Casio VL-Tone VL-1

Casio VL-1 Image

This seemingly worthless synth/calculator hybrid weighing in at under a pound has somehow found fame and fortune despite looking like a kid's toy. Its ultra cheesy sounds have been discovered and immortalized in the hit songs of such artists as Trio for "Da Da Da" and White Town. The Casio VL-1 or VL-Tone as it's also called has 29 little calculator-type button keys, five preset and one user memory patches, built-in rhythm machine (waltz, swing, rock, samba, etc.) and a 100-note sequencer. There is no chance at any external or MIDI control and there are no filters or effects. There is an LFO with vibrato and tremolo effects and an ADSR envelope.

The tinny monophonic blips and beeps that come out of the VL-1 provide a childishly funny accent to your music, if you're into that sort of thing. The VL-1 is analog, it's tiny, it has a built-in speaker and a useless built-in calculator. The synth itself is quite small, light-weight and portable when running on batteries. The keys are unreliable and cheap soft buttons with absolutely no natural feel, response, aftertouch or velocity. The VL-1 was succeeded by the VL-10 (same spec, smaller case) and VL-5 (4-note polyphonic version with a useless bar-code reader). Strangely, the simple cheesy sounds of the VL-Tone have been used by Apollo 440, Devo, the Talking Heads, the Cars, Dee-Lite, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Vince Clarke, Beastie Boys, The Human League, Trio, White Town, and Bill Nelson.

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57 Visitor comments
February 24, 2013 @ 8:36 pm
Here is an example of what I am talking about with this thing running through the EMX:
February 23, 2013 @ 9:56 am
The VS reviewer is missing out on this one (the hint should have been the list of bands that use it). I got one of these and it is a huge bang for the buck. Thirty bucks on eBay and a great little mono synth. So many synths these days let you run an audio source in so you CAN use external filters. I run it through my Korg EMX and can do automated filter sweeps while I play the Casio. Really fun and interesting. Lush it up with effects in Ableton or whatever you use, and it sounds really good. The ADSR mode is easy to pick up and is very useful for shaping new tones.
Analogue Crazy
January 17, 2013 @ 6:31 am
Just grabbed on off ebay and it's just as charming as i remember it! Take the time to learn the ADSR voice and this thing will give you some fantastic sounds. The VL has 10 waveforms (!), the last 3 being pitch modulated with LFO rate governed by the tempo buttons. And there are two sustain parameters, giving the sounds much more movement. This thing is a classic, grab one while they're still cheap!
October 6, 2012 @ 12:05 am
This thing is a beast! I cannot believe it was given a 1 star can compose music on the go, play them back with 1 key any speed or autoplay your recording, it has a full ADSR capable of 1,073,000,000 combinations of synth sound, and you can transpose and read out the notes you record. I got mine for only $23 and I take it EVERYWHERE and even use it's charming sounds on some of my tracks! I LOVE IT!
Walter Ego
August 16, 2012 @ 6:28 pm
One of the best demonstration vids I've found is posted over at Synthtopia. Especially check out the second half of the video, which demonstrates that this thing is *more* like the Yamaha CS-01 than its Casio cousins. Just some basic effects makes this thing shimmer and move.
VSE Rating

Don’t bother

User Rating

Rated 4.06 (851 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO
  • LFO - Vibrato, Tremolo
  • Arpeg/Seq - Sequencer: 100 notes, 1 pattern. Rhythm Machine: March, Waltz, Swing, Rock, Samba, Beguine, Bossa Nova
  • Effects - None
  • Keyboard - 29 tiny keys (with 3-position octave switch)
  • Memory - 1 user patch, 5 preset sounds, 10 built-in rhythm patterns
  • Control - None
  • Date Produced - 1979 - 1984

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