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This is the realisation of my vision: an ideal hardware controller for the famous Yamaha VL1 synthesizer. After my experience of making a HW controller for the FS1R, I decided to create an new user interface that deals easily with hundreds of parameters to control this beast. The case is designed as a 19″ rack mount, the same size as the VL1m module. As the name implies, it can edit all physical modelling parameters as you were able with the Yamahas Expert Editor for Macs.

Individual dials for all parameters rendered quite impossible, so I found a way to divide the parameters into several pages of 16 parameters and show the content on an OLED displays.

You have 7 groups on the front panel: Global, Control, Effect, Driver, Physics, Pipe and Modifier. Each group has several buttons and LEDs to indicate the current selected parameter page. In the next image you see that the page for editing breath noise and excitation is selected, and the 16 dials are assigned to the belonging parameters.

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The dials are endless encoders with haptic clicks. The displays are divided in two halves, upper display half describes the parameter name and value for the upper dial and vice versa.

That’s it: you have a good overview about the whole context and you can easily dive into all parameters.

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One group lets you define the control matrix and assign the MIDI CC mods to live controls.

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Here an example of the Pipe Physics page, where you can adjust the holy settings of the pipe length, damping etc. The separate TFT display gives an idea how the current parameters change the shape and relations between the parts of the instrument.

Many parameters can be individually adjusted to key scalings. This type is identified by a leading “#” signs before the parameter name. A press on the dial changes to the Key Scaling view on the TFT display.

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You have now access to these breakpoints. The content of the dials and the OLEDs are now assigned to breakpoint editing. The lower dial edits the key number, you can also use the keyboard to update the key. The upper dial is changing the BP offset. The TFT shows all parameters live. Pressing any upper dial returns to the page before. If there are more then 8 breakpoints, a press on any lower dial changes to the remaining BP. There are not many parameters with support 16 breakpoints, normally we have to dial with 2 or 4 BPs.

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An example of an envelope generator page

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Resonator page

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Tuning page

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Equalizer setting.

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Finally the controller can store the changed voice onto the internal storage (SD card) and access quickly to the library.

Even the controller is in a good usable state now, there are still many ideas to implement in the future: an internal MIDI looper and sequencer, a virtual LFO for all parameters, preset templates for groups, macro page to edit holistic parameters at the same time, automate polyphonic voice extension with more than one VL1, etc.

This is the prototype, if there is some interest, this can lead to a small production. The face plate would then be black to match the VL1m.

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25 thoughts on “VL1 Expert Controller: First Details and Contacts”
  1. Fantastic implementation for a real gem of an instrument. Thank you for making this. I would be interested in a unit when it is available. Kind regards

  2. Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear concept

  3. Super idee! I am playing a VL-1 and this would be wonderful.
    Please let me know if these might be available for purchase.

    Kind regards

  4. Where can I begin. First off I would definately be interested in one. Would also like to learn how you make these controllers. There are many synths that could benefit from this. Can you elaborate more on how you approached this project? What technology is in here and so on? In any case amazing work!

  5. Hi Robert,

    I’m absolutely blown away by what you’ve done. A Masterpiece in every sense of the word. I’m In for 2!!!

    Please let me know how I can help.

    ben

  6. Hi Robert, I left a message here yesterday…I’m very interested in the FS1R Programmer. It looks incredible. Can I buy at least one of those?

    Thx
    b

    1. Hi Benny, currently no FS1R controllers are being produced. Possibly I will write a FS1R firmware for the new controller HW.

      1. Thx for getting back to me Robert. I’m sad you won’t be building more of those awesome FS1R controllers.

        If you were to build some, depending on the price, I’ll take 3 of them.

        If your new unit were to also be able to control the FS1R, then I would be interested in that.

        Would you, potentially, help us build an FS1R programmer? In other words, could you sell us a “kit” for the FS1R Programmer – or would you give us the code and a list of hardware parts to get? We’d happily pay for that.

        I do think it’s sad that you’re not building anymore FS1R Programmers at this time. I have a lot of synths, including an ARP 2500, Jupiter 8, Modular Moog, VCS3, Synclavier, PPG Wave, etc…and there is no synth with the programming potential of the FS1R, and yet, no synth was designed to be less program friendly than the FS1R. So, to give people access to the programming potential of this synth in an easy-to-use way is a real act of charity and greatness. It’s sad people won’t have the potential to make use of what you’ve created.

        Thx.
        ben

  7. this rules. I don’t have a need for more physical stuff, but if you released this as a software editor that runs on a modern os, I would absolutely pay

  8. hi robert! im interested in buying one of these. can you let me know the price when you prepare for your next batch? my contact is in the email field on this form. thank you!

  9. Hi Robert,
    Would be nice if you could help those of us with only Apple computers to be able to update the firmware on the VL1-controller as your plans come on-line (looper, morphing, lfo-per-parameter, etc)…

    1. Hi Michael,
      The Arduino IDE is also available for Apple computers. But I do not have any Apple, and I would need someone to assist me in testing the update procedure.

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