Purchasing the VA-76 was not a small matter. At the time of purchase it was running about $4900.00. I must say I enjoyed it and from time to time incorporated many of its' features into some of the songs I played. It took work but as time went on I learned tricks and ways to operate the keyboard with ease. My problem is that the zip drive has stopped functioning. It seems to format but won't read. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem and if they have any advice for me. Other than that I find the machine to be workable and enjoyable.
I purchased the unit about five years ago in Toronto Ontario at Long and McQuade Music on Bloor Street. It cost about $4900 but I had a credit and two keyboards to trade in on it so my expenditure was much less.
I really like the sounds and the factory patterns on it's zip disk. They are easy to work with. The features are easy to access and enjoyable to work with.
I don't like the Zip Drive. I should have realized that this machine requires it's zip drive to be working for all the functions to be worthwhile. I don't like the sounds of the piano function.
The weight is a bit much for me but it is built strongly and can take a fair amount of shipping around.
I'm pleased I purchased the VA-76 and have had much success on stage with it. The idea of setting up entire shows ahead of time is great. It works well with the AX=1 and the FC-7 peddle. I love the machine. If only I could solve the zip drive problem.
So as not to be redundant, please refer to my previous review on this actual keyboard for purchase details. Editors Note: Author has noted that this is an update to a previous review.
It has been a little over a year since purchasing the VA-76. I was much too generous in my initial review when I said that it will take about two years before the contacts begin to act up. The reality is that it only took this model 6 months to start messing up. First it was one note, then two. When the third note went bad I wanted to throw the keyboard in the ocean! I knew I was faced with the tedious task of disassembling the whole thing, which I did somewhere around last November(03)in preparation for the busy holiday season. Unfortunately, the repair did not last long. One of the lower "F's" that I had previously cleaned went out again. And so I opened it up AGAIN. I cleaned it once more. The key went out again at the next gig! This time though, instead of the note screaming out at full velocity, it required that you pound on it to get any sound. I'm afraid the problem is more than just cruddy contacts. Why in the world should I have to send a virtually new instrument to the shop?I've been putting up with that situation for 3 months now. I guess I'm waiting for more notes to go bad to make my repair efforts worthwhile. I hate that I have to compromise my playing, especially after the substantial investment placed in this dubious instrument. Aside from the lousy contacts, the VA-76 has been holding up OK.
For about 2 weeks I made a concentrated effort to become knowledgable on the VariPhrase feature. I had a little fun with it while working on an old do-wop song, but for the life of me I can't seem to find any other real-time use for it. The number of steps required to make it work far outweigh its usefulness, at least for me. I would have been much more satisfied with a simple voice harmonizer that follows my left hand chord voicings.
To make up for the reduction of buttons on the front panel, I ended up purchasing the FC-7 floor pedal to access those functions. It appears to me that Roland designed this board to be used with the pedal, even though it is considered an "option", and a fairly expensive one as well. I was able to purchase one on eBay for around $150
The touch screen is doing OK so far, although there is an area in the upper left corner that appears hazier than the rest of it. It wasn't like that in the begining. Also, if you find yourself working in bright daylight, you can forget about trying to see anything on the screen. You'll have to resort to your Zen training for that.
The VA-76 comes with an ifra-red D beam controller and a ribbon controller, as well as aftertouch capability. The scary part is that I rarely ever use any of those features, which is funny because I used to think of myself as someone who took what I had and pushed it to its furthest limit. Is it me, or I am I simply not inspired? Is it the keyboard itself that puts my fire out? Perhaps if Roland incorporated some creative controller settings into their factory patches it might become more obvious how to truly apply them. As it is, the controllers default to simply opening up the hi frequency filter which can create some truly unpleasant results if you're not expecting it. You are forced to go in to the controller menu screen and mess with parameters. Most of the time I find myself saying "Aww, I'll deal with that later..." and never get back to it. We may be simply dealing with my increasing lack of tolerance for being on the receiving end of corporate deception. So many products that I used as a younger person are now packaged to be the same thing, when they are not. Too many times I find myself thinking "Why, those clever devils!" when I discover how certain things are bypassed to attain similiar results at a lesser cost. Buyer beware!
I cannot put my finger on it, but somewhere in the digital architecture of this board many compromises have been made. The bells and whistles Roland provides, such as the extra controllers and the VariPhrase, just don't seem to add up. I think it's incredible how much information I can store on the built-in ZIP drive and the number of high quality sounds, but I just feel as though there is some kind of invisible wall between my brain and getting to the heart of what this keyboard potentially offers. I suppose that's the challenge for many maufacturers these days. With so much technology available, how do you make it accessible to the average brain? Don't get me wrong. I haven't written the VA-76 off just yet. Each time I play it, I discover something new; it is a very deep instrument. Trying to sift through it all can be staggering. Who knows? Another year down the road I may be singing its praises. The reality is that it's been over a year and I'm still stuck in the learning curve. That right there should tell you something, but it also makes me wonder...is it me or the keyboard? Hmmmm...
I purchased this unit online from LM Music located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Its not a product they normally carry, however, my good customer status inspired them to go the extra mile to get what I wanted. I have been using a Roland G800 intelligent Arrangerfor the past 7 years to the point where it is
physically falling apart, the case screws are stripped, the floppy disk is inoperable as well
as a few intermittent circuitry problems born of extreme road use and southern humidity.
I live near the ocean in Savannah GA...need I say more? The bottom line is that the
keyboard is ready for pasture, not to mention that it is totally exciting to buy the latest
and greatest piece of gear available!
With all the luscious choices to choose from, I would suggest it to be a true
product endorsement that I would end up purchasing another Roland Intelligent Arranger.
I tried the Kurzweil PC2, the Roland Fantom, Korg Tritons, Karmas you name it, I
looked into it. While all the above mentioned keyboards all shine marvelously in their
own way, they all seemed to fall short for my needs.
Now remember, I have been using a G800, which is no slouch of a keyboard in
and of itself. It was truly designed for a one man performer such as myself. When I first
began using the instrument, I snorted in disdain at a few features that I would not be
caught dead using. As an old school keyboardist programmer, there was just something
wrong with using those built-in backing tracks. In my mind, they couldn't possibly be
good enough if I hadn't spent endless hours programming it. But as time wore on, I
realized those backing tracks were not as hokey as I had predetermined. I began to
incorporate them into the act. The audience had no problem dancing to them, so what
was my hang-up? Was it really necessary to go gray in the studio just to stick to my worn
out policy of using self-produced tracks only? Suddenly I felt a weight being lifted off my
shoulders an angelic voice reassured me it was OK. We have the technology...NOW
USE IT! And use it I did! I've had more fun with that keyboard than anything else in the
past, and so it only made sense to build on what I already know works. The Roland VA76
is the winner, hands down! Oh yeah, if you want to buy it, L&M Music will ask you for $2,495.00
Forgive me for making comparisons to the VA 76s predecessor, the G800, but I
was in awe of the sound quality 7 years ago. The sounds coming out of the VA 76 now are
stellar! I suspect there are some true piano aficionado's who will complain about the
piano samples, but I personally think they are fine for what I do. The Rhodes sounds are
voluptuously sexy and the organs are absolutely fantastic. I thought I was going to be
happy with the organs in the Kurzweil PC2, but if it is at all possible, the sounds are too
authentic for my likes. The Kurzweil offers only one effect option for the organ sounds,
which is the Leslie, duh. I happen to like my organs awash in a sea of reverb, an
occasional delay along with a full burbling Leslie. Also, the PC2 does not like to share
it's organ architecture with its piano sounds. You can combine them, but one or the other
will suffer in sound quality. Not so with the VA 76. The VA 76 allows you to color things
any way you like. Add a little Intelligent Harmony voicings and you're in Organ Heaven.
And there some sax sounds that drip with airy spit, and guitars that actually sound like a
So far I haven't bonded with the Vari Phrase feature, but like anything new, it
will take some time before I wake up and smell the coffee. There are some excellent new
Styles which totally refreshes the whole instrument. The Jazz Scat is a blast to mess
around with, although I don't see a real use for it at a gig, other than cocktails. None the
less, I like that it is there. There are some excellent "unplugged" styles, one of which
faithfully recreates the acoustic feel of Claptons If I Saw You In Heaven. And there
are some very spicy Latin rhythms that will wake you out of your siesta, gringo or no! I
suppose I could go on and on, there is so much to like. Oh yeah, what are you supposed
to do with the ribbon controller? And the DBeam. And the Aftertouch? And the
Modulation Lever? With so many possibilities, you can just go crazy with this board!!
OK, OK, we all love our knobs and buttons. My G800 is loaded with them. The
VA76, I must say, has been scaled back in the knob department. There are 2 buttons on
the G800 that I use all the time. They are the Fill buttons, one is a fill to the Original
pattern and the other is a fill to the Variation pattern. During a verse, which normally
uses the Original pattern, I will often hit the to Original fill button as a mid-verse
turnaround. Roland has reduced this feature on the VA 76 to 1 fill button. If I want the
fill to go back to the Original pattern, I am forced to hit the button twice. The problem is,
if you dont get the timing just right, you're in for a surprise. In a few frantic attempts to
do a double push, I've made the button get physically stuck; the fill plays over and over
until I jiggle it loose. I don't like when problems like this arise so early in the game. I am
hoping that if I purchase the FC-7 floor pedal my fill options will go back to what I am
used to. Speaking of pedals, the VA 76 does not come with a sustain pedal. There is a
slick looking music stand, but the chances of my actually using it is slim to none. I would
much rather a sustain pedal, wouldnt you?
In all fairness, it should be pointed out that although knobs and buttons are
missing, none of the actual synth functions have been removed (whew!). The touch
sensitive screen does a great job of gluing it all together, so far. I really have not had the
instrument to a high pressure gig yet. Only then will I know how intuitive and well laid
out the unit truly is, but so far I have no reason to doubt it, it is more about my ability to
overcome the learning curve of such an intriguing instrument.
Time will tell just how well that touch sensitive screen will hold up under the
duress of constant road wear. Also one weakness that all my Roland keyboards have
displayed over the years is the need to clean the contacts. They are good for about 2
years, then one day you will hit a key and it will blast out at full velocity. This indicates
that dirt and grime has made its way into the contacts. I have performed this cleaning
procedure myself about 30 times. Its not a highly technical job, just time consuming,
which is why repair shops will charge a ton for this service. I keep hoping that Roland
will address this problem one day. I have a Korg 01W that I purchased in 1992 that has
been through the same torture as my Roland G800 and the Korg is essentially
non-problematic in all areas. Seeing as how the VA 76 is constructed pretty much the
same as its predecessor, I suspect I will be performing surgery in 2 years or so. I just hope
the floppy disk holds up and the case screws dont strip too soon. In all honesty, I was
using a lousy case and after a long hot gig would often just jam the board anywhere it
would fit in the back of the truck. Getting bounced around on top of a wheel well
probably is not recommended. I promise to take better care of the VA 76!
OK, this board covers a LOT of ground. I was very close to buying a Fantom, but
the reality is that I am one those clowns who actually uses sound effects on stage! I get a
real kick out of playing a Polka, then suddenly stop dead, do a few Karate punches, then
resume playing. Its always good for a few laughs. Now with the Vari Phrase feature, I
can make the thing talk, or scream, or whatever! I can see some real possibilities on the
On the other hand, this keyboard costs almost a grand more than a Fantom. You
will pay for all those bells and whistles so you must seriously ask yourself if you really
need them. As a solo entertainer, it fits my bill perfectly. Of course, when I bought my
first one I had intended NOT to use those bells and whistles for fear of ridicule. Now you
can't stop me! So, if doing a fun-time solo act is your thing, this board will pay for itself
many times over. If studio is more your bag, you might want to stick with less expensive
modules and tweak supportive units.
76 arranger keyboard notes not amplifibr /> Tons of sounds and styles
Ergonomics: This is the really strong point, the touch screen sensitivity perfect glove.
The VariPhrase's foot once you understand the trick.
A model of ergonomics!
Edition rev limit sounds (not a synth!) on the other hand for the styles and effects, it is glove.
The manual is luxurious and full rev, no say on it (this is rare)
Used for 1 year
Trs complte excellent sound bank. We recover the quality of the sounds of Roland (I also have the Korg it also sounds good in trs sysnthtiques, but Roland is much better for pianos and violins, guitars and other) .
For sytyles is quite traditional, but by manipulating a few custom settings you get to do the original too.
Qualitprix: correct (it is not given but is the ca)
Touch keyboard (semi-ballast is excellent.