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Roland has announced VariOS, a unique open-ended hardware/software system that allows musicians to build audio-based tracks with the same flexibility as MIDI. All processing is handled by the VariOS module, which is controlled using bundled software. The first software bundle is V-Producer for VariOS. This software makes it possible to independently manipulate pitch, time and formant, add effects and even build complete audio-based arrangements--all in a realtime environment and without CPU drain. The VariOS module can be updated via PC card, allowing the system to take on entirely new functions in the future.

With V-Producer software, the 1U VariOS module is like a dedicated processor for realtime audio manipulation, capable of playing up to 14 phrases simultaneously with 6-part multitimbral operation. Using a simple USB connection, the module can be controlled with the cross-platform V-Producer software. This software makes it easy to browse a computer's hard drive for .WAV/AIFF files, batch encode the files, and transfer them to the VariOS module for VariPhrase control and effects processing.

Once encoded, an arrangement can be built inside V-Producer using simple drag-and-drop commands. V-Producer's GrooveScope editor makes it possible to reconstruct a drum loop by re-arranging "slices" in an intuitive graphic window. Pitch, time, formant and dynamics can also be independently manipulated for each slice--all in real time and non-destructively. The PhraseScope editor is the ultimate vocal tool. It can separate the melodic content of solo vocal and instrument phrases, allowing musicians to create new melodies--or add realistic harmonies--without unwanted artifacts. Melodies can be input graphically or by playing notes from a MIDI keyboard in real time. Of course, the VariOS module's pitch, time and formant knobs can also be tweaked and recorded into V-Producer.

While VariOS can operate as a stand-alone tool, it also works alongside digital audio sequencers using MIDI clock and MTC sync. V-Producer arrangements can also be saved as a Standard MIDI File, and processed audio files can be exported in .WAV or AIFF format for use in other editors and software. And since the VariOS module's firmware can be updated with optional PC cards from Roland (details to be announced later), the system can become an entirely new product just by loading new control software.

Connections to the VariOS module include stereo 1/4-inch Line inputs, two pairs of stereo 1/4-inch Line outputs, a S/PDIF digital output, stereo Headphones jack, MIDI In and Out, and a USB port.

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