Cakewalk by Roland V-Studio 700 System Review

Jul 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Tony Nunes



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The V-700C controller offers surround, plug-in, screen view, fader and transport control over your DAW.

The V-700C controller offers surround, plug-in, screen view, fader and transport control over your DAW.

Roland and Cakewalk have collaborated since the mid-'90s, when Roland became the exclusive distributor of Cakewalk products sold in Japan. Later, in 2003, Roland took on all distribution outside of North America, and by 2008, the company had become the majority shareholder in Cakewalk. This new relationship gave rise to a new brand, Cakewalk by Roland, and its first product: the V-Studio 700 System, which comprises the V-700R rackmount I/O interface, V-700C control surface, SONAR 8 DAW software Rapture virtual instrument and Roland Fantom VS hardware synth. While the controller and I/O interface are optimized for use with SONAR 8, the control surface works with any I/O interface and native DAW, making it a versatile choice for multi-software platform use.

Command and Control

For this test, I interfaced the V-Studio with a machine running a 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate operating system powered by a 3GHz Intel Core Extreme CPU Q6850 with 4 GB of RAM. Software updates included SONAR 8 to Version 8.3.1, V-Studio 700 software to V. 1.1.1 and a firmware update to V. 1.1. A USB cable connects the V-700R to the computer; a proprietary cable connects the control surface and rack. I used the V-Studio in my home studio and in a commercial studio tracking session. Because I recently reviewed SONAR 8 Producer Edition (see Mix's April 2009 issue), I will focus on integration between the V-700C, V-700R and SONAR.

The main tactile interface for the system is the V-700C controller. Cakewalk refers to the V-700C as a console, but it's actually a control surface with the only I/O being a ¼-inch aux input that's switchable between normal (mic) and hi-Z (instrument) input, and two headphone connections. The rear panel is straightforward with an LCD contrast knob, proprietary socket for connecting to the V-700R, power switch, a USB port and two ¼-inch footswitch connections assignable to a variety of commands. The V-700C is available for purchase separately for use with SONAR 8 Producer and is compatible with other PC-driven DAWs through Mackie Control Universal protocol. (Mac drivers are unavailable.)

Each of the V-700C's eight channel strips has a blue LCD and comprises a rotary encoder, mute, solo, arm, select, five-segment LED level meter and 100mm motorized fader. A ninth fader is assigned to control the master levels. Banks of eight or single faders can be toggled, and a Flip function allows you to swap the rotary and fader functions. If you select a channel using Shift+Sel, the fader is locked down, which allows access to other fader banks while “freezing” the selected fader on the surface. This was useful for gaining access to group faders, which lets you work with other instruments while maintaining master control. Cakewalk pushes faders to the next level with Channel Branch mode, in which fader 1 controls the volume of the track, while faders 2 through 8 control any assigned sends. The Fader View buttons provide control over other layers, including buses, mains or I/O Control (the V-700R's mic preamp gain). Currently selected faders can access the Channel Strip Control, which comprises 12 rotary encoders and four buttons that are switchable for EQ, send and ACT (SONAR's Active Controller Technology) control.

The Access Panel, which has 16 assignable buttons that are configurable for different functions within SONAR, is another great feature. The View buttons — a quick way of switching through all of SONAR's windows — include computer modifiers and have assignable utility buttons for editing features like cut, copy, paste, etc.

Another standout feature is the T-bar controller, which is assignable to the front/rear balance in surround, any ACT parameter or X-Ray transparency — a SONAR feature that fades out a plug-in, providing access to controls that are below the plug-in window. A Surround section includes a panner joystick, LFE send and a View button that brings up SONAR's Surround Panner window. Expected controls like transport, monitors and headphone levels are all present. A combo jog/shuttle wheel lets you edit, scroll, zoom or scrub.

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