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All Hail Valhala

Studio Series Roland D110 Voice Cards

Super sleuth Simon Sanders finds himself hot on the trail of cool sounds for the Roland D110. Prime suspect: Valhala.

A last minute call from the editor — "We've got a rush job for you. Can you handle it?" "Sure, gimme the lowdown!" "It's those Valhala guys again... They've come up with more sound cards for the D110. Check 'em out — now!" The phone went dead, and I got ready to go to work.

The Valhala Studio Series for the D110 consists of seven cards, each containing 64 patches, 128 multi-timbral set-ups and 64 tones. Also available is a D10/D20 card, containing just 64 tones, called Screamin' B3.

I started with the Screamin' B3 card and found 64 excellent electric organ voices, all based, it seems, on the Hammond B3. Not being an aficionado of this elder statesmen of the keyboard world, I cannot really comment on their authenticity. However, I can report a good spread of very usable sounds, many of which feature the all-important key click which I know so well from my old soul favourites. My only criticism would be the lack of velocity response (which adds to the authenticity I suppose), and the non-implementation of the modulation wheel for vibrato or Leslie effects — an outboard Leslie effect, or better still, a Leslie speaker, would be essential to add more movement to some of the sounds.

The first of the Studio Series cards, the Orchestral card, was a bit of a disappointment, probably due to the fact that these days we are spoilt by the abundance of highly realistic orchestral sounds found in most of the ROM-based sample players, (U220, Proteus etc.). This said, the sounds were certainly better than Roland's factory presets, and a few caught my attention. These included Piccolo, Pizzi, and Timpani 2, which would have been even better with a slightly longer sustain.

Next up was the New Age card. The sounds on this card are a mixture of gentle pads and 'soft' percussive sounds. The pads vary in feel and are all relatively easy on the ear, though I would soften the attack of many of them to make them flow a little better within the context of New Age pieces. The percussive sounds are exactly what you need in New Age music, and at one stage I almost forgot that I was supposed to be reviewing the sounds and started to get into writing a piece of music — a good sign. I was very impressed by the Hi and Lo Tabla tones in particular and suspect that we'll be hearing them on a few tracks in the near future.

The Top 40 card contains a very useful selection of stock keyboard voices — electric pianos, organs etc. — the kind of sounds that you will use regularly. There is also a good selection of string and brass pads, certainly the stuff of which hits might be made (the Zark String tone literally jumps out of the speakers!). The half-dozen bass tones on the card are, on the whole, a little weak, but nonetheless usable. There are also a few percussive tones which would come in handy in the right context.

Having auditioned half the cards, I was beginning to flag a little. However, refreshment came in the form of the Analog (sic) card. As soon as I inserted it and began playing, I was amazed by what I heard; this card really is stuffed full of brilliant sounds. There are several immense synth string and brass voices with some very nice filter envelopes, accompanied by several very tasty bass sounds (the JX3P Bass certainly made me sit up and listen). A must for anyone using a D110 for anything remotely dance-oriented.

"The percussive sounds are exactly what you need in New Age music, and at one stage I almost forgot that I was supposed to be reviewing the sounds and started to get into writing a piece of music — a good sign."

Suitably inspired, I moved on to the Digital card. The perfect complement to the Analog voices, this contains sparkling digital voices, and again there is a good range of stock keyboard sounds which would find plenty of general purpose use. The pads are subtle, but still strong — DigiCool was especially powerful — and there are even a couple of DX-like bass sounds.

Next in line was the PCM card. In my opinion the PCM card is nothing special; there are a few usable voices, but there was nothing which stood out for me.

The final card was the Effects voices selection. What can I say — a card full of those silly noises which don't sound authentic enough to be used as real sound effects, the type of sounds which, if they are factory presets on a keyboard, most people overwrite within a couple of days of getting the machine. Having said this, there are probably a few applications for these sounds in an animation context, where silly synthetic sound effects are de rigeur. There are also a couple of rhythm loops — 'Kruger' in particular — which I could imagine using as an intro, or as a between-track filler, and a few voices which could be edited to create something usable, but this card is just not my cup of tea.

Overall, I was impressed by the range of sounds which these Valhala cards contained. Many of the string and brass pads are extremely full, and I could see myself using them extensively. If you have a D110, then I would certainly recommend any of the cards, as you can never have too many voices — the wider your choice, the more chance you have of finding a voice which is perfect for the job.

Case closed.

Further information

Studio Series and Screamin' B3 organ cards £45 each.

Advanced Media Group, (Contact Details).

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Mar 1992

Gear in this article:

Synthesizer Module > Roland > D110

Gear Tags:

Digital Synth

Review by Simon Sanders

Previous article in this issue:

> You Get More From A Mackie

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