available on any keyboard, and who's using a sustain pedal on an organ, anyway?

    The omission of the pedal switch is mysterious, since Roland chose to include a D-Beam controller. This can be used for various purposes, including Leslie speed (this doesn't help you, if you're using both hands to play, unless you are able to swing some other part of your body over the controller), but this is more a toy than a serious tool, and Roland would have been much better off not including a D-beam controller and instead have a Foot switch for the leslie and a lower price tag.

    Another strange feature is the Audio Input. It's OK, if you wanna mix some sound with the Organ while you play, but you can't even pass the external Audio through the Leslie simulation. For submixing an external stereo sound source to only take up two tracks on a mixing desk, it's possible, but a bit of a hassle, since there is no seperate control for the organ volume.

    Another annoying omission is a dedicated perc ON/OFF button. You use the same button to toggle between 2nd, 3rd and OFF positions. I like to switch the percussion on and off frequently, and this is going to be a hassle.

    All together, however, this is the best sounding organ module around, and though it's not cheap, it's still reasonably priced. I've been waiting for this since I bought a VK7 5 years ago, so in spite of the various problems (all showing a total lack of understanding of the basic needs of most organ players), I'm quite happy this unit has finally arrived...

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