Roland V-Combo VR-09

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The Roland VR09 is impressively portable at just 12lbs (5kg) and can also run on batteries. Build quality is good for the money and the dials and switches have a solid feel. The keybed has a fast and shallow key travel which is great for synth/organ sounds but it sadly has no aftertouch and isn't ideal for playing piano or doing organ palm slides due to the diving-board-style keys. A waterfall-style keybed with aftertouch (like the VR760) would have been much better.

Everything is laid out logically and it's extremely intuitive, allowing you to concentrate on playing rather than menu diving. First there's a USB stick slot for storing sounds/registrations and playing back MIDI files, WAVs, AIFFs and MP3s - great for practising/playing along with and for solo performers.

Next are six real-time effect dials for controlling overdrive, tone, compression, master effects (20 types) plus delay and reverb. These allow you to quickly tweak the main effects, again keeping performance in focus. All of the seven effect types can run simultaneously and sound clear, warm and musical. Highlights include the slicer, tape delay, mod-delay and dual-rotary emulation. Our only criticism is that the reverb, delay and overdrive don't kick in until the corresponding effect dial has been turned through a quarter of its travel, so it's harder to get just a dash of an effect on a sound.

Also, deeper editing of the effects is severely restricted, though the synth and organ sections can be edited in detail using the VR09 iPad editor, plus the MFX dial controls multiple FX parameters at once.