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.