"Like alien technology for your bass!!"
This reviewer purchased this item from Same Day Music.
The pickup actually has no sound of it's own, since it is a synth PU. So the real question should be; How does it track? Great, IF it is installed correctly. You will have to read the manual thoroughly, and follow the directions carefully. It's not rocket science, but it's not exactly simple at all. I found it unacceptable to mount the pickup without drilling holes in the bass to hold it. It is an exact fit, and you won't want it to move at all.
RE sound.. Once installed, the control module not only selects the patch you want, but also can blend it with your bass. You can also select one or the other, besides. Very cool, indeed.
Everything you need to make it work is there, pretty much. The control unit looks like you could use double sided stick tape, or self stick velcro perhaps, to mount it to the instrument. That didn't work out too well in my experience. I wanted to avoid adding the extra weight of the hardware to my bass, but it turned out that the brackets provided were the best way to mount it, afterall. The brackets provide two ways to mount the control module. Normally you just clamp it to a clear space that is big enough. If your bass doesn't have the space for it, the module can also be clamped on so that it will cover the bridge. Since it can easily be removed with only an Allen wrench, it allows for easy access to the bridge for occasional tweaking. I found that the pickup, itself, had to be screwed to the bass. Tape just doesn't cut it. So prepare yourself for drilling two small holes in your baby!!
The system really works well!! It isn't perfect, but remember that the more carfully you follow the directions on string spacing, especially, the better it tracks. The Roland VB 99 has a lot of fun sounds, and a number of tones that could also be considered very useful, such as some of the upright bass patches. Pretty cool; show up with only one bass and amp, but you get a ton of variety.
Ease of Use:
Not easy to install, but if you have a few simple skills and can follow directions you will do fine.
EASY to use once installed. From your bass you can select patches numerically up or down with the buttons on the module. You can blend your basses magnetic pickups with the synth, and you can select either one, alone.
The only hard part is deciding what flavor you want. ha ha
I think the four words are: professional, durable, adaptable, and functional.
Roland did a great job. The parts are made for years of use. The brackets are durable and seem to be powder coated (black), so everything should look fresh for a long time. All the buttons and knob work smoothly and are very effective. As for noise...I am not a good judge of that since I have played for over 40 years and I don't hear those frequencies very well any more. (Too many gigs without a helmet!!)You might want to check another review for that.
I haven't needed to talk with them.
Not cheap, but still worth it. I only wish it came with the 13 pin cable, needed to connect to the synth mod.
Besides, I don't think there's anything else on the market that will work with the VB 99.
The Wow Factor:
I don't think that the pickup looks sexy. It is however intriguing. There is a tiny red led that lights when in use. To me, at best, it doesn't detract too much from the look of your bass, which is already beautiful on it's own.
I believe that it is possible to get a lot of years of use from the Roland system, including the pickup. In the back of my mind, there has been a thought that I am looking at 10 years or so before it becomes an obsolete "set up". For now, this is a great way to go.
This setup is more than a toy!! I think of it as an adventure; an expensive one when you add up all the components. But, when you get beyond the cost, the learning curve, the concern that it will eventually be obsolete, drilling holes for the pickup, it's a heck of a set up for now. And I expect to use it trouble free until there is something better. That might be quite some time, and even then it is still likely to sound great anyway.