Roland VK-09 Organ, and Museum Photos

Roland VK-09 Organ

In my never-ending quest to add further vintage mojo to my keyboard rig I was happy to acquire a Roland VK-09 electronic drawbar organ over the weekend.

There’s not much info about it to be found on the internet – maybe 3 or 4 opinions, a couple of YouTube vids, and a few pics. It’s not even on Roland’s venerable manuals page. I did however find a very good scan of the Service Notes (dated May 1981).

So far I’ve only had a chance to play it a little bit, so my list of fun facts to share here is short.

The first thing you notice is the ridiculously large “Roland” logo on the back. At least the kids in the back row will be able to read it at my next stadium concert. The second thing is that the whole thing is surprisingly small and light for a five-octave keyboard. This is a 33-year old instrument that I could actually imagine gigging with!

The organ has two identical groups of six drawbars: 16′, 5-1/3′, 8′, 4′, 2-2/3′, 2′. The first group (“Sine Wave”) produces normal organ-tones, while the second group (“Bright Wave”) produces extremely bright square waves. Each group can be individually toggled on and off using an 808-style pushbutton. I suspect the Vox/Farfisa/Hammond purists out there would hate the square wave drawbars, but in my initial putterings with the instrument I found that the judicious addition of these unusually bright stops makes for an organ tone that slices through a mix like a Ginsu. Think: The Monks, or Squeeze.

The VK-09 also features a slow/fast vibrato section which is a little more tame than I’d like, but is nonetheless very pleasant. It’s not a terribly realistic Leslie simulation, but it does feature the “momentum” effect when you change speeds. The front panel has separate “slow” and “fast” buttons, and the speed can also be toggled using an optional footswitch (as demonstrated in this video).

Like many organs there is an adjustable sustain (“release” in synthesizer parlance). There is also a variety of percussion settings.

While Googling for info about my new acquisition I stumbled upon a lovely article at Absolute Music, in which they toured the Roland museum in Japan and took lots of pretty pictures of vintage Roland instruments (including a mint-condition example of my new organ).

Meanwhile, here’s an old ad for the VK-09 that’s not too hard to find (click on it for a bit more miscellaneous info about this strange organ):
Roland VK-09 Ad

Updated 2017-12-05 to include a link to the service manual

10 thoughts on “Roland VK-09 Organ, and Museum Photos

  1. A reader submitted:

    I’ve just been reading your article on the Roland VK-09. I’ve got one of my own with one broken key (for which I’ve now ordered a replacement), and after a chat with one of the guys at Roland in Swansea, he’s managed to dig out and send me a ‘service notes’ PDF with all the info anyone could ever want on the VK-09.
    I’m happy to send you a copy of the document, but I was wondering if you might have any operating manual type documents indicating settings for particular sounds etc.

    Thanks, I’ve got the service notes. Couldn’t find an owners manual anywhere though – just a mini-review on combo-organ.com. Actually it’s more like an explanation of why the VK-09 can’t be part of the “cool organ club”. The article is not without its constructive merits however – some good info from VK-09 owner “Lenny G” is shared, including a pretty nice sounding registration to start with:

    “the Bright (or Combo) drawbars sound more like pure square wave synthesizer sounds, not like combo organ. When I mix the Sine and Bright drawbars I can get a half-decent combo sound. For example this registration, 808000 608806, is a pretty good mellow combo sound, probably close to Vox, then if you want more buzzy/reedy kind of tone, like Farfisa Compact than cut down the sine 16′ and 8′ to about 4 or lower and bring the bright 16′ and 2′ up to full 8. But you need an external real combo organ vibrato effect, the real kind, not the Leslie simulation.”

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  3. VK-09 Got it from my Dad. it is in good condition, and in original cardboard box… but i need the operating manual, I would greatly appreciate it if you or anyone has the this –

    I was also wondering what the Gate out socket was for and how i might use/connect to it?

    Thanks

    • According to the Service Manual, the Gate Output produces 0 volts when off, and 15 volts when on. I suppose somebody could connect a meter to this to verify when it is “on” – which I suspect is whenever a key is pressed. I have no idea what purpose this might serve.

  4. I picked up a VK-09 about five years ago. I’ll admit I was really wanting a Korg CX-3, but the price was too good to pass up. While the Korg no doubt sounds better right out of the box, I like the VK-09. It has its own unique sound. I have my methods for beefing up the sound, which will remain my little secret. I would encourage anybody who owns a VK-09 to experiment with it, run effects boxes through it, and see what sounds you can come up with.

    • Exactly the same here – while I love the sound of the original CX-3, they have become too dear. I’m not the greatest organ player, but when this came up for a decent price I thought it would be an interesting instrument to add to my rig.

  5. Hello , I have recently purchased the VK-09 , but im having trouble finding the manual.
    so far you guys are the only ones ive found saying that they have it …
    Could one you please be so kind as to mail me a copy ?
    any further literature containing info about the VK 09 is much appreciated .
    Thank you in advance .

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