Roland V-Studio 20
Price: $300 (street)
Home digital recording has come a long way in the last 20 years, to the point where top bands are cutting full albums at home. But there is still a learning curve for the uninitiated, and the software and hardware choices are dizzying. Enter Roland, whose V-Studio 20 is notable because it’s absurdly easy to use, yet has ample pro features. Let’s roll tape.
The V-Studio 20 plugs into a computer with a USB cable and is very user-friendly, with real sliders and knobs like an analog mixer. The unit also features built-in stereo mics and a conventional “tape transport” layout. The inputs accommodate a direct guitar/bass line, a pair of 1/4-inch line cables, and an XLR-type microphone. One disappointment is that the speaker outputs are RCA phono plugs and not 1/4-inch jacks for real studio monitors (thus, you may need adapters), but there are standard connections for headphones and an expression pedal.
The package comes with Cakewalk’s Guitar Tracks program, which is a simplified version of its popular Sonar (note that it’s PC only; Mac users will need their own program). Guitar Tracks is an audio sequencer that will capture, edit, and mix music, and – good news – it’s joyously simple to use. With a guitar plugged into the V-Studio 20 box, users can watch their tracks unfold onscreen as they record.
One of the great assets of the V-Studio 20 is that all the effects any user will likely need are already inside the unit. A virtual multi-effects pedalboard using the company’s COSM modeling presets pops up onscreen, where the user can use their mouse to tweak tones and effects. And the 36 internal Boss effects are very good – from clean to crunch, there’s a number of excellent amp tones, as well as loads of compression, reverb, chorus, flange, delay, and more. There’s also more than 1GB of drum tracks and loops to help build tracks further.
Perhaps the best aspect of the Roland V-Studio 20, however, is that it is highly intuitive. Even those who haven’t delved into digital recording will be able to get onboard quickly. It should be noted, though, that it’s important to have a decent PC with an up-to-date operating system. Guitar Tracks was tested on a Windows XP machine with no problem (it also works on Windows Vista and Windows 7). In all, the Roland V-Studio 20 is one of the best recording packages for the newbie out there, as well as a useful tool for more experienced players who want a simple system without the headaches.
This article originally appeared in VG August 2013 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.