Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor – An underrated Gem!

Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor
Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor

I’ve always wanted a Roland VP-9000 but here in Japan they have always been quite expensive and elusive to find. Especially way back when the Roland VP-9000 was first released it was a VERY expensive sampling module. Nowadays it’s quite cheap but still a little hard to find here in Japan. Luckily one popped up on Ebay from a friend I frequently buy from and it’s now on the way! I’m quite excited about it because although the technology is not that unique or new anymore ( software has replaced a few functions ), it still is quite a useful sampler to plug into my Roland A90 for sample manipulation. I am particularly interested in the real time pitch and tempo change ability, especially adding harmonies in real time. That legato mode sounds really cool as well. If you watch the video below you’ll know what I mean.

Manipulating vocal performances is my primary interest but I understand being able to manipulate drum beats is also quite interesting. I was also able to acquire the V-Producer and V-Trainer software for the Roland VP-9000 which allows you to edit and import files much easier as well. I’m not really excited about using a Zip drive again, but I’m not sure I’ll pumping that many samples in and out of the VP-9000, rather just work with a few on projects to start out with. I’m also curious about the “alternate” method of creating multisamples across an octave or two which apparently works pretty good.

The Roland VP-9000 is one of those unique or one trick pony sort of devices that I think will be quite fun and useful to add to a sort of minimal band performance. There are some limitations to the Roland VP-9000 but coming from the likes of the Roland S-50, W-30, and a few other samplers, I don’t think it should bother me much. I enjoy thinking outside the box with such devices and I know at the end of the day I’ll “make it work” as they say.

I’ll update more here in the comments section when I get the VP-9000 probably early next week. Stay tuned!


The Roland VP-9000 arrived today and I had a chance to load some samples into it and give it a test run. It’s fantastic!! It connects really easy to any midi keyboard controller and is very useful to play once you have some good samples loaded into it.

On Windows 7 I have a program called V-Producer with V-Trainer for the VP-9000. The V-Trainer allows you to batch encode WAV/AIFF samples and then save them to a Zip drive. Ecoding the Wav file is necessary to allow you to play the file in a polyphonic manner without it changing the tempo when plyaing it up and down the keyboard. I took some voice samples from the Datafile Series 1 Cd-Rom and quickly encoded the voice wav files in a few seconds. I then put the zip into the VP-9000 and encountered my first real annoyance. The VP-9000 so far doesn’t allow you to bulk load or select several samples at a time to load. Instead you have to load each one. A work around though is that you can save all the samples in memory with a performance. Performances are kind of like projects as with newer samplers. So you only have to load one at a time only once.

After you get the samples loaded in, you then need to do a couple of tweaks:

1. First go to MODE > PLAYBACK and set the parameter to “RETRIGGER”. This will allow you to play up and down the keyboard without samples having a delay in triggering. By default, the playback is set to something different which causes the sample triggering to operate in a sort of glitch manner.

2. Second go to MODE > AMP and set the parameter “FADE” to something like In = 3 seconds and Out = 10 seconds. This will eliminate all of the pops and crackles you hear when playing a particular sample across 2-3 octaves. The FADE parameter is kind of a crude way of setting the attack and release for a sample although it’s not quite the same. Note that the VP-9000 does not have envelopes on board so the FADE parameter is the best bet for removing any unwanted noises.

Another tweak is to add multi-effects to the sample. I particularly like the tap delay which gives the sample a sort of synthetic sustain or release. It’s a very cool effect as with most all effects on board the VP-9000. Sure, a few necessities like envelopes were forgotten on the VP-9000, but the effects processor will likely make up for it for some users.

I have found the key to getting a good set of sounds on the Roland VP-9000 is to use short samples. The internal 8MB memory is fantastic coming from 720/1.44 on the Roland S-50. I found pulling vocal samples from old Roland, E-MU, Akai, and Ensoniq sample libraries to be awesome for the VP-9000. They pitch excellent up and down the keys and with 6 note polyphony with the VP-9000 you can record pretty much play any one track “piano type” groove with any sample. The polyphony is a drawback but if you record to an audio recorder, loop station, or just play one track you’re perfectly fine.

The Roland VP-9000 is an absolute creative monster and a very underrated machine. I’ll write more once I further explore the Roland VP-9000. Thanks!

I figured out that you can load multiple samples by pressing the VALUE dial and adding a “+” next to each sample. Excellent!

Here is the Roland VP-9000 Promo Video found on youtube.

11 thoughts on “Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor – An underrated Gem!

  1. clif

    as far as i know u can load several samples at the same time by using the knob to make + signs by each sample that u need then press load ive had mine for the last 10yrs and i still use it..

  2. Hi Jim!
    After your VP-9000 recommendation I also wanted one and realy found one in mint condition with 8 original Roland library disks. OK, the library disks that have voice samples from world/ethno to opera are not really necessary – especially for the original price of 125$ per disks, but a nice start for testing the VP-9000.
    The VP-9000 works really fantastic but your are right – the envelopes are missing, I will try it with the fading parameter as you intended…
    Another nice addon would have been a time variant filter as in the Roland S-samplers…

  3. A friend that worked at Roland in the US. He said sales were bad here in the US and they ended up sending thousands of them back to Japan to be destroyed. I hope it is not true. I know Yamaha does this sort of thing too with parts after 7 years. That means there may have been plenty of perfectly good DX7 parts that were destroyed in the early 90’s. But yeah, I always wanted a VP-9000. I went to a private the unveiling the week of NAMM that year. It was a huge deal to them but they could not see computer processing supplant it’s functions.

  4. I didn’t know V-Trainer could be used in Windows 7. One of the reasons I parted with the VariOS was because it could not be used in a modern computer setup. The encoding on the VP, VariOS, V-synth is special on beats or vocals and i’d like to get back there with a VP9000

  5. I love this sampler so much, I have mine fully expanded with the 128mb/256mb whatever the largest available is.
    I just use 2 Zip disks and that’s plenty for me, and I love the quality of the DAC and the fact it also has digital audio outs too.

    A lovely relic, I will be holding onto mine for a long time. Might even upgrade the knobs with those soft touch phatt knobs that all the kids are putting on Mpc’s and SP’s 🙂 bright orange ones of-course!

  6. Loch

    I’ve just got a VP. Very happy with it.

    Shame Roland didn’t allow free download of the abandon ware V Producer. I mean if they won’t let you buy it off then why not just give it away?

    On that note could anyone offer a copy? Be greatly appreciated. Windows preferable.

    Great blog, regards. 🙂

  7. Loch

    Right. Got the software.

    V Trainer is a huge buggy disappointment. No matter what settings I batch encode everything gets encoded to Solo and 120bpm.

    I’ve tried for days. Unfortunately there aren’t many users for this great price of kit.

    If anyone has a VP does it work for you? Jim?

  8. Charlie

    Hi , I have come across a VP9000 near where Iive and am considering buying later today. It doesnt seem to have anything except the machine, no discs or software. How can I get the software? Has anyone uploaded it to a torrent or could someone give me a copy please?

    Merry Xmas !!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s