The Yamaha VL1 Virtual Acoustic Synthesizer

This video, via AnalogAudio1, offers a demonstration of a rare Yamaha VL1 – an expressive physical modelling synth (digital waveguide synthesis) from 1993. 

Video Summary:

All effects are from the VL1. In the last seconds, the VL1 is played along with a vintage Korg Polysix.

The brother of the Yamaha VP1 (just one or two were made). The VL1 is still rare, but available. The sound engine was brand new in 1993 and the synth was quite expensive. Instead of playing samples of real instruments, the VL1 engages a new “physical modelling synthesis” – it calculates models of wood wind instruments. It’s a very complex synthesis technique, so the VL1 is just 2 voice polyphonic. The convenience is, that you can tweak parameters of models, which can give you unique results. In 1995, version 2 was released, which had more features. The VL1 has a little brother – the VL7. The sounds you hear in the video were modified by me.

3 Wheels, velocity and aftertouch 4 octave keyboard. The VL1 is duophonic (2 voice polyphonic).

9 thoughts on “The Yamaha VL1 Virtual Acoustic Synthesizer

  1. Physical modeling is such a fascinating and effective way to make synth sounds that are complex and weirdly real sounding. I’ve been aware of the VL1’s existence but hadn’t heard a detailed demo like this before. I wish Yamaha would make something new along those lines but with more polyphony. With a design that could model winds, percussion, and synths, they’d have a beast on their hands. I love the idea that you could just say– ok, now I have a bass melodica, now I have a contra-bass flute, now I have a pipe organ— I know you can do this with samples, but being able to engineer something unusual that has lots of expressive response would be very welcome.

    Pianoteq, Sculpture, Chromaphone, Silverwood, and something on iOS called Spring Sound– those are some nice physical modeling synths that are pretty popular. Now that we are moving back to more expressive controllers, it would be nice to see more offerings like this.

  2. Yamaha released the VL engine as a soft synth years ago, bundled wih a soundcard. I really wish they would re-release it as a VST.

  3. I owned a PLG150VL expansion for my Motif years ago. Cant compare it to an actual VL1, but from what I’ve read its fairly limited in comparison. Never kept it long enough to explore all it could do but I have to say that demo makes me wish I still had it. Nice work.

  4. Technics sx-WSA1 was an interesting physical modeling synth too and it has 64 voice polyphony, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as powerful as this one.

  5. I’m still in love with my little old Prophecy because it offers me such excellent performance control – love the combined wheel/ribbon controller ‘log’, especially now as the spring for wheel 3 has softened somewhat.
    Not as sophisticated as the Yamaha but mega bucks/quids cheaper to this day.

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