Error when updating your profile (08 Sep 2018)
When you try to update your profile, you get an error from the server. This is a know bug, which is caused by incompatibility between the website template software and the forum software. The developers are working on a fix. Hopefully the problem will be fixed before October. Until then please contact a moderator if you need to update your profile. He or she will help you.
The VA-7 is a nice arranger, and definitely solves your 'not enough Parts for layers' problem. But it has no real sampler (Vari-Phrase was another poorly supported and short-lived Roland idea that went nowhere), no multipads, few effects inserts, no audio tracks (no WAV/MP3 support either for recording or playing back backing), it won't play many modern styles (unlike the BK series onwards, it can only do one drum track in a style).
Plus there's one thing very important to check... the ZIP disk. That's a pretty ancient technology, mechanical rather than solid state, so how well it works (and how easy it is to get new ZIP's and back up the older ones) is pretty important. BK/EA series use widely available USB2 sticks. faster and more reliable.
The VA-7 was at one time Roland's flagship 61, had many innovative features for its time, and was pretty cutting edge. But, to be honest, if the cost of the VA-7 exceeds getting into an E-A7 (including trading your BK-3), I'd think twice about it. There will be no warranty with the VA, little chance of finding parts if anything major doesn't work, and support from Roland will be iffy at best! It's hard enough to get good info from them about current arrangers, let alone something 15 years old or more.
But if he's letting it go for little and you don't think you can afford to go to an E-A7 (or a used G70, which was a better older arranger), the VA-7 does solve a few of your BK-3 issues. But adds quite a few, IMHO.
Thankyou for your advice.
My main reasons for considering the VA-7 are:
It sounds better through my crappy amp.
The piano sounds on the VA-7 sound better than the ones on the BK-3 (at least to my ears). I use the piano a lot.
Able to use sustain pedal with a foot switch to start / stop arranger.
More parts (including Lwr and Mbs, which I like).
Just more control in general.
Looks better on stage!
But I do understand your points about the BK3, particularly the USB function. The styles on the BK3 are great for the price of the keyboard. The plasticky piano tone is a big downer for me though. He only wants 150 for the VA7.
I'm a little torn. Not sure what to do.
Go for it!
You can always MIDI it to the BK3 for what that does well...
For instance Technics keyboards particularly the KN 6500 & 7000 still command high second hand prices even today and are much sought after.
Yes keyboards are generally lighter in weight these days which is good for gigging musicians, but some players liken the difference between older arrangers and newer arrangers as the same difference between listening to 'vinyl' vs 'CD' -With 'warmer' tones and recorded 'live' styles
It is an interesting question. It is a question I asked when I owned a Roland G800 which was released around 1997 and was considering a BK-3. I asked are new low end arranger keyboards better sounding than the old high end models?
The overall opinion I received was a definite yes. Apparently, the new keyboards have more memory for sample data and have better effects (even the low end ones). You can see the response on Quora.
Based on this advice I bit the bullet and purchased a BK-3. I found the overall sound somewhat weaker than my old G800. That is why I am going to buy a VA-7. Even though it was released around 2000, to me it sounds better.
I am not trying to insult anyone or degrade the BK-3. It is just my opinion. Maybe my ears are so used to the older keyboards as I used the G800 live for 15 years. I just seem to get more satisfaction from the old keyboards.
I think the factor you are missing is, you are comparing a new $600 arranger with arrangers that were $2500+ when new. The VA7 at launch cost over 2200 UK pounds. Of course it is going to have a build quality far better than today's low cost arrangers..! The most expensive arranger on Roland's current books is the $1300 E-A7 (about 1000 UK pounds).
When you decided to get a BK3 as a replacement for a G800, you bought a $600 keyboard to replace a $2500+ keyboard. And you are surprised it doesn't sound better?! But if you had bought the $2500 BK-9 as a replacement for a $2500+ G800, you would have found something FAR, far better.
If you buy the bottom of the line, you get the bottom of the line! I can assure you, the E-A7 sounds a LOT better than the G800, at almost half the price. No, you don't get a TOTL 76 note action... What do you expect for half price?
I agree that, on the whole, the quality of Roland's arranger actions is not as good as they used to be. But they are a lot cheaper too. And this trend extends to synths and some low cost stage pianos too. Chinese actions still have a way to go before they match Italian actions of 20 years ago. But we also must be willing to pay a higher price for them, and that doesn't seem to be the trend.
Today's equivalents of the G800, as Roland no longer compete in that market segment, would be the Korg PA4X61, or Yamaha Genos. $3600-$5500. While the BK-9 was in production, about $2500.
So, let's be realistic here. You are comparing to a $600 new arranger. So no, a Nissan Leaf is no Ferrari!
Next time you hear about how today's keyboards are better than the old ones, don't go out and buy the very cheapest one you can... On the whole, comparisons are done like for like. If you want something far better sounding than the G800, with as good an action and build quality, the last Roland to measure up was the G70. Same action (IMHO, the best 76 non-piano weight action ever made!), far better sounds, more effects, etc..
Used prices in the US range around $1000. If you want something equivalent to the build quality of the G800, this one is it. Not a cheap nasty BK3, the cheapest Roland BK they make!
Anyway, does anyone want to buy a BK3?
One thing that was a major improvement for the BK series was, a lot of the lead synth sounds come up as monophonic by default, exactly what you want, whereas previous Roland's, you needed to go down into the menus and find the parameter for mono, enable it, then when you selected another sound, go back into the menus to deselect it... A total PITA! Then by default, a lot of the newer organ sounds in the BK are organ-touch (no velocity) which makes for a far more convincing organ (if you have a swell pedal).
For as long as I have been playing Roland's, one of the things I noticed when comparing the TOTL against the BOTL is that, although they may have the exact same sounds in the Tone List, often the cheaper keyboard had more compressed samples, which you could hear in how quickly the sound went static as it got into a short loop. I had a G1000 and a G600 (nominally, the 61 key version of the G1000) side by side back in the day, and even though Tones were often identically named, you could hear a slight difference.
Also, the D/A converters sounded smoother, fuller... I doubt that trend has changed. After all, who honestly expects total parity between a $1400 arranger and its $600 sibling? Corners have to be cut to come in at the price point. And they extend to far more than just the outputs and a couple of Keyboard Parts!
Sadly, because you don't seem to have found a solution to your mixer's issues with the headphone outputs (you still haven't tried a DI box or simply listening to it through a better mixer) of the BK3, I think you may not be comparing apples to apples. Until you can run them through a good sound system with BOTH being clean, it is hard to say you are comparing them fairly...
Today's PC's are much more powerful than they were 20 years ago and their prices have come down. You now get much more for your money. I figured this may have also been true of digital keyboards and I guess it is to some extent.
I am not trying to degrade Roland. I prefer them over every other brand of keyboard I have ever had. Believe me, I would buy a BK9 tomorrow if I could.
A high quality action, seriously high quality buttons, knobs, faders, display... and a case that oozes quality, no, there really hasn't been a coming down in price on those. OTOH, my BK-9 weighs 20lbs, my G70 weighed 45lbs! I can tell you what I'd rather lug around, as I get in my 60's, LOL
As I said, I think, if you manage somehow to get the BK3 into a decent mixer, you will find a ton of stuff far better in the BK3. No, the main piano isn't maybe one of them (pianos take a huge amount of memory to do well, something the BK3 obviously cuts back on a bit compared to the TOTL models), but there will be a lot of other things that sound better.
Maybe try a really good pair of headphones and listen to the two...
Perhaps you should compare a $600 arranger from 15 years ago, and compare it to your BK3?! Then you might really get to understand how far things have come. To a large extent, the PC market is gargantuan compared to the tiny niche market of arrangers. Economy of scale has allowed rapid advances in computers, but to be honest, the arranger market is actually shrinking, not growing. So the kinds of advances you see in computers don't scale over equivalently.
From what I have heard so far, the E-A7 is sonically quite comparable to an E80/G70, and costs $2000+ less, so obviously, there is an onwards progression. But that may not be as marked compared to the absolute BOTL. You went for a 388 UK Pound keyboard. No amount of technology can overcome that! I think this conversation would be considerably different if you had bought a BK5 or an E-A7...