Recently, a friend gave me a really cool item- A Roland VS-840ex. This particular Multitrack recorder is interesting, in that it uses ZIP disks as a storage medium. Another interesting note is that Boss created a bunch of on-board effects for this unit. You’re probably asking yourself, “why would anyone use something outdated when you could just use your computer? Do they even still MAKE zip disks?”… Well, the thing is, this machine works beautifully. It sounds good, it’s pretty easy to use (there’s a slight learning curve), it has a lot of features, it’s built like a tank, and it’s WAY hackable.
Hackable? Let me explain: I’ve installed an SD card reader in place of the old zip drive, and can transfer the files to a computer for additional work. This machine uses an IDE serial bus and standard 4 prong power supply. In other words, if you’ve ever installed a drive in your desktop tower, you are prepared to do this.
Here’s what you’ll need:
An IDE to SD Card Media Adapter. If you google search that exact phrase, you’ll get some options. I got mine on ebay, sold as an adapter kit specifically for the Roland VS series, but the truth is, it’s a pretty standard part. You are going to need to make some sort of mounting bracket, but with your technical know-how, can-do attitude, and good looks, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Your parents are proud of you. Also, read this, and go here. They are good resources.
When you are done installing the card, boot up your VS. It’s going to ask you to initialize the card. Do so, and you’ll notice that the machine is somewhat faster (and A LOT quieter) than it was before.
A quick disclaimer– 1. This works great on the VS-840ex (with the 250mb zip disk), but to do it on the earlier version (with the 100mb zip disk), you need to install a software patch. I didn’t do this, and I’m not going to explain it here, because I didn’t do it.
2. the VS will format the SD card to a 1gb FAT partition. it doesn’t care what size the card is, you get 1gb. trust me, it’s enough. There have been some problems with certain SD card brands not working (SanDisk, I think) but I didn’t run into any. Refer to VSplanet.com. I purchased a 1gb card from Amazon for around $6.
Now that you’ve got everything working and you’ve recorded that hit album, you’ll probably want to put those files on your computer, right? For Windows users, download this. I believe Boss has a version for Mac as well, but I haven’t tested it. If you use a regular windows desktop, you’re good to go!
However, I’m a Linux guy, and it takes a little workaround to get this working okay for us. If you haven’t already, install WINE. Now, the BR to WAVE Converter software only wants recognize a card formatted specifically for these VS machines (and some Boss machines as well). The problem is, WINE has a little trouble pointing itself to USB & flash drives, much like the SD card we are using here. Luckily, that’s any easy fix;
Insert the SD card. Run winecfg, then select the Drives tab. Add a new drive (I used G:) then point the file path to the SD card. Apply, and close winecfg. Open BR_to_WAV_Converter.exe using WINE, and select your chosen Drive. You’re in business!