Sonic LAB: Roland Verselab MV-1 Review

Tracks from start to finish      02/03/21

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Roland are going full tilt with their new Zen Core engine and the MV-1 Verselab is the latest hardware in that range.

 This one is designed to be a start to finish track creation tool - with 128 voices of Zen Core, up to 2 Looper Tracks, plus a Vocal Track, FX and a Mastering Stage for final bounce.

It's an interesting configuration, both myself and Gaz Williams were impressed with the MC-707 - although some of the limitations of the sampling memory were frustrating.

The MV-1 uses the Vocal Track to address this. It's essentially a long form recorder (up to 720 secs mono, 380 stereo per project). Though you can only record into it when in Song mode - which is the mode you get to after creating your clips (up to 128 steps)  and sections (up to 16 bars).

The main heart of the MV-1 are the 16 pads which allow for triggering of drum sounds, notes (chromatic or scales) and chords. You can attach external MIDI keyboard of course, though sadly you don't get the auto select (MIDI input to active track) of the MC-707. They are pretty reasonably responsive, though I found I had to tweak the sensitivity settings to avoid missed triggers.

5 of the tracks can be Tone Tracks - regular Zen Core sounds with limited editing (no full voice parameters like the MC-707)  - if you want to create the full Zen Core editing you need Roland Cloud (paid). They can also be drum kit tracks too. The two tracks labelled Instrument can be Looper tracks, though again you get the same 60secs limitation which is also shared with the sampling that you can load into kits.

I'll be right up front about the UI experience, it's both simple - in terms of recording (live or TR-style step recording) but also complex and sometimes infuriating. Some of the parameters of which there are many,  many are hard to find or at least remember - looper length set in Input menu, really?

But the sound is good, each track also has an insert multi-fX with a lot of possible algorithms, there's also a main insert FX plus a global Delay and Reverb - which both sound good.

Inputs are in the form of Mic (XLR/internal) with input processing, stereo line input or sample from MIX out and track outputs. So recording bounces and submixes is entirely possible.

Once you have your clips, sections and song arrangement in place - sequencing sections into a song for the final arrangement, you can record into the vocal track.

About That Vocal Track
This allows you to record long sections at specific points in the arrangement, not necessarily vocals but anything you can record from the available inputs. There are 16 slots and they can all play simultaneously, so 16 voices of long for sample playback! Triggering  these Vocal clips  can be recorded at different positions. They only require a start point and will play until they end or if you manually dial back the end point. It would be great if you could set the duration by hold the pad (note on) but at the moment you can't.

In practice, it certainly works, if a little unorthodox and allows you to record vocals or anything else you might want to record into that memory.

The final stage offers mastering - multiband compressor, EQ and Limiter, with a reasonable set of parameters, though it's not much fun - editor please!

Projects - these are saved on to SD card (8GB included) which can be backed up to your computer, though the file structure is not totally obvious, any samples, looper or vocal tracks appear to be embedded in the project file.

USB Connectivity - MIDI of course, plus if you enable the Vendor USB driver, you can get MIX plus 7 tracks of discrete recorded output. This is MIX (which includes the Vocal track and FX) and the 7 tone tracks, no discrete out for vocal track or FX sadly.

Overall this is an impressive piece of technology, though does suffer a little from some obscure Roland UI choices, which may be more of a hindrance to someone with more experience. For the beginner it does a lot and if thats all you know, then you will learn it and no doubt be able to produce some amazing results.

Price is £599/$699, which is pretty reasonable given all that it does.

Sound module, long form sampler/phrase recorder, Mic preamp with FX and pitch correction, audio interface - you should be able find a way to fit it into your existing workflow or if you are just starting out, you'll be busy for a while.

https://www.roland.com/uk/products/verselab_mv-1/

Stems and project file on Patreon.com/sonicstate


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