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
March 5, 2012 @ 8:00 am
One of the kids in the street had one and used to have play on it, actually thought it was junk then, not sure why anyone would bother with it now.
I imagine you'd have to do a lot of sound processing to get a decent noise out of it (remembering those horrible beeps and corny rhythms).
December 1, 2011 @ 7:59 pm
I inherited mine from my grandfather, great little synth and i love the tones and things! though it's a bit yellowy now after 30 years! the ADSR function is so cool!

if you havent seen the Trio clip you gotta
September 28, 2011 @ 8:04 am
Had one in the early eighties. Once put it trough an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a phaser. Then plugged it in to an old Philips Cinema tube amplifier with matching speakers. Wow... The guitar player of our band stood there in absolute awe. Don't need big gear to sound huge, I guess.
September 3, 2011 @ 5:35 pm
I had one of these in the 80s, played it once at a high school show on top of a grand piano, using the two button sequencer to play my riff. Some girls made fun of me afterwards... Little did they know the rockstar I'd go on to become :-) Necessity was the mother of invention in those impoverished days. There was a patch called "ADSR" that I couldn't access reliably -- my first introduction to synthesis concepts. I still have it, but it doesn't work anymore. One thing that always seemed weird to me was the in the drum patterns, the "bass" drum was higher-pitched than the snare!
chinese music
July 7, 2011 @ 10:38 am
I made a song with the VL-1 and the Apple II alphasyntauri (first softsynth) in 1985
VSE Rating

Don’t bother

User Rating

Rated 4.06 (851 Votes)

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  • 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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