Monday 24 November 2008

Well blow me! The Yamaha VL7

Oops, I did it again. I spotted this in the corner of my local pawn shop amongst the usual collection of casio home keyboards, with their 32 styles of auto accompaniment (I just love to rhumba). This exotic machine exuded quality, yet I'd never heard of it before. A quick Google told me I was looking at a 'virtual acoustic synthesiser' (thanks SoundOnSound) that once cost an 'affordable' £2,199 - and came laden with hyperbole - 'truely revolutionary', 'unbelievably good', a 'minimoog for the nineties' if it wasn't so darned expensive. Well, it wasn't so expensive now - I emptied my kids' piggy banks and staggered home clutching my latest essential toy.

I remembered virtual synthesis from the Korg Prophecy - rather than use samples, it would digitally model what happened when air was blown down a tube, or a string was plucked and damped. I also remember being quite impressed after a 2min demo at the back of a local music store, so I had high hopes for this machine. First impressions were less than impressive - I switched it on, did a couple one finger melodies (did I mention this beast is monophonic) and heard nothing my Fantom or JV-1080 couldn't do. Oh well, technology has obviously moved on ...

It wasn't until I read the manual and looked again at this machine it all started to click. It's got three mod wheels and two continuous sliders. It should also have come with a breath controller and a foot controller. This machine is all about control. So I set up the controllers, cleared my mind and tried to think 'flute'. Oh wow. It's obvious stuff, but the harder you blow across a flute (or down a whistle or pluck a string), the sound doesn't just become louder. It changes subtly, and every little nuance of that is modelled. Once I stopped bashing at keys and tried to get a feel for the instrument I was playing, I was blown away (if you'll excuse the pun).

So, I'm in love. I explained this purchase to my wife as a desire to turn a quick profit, but now I can't let it go. Infact, I've got eBay searches running to get the breath and foot controllers this machine is missing to get the full VL7 effect. And frankly, I think it looks quite handsome in the middle of the living room.

Quick Update

Eventually I did sell it - oh, how it hurt, but it was made quite clear to me that no new equipment could come into the house until this beast went. And if you put it like that, well ...

So on Ebay it went - and blimey, what a bidding frenzy. These machines are obviously still very sought after. So thank you to all the bidders, and eventually I made some four times what I paid for it. So now I have a full Paypal account, and I'm itching to buy something!

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