Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roland Vocoder Plus "The Human Factor" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Roland Vocoder Plus "The Human Factor" full page colour advertisement from page 7 in the November 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

This Roland Vocoder Plus ad has a lot in common with other Roland advertisements from the same time period, like that Jupiter-4 ad I blogged about last Monday. Title, large photo of gear with coloured background and three columns of well-written white ad-copy all on a black background.

Unfortunately, lasting power was not one of the features it has in common with the Jupiter-4 ad. The JP4 ad ran five or six times over a year or so, but this Vocoder ad only lasted through one winter - October, November, December and January 1980.

Some would say that four ads in consecutive issues is better than five or six spread out over a longer period of time. Plus, the Vocoder Plus also had the additional promo bump with it's appearance in the December 1979 Spec Sheet.
"Roland Keyboard. The Vocoder Plus is a polyphonic instrument which has a built-in vocoder and two tone-generating systems, one for strings and one for human voice-like sounds. Each of the three sections may be independently assigned to cover the whole keyboard or one of its halves, top or bottom. Each half of the keyboard also feeds into its won output so that the Vocoder Plus can be run in stereo. The tone and attack time of the strings section is independent of that of the human voice section. The two sections share release times. The upper half of the keyboard has one female and one male chorus and the lower half has two male choruses. The vocoder section processes the spoken or sung human voice and uses this program information to modify the carrier signal (which for the instrument is provided by the human choir tone-generating system). A balance control is supplied for balancing the output levels of the different sections. The microphone input to the vocoder section accepts either a phone plug or an XLR connector. Price is $2,695.00. Roland, 2401 Saybrook Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90040."
Enough about the ad. I'm more interested in the machine itself.

I love vocoders. Probably because many of the things I love in this world revolve around vocoders. Kraftwerk. Robots. Eeeerrr... Did I mention robots?!? Robots are awesome.  Okay, maybe I also love vocoders because I can't sing and its really the only excuse I have to to put a mic in front of me.

Believe it or not, my love for vocoders started with a Korg DVP-1. I picked it from a friend who found it too limiting, but I was more than happy to take it off his hands for a nice price, and it got the job done when needed. I don't even remember what happened to it. Must have lent it to someone a long while back once I found a Roland SVC-350 - in the city even!

What I didn't know (according to Vintage Synth Explorer's page on the Vocoder Plus) is that the SVC-350 is related to the Vocoder Plus! I've never hunted down a Vocoder Plus to listen to but VSE commenter "mike" came up with an ingenious way to get the SVC-350 to sound very similar to the Vocoder Plus:"
"Here is what I done so I can get same tone out of VP-330 in a SVC-350. I bought a AKAI S5000. There is a AKAI CDROM called “History of Roland” in S1000 format. It has all the VP-330 sounds. Load the VP-330 programs up on the S5000 and Plug this S5000 up to your SVC-350 and BAM you have a VP-330 with the same carrier sound on a SVC-350. That is just if you want to have the same sound you get when you turn on a VP-330 and use vocoder without any ext sound. 5/5"
Smarty-pants! Gonna definitely try this!

This then got me even more curious to exactly how the Vocoder Plus sounds. Especially when the ad itself says that "The Human Voice section literally defies description with its uncanny resemblance to a chorus of human voices".  Add to this the fact that another commenter from VSE says that the Vocoder Plus was used extensively by Vangelis on the Bladerunner soundtrack. And another says it was used extensively by Underworld. I just had to know how this thing sounds.

Thank you Youtube and for a great little demo of its functionality.

Yup. Very Vangelis.

I'm hooked.

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