Roland has two keyboard instruments that are just over the $1000 mark, the FA-06 Workstation and VR-09 Live Performance Synthesizer. I’ve had a number of keyboardists say that they were torn between the two and ask which instrument they should buy. In this post, I figured I would compare the two and give you some insight on why you would want an FA-06, a VR-09… or both!
Let’s take a look at these 4 areas, and see how the FA-06 and VR-09 compare based on:
- Computer Integration
FA-06: The FA-06 has over 2000 tones, derived from Roland’s acclaimed INTEGRA-7 Sound module. This means that the collection includes SuperNATURAL acoustic sounds, the SuperNATURAL synth engine, and PCM based tones (including tones from a number of our legacy instruments). The FA-06 can easily layer or split two tones (using the DUAL and SPLIT buttons), but can also layer/split up to 16 tones in Studio Set mode. This allows for some monstrously complex and dynamic sounds.
VR-09: The VR-09 contains over 200 tones that are divided into three sections – the SuperNATURAL Organ, Piano, and Synth sections. You can layer or split two of these sections instantly, which makes the VR-09 a definitive live performance keyboard. Moreover, each section has dedicated mixing controls, which keeps button presses and menu diving to a minimum. Further, the drawbars allow you to tweak organ and synth settings naturally.
CONCLUSION: The FA-06’s sound engine has A LOT of sound choices and allows for massive layering. Although the editing process is menu driven, the flexibility is great for nailing ‘THE SOUND’ for your next hit or gig. The VR-09 does not have as many sounds to choose from, but the dedicated buttons and controls for each section offers instant access to your sound controls. It’s great for live performances or inspirational song writing sessions.
SPECIAL NOTE: Both instruments can expand their sounds using Roland’s Axial Website.
V-Combo VR-09 Live Performance Keyboard
FA-06: Each of the FA-06’s tones has an associated effect, called a Multi-Effect. A Multi-Effect travels wherever the tone travels. Since you can utilize up to 16 tones in the FA-06’s Studio Set mode,16 Multi-Effects can be running simultaneously – one on each tone. Further, each tone can have it’s own EQ. There is also a Master Compressor, Master EQ, global Chorus, Reverb, a Total Effect (that effects the entire output), and finally, a dedicated reverb for the external input. The FA-06’s effects are amazingly flexible, and makes for some super-expressive sounds.
VR-09: One of the most fun features of the VR-09 is the Effects section. It contains seven effectors that are always accessible, and each with their own hardware control. The available effects are an MFX (which can be unique for each tone), Overdrive, Tone, Compressor, Reverb, and Delay. Without going into any on-screen menus, you can tweak the effects and sculpt YOUR sounds in seconds. Again, really fun!
CONCLUSION: You can create some amazing ear candy with the FA-06 and its effects – because there are so many! That said, it’s effects system is very menu driven which means you’d probably want to set up your sounds and effects in advance of a performance. The VR-09 doesn’t have the myriad of effects that the FA-06 has, but the instant access to the effects makes for a very fun experience, especially when performing.
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FA-06: The FA-06 has a built-in 16 Track MIDI sequencer that can export each of its tracks as WAV files. This is essential for porting your songs to a computer-based DAW (more on this in the next section). The FA-06 also has a phrase sampler that is very similar to Roland’s acclaimed SP-404SX. You can record audio or import WAV/MP3 files to the sampler and then sequence the samples in the MIDI Sequencer. Full-on music production can be achieved on an FA-06.
VR-09: There’s no MIDI sequencer or sampler on the VR-09; however, there is an audio looper that allows for loops up to 20 seconds long and unlimited overdubs. The looper is a very expressive tool and can add an interesting dynamic to your live performances. It can even be controlled by a foot switch.
CONCLUSION: This one is pretty simple. If you require an instrument that can get your entire song down – FA-06. If you want an instrument that can spark some improvised live backing tracks – VR-09.
FA-06: As mentioned above, the FA-06 can render and export all of its individual MIDI sequencer tracks as WAV files. These can easily be imported to your computer-based DAW for further production. The use of the FA-06 doesn’t stop there. It is also a USB Audio/MIDI interface for your computer and is a full-blown DAW controller when in DAW Controller Mode. Completed songs on your computer can be exported as WAV files to the FA-06’s sampler for playback during a live performance.
VR-09: The VR-09 can be utilized as full USB MIDI controller with your computer. Moreover, it can also connect wirelessly to an iPad (with Roland’s WNA-1100 Roland Wireless Connect), for use with the free VR-09 Editor app. The VR-09 Editor app offers you full hands-on access to the complete SuperNATURAL Organ and synthesizer settings. Lastly, WAV and MP3 files can be put onto a USB flash drive for instant playback, utilizing the VR-09’s USB Song Player.
CONCLUSION: The FA-06 works nicely with your computer’s recording software. The smooth workflow when moving your songs from the instrument to the computer, and back again, is stunning. The FA-06 is your choice if full music production is your focus. When the VR-09 works with an iPad and the VR-09 Editor app, it’s all about hands-on access to the settings that you want the most. This keeps you out of the instrument’s menus and keeps you making music. If you need instant access to sound controls, the VR-09 is your choice.
So which one do you buy?
There’s room for both! Both the FA-06 and VR-09 are insanely fun keyboards to own. Each can make a home in the studio or on the stage – as both have the control and sound quality to conquer either. When it comes down to it, the FA-06 does have a knack for music production, where the VR-09’s hands-on capabilities craves live performance. My recommendation: head to your local Roland dealer and give them both a try!
Adrian Marsi is the Pro Keyboards & DJ Product Marketing Manager for Roland Canada. Follow Adrian on twitter – @rcmsynthguy.