Updated: May 22, 2022
Is that the famed OP...Oh?
No, no, no. This, ladies and gentlemen is the Casio VL-Tone and boy, oh boy, is it a classic. Made in 1979, not only is this a mono synthesiser, but it is also a calculator (a very hard to use calculator, but a calculator nevertheless).
Coming with not only one but TWO full octaves of keys (plus a low/high/mid octave switch), this neat little synth also has 5 preset sounds, a legendary drum kit built-in and a whole host of other features available and ready to go!
The VL-Tone also features a built-in speaker and a line out for recording those sweet, sweet, ultra classic sounds, and truly, it is a product of the time. Released 10 years before the original Gameboy, one could definitely argue that its pallet of presets wouldn't be out of place if making music for that era of games.
In all her glory. The Cassio VL-Tone.
So what does it sound like? Paired with its mono speaker, the VL Tone is very reminiscent of a time once past. It can only be played in mono and has no support for stereo whatsoever.
However, this adds to its charm, learning how to use it in its own way, learning how to play the same song that was known before, but this time with just one hand, and in that way, the VL-Tone really is a fantastic machine.
The VL-Tone also sports two One Key Play, on the right-hand side under the power button (keys in blue with white circles), These keys can pay back any melody that the user has written into the VL-Tones memory (which of note is the only key that is played through the entirety of the smash hit music video, Trio - Da Da Da, which was released in 1981 and went on to sell over 13,000,000 copies).
So here is the exciting part. What does it really sound like?
Here are the five presets of the synth playing back the famed track by esteemed composer Hisaishi Joe (久石譲) with his song as part of the incredible film Laputa, Castle in the Sky (1986).
The tracklist is as on the machine,
All tracks are free for download on SoundCloud, if you make anything with them please show me!
To sum up, the Casio VL-Tone is a polycarbonate finished in a white, beautiful little machine. Some even say it is the precursor to what followed in its footsteps, the OP-1.
If you can get your hands on one of these machines, and given it is not too expensive, it is a must-have for anybody who loves to make either music from that period, 8Bit, sound for games or Lo-Fi styles.
They don't make them like they used to.
Truly an amazing calu... Synth that has so much character and while yes it shows its age, it does so with such grace that one could mistake it for being far more modern than it actually is.
With plenty more pieces of nostalgic technologies from a whole host of different backgrounds, A World of Pure Imagination is a series of blogs looking at past and present technology, a blog to help inform and inspire.
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