As the dust has settled on Roland’s huge day of announcements we’re able to take a closer look. In the synthesizer category much of the focus has been on the huge System-8 and the classic TB-03 and TR-09 reissues. The one that’s slightly less celebrated is the no less remarkable reissue of the VP-330 vocoder, the VP-03.
VP-03 mini vocoder
Not sure the world was really waiting for a vocoder. It’s an iconic sound, used very effectively in small measures. Every now and then it makes its way onto a hit record and we all seem to love it. Then it gets ignored for a couple more years. Goose neck microphones appeared on a number of small entry level synths a few years ago, Korg, Novation and Akai all seemed to be at it. Although you rarely saw the mics in place in the wild. So I’m unconvinced that this is what the world was missing. However, maybe it’s just never been done right recently and Roland have decided to set things straight.
The Roland VP-330 was probably the most popular vocoder ever made. It was big, chunky, very organ like in appearance and featured a 10 band vocoder. Perhaps what gave it the edge and longevity was the inclusive of a unique sounding choir, voice and string section. It was more than a gimmicky voice changer.
The VP-03 captures that diversity, that range of sound to take it from robot voices into a much more expressive and creative space. With Roland’s ACB technology the emulated sound is difficult to fault. They’ve packed in some new features: there are 16 chord memory setups and a voice step sequencer for bringing the fun and creativity. It’s the same form factor as the other Boutique instruments and so fits the K-25m keyboard unit – not included. A gooseneck mic, however, is included in the box. It’s built for portability with a built in speaker and battery power.
On the back of the unit the output, headphone and line, are all rather disappointingly on mini-jacks. You do get full on old school MIDI ports which is great but it does lack of a power port. You have to reply on batteries or USB power. There’s no additional input like there is on the original VP-330, so any vocodering can only be applied to the internal sounds. That’s a missed opportunity I think. The USB port can turn the VP-03 into an audio interface making it dead easy to record the audio straight into your DAW.
Although I’m not particularly in need of a vocoder myself I think Roland have done a sterling job in resurrecting a perhaps niche but sought after sound. The interface is simple, the form factor perfect and it’s going to sound exactly how you’d want it to.
The Roland VP-03 should be available in October for £329.
More information on the website.
For more on all the Roland 909-Day releases check out our full coverage here.