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Roland VS-2400CD - The No-Hassle Pro Studio

August 6, 2003
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A D V E R T O R I AL

Need a good excuse to record your band? Roland just came up with thebest one: the new VS-2400CD 24-Track Digital Studio Workstation. TheVS-2400 is a complete digital recording, mixing, and CD-burningworkstation with 24 tracks of 24-bit digital audio, a 48-channelautomated digital mixer, two stereo effects, and more.

The 2400 has pro-level specs and features, including motorizedfaders, a 96 kHz sample rate, and full 5.1 surround-mixing capability.The best part is that you can connect a VGA monitor to the 2400’sbuilt-in VGA output and use the included mouse for software-stylewaveform editing. Compared to its big cousin the VS-2480CD, theVS-2400CD is smaller and lighter, so it’s easy to take from gigto gig. And it’s significantly smaller in price—a featuresure to put a smile on any musician’s face.

Roland's VS-2400hard-disk recorder is a complete digital music-production workstation,providing 24 tracks of 24-bit digital audio recording, a 48-channelautomated digital mixer, two stereo effects processors, a built-in CDburner, and more.

Captured Live
Because the VS-2400 can record 16 tracks at a time,it’s perfect for recording a full-size band, including drums,bass, guitars, and vocals. That was exactly the task I faced on arecent Saturday in April. I was hired to cut a demo song for analt-rock band from upstate New York.

Rolling all the qualities of Green Day, Weezer, and Jimmy Eat Worldinto one, the band Lester wanted a professional demo for a local radiocontest. Their lineup included drums, bass, and two guitarists who sanglead and background vocals. They wanted the demo to sound like it wasrecorded in a professional recording studio, but they lacked theprofessional recording-studio budget. I knew that the 2400 could handlethis assignment with room to spare, so I placed it in the back seat ofmy two-door coupe and made the drive to the band’s home inRochester, NY.

We agreed to meet on a Saturday morning at the drummer’snicely equipped basement studio. The environment was perfect: woodfloors, brick walls, drapes scattered here and there, and a token lavalamp in the corner. Because I had done most of the preproduction workon the 2400 in my hotel room the night before, all that I had to do wasfire up the 2400, connect and position the mics, and set levels. I gavethe drummer a set of headphones, turned on the 2400’s built-inmetronome, and went about positioning mics and setting levels as hewarmed up.

Out of the box, the 2400 has eight XLR inputs, each with switchablephantom power. The unit’s 24-bit mic preamps are super-highquality, so I didn’t need to bother with external mic preamps.The R-BUS port on the back of the VS-2400 provides the other eightinputs. For the Lester recording session, I connected an optionalRoland SI-24 Studio Interface to the R-BUS port to get eight more XLRinputs. In addition to the eight studio-quality mic preamps, the SI-24offers motorized faders and a handy joystick for doing surroundpanning. It also looks really cool.

The final setup included mics on the kick, snare, and toms, with apair of mics for overhead cymbals. The bass and both guitars wereconnected direct, and we still had plenty of inputs forvocals—but those would be overdubbed later.

Each analog input on the 2400 has a full-featured channel strip,including a 4-band EQ and a compressor. I kept the EQ off but turnedthe compressors on for the kick, snare, and bass guitar. Thegain-reduction metering in the compressors makes setting them up ano-brainer.

The VS-2400 has two stereo effects processors; I used these toinsert Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM) guitar-amp modeling onthe guitar inputs. Applying the JMP-Stack preset on the rhythm guitarmade it sound as if he was playing through a stack of Marshall amps. Ihanded the effects-editing controls over to the lead guitarist, and hedialed in his own tweaked version of the SLDN Lead preset for hissound. Knowing a good thing when I heard it, I saved his setting to theVS-2400’s User Effects bank as Jason’s Guitar Sound. Itwould come in handy later on. In both cases, I inserted the ampmodeling on the 2400’s mixer in such a way that the guitaristswould hear the modeling in all its glory as they played, but withoutprinting the effect. That way, I could mess with the sound later duringmixdown.

The band pleaded for a quickie last-minute rehearsal of the tune, soI gladly relented and used the time to make sure that all the levelswere good and to fine-tune the headphone mix. Soon, everyone was warmedup, tuned up, and fired up, so we started recording. This was the easypart, as all I had to do was keep an eye on the levels. Once the rhythmparts were laid down, I excused everyone except the lead singer, and wetracked the vocals. By mid-afternoon, we had cut the backgroundvocals.

As anyone can tell you, time progresses at a different rate in thestudio; before I knew it, we had recorded all the tracks, overdubbedall the vocal parts, and it was time to pack up. Anyway, I needed toget back to New Jersey to feed my cats.

The VS-2400’s backpanel offers mouse and keyboard inputs, a direct out for a VGA monitor,optical and coaxial S/PDIF digital I/O, an assortment of analogoutputs, a footswitch jack, and two R-BUSports.

Back at the House
Back at my farmhouse a day later, I cleared a space on thedining room table for the 2400 and hooked up a VGA monitor and mouse.With the monitor and mouse, the 2400 behaves and looks just like acomputer-based recording system, albeit without all the extra hasslesand baggage inherent in a general-purpose computer. As a dedicatedrecording system, the 2400 offers sheer, unadulterated power, so (forexample), I never have to worry about bogging down the CPU with toomany effects and EQs running at once. With the coaxial digital outputof the 2400 feeding my Roland DS-90A 24-bit Digital Studio Monitors, Iwas ready to start mixing.

Everything sounded even better than what I had remembered from theoriginal session; it was almost perfect. The final touch would be theaddition of a scorching lead guitar solo played by a guest soloist.With the band’s approval, I recruited the talents of a well-knownLA-area guitarist.

Because the 2400 can import and export WAV files, I can collaboratewith musicians anywhere in the world. Distance is no longer an issuewhen it comes to getting the best players for your songs. All that youneed is a VS-2400 and high-speed Internet access. I simply exported amix of the tracks as a stereo WAV file, minus the original guitar solo,and I emailed it to the guitarist. I gave him free rein to go crazy andrecord as many solos as he wanted; the VS-2400 has room for 384 tracksper song. His assignment was to crank out the solos, save them as WAVfiles, and email them to me. I would burn the files to CD and importthem into the VS-2400. He pulled the mix into his own system andrecorded a staggering 23 different solos; some guitarists never run outof ideas! He then emailed the files to me (thank goodness for broadbandInternet), and I burned them to a CD and imported them into theVS-2400.

Inside the 2400, I stacked the solos into virtual tracks undertracks 18 and 19. That way, I could listen to each solo in placeagainst the original tracks and decide which one to use. Even better, Icould copy the best parts from each solo to assemble my own“comp” track for the guitar solo.

Next, I used the mouse to assemble the guitar solos at the rightlocation in the song. On demand, the 2400 will snap audio phrases to agrid, so it’s easy to line audio up to bars and beats. Thewaveform views showed me exactly where each riff started and ended.Like the audio equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein, I had soon created theultimate monster guitar solo.

It was time to evaluate the vocal tracks. My 2400 has the optionalVS8F-2 Effects Expansion board installed, so counting the two built-inboards, I had four stereo effects to work with. The vocal tracks wereoriginally cut through an AKG C3000 condenser mic, so I started out byexperimenting with different flavors of COSM Mic Modeling beforesettling on the Vintage Condenser model. Adding a tiny amount of theLarge Hall reverb gave the vocal parts just the right sound.

In the Mix
I was now ready to mix the song and burn a CD. With the touchof a button, the 2400’s motorized faders switch between tracks 1through 12 and tracks 13 through 24. I could also mix several trackswith one fader, thanks to the Group Fader mode. I set the levels forthe drum tracks, assigned them to Group 1, and then assigned the rhythmguitar parts to Group 2. I kept everything else on individual faders,so I had my entire mix right under my fingertips. I turned on theAutomix feature, letting the 2400 listen to and memorize my fadermovements as the song played, then I played it back, hands-free. Thebest part about Automix is that the 2400 does the work for you, lettingyou sit back and focus on the way your song sounds instead of worryingabout when to fade in the background vocals and such.

I was almost ready to burn the song to a CD and send it to the band,but I wanted to make sure the mix was as loud and punchy as some of themusic I’ve heard on the radio. First, I mixed all the tracks downto a stereo master from inside the VS-2400’s Mastering Room. ThenI inserted the Hard Compression preset of the Mastering Tool Kit. Wasthat enough? Will this mix sound as punchy and as loud as, say,Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous by Good Charlotte? There was only oneway to find out. I slapped my copy of the Good Charlotte CD into the2400’s CD tray, and used the track-ripping tool to bring the songin question into the 2400’s Real Time Spectrum Analyzer. TheAnalyzer immediately revealed that my mix had too much mid-range andnot enough high end, as compared with Lifestyles. A few strategictweaks of the Mastering Tool Kit fixed that. Satisfied, I burned my mixto a CD.

And the Winner Is…
Whether Lester wins the radio contest or not, the VS-2400CD is thereal winner when it comes to recording your band. With itsmusician-friendly price tag, there’s nothing else that even comesclose. It provides professional recording and production tools in asturdy, reliable package that morphs into a computer-like recordingsystem when you connect a mouse and VGA monitor. You get the ability torecord, edit, mix, and burn CDs anywhere at any time with totalreliability and hassle-free operation.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start recording!

Roland Digital Recording Product Specialist LauraTyson has a degree in music engineering and technologyfrom the University of Miami. She began using digital recording systemsin 1986 (with New England Digital’s Synclavier) and has beennonlinear ever since. Numerous recording and mixing projects on RolandV-Studios now keep her busy.

Product Information
VS-2400

portable digital studio
$3,295

Contact Information
Roland Corporation U.S.
tel. (323) 890-3700
Web www.rolandus.com

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