Master Music with Your Netbook – Cakewalk VS-20 by Roland (Video Review)

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21 Jul, 2010 4:40 pm

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Roland VS-20

Cakewalk VS-20 by Roland –  Review

Netbook News would like to that Dawid Foster for taking the time to review this product made especially for Netbooks. Below you’ll find his detailed review of the Cakewalk VS-20 by Roland.

I have been a professional singer/songwriter for about a decade, and though I have always relished the chance to set up sound for any live event, I generally been a bit cautious about doing home recordings for fear that my compositions would suffer a lackluster representation due to the novice nature of my editing and mixing skills, and the tightness of my budget. So when Nicole Scott from Netbooknews.com arrived in Taipei with the V-STUDIO 20 it provided the perfect opportunity for me to actually lay down something worthwhile at home whilst testing the user-friendliness of this system. I have made a point of using the VS-20 with a basic second generation netbook with an Atom processor to see if it will also provide me and all other netbook owners with an genuine Ultra-portable recording solution. According to the specs on the back of the package my netbook meets the requirements, and does not exceed them by much if at all.

Upon opening the box all is easy to find. The actual VS-20 is lightweight but seems sturdy enough. I insterted the DVD-rom and followed the instructions, and found that I had a missing .dll file in my OS registry. After this was fixed the installation and set-up went really smoothly. Also, the online registration for the bundled software was instant and painless, quite unlike the experience I had with the stripped down Cubase bundled with my previous 3-channel Yamaha USB interface, which seems convinced that I stole it.

Guitar Tracks 4, the recording and editing software that comes with the device is really easy to get into. I love that the layout has been made with the netbook in mind, and everything I need to see fits on my 10″ screen. Its also nice to have the Project Help (top left of the screen) broken down into the six main steps of the process, and the little video tutorials given are quite brief, but do the job.

The Loop Explorer View is very simply set up to drag and drop backing loops into any one of the 32 tracks and I could add any mp3 or .wav media I tried. It doesn’t open a redundant and cluttering browsing window, but instead simply displays the org. chart at the bottom of the track view. The console view is also very simple to navigate, and the on-screen turning of the knobs is easy to control. There are four input options to choose from, built in stereo mics, a balanced mic input, a 1/4″ guitar/bass input, and a stereo RCA line input.

The other piece of software that comes with it is the VS-20 Editor, which is not an editing program, but in fact a virtual guitar effects pedal based on the real-world Boss ME-70. You can even use a dual Boss footswitch and an expression pedal with the VS-20, and set them up to either control the recording or guitar effects software. Or a bit of both. Nice. The one way in which this Editor software is better than the ME-70 is the fact that it comes preloaded with some vocal effects too, including pitch-correction and harmonizing functions.

I was dismayed to find that I could only use the Cosm effects on one input channel at a time, even though it is possible to record both guitar and vocals at the same time. The Cosm effects are, for an acoustic enthusiast like me, almost too endlessly programmable, and I mainly used the compressor, delay and little tasty edges of autowah and warm fuzzy tube overdrive when called for. At all times I was happy that the sounds were warm and natural enough for my tastes. Thankfully I don’t like to mess with vocals too much, but if you’re looking for a device that will give you both guitar and vocal processing for live application this won’t work. Another thing that might deter you from using it live is that the main outputs are stereo RCA’s, and not 1/4″ let alone balanced outputs. I did take it to one of my weekday solo gigs and was able to record all I wanted to with a good live sound, but I don’t think it’ll stand up to the continued rigors of touring.

In conclusion, however, I have found the VS-20 and its accompanying software to be very easy to use. For the first time I was able to lay down some decent arrangements using my netbook. I found when running a bunch of recorded tracks with efffects (from the Guitar Tracks console) on all of them that the applications were lightweight enough for my year-old Walmart bought Aspire One to deal with. And sometimes a simple video call gives it grief. I like the VS-20: I like it’s price-point, and I like how competent it makes me feel. I like that I don’t have to buy a Mac and ProTools. And I think that some semi-tech-skilled people like me could make some good music with this handy tool.


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