VL1m First Impressions

VL1m Synthesizer Review by Art Whitfield

My first blush reaction to the VL1-m:

  • Player Response: Breath and pitch response are SUPERIOR.
  • Factory Patches: Very good, but need work.
  • Flexibility: SUPERIOR
  • Value: Worth every penny
  • Recomendation: Go buy one

Some details, opinions, clarifications, observations:

Player Responsiveness: My first impression was mixed, but I was still in "piano mode" and breath response was limited. When I finally got the unit into WX mode, the whole world opened up for me. The key is the wind and pitchbend responsiveness. It is FANTASTIC!!!!! As you've heard mention on the list, the unit feels like a real woodwind. Vibrato and tremulo both behave way, way, way better than other modules.

Factory Patches: Well, I wasn't impressed with the saxophones. They still sound electronic, even if they do "feel" great. I can see why there has been so much work on these, because the potential is there. I haven't downloaded anything from KennyB's page. But, the oboes, clarinets, and synthetic pipes sound terrific. I'm most pleased to finally have a clarinet which works in octaves instead of 12ths. It was my personal struggles to play clarinet which led to my original examination of wind synths.

The solo strings and brasses were pretty good too, but as others have observed, this depends on your background. I'm primarliy an Alto Sax and Flute player, so I probably don't know a good cello or trumpet when I hear one. Given the 4op and general midi modules that I'm mostly familiar with, these sound great.

Flute is my big gripe. On the "WX optimized" factory patches, there is CFlute, and I hate it. Too breathy, to slow to sound, and once sounding, too shrill.

Hardware: Ergonomically, the unit is easy to understand, easy to navigate, and easy to operate. The big LCD is nice, and buttons are easy to understand. Floppy disk on the front is nice, especially since I haven't replaced my computer yet from the basement flood. 3U rack spaces is big, but the large LCD makes it worthwhile. I would like a WX input connector on the front in addition to the BC connector. Manuals are well written.

Keep in mind, what I've written here is my first impression, and with factory patches only. There is so much capability to tweak stuff, that I'm in no way dissapointed with my purchase. It's clearly a world class module that will take a long time to discover it's ins and outs (20 years on a sax, and i'm still a baby with it). Well worth the price, and well worth the wait. Excellent hardware, excellent instrument, excellent musicality. I heartily recommend it.

Off to start patch programming........ :-)

VL1m Second Impressions (The Morning After)

The VL1-m just keeps getting better and better!!!!

Since I was critical about the factory sax patches in my VL1-m 'first impressions' note, I wanted to share an incredible thing which happened last night while playing the clarinet patch..... VL1-m with WX11 controller.

I was playing chromatic scales, and while going up was practicing using the first and second up-octave keys. Between C#2 (first little up-octave pressed) and D3 (second little up-octave pressed), I missed the second octave button. The VL1 did just what a real horn would have done, it played the higher octave despite no button push.

After finding this by accident, I worked it carefully: C#2 (no keys pressed) to D2 (all 6 keys, but not pressing next octave)

80% of the time the note went down since there was no higher octave key pressed, but if I made the note-change quickly, the note would overblow into the D3 octave. Once the overblown note was established, I could also play the E3 without the octave key, but once getting to F the horn would revert to the lower F2 note as per the proper octave key fingering.

The overblowing did not occur on the C#1 to D2 transition. I didn't check any other octave transistion.

But, this was one incredible, way cool phenomonom. Try it! If you are a woodwind player, you will naturally work your mouth shape to " help" the octave overblow, but of course, it won't help a bit. Funny how I was fooled by the VL1 into doing that!

Technical note: When I say C2 or D3, I'm not using proper musical nomenclature, as I'm not sure exactly which C or D I was playing (relative to A=440 Hz). I'm just making up my own shorthand to relate which little thumb up-octave key was pressed, assuming that the C1 and D1 are notes in the scale with NO octave pressed. Hence C2 means the first up-octave key is pressed, and C3 means the next higher up-octave key is pressed.