Hands-On Review:Roland VS-2000CD
Ready-to-roll 18+2-track recording at an astonishingly low price.
By Holly Street
CD-quality recording with a roomy 40-gig hard drive, CDRW drive, 8 XLR/TRS inputs, and a 40-channel mixer make the Roland VS-2000CD one of the best values on the market for standalone recorders. Muscular features include unique vocal Harmony Sequence function, eight-track simultaneous recording, 12-track playback at 24 bit, and 18-track playback at 16 bits (CD quality). All this plus a dedicated stereo mastering track and a whopping 320 virtual tracks make it flexible enough for any recording situation from project studio sessions to fully professional live recording.
I specialize in recording live concerts for release on CDs and DVDs. This is a great gig but—as you can imagine—it can be tremendously complex. Since I'm not a large woman and I usually work alone, Roland's VS-series standalone recorders have been a godsend. They're small and light enough for one person to move around yet feature everything I need for pro recording and mixing on the spot.
My pal Doss at Musician's Friend knows I like the VS recorders so he invited me to review the latest in the series—the VS-2000CD. I am very favorably impressed. Its compact size (18-3/8"W x 4-11/16" H x 14-9/16"D ) and light weight (14 lbs. 13 oz.) were the first big draws. It also has a USB port for easy uploads to my computer. These features alone make it ideal for live recording in the field.
Seventeen 80mm faders flow smooth as silk to the touch while a jog wheel and cursors make surfing through the menus a piece of cake. The menu system is old hat if you're a Roland user and fairly easy to get the hang of if you're a newbie. The menus are designed to be intuitive to operate and most efficient after you've learned what you're doing, so you're not having to go the long way around the barn every time. The editing and routing screens are full-featured but not unnecessarily complex. There's no room for a tutorial here, but suffice it to say even a beginner will be able to master the unit long before patience wears out.
Eight balanced XLR/TRS inputs with phantom power and level controls are right on the top panel with dedicated guitar/bass input plus master, aux, monitor, and headphone outs. Ten knobs and 80 buttons, including standard tape-style transport buttons make this a very touchy-feely control surface that doesn't force you to the menus very often. For the constant adjustments I have to make doing live recordings, it's great. With the built-in 40-channel mixer, you could even use this thing to good effect for running the front-of-house mix for a live band.
Guts under the hood
Reading the specs on the VS-2000CD only enhanced my respect. The 40GB hard drive will hold up to 5,360 track minutes in 24-bit mode and a whopping 8,080 track minutes in 16-bit mode. That's 11 hours and 10 minutes of full eight-track splendor in 24-bit mode. For a home studio, you might never fill it up.
200 projects in each of four disk partitions with 1000 markers, 96 locators, and 96 scenes each combine with 999 levels of undo for virtually unlimited editing flexibility.
My favorite aspect of this recorder is the astounding Harmony Sequence function that provides gorgeous vocal harmonies and lets you program in the entire chord structure of the song. This unique feature gives you more control than any other vocal harmony product. I used it to dazzle my most recent client by adding background harmony vocals on a live recording.
A very hip onboard drum machine lets you compose rhythm tracks to build songs from. The drum sounds are great and there's enough flexibility to compose pretty complex rhythm tracks with virtually no learning curve.
A couple of killer add-ons can turn the VS-2000CD into a truly high-powered studio. The optional VGA card (the VS20-VGA) lets you plug in a monitor and mouse to access a large-screen editing environment. With this setup, it’s just like using software! Just click with the mouse, access drop down menus, highlight regions for editing, and drag and drop. If you've done any computer-based recording and editing you'll feel right at home. There are also two slots for expansion cards such as the VS8F-3, which lets you use third party effects plug-ins and comes with five Roland plug-ins.
I could write a book about this thing and still not cover all its prodigious capabilities. If you're looking for a standalone digital recorder you can afford on day-job earnings, the VS-2000CD is definitely the ticket. It's full-featured, intuitively designed, and has lots of room for very significant expansions.
The VS-2000CD is the newest addition to the VS family, which also includes the more powerful VS-2400 and VS-2480 machines. The VS-2400 offers built-in VGA monitor and mouse connections, motorized faders, expandability up to 16 ins and outs, R-BUS expandability to 16-track simultaneous recording, and 24-track playback with 16 channels of simultaneous mixing.
The VS-2480 builds on the features of the VS-2400 with 16 channels of simultaneous recording, controller software that lets it be used as a computer control surface, three optional effects card slots, and expandability up to 24 ins and outs.
Whatever your budget and preferences, Musician's Friend can make you a deal on any of these cutting-edge digital recorders that absolutely will not be beat anywhere. We guarantee it. We also offer something few of our brick-and-mortar competitors can match—when you order from Musician's Friend you can keep the gear and work with it for up to 45 days to be sure it's all you hoped it would be. If it's not, you can return it for a full refund.