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It’s official: Roland’s much-teased line of four new products called AIRA are here. And they appear to represent a new course for Roland. They’re affordable and accessible in a way that we haven’t seen in recent products. But they’re also simultaneously closer to the sound of beloved vintage gear as they are more modern in taste and presentation.

Let’s get right to it. CDM got to speak to Roland prior to today’s announcement to get the details. And we’ll have more insight soon into the design process and approach to modeling. But let’s cover the basics.

This is component-modeled analog. All four products use the same analog modeling approach. It’s not superNATURAL, it’s not something you’ve heard from Roland before. It’s called Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB); it’s basically Roland’s own work on component modeling. Roland tells us that involves painstakingly modeling individual components on something like a 303 or 808, but also the interaction of those components, end-to-end. In other words, it’s Roland’s take on what is presently state of the art in emulating analog gear. Those models can sound nearly-indistinguishable from the originals, while offering flexibility that analog circuitry may not.

It’s pronounced “Aye, Rah.” Accent on the “Aye.” At least, that’s how Roland US is saying it. (Fully expect to hear “Air Rah,” “aye EE rah,” etc. Any Japanese-speakers care to guess? But since “Air Rah” sounds too much like “error” – much as we love glitch, probably not the idea – “Aye, Rah” should be the canonical pronunciation. You heard it here first.)

Availability is March and early summer. Expect TB-3, TR-8, VT-3 in March; we hope to review after MusikMesse. SYSTEM-1 will take longer, closer to May or (more likely) June.

If you like videos… Here’s what artists think.

And here’s a terrific video from our friends at Synthtopia, with Brandon Ryan from Roland USA (who talked in depth with CDM more recently – highly-knowledgeable product specialist and all-around nice guy):

There are four products.

CDM had been told preliminary pricing data, but it seems that’s not part of the announcement today. Pricing included here then is not official, but based on what we had acquired from contacts in Roland’s dealer network – expected street prices.

European pricing is the same – swap that US$ with a € (think import duty + VAT + currency conversion costs).

The four products:

SYSTEM-1 is really a synth/keyboard, not a modular (despite the name). It’s a new synth, but it’s also a controller for computer software modeling vintage Roland synths, and you can load those models onto the keyboard. Because you can load those models from software onto hardware, Roland dubs it “Plug-Out Synthesizer.” Price: US$599 – ish.

TR-8 Rhythm Performer. “Full reproduction” of both the 808 and 909, promising not just the sounds but details in behavior (like what happens when you have multiple instruments in accented steps). Price: US$499 – ish.

TB-3 Touch Bassline. Think a component-modeled 303 with a touch pad and new step sequencer. Price: US$299 – ish.

VT-3 Voice Transformer. It’s probably gotten the least attention, but this could be a big seller at this price. Multiple effects in one box: vocoder (a la VP-330), glitch, lo-fi, robot, auto-pitch, and voice-controlled synths. Price: US$199 – ish.

Roland is serious about getting attention for this. Apart from the teasers, Roland seems to have energized their dealer network and customers alike, to a point that people are excited about Roland in a way we can’t recall for years (outside eBay, that is). And the futuristic, Kubrick-style white-light demos are something you should expect more of, too. The demos in Anaheim even included these brightly-lit tables. And the products themselves use light-up accents, glowing with the colors of the vintage gear rather than painting those colors on plastic.

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SCATTER. “Scatter” is a label applied to different, glitchy and unexpected effects on the AIRA series, including rhythmic decimators and pattern randomizers/slicers. Roland tells us that you can modulate those effects, and get different results on different content. We’re sniffing perhaps some interest in going after the EDM crowd, yes. But it also sounds like this effect could be shaped to different results, and it’s something new. Keep an eye out for “scattering” below. A number of the units (like the 303) include a lot of controls over both depth and pattern, so these may not always have to sound obvious, though this could be a new signature sound out of the AIRA line.

How does the sound compare? What’s the early review? Well, we’re awaiting review units – and SYSTEM-1 is due later. But You can pick up SonicState’s hands-on reviews (see videos below). And Teka has a video hands-on:

The world-exclusive, proper debut review went to MusicTech magazine. Read the whole review, or skip to the end for some sound quality analysis of TB-3 and TR-8:

http://www.musictech.net/2014/02/aira-3/

808:

909:

And the TB-3 + TR-8 together:

(thanks, readers, for all the tips!)

Let’s look at these by one, in reverse order now. They all use component modeling, they all have USB.

VT-3

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The reboot. The Roland gear being emulated here: the VP-330 vocoder. The VT-3 is interesting in that it will test how good Roland’s component modeling is for an effect, for vocoding.

We already knew the VT-3 was a vocoder. But there are also a number of synths that can be controlled with your voice as input. The disappointing news: you don’t get something like a Space Designer, even though we saw one of those on the test bench in the videos. But expecting a US$199 street, this could be a big seller.

Choose from 9 different voice characters
o Pop and electro sounds with two distinct “AUTO-PITCH” effects
o VP-330-style VOCODER sounds without need for a keyboard
o Glitchy effects that sound like something broke (in a good way) with SCATTER o Loads of lo-fi character with MEGAPHONE and RADIO settings
o Synthetic sounding voices with the ROBOT button.
o Synths you can sing with SYNTH, LEAD, and BASS
• Change Pitch and Formant in real-time with smooth dedicated sliders • Large dedicated REVERB and MIX BALANCE sliders
• Save your three favorite settings for instant recall
• Footswitch control for live performance
• Pure green LEDs and brightly lit controls for great visibility
• Lightweight and durable construction for easy portability
• XLR standard combo jack with phantom power and 1/8” inch powered mic jack
• Stereo outputs can be configured as separate mono Wet/Dry channels
• USB audio interface with loopback recording to overdub vocals on existing tracks
• Great for podcasts and live web streaming
• USB bus powered

Did you spot the one non sequitur in there: “Great for podcasts and live web streaming.”

Um… I guess if your podcast requires you to speak like a robot, yes.

Anyway, don’t discount this. There isn’t a nicely-modeled vocoder at this price; you normally have to turn to software, which is inconvenient for a vocal effect.

Although, on the other hand … no one needs a vocoder?

VT-3 Product Page

TB-3

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The reboot. No surprise here: the sound of the TB-3 is modeled on the TB-303. Roland’s “reboot” approach on the TB-3 is to rethink the step entry. They actually criticize the original in the copy for the new product: “the step entry on the original TB-303 was difficult to use, the keyboard was difficult to play, and special maneuvers were required for the shuffle functions.”

So, the TB-3 replicates the behavior of the sound of the instrument – the way the analog circuitry responded to different sequencing and to accent and slide parameters – but changed the input method.

The input is an apparently-new pressure-sensitive touch pad. It offers gestural controls that seem like the love child of a KORG ElecTribe and an iPhone. That is, you can control modulation with fingers, but also make gestures for commands:

• Envelope modulation and decay can be controlled with a single finger
• Switch patterns, transpose, and chain patterns with finger gestures
• Internally partitioned at keyboard intervals so it’s easy and natural to play in real-time
• XY PLAY (X: Continuous pitch change, Y: Volume, Press down on pad: Modulation)

The step sequencer has automatic pattern generation and random pattern modification, as well.

“Scatter” here does a lot: slice, reverse, gate, stutter, glitch. There are 8 variations and 10 levels of depth, so Scatter is something you can make your own.

On the emulation side:

• Meticulously crafted using a pristine unit, original spec sheets and archival data
• ACB technology models each component and every aspect of the original TB-303 sound
• Faithful recreation of the original saw and square oscillator waveforms
• Elements that characterize TB-303, such as attack, slide, and tie have been fully
reproduced, including how they interact with each other
• Authentic filter behavior with smooth response and authentic sound

On the “reboot” side:

• Pressure sensitive Touch Pad
• 134 captivating sounds including 4 oscillator effects-processed tones
o Bank A: Original TB-303 sounds
o Bank B: New synth bass sounds
o Bank C: New synth lead sounds
o Bank D: New sound effects
• Dedicated Tempo control with Shuffle and Tap Tempo
• Control built-in effects with smooth, responsive knobs
• 7 segment, 3 character LED display
• Seamless switch between pattern creation and performance • 16-step indicator lights to aid in pattern creation
• Pattern support for up to 32 steps
• Easy access to Shuffle control for bass lines that groove
• Enter steps manually or record real-time on the Touch Pad
• Change Step Count during playback to alter the length of phrases • Random pattern generation and pattern modification
• Pattern copy

Plus USB bus power, USB audio and MIDI, MIDI clock input. (Roland mentions receive, though oddly not send – but they say the AIRAs will sync with each other, so I think they intend send/receive clock.)

TB-3 Product Page

Remarkably, SonicState somehow managed to get a unit (something truly no one else has). They have a deep hands-on video review. Have a watch:

TR-8

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The reboot. And you thought this was just a TR-808. Turns out, it’s also a TR-909. Here’s the odd part: the original Roland 909 used a combination of analog components and sampled PCM waves to make its sound. But Roland tells us the TR-8 is all component modeling. That means they’ve actually reconstructed sounds that were sampled with simulated analog circuits. We’re confirming the exact details of that, but it might mean the TR-8 take on the 909 is, in sound and control, more analog than the original. 909+?

Certainly, both the 808 and 909 have more control than the originals:

There are Tune and Decay knobs present on every instrument. (That was missing on 909 PCM sounds.)

Bass and Snare have dedicated Attack and Comp knobs.

The step sequencer allows per-step effects.

Here’s what Roland says about the original:

• Full reproduction of the original TR-808 and TR-909 rhythm machines based on original design spec sheets and detailed analog circuit analysis of various specimens including Roland’s own pristine units
• Newly developed Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology allows part-by-part analyses and faithful recreation of tonality and behavior including the smooth variations of tone that occur when you work the controls of each instrument
• Obsessive attention to detail – like reproducing the original TR’s unique variations in tone that occur when multiple instruments are entered in accented steps

(Heh, actually, I expect that could lead to some complaints, as most the 808s and 909s out in the world are anything but pristine.)

And now, you get additional flexibility with those kits. Note side-chaining, per-step effects.

• Build dream kits made up of different instruments from the TR-808 and TR-909
• 16 stunning kits made up of 11 instrument types
• Control the intensity of the Accent function with a dedicated knob
• Per-step Gate Reverb and Delay effects with dedicated, real-time knobs
• Mix sources connected to the External Inputs
• Built-in Side Chain function creates rhythmic ducking and gating effects on External
Inputs with per-step control
• Two assignable analog outputs and full parallel outputs via USB for total mixing
flexibility

The step sequencer incorporates features of the 808:

• Faithful TR-REC behavior for pattern creation
• Large tempo control knob and a Fine adjustment knob for total tempo control.
• 16-step sequencer allows you to switch between variations [A] and [B] as well as
continuous playback
• Play drum instruments and record to steps in real-time

– but it also includes the kinds of sequencer features you would expect in a modern instrument. In fact, this set of features probably makes the best argument for why Roland really couldn’t reasonably re-release the original 808. KORG’s MS-20 mini last year may have had some idiosyncratic features, but today’s monosynths more or less behave in a similar way; it didn’t seem out of place. 1980s step sequencing, though, could seem properly like it fell out of the Stone Age, as instruments like the Machinedrum have moved on.

• Scatter lets you freak and tweak your grooves with real-time control and perfect sync
• 16 per-step pads with bold, full-color LEDs clearly show the current status
• Real-time pattern creation up to 32 steps
• Change the pattern step count seamlessly and on the fly
• Rec/Play modes have been eliminated enabling seamless pattern making and performance
• Seamless switch between step input and playing pads in real-time to create patterns • Real-time play of 4 different types of rolls (8th, 16th, VARI 1, VARI 2)
• Quickly Mute/Unmute individual instruments during performance or production
• Shuffle function from original TR-909 now has a knob for continuous real-time control • Pattern randomizing function induces creativity and brings spontaneity to live
performance
• 7 segment, 4 character LED display shows the current tempo and has Tap function • Pattern copy makes it easy to create pattern variations

Scatter on the TR-8, like the TB-3, includes “glitch, gate, truncate, and stutter” functionalities. You can switch between those patterns, and as on the TB-3, adjust different types and depth.

USB audio and MIDI, USB clock receive. Of course, the TR-8 requires more power, so don’t expect bus power.

TR-8 Product Page

And here’s SonicState with their TR-8 review:

SYSTEM-1

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One of these things is not like the others.

The SYSTEM-1 is the real wildcard in the bunch. It doesn’t appear to have as much to do with the SYSTEM 100, 100M, or 700 – the three namesakes for this model. And some of its functionality is more tied to a computer.

Basically, the SYSTEM-1 is weird. We’ll get to see whether it’s weird in a good way.

Like the other AIRAs, the SYSTEM-1 is built around Analog Circuit Behavior. Here, that leads to two paths:

The new: the SYSTEM-1 includes an all-new synth, which Roland describes as a “fusion of beautifully classic and utterly modern synthesizer tones.” It’s not clear what the classic models are here, though. That is, unless you’re talking the vintage:

The retro: Roland promises a set of software recreations of Roland synths – a little like KORG’s Legacy Collection. Plug the SYSTEM-1 into your computer, and it becomes a controller for those plug-ins.

PLUG-OUT: Here’s where Roland breaks from the script. KORG essentially made you buy their emulations again if you wanted hardware that you could take away from your computer. Roland, for their part, is letting you take the same model in the software and load it into hardware. They’re calling it PLUG-OUT. (get it?)

Roland is starting with an SH-101 soft synth. You can run it in your host on your Mac or PC. Then, you can disconnect your SYSTEM-1 from your computer, and keep running the SH-101 model on the keyboard.

You can switch between the internal SYSTEM-1 synth and that SH-101 model. One thing you can’t do, Roland tells us, is load more than one plug-in on the keyboard – you have to reconnect to the computer and swap that way.

We don’t have much on this, and don’t expect the product until early summer, but here’s some information on the synth. Roland tells us they’re very excited about the arpeggiator/scatter.

• Four oscillators for buckets of fat synth tones
• Oscillator colors create continuous waveform changes from simple to complex
• All parameters can be controlled with physical knobs and sliders with LED
indicators
• Advanced Arpeggiator with SCATTER
• SCATTER jog dial offers 10 different phrase variations with dynamic, real-time
control over 10 stages of depth
• Variety of modulation functions including ring modulation, cross modulation and
oscillator sync
• -12dB and -24dB filter types with independent high pass filters
• Tone knob for easy tonal balancing
• Crusher knob for modern edge
• Integrated Delay and Reverb effect units
• Tempo syncing for LFO and Delay
• Innovative thin keyboard with 25 normal sized keys
• Comfortable to play and yet the most compact Roland synth ever

SYSTEM-1 Product Page

Reviews?

Absolutely.

We’ll get hands on these as soon as Roland can get them to us – no trade shows involved. See you then!

  • michaelmatos

    Really curious about the plug out modeling and what they plan to bring out in the way of plug ins. These seem like an interesting approach to tying the classic form factor with modern digital flexibility. The USB audio is a nice touch.

  • http://melodiefabriek.com/ Marco Raaphorst

    I’m making an audiodocumentary. Part of it will be the TR-808. One HUGE thing missing on the TR-8: no clave. That clave was the major thing in Sexual Healing of Marvin Gaye, the first use of the TR-808 on record. This is weird. Did Roland really forget about this???

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Hmm… is it missing, or is it just hidden in the banks? Will research. But yeah, I agree that’d be a huge oversight.

    • http://melodiefabriek.com/ Marco Raaphorst

      might be. only checked labels on the device (weird though if you can choose different sounds without changing the label).

    • http://rekkerd.org Ronnie
    • http://melodiefabriek.com/ Marco Raaphorst

      thanks! so this is cool.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Thanks, Ronnie! Wow, how did SonicState get a unit? (!)

      Worth saying, too, that the sound banks include sounds apart from only 808 and 909. That could be a bonus (we’re all pretty familiar with 808/909), or it could not (if we don’t like them), but it’s something I’m interested in.

    • http://rekkerd.org Ronnie

      Teka at Diginoiz had one for a day and a half too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HRQ4YqyhGI

    • DJ Hombre

      The “80s child” part of me loves that the cowbell hasn’t been dropped.

  • Raw Coco

    All this looks terrible. I rather spend 3x the money for a elektron rytm.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Hope to review Rytm, too. Seems a different animal, even the price aside.

      But… terrible how?

    • POOT

      Sorry, but it sounds pretty damn good. I don’t know that it sounds exactly like a 808/909 but the audio samples I heard of RYTM sure didn’t. I own Elektron gear and it’s great but I would not pay $1500 for RYTM based on what I have heard so far. For $500 the TR-8 sounds damn good.

    • Jeff

      They both look interesting to me. I had a go on RYTM @ NAMM and I can say it sounds very promising. It was dense, firm and fluid sounding. I was afraid it would be wimpy. It really packs a punch and has powerful transient character. Wasn’t an 808, true, but.. I’m not sure that’s a requirement. RYTM sounds very nice. I can’t wait to get one later this year.

    • POOT

      Yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing some good audio. Most of what I heard was not captured direct. I’m sure Elektron will deliver. I just don’t understand why there’s so much hate for the Aira stuff, particularly the TR-8, I think it sounds good, looks like it’s fun to use and is priced right. It’s not analog so everyone seems to be losing their minds on various forums. Roland R-8s, DR 550/660s, Machinedrums and 707s have been on countless recordings from IDM to EDM and no one seems to care that they’re aren’t analog.

    • B.C. Thunderthud

      I think the thing is that it’s essentially dedicating a hardware
      sequencer to two sample collections that everyone who would want one of
      these things already owns. I’m sure it will sound great and I have enough affection for the 808 that I do want one but it’s real hard to make the argument that I *need* it, especially when the sequencer doesn’t appear to be as powerful as the Electribes, much less Elektron’s stuff. Basically there’s no music that I could make with this that I can’t make without it.

      The TR3 seems to have more added value but it’s a preset machine and beyond the 303 sounds, which I don’t adore, it’s not super-inspiring off the bat. Still, I’d be happy with any of these as a gift, I’m certainly not mad at them.

    • POOT

      For me it’s about the immediacy of the interface. I’ve got 808/909 samples for my Octatrack but it just doesn’t cut it. I think besides the sound of those machines, what people really love is that they’re hearing an interaction between the artist and the machine. You can certainly interact with Elektron gear but to me it’s a very different process. Sure it would be cool if it could record knob movements but anymore I’m of the mind that less is more. I find myself twiddling knobs and setting parameters lock on my Elektron machines more than I find myself completing tracks.

      Thump:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRv3StxVweo

      This dude starts having a blast at around 8mins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4Ol1_qOI_g

    • POOT

      I should add I’m not as impressed by the TB-3. It’s definitely got its moments where it sounds pretty dead on but loses something…could just be the demos though.

    • Jeff

      I think part of the issue is that we already have loads of compelling alternatives to a real 808, the most common of which are samples. I have insanely good samples of the 808, so I’m set. What’s not the same is the indescribable character of the 808 when its self-sequenced and streaming analog audio. I’ve never heard its equal. So, I’m definitely a bit hesitant to accept this as an alternative. That said, I agree it sounds good, and looks like a fun instrument to play with. I was cautious at first, now I’m enthusiastic. Bring it! There’s room at this party for everyone.

    • heinrichz

      Looks pretty cool to me, but feel free to spend 3 times more just for your preferred looks. Main thing for music making besides sound is ergonomics, visual feedback and also visibility in the dark and in that sense this actually seems to outdo the elektron.

    • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

      Ha! I have moaned more than enough about how much I dislike the looks of the recent Elektron devices (round buttons, all black…), but I must admit that the wannabe futuristic design of these Aira machines doesn’t appeal to me either. On the other hand, I am apparently hopelessly conservative, because I prefer wood end cheeks as with the DSI or MFB stuff. It just “feels” more appealing to me.

      But what really matters, at the end of the day, are: sound and workflow. The specs on Roland’s newest sound interesting. So, before spending 1500 or 500, real, self hands on will make the difference.

  • Marc

    They sound like rebirth in a box. I’d rather use some laptop with a midi controller.
    I guess it could be useful for live performance, where sound doesn’t really matter.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Very, very unlikely. There’s no way to tell now how good it sounds – YouTube videos don’t really help. But the kind of modeling that went into ReBirth is very different than what is in here.

      A big goal for us I think would be to do high-quality sound samples when we do a review. And 808/303/909 comparisons would be a no-brainer. I know we didn’t do a great job of that on the MS-20 – we can do better this time. ;) It’s also much easier to A/B.

    • Marc

      http://www.musictech.net/2014/02/aira-3/

      Here are audio samples of the 303.
      It sounds like a bread and butter emulation to me, with a weak filter.
      I hear nothing of the subtle bite and character that a xoxbox or even a bass station 2 delivers.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Okay, but ReBirth in a box is a bit harsh, then, no? ;)

    • slabman

      I was thinking that it would be nice to see these accompanied by a co-branded edition of Reason with matching Roland devices in the rack. Some great workflow possibilities

  • http://sequadion.com/ Sequadion

    I’m wondering about the implementation of the PLUG-OUT feature, since the SYSTEM-1 hardware will obviously not be able to run any VST/AU/etc. plugin you throw at it.
    My guess would be that they will cross-compile and repackage the internals of all their software instruments for various platforms, including the one running on the SYSTEM-1. However, the way @peterkirn:disqus refers to “running the SH-101 model”, maybe Roland has developed some sort of cross-platform audio middleware, that can run different synth models defined using higher level components?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, I was told it’s running on a DSP chip inside the SYSTEM-1. I’m trying to get detailed confirmation on that, however.

    • http://sequadion.com/ Sequadion

      Oh, then this might be more like a Virus TI type of architecture, where all the actual processing happens in the synth. The way I initially read it was that the SYSTEM-1 is not required for running the SH-101 software synth. I guess we will have to wait for all the details.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Actually, that’s a very good question.

      The way it was described to me, when it’s running the computer plug-in, the AIRA SYSTEM-1 hardware acts only as a controller. Internal DSP isn’t involved.

      *However* _ I don’t know if that means the SYSTEM-1 keyboard is a dongle and has to be plugged in.

    • comurit

      A live performance all done with analog gear

      Enjoy!!!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vx3bPDF-smI

    • a

      that seems silly to me. it’s an audio interface, it’s already hooked up via USB, why not let it offload some CPU?

      i like the concept, it seems like maudio venom done right, but if it doesn’t spare the CPU on my 4 year old laptop…

      also if the software uses less CPU than say DIVA i bet people would rate the sound quality lower. ;p

  • ivan

    well, no more speculations, no more rumors. AIRA is out!
    I don’t know if I shoud be excited (as for the System-1 plug-out functionality) or rather disappointed (TB-3).
    the killer arguement for sure is the price.
    anyway, feel free to join the AIRA community at airaforums (dot) net for further discussions.

  • http://melodiefabriek.com/ Marco Raaphorst

    btw SYSTEM-1 with it’s 4 osc’s… tell me it’s a 2 octave Jupiter 8 :D

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      As far as I know, it’s not. It’s apparently a new synth. Maybe Jupiter-8 inspired, though?

  • hans

    still strange time to market for such a concept IMHO. it’s not really the past (analog modeling) and definitely not the future (puhhh, another 303/808/909 remake). it’s funny that you find much more innovation on both ends in eurorack these days: true analog drums (acidline, tiptop) and crazy digital modules. korg is much closer to the core market.

  • paolo

    so no pitch wheel. that’s so weird. showstopper

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, seems they’ve replaced the pitch wheel + mod paddle with … a pitch … dial. And no mod.

    • paolo

      I actually saw that now modulation is a button and pitch is a ring in scatter dial. not that bad, they’re there, at least

  • http://melodiefabriek.com/ Marco Raaphorst

    So this is all software based. Fancy controllers for running that software. Interesting though.

    • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

      Yeh, just like what Clavia and Access have been doing for ages with Nord Lead and Virus. Korg have been doing the same with Microkorgs, minus the fancy controller ;)

  • paradiddle

    The soundcloud demo 808 seems to be a 909 and vice-versa.

  • cooptrol

    I think the Roland approach is ok, makes sense, especially at that prices. But it’s sad that they jumped into the “separate machines for different purposes” criteria. Roland invented the all-in-one “groovebox” concept, and although their own MC series leave much to be desired, it was picked up very well by Korg, Yamaha, E-Mu, and even Elektron (MM) back in the day. This non-overlapping product series approach is only motivated by greed. It’s obvious that with today’s technology they are able to make a great sounding, small sized, low priced all-in-one machine, to spare our backs and our pockets. This is what I’m waiting for and this is why I will stick to my Electribe EMX, as close to “all-in-one/on-the-fly” as you can get. And it’s 11 years old.

  • Nick Shepherd

    really interested how the TR-08 is able to sequence external gear.

    i.e. i have a MFB-522 and it would be really cool to hook it up the the TR-08 for the full 16 steps and then route the stereo mix + another output of the MFB into the TR´s external input.

    kinda hard to say how the sequencer is sending out midi and if it would be possible to sequence the 522´s full 8 analog voices and then run them back into the TR-08 and mix & match them with the VA engine.

    am i on the right track with this idea or is my logic flawed somehow ? :)

  • Tony Scharf

    The price is hard to argue with, but I am really, really disappointed that they stopped at simply emulating the classics. I’ve had my absolute fill of 808 and 909. And I’ve got an Elektribe EMX that does well enough in performance context.

    I was hoping for a MachineDrum competitor and got an Elektribe ER1 competitor. Not convinced.

    • DPrty

      Yeah the Electribe MX is probably a much better machine then this Roland.

  • syntheticjuice

    This is all pretty interesting! For the system-1, i wonder what are the exact scenarios you would need to hook it up to a computer. For example, is it possible to never hook it up to a computer straight out of the box? Will future updates/plugin models to the hardware be limited thru some auth/drm system per registeref user?

  • heinrichz

    I’m mainly intrigued by the Sys1. As far as that acid sound i’ve heard enough of it for the next 10 years, same for trap snares, they should have released an 808 two years ago.

  • celebutante

    Nice to see Roland jumping on the totally-useless-two-octave-keyboard bandwagon. (please, no “yeah but everyone has a MIDI controller!” flames… to which I say, then make it a module and charge $100 less).

  • BirdFLU

    Just a word of caution to anyone considering that System 1 based on what Roland may possibly offer with Plug Out: Back when Roland was selling the VariOS box they really hyped that it was future-proof and that they were busily working on all sorts of software models for it, then they didn’t deliver past the two that came with the box. I’m not saying they’ll do the same this time, just that if you are imagining the possibilities, you should wait and see what Roland actually deliver before spending the cash.

    • just passing

      Synth companies in general have a bad habit of doing this. I love my Alesis Fusion dearly, but it never lived up to its promise of extensibility. And as anyone else who remembers the Chameleon will recognise, even meeting such a promise is no guarantee of success.

      Bottom line: if you’re buying hardware, buy it for what it does in the box on the day you buy it – because there’s every chance its future will get cancelled, whoever makes it. If you want expandability – PC, Mac or iProduct: take your pick.

  • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

    VT3: Vocoder without ability to “play” it. Weird concept. Vocoder is not just about robot sound, but the ability to make it “sing”. With VT3 you actually need to know how to sing :D It’s a bummer. I use Vocoder on stage and that looked a way better than Microkorg XL that i currently use.

    SYSTEM-1 is the most interesting, but no pitch and mod wheels? More than odd to leave out such basic functionality of keyboard.

    “You can switch between the internal SYSTEM-1 synth and that SH-101 model. ”

    So SYSTEM-1 has it’s own sound and then you can also use SH-101 sound? So SYSTEM-1 synth can’t produce 101 sound that is very basic synth sound? Then what it does? Most VA’s can sound like 101 (enough at least). To this date the point of VA’s have been that you can create wide variety of sounds. As it’s Roland it probably don’t have Moog model so it will miss the other 50%of bass sounds what people want :D

    TR-3 is the least interesting of the bunch, but if the sequencer turns out to be great and it could produce other sounds that just 303 then it might find a place. 303 sound without being actual replica of 303 is quite odd or then Roland knows that there is Acid revival around the corner.

    • coolout

      I assume on the VT3 there’s pitch tracking and quantization, you probably change the musical key with the ‘scale’ slider, and the type of scale with the memory buttons. Just a guess.

      That’s the way NI’s The Mouth works and it’s easier get on with than the traditional vocoder/talkbox way of ‘playing as you sing’ as you’re not limited by any lack of instrument chops. With that said, here’s a track I did with The Mouth: http://cooloutmusic.com/track/plastic-people

    • https://soundcloud.com/boulder-d4sh Freeks

      Autotune/hardtune/pitch tracking is not same as vocoder. Very different thing actually. If you want to do say A C D G C A progression in A minor scale you need to know how to get those intervals with your voice. As it’s hard tune you need only to get it around one semitone, but that still require vocal skills.

      With Vocoder you just play A C D G C A with keyboard and thats that. Same thing with talk box. Ability to play chords with your voice is another major feature of vocoder.

      So i would NOT call VT3 a vocoder as it can’t do stuff what vocoder needs to do. It’s VT = Voice Transformer. Fun box to get robot voices and auto tune style hardtunes. But you can’t do “auto tuned news” kind of things as if you enter normal speech in only thing you get out is static robot voice. You can “play” the pitch with the slider, but that’s really not fun if you want to do melodies.

    • coolout

      Technically it is vocoding, same concept just a different approach. It’s using pitch tracking and quantization to determine the notes instead of manually playing the carrier synth. The box is just making the decision what to play instead of you. In my experience it’s usually playing the melody that’s tougher to get right (speed and phrasing) vs just singing though pitch quantizing. You match the scale and key to your song and sing the melody the best you can…DONE. It’s usually easier and accurate. You can do hard-to-play keyboard phrases with ease. You are right about chords though, but who’s to say there isn’t a chord function on there?

      I owned a hardware vocoder once and still have a talkbox. It is not easy to play those things well. For the talkbox, you have to have the right synth sound at the right volume, keyboard chops to play every note you want to sing, and practiced mouth skills for the phrasing/enunciation…and it could still loosen the fillings in you teeth! It’s so much easier to just load a plugin, set the right key, and sing the melody vs dealing with a spit-filled tube.

  • Ginkgo

    Regarding the outputs of the TR-8-

    What does this mean? “full parallel outputs via USB for total mixing flexibility”

    Does this mean that you’ll be able to record each sound individualy into separate tracks in a DAW via USB??

    • coolout

      Yep…apparently it shows up as 14 separate channels via USB…not only that but you can also route the external inputs, making it a full audio interface (with built-in FX).

    • http://v8media.com/ Ian Page-Echols

      That’s pretty much what it sounded like from the SonicState video. He showed 14 tracks as input possibilities. 11 outputs, 1 empty, then the stereo mixed output.

  • gunboat_d

    since you asked, Aira doesn’t mean anything in Japanese. i’m sure they just chose a name that sounds vaguely western, yet possibly native…like Corolla, Impreza, or Volca. there is a chance that it is some kind of acronym, but who really knows?
    the TR and the VT are most interesting to me. But, ugh, those colors. neon green and black…..Uglier than the Dragon ‘Vette. Roland synths are generally nice looking units…why go with this mid-90s day-glo scheme?

  • mercury

    lot of really negative comments. that system-1 could be amazing. it all depends on how many “plug-outs” are created. imagine if over time, they add juno, jupiters, etc…i don’t think they will have a problem selling those if they sound realistic.

    the only one i really don’t get is the 303 but then again i haven’t been to a club in several years…last i remember, this sound died out many years ago! i don’t see another acid revival around the corner but then again, i’m sure roland knows more than i do about it…

    the better technology gets and the more amazing it is, the more whiners come out of their closets…

  • coolout

    The TR8 seems to sound spot on and full of tricks, but where’s the build quality? Plastic chassis and connectors, no internal power supply…so depressing. I think a lot of people (or at least me) want a real 808 not just for the sound but also for the feel of metal chunkiness. I have fond memories of how a TR-808 felt in my lap. I don’t think any one ever asked for a portable TR-808. A real 808 never needed a kensington slot…it was too heavy to run off with.

    At one point I really wanted a MS-20 mini…until I touched one in a store. It was full of plastic wobbly knobs that looked so easy to break off vs the Moog on display next to it that just oozed quality. Like something you buy once and keep for decades.

    • DPrty

      I’m sure its not to hard to re-house the base of this unit in wood or bamboo.

  • Grinty

    How the heck did that guy get to do the first demo ever!?

  • Bot

    System-1: Yea verily, it came to pass.
    Specs: 25 keys (without velocity): My first thought is 3 octaves would be my preference, especially if I’m going to plug-out. And no velocity just seems strange.

  • DPrty

    For this price I might just buy the TR-8 for the audio in to gated reverb thing. My Electribe MX has the same thing but I don’t like the reverb as much.

  • Dick-AlmightT

    I speak Japanese. It would be pronounced ah-ee-r(l)ah

  • grant

    jeez…i hope those faders are durable. being a turntablist im used to beating the crap out of faders, even if they werent meant to be beaten. always wanted a 909. loved that classic sound and just wanted to get my hands on one. ive owned a cr-5000, tr-707, mc-303, and a machinedrum. never really needed a drum machine for anything that i do electronically really. its just something fun to play with and put my hands on. these are probably great for a select number of genres. and mostly ill just be playing kicks, claps and snares. never had the need for a cowbell really lol. i wouldnt mind spending 5,600 on the TR-8 so i can fool around with an 808/909 at once. better than dishing out 3k on ebay i guess. then again i really dont need any of this stuff lol. damn toys all over the market. same with the moog…ill just be synthesizing kick drums and nasty basslines that ill never bother recording into my daw.

  • Bob rwakzs

    Today’s question should not be, “how authentic does it sound?” But, “do we really need MORE 808 and 303?”

  • sundog

    Does any one know if the System-1 can be sequenced within the Aira setup? A fun aspect of the SH-101 was the internal sequencer that can be step triggered by the original x0x drum machines and clones. You could also sequence the SH-101 with the TB-303 Gate/cv outs. Any idea if the TB-3 can externally sequence the System-1 or will it need a third party midi sequencer or DAW to do it?

  • just passing

    What does it say about me that after seeing these things released, I went straight out and bought… a Mininova?

    I’ll be in the “grumpy old bastard” corner with Tom Ellard.

  • Jonathan Stark

    i think Roland makes a very good job. I own all the old TR and a TB 303, and in my opinion this releases are awesome. Both the idea to refresh the old classic (4 ex by adding a touchpad for fx, env and decay) and the result, the hardware. Looks modern, performing and sonically very valid :) thanx Roland ;)