Roland VS-1680 imports and exports WAV files with ease

Roland VS-1680
Roland VS-1680

Last weekend I scored a Roland VS-1680 portable multitrack recorder from a used music shop here in Nagano-city, Japan. It was thrown into a large junk bin and had a price tag on it for $50 bucks! Incredible! I took it out and asked the clerk if I could start it up and give it a test run. Everything on it worked beautifully. The sales clerk said it was missing the manual and he said hardware multitrack recorders were very hard to sell, so he basically just wanted to get rid of it. So I bought it and have thoroughly enjoyed recording some music on it for the past couple of days.

One of the things that I wanted to do was to import and export WAV files using the Roland VS-1680. After some research and testing, I found a workflow that is extremely fast and quite easy. The method I use is to connect an external Zip drive to the back of the VS-1680. In my Windows 7 computer I also have an internal Zip drive. With all the gear I have, I have found it critical to have a few Zip drives as they seem to work with a lot of different gear, especially with early Roland products.

To export WAV files, I simply save the song I am working on to an external Epson ZIP drive using the Roland VS-1680. It’s fast and super easy to do using the SHIFT > F1 command to save the song. Then I take out the disk and walk into an adjacent room where I have my desktop computer and insert the Zip disk into an internal zip drive that I ripped from a spare Roland SP-808. After that, I fire up a program called VS WAVE Exporter that allowed me to select and export the song with all the tracks to WAV format. Then you can use your favorite DAW to load the WAV files and further mix or tweak the song. Everything lined up great. Later you can burn to CD which is probably faster than using the VS-1680.

If you want to import WAV files back into the VS-1680, that is super easy as well. What you need is a Roland VS-840 formatted zip disk. I actually have a Roland VS-840 so this was easy to create, but for those who don’t have a Roland VS-840, you just need to have a zip disk with the formatted files on it. If anyone needs these files to create a VS-840 disk, feel free to email me and I can send you my formatted files. It should work fine. Then, you simply have to insert the zip disk into the internal zip drive and fire up another program called the Roland BR8 to WAV Converter program. This program will recognize the VS-840 disk as a BR-8 compatible disk and allow you to convert WAV files into the Roland VS format. The BR-8 convert allows you to convert 64 WAV files per song as that is the number of tracks the VS-1680 can use. Each WAV file is converted an assigned to one track of your choosing. Then you take the Zip disk out and stick it into the Roland VS-1680. There you use the VS-840 import command to import the files to the VS-1680 song project. Presto! All of your WAV files or wAV tracks will be nicely imported and assigned to the proper tracks. Brilliant.

The key to importing and exporting WAV files easily is that you need a Zip drive connected to your Roland VS-1680 and your computer. One limitation is the fact that I’m using 100MB zip disks, but this actually is fine because I only work on one song at a time and I have found that one zip disk is enough for whatever WAV work I need to do. It’s also faster. As mentioned above, exporting WAV files or tracks to the computer allows you to burn CDs and make additional edits in the DAW of your choice. I also find the Zip disks to be quite fast and I can leave the VS-1680 in my studio while taking the disk to another location. I don’t have to carry the Roland VS-1680 around or USB it to a computer.

I actually use the Roland VS-1680 like an instrument along with my synths. I sync it to a sequencer and drum machine or sampler. Then I record vocal, guitar, and other non-midi instruments into the Roland VS-1680. Everything plays back in sync via midi. It’s fantastic. I also find the sound quality to be just fine as well. Overall, for the money I paid, I find the Roland VS-1680 to be a great multitrack recorder that is still plenty useful. The Roland VS-1840 is also great, but I find the extra tracks and the bigger screen to be more useful for obvious reasons. The Roland VS-1680 is really great and I highly recommend it should one be found used at a good price. Go for it!

UPDATE #1: Today I found a huge supply of 2.5 HD replacement drives that can be used in the Roland VS-1680 at a different used music and computer shop. The drives were 20GB in size, made by Fujitsu, and only cost $5.00 each. They also had 40GB 2.5 HD drives as well for $10 each but the Roland VS-1680 only allows for formatting up 16GB on 8 2GB partitions only. I simply swapped the hard disks and they worked fantastic after formatting them inside the Roland VS-1680. I bought 2 spare 20GB hard disks but will likely go back this weekend and buy a few more since they are so cheap. They work great so far and will help prolong the life of the VS-1680 and allow for more backups.

17 thoughts on “Roland VS-1680 imports and exports WAV files with ease

  1. hey jim,
    thank you for your reviews. i use the vs1680 in the same way you described here. the vs 1680 is still a fantastic piece of gear. i just put it in sync with my yamaha qy700. now i can easiliy automate any mixdown.
    these two hardware oltimers run perfectly together!
    what i like about your blog is your kind of writing. you try to be neutral and kind of fair about the items you describe. and there is enthusiasm about making music. thank you for that and best regards to japan.

    1. anonymous


      Thanks for your insight. Will this method work if you have a vs cdrII (external cd drive)? I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to import files (both .wav and mp3) into the Roland vs 1680. Please Help

      1. Hello! The only way I know that works 100% is via Zip drive using a VS-840 formatted zip disk. Perhaps it could work with a VS CdrII drive and a VS-840 formatted CD, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. – Jim

  2. Adam

    Hello Jim.
    I don’t have my Roland VS 1680 anymore, but I found at home a large amount of discs (CDs) with almost every single session being made on VS 1680 saved on them. I didn’t have a ZIP drive, but as I have CDs, VS must have a CD drive – logicly! Some of the contents of CDs is for sure a trash, but some of them I’d like to have back on ma PC. When I insert mentioned CD into a disc drive in my PC or laptop, it doesn’t see nothing. Like there was not any CD in a drive. Do you know any method I can have VS 1680 files back on my PC without VS itself having only saved CDs? What is extension of these files – xxx.wav or xxx.wave? Probably not. I’d really appreciate your quick response even if there’s no way to get fruits of hard work with VS 1680 back into a hard drive of modern computer.
    Regards from Warsaw/Poland,
    ps. I really love the times 15-20 years ago when as a young pianist, gutarist and singer I worked onboard the cruise ships and often visited Japan with Osaka (Osakako port) as our guest exchanging place. Other places I remember was Miyako, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Kagoshima, Beppu, Hagi and many more but actually don’t remember all. But it happend few times I spent 3-4 months of one week trips cruising among Japanese islands. Great time!

    1. Download reaper and plugins as instructed. Best thing is your backups come in as multi track so you can rework, redo bad take etc..we use 1680 to record and port the backups to Reaper for rework effects and even add some new tracks. ideal for editing much more control than 1680
      Good luck, let me know how you like it,

  3. E.Kross

    If you want to import WAV files back into the VS-1680, it´s also possible to take VS880 (EX & Vxpanded-CD) formattet ZIP-Disks via BR-8…

  4. D.Winters

    Hello Jim,
    I agree on the VS-1680 – a great piece of equipment. I paid $100 for mine and have put another hundred into it adding an external scsi cf card reader. I backup to compact flash cards and use reaper for editing. One note on compact flash, Roland will format as 4 partitions (8gb card) but windows can only read the 1st partition. Ubuntu can read them all however and can burn them to a dvd that windows can read.

    Those laptop (2.5) hard drives make great backup media, they’re harder to lose than a compact flash card and easier to label. Just make sure you keep them in a padded box, I recommend anti-static bags as well.

  5. W.Webb

    Hello, I’m desperately trying to find a way that isn’t too complicated or expensive to give me more Hard drive space for the Roland Vs-1680 because I’m working on several projects with different artists, and currently have very little resources to export Music from the Vs, I’m just wondering if there’s anyway to quickly acquire one of those Fujitsu external drives you managed to get your hands on?

  6. simon

    exactly what im looking for
    have zip will travel think you offer to send the software interface or am I dreaming ? im alos looking for raw midi code stuff to trigger programme changes for fx via an external mpc sequencer or am I just being lazy ???

  7. Jermaine Carter

    Thanks for your advice.. I need to turn my tracks into wav files from the 1680… if I buy an external Zip drive …for my 1680.. is the only way to covert is a desktop… I have laptop.. can I use this instead?

    1. Arctic Sound Studios

      Hey Jim could you send me the files I would need to put on a zip drive to make it a VS 840 format so I can hooked it into my VS1680 so I can Import Wav files into it with the BR8 Wav converter. Thanks so much John Bass

  8. Jolly Write

    I added a scsi compact flash reader to my 1680 on the external scsi connector on the back. It has to be turned on before the 1680 (so the 1680 will find it) – I think I formatted it as 4 partitions (installed it about 3 years ago -so can’t recall for sure) – I copy my files to the compact flash card and when I’m done I shut down the 1680, power off the external scsi card reader (compact flash) pull the flash card and put it into my pc and copy the files over to my hard drive and process them as needed using reaper and the plugin and standalone programs.

    These used to be reasonably priced, but now they (scsi card readers) are several hundred dollars, A good alternative is a SCSI drive in an external housing, but you need a computer with a scsi port and most people don’t have those, although they are trivial to install if you have the proper bus in your computer (pci – typically) – worth keeping an old computer around just to have access to older scsi gear.

    just like the sound of the 1680 and I like the faders…so I think I’ll keep it around until a museum wants to buy it.

    P.S. external scsi zip drives were quite common in the ’90’s – so should be a few available quite cheaply, slower and lower density than compact flash, but quite usable and very durable.

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