Roland VR09 VR09B and VR730 are lightweight COMBO Organs in the tradition of Roland Combos (VK7/8, VR700/760).
They have no specific strength (we call it an “80% key”) but provide sounds and features (organ, piano, synth, bread&butter, controls etc) for almost all ‘band situations’ and are very easy and self-explaining to handle at ‘user approach level’.
Diving deeper into its ‘hidden structures’, e.g. by the aid of CTRLR Editor, turns VR into a complex sound producing machine with multitimbral-multizone setups plus hundreds of additional sounds

Since 2013, 3 models appeared in the show rooms:

VR09 with 61 keys was the first model launched in 2013
VR09B is the 2017 successor of VR09 : apart from cosmetic changes, VR09 and VR09B are IDENTICAL
VR730 is the 73 key version of VR09B equipped with a waterfall ‘Hammond style’ keybed. It’s larger and heavier

For all details about the differences see the FAQ

VR ‘ranking’ and buyer recommandation

  • Organ: general sound of the organ is rather soft, ‘sweet’ and ‘churchy’ (well suited for gospel and church applications…). In the race of the ‘most authentic Hammond sound’ VR clearly drops behind the ‘better clones’ (Hammond SK/SK-Pro, Yamaha YC 2.0, Viscount, HX/Uhl, etc): VR organ lacks too many frequency (overtone) details, e.g. it cannot reproduce a classical 8880- (or 6860-) ‘jazzy smokey mellow’ jazz sound. For playing ‘Rock’ solos the ‘screaming’ (in the upper foldback octaves) is way softer than the crying of actual top-tier clones (or even the earlier Roland VR700/760 models!).
    The Leslie simulation, especially ‘type 3’, is VERY good. Overdrive is not: being a rather harsh “distortion/bit-crusher” it cannot generate a ‘smokey tube sound’.
    VR organ inherited the note retrigger bug from previous VR/VK with makes it a nogo for serious polyphonic players (see VR Bugs).
    For whom is the VR organ: accompanying rock-pop songs, rock organ by accepting some compromise, gospel. If organ is a fundamental part in your music and you’re a skilled organ/jazz player you won’t be happy with the VR – go Hammond, Yamaha, etc
  • Acoustic Pianos (Grand): they can be used for accompaniment (working well when layered with strings or pads) – their harsh, shrill sound cuts through the band mix but can rapidly turn into ear torture when the piano ‘comes to the front’. In no aspect (quality of samples, decay curve, dosing of velocity layers) are they suited for ‘serious’ piano play.
    For whom are VR APs: accompanying piano chords in rock-pop songs in ‘background’ without focussing on piano. If you’re a skilled (classic) piano player with a fine ear go for Nord, Dexibell, Vox – and – at least in band context – Hammond
  • Electric Pianos: they are cute: allmost all are quite ‘aggressive’ (somewhere a bit over-aggressive) but cut through the band with ease. The various MFX that can be applied can produce wonderful new and freaky EP sounds – a big field for experiments.
    For whom are VR EPs: for anything in rock-pop. If you’re a ‘traditional’ Wurly or Rhodes player you will find them too aggresive with (unrealistic) jumps between velocity layers: rather go for e.g. Hammond SK or a good stage piano
  • Acoustic Instruments (Wind, Brass, Strings etc): they are – without exception – good: harp, sax, trumpets (including ‘D-beam modulation’), violins, etc: all on a highly realistic and ‘non-digital’ level well suited for ‘stage use’. From a ‘studio’ point of view (high resolving headphones!) one would notice atrtificial artefacts (high frequency ‘background’ noise etc) though. In addition CTRLR EDITOR opens Aladins bottle of hundreds of additional ‘hidden’ sounds
  • Synth sounds: there are tons of synth sounds, from classical pads and ‘solo saws’ to Roland vintage classics. A lot of sounds are orientated towards modern electronic dance/dubb music but can be quickly modified using the envelope and filter faders – or entirely edited using the integrated VA (virtual analog) synthesizer.
    For whom are VR synth sounds: for fast access of ‘bread&butter synths’ in your rock-pop music, but also for those who like to perfect those sounds or even create own ‘synth sounds’ (e.g. a Moog bass or lead): the possibilities are unlimited. If you’re used to flagship synths (e.g. Jupiter, Fantom etc) you may find the VR synths sounding thin and lacking mightyness (waveforms, DACs etc) although a large number of legendary synth sounds can be imported and saved using CTRLR Editor. If you want more realtime controls, you’ll have to go with Nord Stage or Hammond SK-Pro

VR pros

  • Highly versatile with perhaps the best “bangs per buck” ratio of any stage keyboard. Easy to transport (especially ‘little’ VR09 – with 5.5 kilos it’s the lightest combo organ of the world)
  • Usable organ sound (not on the level of the prime organs like Yamaya YC 2.0, Hammond SK… but competitive to Vox and Dexibell)
  • Tons of good bread & butter and synth sounds covering all styles and ages of rock and pop. Compared to Roland superior range (e.g. Jupiter series) they sound a bit thin
  • Split and layer mode (extendable to 4 zones and multi-layering using CTRLR EDITOR)
  • Fully featured virtual-analog (VA) synthesizer (from Jupiter-80) for creating own synth sounds (needs a tablet/PC with IOS or CTRLR EDITOR for control)
  • Joystick for modulation/pitch, acting also as Leslie halfmoon switch
  • D-Beam for modifying sounds on the fly (e.g. filter sweeps, pitch shifts etc)
  • VR09 has synth keys (identical keybed to Juno Di/DS, FA06, JDXA …) but with ‘high key trigger point’ for fast organ playing
  • VR730 has a very good keybed in ‘Hammond style’ including ‘high key trigger point’ and organ quick-firing
  • Overall build quality is good, plastic chassis is light but sturdy, robust buttons. Machine failures are very rare. Operating system is stable and reliable
  • Huge amount of ‘hidden sounds’ and ‘hidden features’ (9 voices, 4-zone split, hundreds of additional sounds, etc) with CTRLR EDITOR

VR cons

  • Acoustic pianos/Grands are mediocre down to low level (see VR Acoustic Pianos)
  • With respect to ‘Tonewheel-authenticity’, organ sound is not on the level of the top players (Hammond, Nord, Crumar, Viscount, Uhl, etc)
  • Organ overdrive (‘tube-amp sound’) is harsh and ‘digital’
  • The keybed of VR09/09B with ’rounded black keys’ and very short pivot length can be difficult to play (see FAQ:General and VR09 keys)
  • VR DOES NOT RECOGNIZE midi program changes for switching its registrations (e.g. by master controllers, digital songbooks, DAWs…)
  • EFX (Effects) and MFX section has a nice selection of effects but no customisation (no FX chaining, no parametrisation)
  • EFX is a pure ‘master FX’ section: all FX apply to upper manual, organ, drum. There is no FX ‘per indivual part’
  • When adding Leslie/Overdrive to organ for lower manual it’s also applied to upper manual sounds (‘leslied right hand piano’)
  • ‘seamless transisition’ (no sound cut when switching patches) applies EFX of the new sound to the old (see VR Bugs
  • Big limitations and confusion about saving sounds from Virtual-Analog synthesizer
  • No dedicated line-outs for organ (e.g. for routing VR organ to ventilator, Lester-K, real Leslie, etc)

VR bugs (not fixed by firmware updates yet)

  • Organ ‘note retrigger bug’: when playing the same tone on different keys (e.g. 8″ on lower and upper manual) one key retriggers (restarts) the other. This generates ‘false key-clicks’ and gets extremely disturbing when when playing with both hands (See VR Bugs, Tips & Tricks)
  • Pitch bend graining: pitch bends not continuously but splits into 24 steps: this makes it unusable for bending larger intervals, e.g. +- octave (Workaround see VR Bugs, Tips & Tricks)
  • Organ volume is not saved in a ‘mixed registration’: when organ is part of a split registration with non-organ sounds, ‘level’-fader volume change is not saved to registrations (Workaround see VR Bugs, Tips & Tricks)

VR hardware issues