Test Drive: The Roland VS-880 Digital Studio Workstation

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Once your tracks are down, you can put the VS-880's versatile editing functions to work. Press the TRACK button to enter Track Edit mode. The choices are Copy, Move, Xchg (exchange), Insert, Cut, Erase, and Time Comp/Exp. The Move function removes audio from the source track and overwrites audio at the destination. To get a Move/Insert type of function, the Move function must be used after the Insert function which inserts blank space at the destination and moves existing audio down the track(s). The Erase function erases audio without moving the audio on either side. The Cut function performs the standard "tape splice" type edit which connects the "cut" ends together. The Xchg function simply swaps audio of one track with another. I tried the Time Comp/Exp function on a couple of voice tracks but got too many glitches on the compressed track when compressing a 66 second track down to 60 seconds (in the Multitrack 1 record mode), and the compression took anywhere from 3 to 3.5 minutes to complete. Compressing a 63 second track to 60 offered fewer glitches and took the same amount of time, but there were still too many glitches for me.

Each track has its own 3-band EQ. The low and high bands are shelving types and the mid-range is parametric. Cut/boost range is 12dB. For effects, use the two auxiliary sends. There are no returns on the VS-880, so you'll have to return the effects to your main mixer. Or, you could use inputs 3 and 4 of the VS-880 as returns if you're willing to give up a couple of tracks as the return channels. Or better yet, you could take advantage of the VS-880's Mixer Mode function and keep all your tracks. Pressing SHIFT and the MIXER MODE SELECT button switches to the INPUT/TRACK MIX mode and enables the VS-880 to mix the eight tracks with up to six additional signals from the four analog inputs and the stereo digital input. This is a handy option for musicians who might have parts of their music on an external synth or drum machine. Inputs 3 and 4, or even the digital inputs (if your effects box has a digital out) can be used as effects returns. In fact, you could have two effects boxes returning stereo signals to the VS-880, each sent a different signal from each of the two sends.

Of course, if it's effects you want, spend $395 and get the optional VS8F-1 Effect Expansion Board. This board plugs into the VS-880 easily and provides two independent effects processors loaded with high quality effects. There are 200 editable presets ranging from excellent sounding reverbs and delays to flanges, pitch shifting, guitar amp simulations, even a vocoder. Either or both effects processors can be assigned to any channel, and each channel has its own internal effects send buss separate from the external auxiliary sends.

If all this isn't enough to excite you, then you'll love one of the biggest features of the VS-880, Virtual Tracks. Under each track are seven additional tracks or virtual tracks for a total of 64 tracks. You can only mix eight at once, but an additional 56 tracks means you can do things like layer updates rather than use one of the eight tracks. If you like a read and want to keep it, but don't want to waste another track, press SHIFT plus V-TRACK and select one of the seven virtual tracks to record on. The display shows both graphically and numerically which virtual track is selected. And the effects and EQ you've applied to the original track stay with the virtual tracks under that original track. (Maybe this is a good time to remember that low price tag!)

But, wait...there's more! There are four auto-locator buttons. When used with the SHIFT button, you get eight autolocate buttons. Not enough? Use the Markers. Press the MARKER TAP button at any time to assign the current time to a marker. Store up to 1000 markers! Recall the marker points by using the MARKER PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons to skip through the markers. Or, if you have a few hundred markers in place on your sixty second commercial, recall markers by entering the automatically assigned number of the marker. This is a great combination of autolocate utilities. The four autolocate buttons can be used for primary locate points (like the beginning of the music bed in a donut jingle) while the markers are used for more temporary locations. The four LOCATE buttons are also used for marking In, Out, To, and From points when editing tracks.

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