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All About the Roland VC-1 (D-50 V-Card)

There's a lot more to the VC-1 than meets the eye, and at first I thought it was just an emulation with nothing new but that's quite far from the truth. There are many misconceptions and assumptions about the card, but that's not unexpected since it's so weird and uncommon.

This does also mean two things: the PG-1000 controller will also work on the VC-1, and the VC-1 UniQuest could also be used to program a D-50 / D-550 (assuming it's not using any custom extensions). Keep in mind there's no documentation of people mixing either or so I can only speculate, however there's proof that the D-05 works with the PG-1000 so we can assume the aforementioned is true:

SOS' Paul Nagle mentions it's a RAM card, but this is false. It's flash memory, if it were RAM everything would be lost the moment the machine were to be powered off. I suppose this does mean every VC-1 card in existence has a certain amount of read/writes it can perform before it 'expires'.

Paolo of SynthMania has a whole page demonstrating the VC-1 exclusive patches (for some reason his page says it has no aftertouch, which is false):

There's a few patches that seem to be related to older ones; Musique Concrete is kind of like Intruder, and Next Stop Nirvana is kind of like Soundtrack.

VC-1 / D-05 / D-50 Feature Comparisons

I've tried my best to figure out what's different between them all (any mistakes are because I don't own everything & lack of documentation):

Feature VC-1 D-50/550 D-05 Roland Cloud
New 64 patches + 28 waveforms Yes No Yes Yes
Modern Filter + D-50 Filter Yes No No No
PG-1000 Compatibility Yes Yes Yes Probably Not?
VC-1 UniQuest Compatibility Yes Yes Yes Probably Not?
Original D-50 Patch Compatibility Yes Yes Yes Yes

For the longest time the VC-1 was the best choice for a modern D-50 solution, but with the D-50 Roland Cloud you get all of the VC-1 patches and the creature comforts that come with software and DAWs. The D-05 is less desirable because it's just another piece of hardware you have to manage with ground loop hum, an interface for ants, a hefty price tag... and it's discontinued now.

There is discussion regarding the Boutique ground loop hum here:

VC-1 / D-05 / D-50 Audio Comparisons

Because the VC-1 has two operating modes (classic 'D-50' mode and the modern mode without aliasing), both can dramatically alter how the resulting output sounds. None of the below comparisons mention which mode it's operating in which is a big problem... as some of the major differences may be running the VC-1 in its modern mode. I wouldn't be surprised if most left the VC-1 running on its modern mode.

If there are any differences in output, it's due to the analog output and not the software since it *is* the same original D-50 code.

Nicolas Melis has a comparison between a D-50 and the VC-1 running on a V-Synth, however it's kind of hard to tell the finer details because the V-Synth is panned too much to the right whereas the D-50 has both channels panned normally.... so it causes quite a lot differences that otherwise wouldn't be there if both synthesizers had equal volume and equal panning:

Marshal Arnold has a great comparison between the VC-1 and and D-05 (boutique). The audio has a bit of ground loop hum (lol I think it's the boutique itself because it goes away when he switches to the V-Synth) but it's hard to hear once the instruments start playing:

Woody Piano Shack's comparison between the D-50 and VC-1, the after touch was omitted so this does cause differences in the VC-1 samples unfortunately (I'm not sure if this is why 'Intruder' sounded different, because it shouldn't as the software code is the exact same between the D-50 and VC-1):

Audio Thoughts

I know some of the comments on Nicolas Melis' video surprisingly say they think the D-50 sounds brighter as a whole, but I don't think so. There've been instances where the VC-1 sounds brighter, the D-05 sounds brighter, or rarely the D-50 sounding brighter. I'm going to assume these micro variances are due to the amplifier differences and VC-1 operation modes.

A good example of the brightness variations are on the Woody Piano Shack comparisons, and even in lieu of the after touch problem, you can see how very similar the two sound unlike Melis' video with the panning issues. In fact, if someone were to actually do a proper comparison of both without panning or after touch issues and in the 'classic D-50 mode', it would be so close if not identical that it's impossible to notice in a mix. It is the same code, after all.

I'm kind of curious how the VC-1 would stack up against the Roland Cloud D-50 because the JV-1080 Roland Cloud VST does have some issues and differences to the original hardware. Most of it is pretty subtle and you only notice it on very particular patches... so... I'm wondering if this is the case with the D-50. Who knows. I can tell you that even though I hated how the Roland Cloud JV-1080 distorted some patches, once they're in the mix you really can't hear most of it.

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