AIRA - maybe you'll just want to use it in the dark, or on a table designed by Stanley Kubrick.

AIRA – maybe you’ll just want to use it in the dark, or on a table designed by Stanley Kubrick.

Roland’s AIRA will be public this month, and you can bet CDM will have all the details we can get from the company.

But through its various teasers, the picture of AIRA is already pretty clear. The new line reflects a new approach for the company, one that would seem to show, paradoxically, both greater respect for the company’s legacy and greater interest in today’s tech tastes.

And most importantly, Roland has revealed their approach to new component modeling of analog circuits. That may not please analog purists, but it could be a way to balance the versatility of digital design with the sound quality of the originals. And we’ve been waiting for Roland to do complete component modeling for some time. It’s a field that has rapidly advanced – Native Instruments’ model of the Monark was a good recent example, incorporating the latest research in filter design. It’ll be interesting to see what Roland’s take might be. See the video here, if you watch no other. (Yes, while everyone puzzles over the darkened, tightly-cropped shots of cases and knobs, the video about modeling may give the greatest clue to how these actually sound, not only how they look.)

As seen here, you get two new pics, plus two new launch videos – one zooming in on the gear, one talking about the component modeling.

Here’s what we now know:

1. There’s a keyboard in the range, too. (it’s clearly revealed in the latest video, complete with lots of hands-on controls)

2. There are four models. The TR-08 drum machine had already leaked, as did a VT-3 Vocal Transformer. Now we know about the keyboard. The fourth and final Cylon – um, sorry, the fourth and final AIRA – isn’t out yet, but you might guess… sorry, I have two tabs open, and I can’t hear you over that bassline pounding in the launch video or the guy speaking in Japanese about how a TB-303 works. (V-accordion sound module, maybe? A remake of the Roland C-330 organ? I just can’t figure it out.)

3. There’s a new analog modeling method. In previous articles, I speculated about the range of possible paths Roland might have taken, from re-releasing analog circuits (as KORG, Moog, and others have done), to using an existing modeling method incorporating PCM.

Now we know that Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) is central. Roland describes this as true, component-by-component modeling of analog circuitry. That would differ from the previous SuperNATURAL approach to sounds, which mixed models with PCM samples. Here, Roland describes what sounds like a whole new design process: “It utilizes original design specs, consultation with original engineers, and a detailed, part-by-part analysis of each analog circuit in Roland’s own pristine units.” See the full video below.

4. You can actually see the old 808 colors in the backlights of the buttons. Alas, the color scheme of AIRA wasn’t only inspired by Matrixsynth.


And some forensic work done on that image (not by us, and data already in the image) reveals a whole lot more. Cool.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Okay, I’m out. No more teasers. The next time we talk, I’ll have official details – and hopefully some extra information, of course.

  • jeff

    Is that a System 100 or SH 101 remake?

    • heinrichz

      system 100 was modular/patchable

    • Carl

      SH-101 remake sold at System 100 prices

  • Jason

    TB-3 looks like a 303 with a touch screen sequencer. Could be interesting…

  • Henry

    Well, I guess, now we have it all in there – putting the video shots and photos and name hints together: There will be “new” TR-808/909, TB-303, SH-101 and VP-330 coming soon. All of them in whatever new virtual analog modeling technology, which purists and naysayers will moan about, while everyone else will at least be interested or even be happy that new gear comes out with (hopefully!) reasonable price tags that can do all the desired classic sounds – and hopefully has all the advantages of today’s technology. Including, but not limited to, oscillator stability, MIDI over USB, DAW integration… etc. I would indeed be interested in seeing, hearing and feeling how that System-1 keyboard is going to be. THAT is an awful lot of knobs on one two octave keyboard!!

  • pulsn

    At least Roland shows humour. Plug OUT Synthesizer. lol

  • timeblind

    I want one of those lab coats

    • foljs

      You can get one for less than $50 in any professional outfit shop.

    • Thomas 3

      show me a link

    • RCC
    • Cesar P

      I don’t see Roland logos in those coats…

  • heinrichz

    This looks great and i’m glad to see that Roland is moving forward with new technology pushing the limits of digital instead of just producing more retro analog gear.

  • celebutante

    1) enough with lame teaser vids. Either release the stuff or don’t talk about it. This is the music industry equivalent of the guy who won’t shut up about how awesome the band he’s GONNA do will be.

    2) nice job putting 430 knobs and buttons on a useless two-octave keyboard. Some people who do electronic music and actually play a keyboard. No, really.

    • foljs

      Roland pissed on your cornflakes?

      1) “Enough with the teaser vids”? They’ve been like two teaser releases. Compared with something like BitWig, or the average IT industry pre-release blurbs, this is nothing.

      2) When, some people who do electronic music actually play a keyboard. Those people, and they are not that many to begin with, already have a weighted hammer-action 88-key controller (or something similar to their liking). They don’t want to amass full-sized keyboards with any new synth purchase.

      Now, any VALID complaints?

    • kj

      Assuming one already has a larger controller, a two and a half octave keyboard is infinitely more useful than a 25 key.

    • Yanakyl

      I’m a bit bored with two octave synths for the simple fact it’s all I got(k-station, minibrute). One more would be welcome even for monophonic synth.

    • celebutante

      Sorry I wasn’t clearer about this. Roland came to the that tiny little get together, oops, I mean largest MI show in the world without releasing much of any info and treated the whole affair like it was a national security issue. Gimme a break. Again, offer some real info or release dates or shut up.

      As for the two-octave keyboard, I personally find them useless. I’m aware that some people already own MIDI controllers (like me, for example), I’m saying don’t bother with a useless one. If you’re hellbent on saving production costs, just don’t bother with a useless one.

      For the record, Roland hasn’t personally offended me as such, but I’m certainly not alone in the notion that they’ve seriously dropped the ball in recent years in catering to electronic musicians (at least the kind who like real analog gear/vintage Roland stuff. This again includes me; I’m a Jupiter-4 owner). Regardless of the reality of sound quality or flexibility, it doesn’t bode well when the masses collectively snooze when they find out that Roland’s latest greatest machines are modeling and not actual analog. Marketing rule #1: give the people what they want.

      They can do whatever they want- maybe it’s more profitable for them to make bland, pricey workstations with misleading names and graphics that reference Junos and Jupiters of years past. But in the world of analog synths/drum machines (and affordable ones, at that), Korg is eating their lunch.

    • just passing

      Electronic musicians aren’t that big a market – certainly not big enough to be able to readily justify to their shareholders. Spending serious money on us would only really be justifiable if they could prove that it would increase their profits in the long run. History suggests otherwise – particularly the early 80s, littered as it is with the corpses of defunct synth makers.

      Korg? Not publicly traded. They don’t have to worry about justifying their financial decisions to unsympathetic, profit-focused shareholders. They can take the risks Roland can’t fiscally justify. Which is almost certainly why Korg are now the cool kids and Roland the rather stuffy middle aged pub musos with kids and mortgages to feed.

  • Kurt James Werner

    Wow, there have been a lot of vicious reactions to Roland’s announcement of ACB on Youtube… I took a few minutes today to dredge up an example from my research, which (I think) shows that the way an 808 “breathes” has everything to do with the fact that a bridged-T network is a filter, and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the filter is analog.

    Check out my demo (, where I SPICE up the bass drum circuit and run a transient analysis with two different decay knob settings. When the notes overlap, there is a lot of variation. When they overlap less (since the notes decay faster), there is less variation. So, “breathing” and note variation in voices that don’t involve any noise generation is largely a property of happenstance constructive and destructive interference with filter state, not from some “analog” variation. Its just like double bouncing (or failing to) on a trampoline.

    I find this to be a really convincing demonstration, but I’m interested in everyone else’s reactions! :)

    • sherman

      So glad to see this info, I love when people dig in and actually _try_ what they’re saying. Recreating old circuits even in something like Reaktor shows what the real interactions are, independent of the noise of the real world.

    • Greg Lőrincz

      Don’t just simulate it, build it! It’s an incredibly simple circuit and can be built on a breadboard in half an hour.

  • siike92

    A+ on the Battlestar Galactica references Peter.

  • Random Chance

    Where does the conclusion that Roland uses a new modelling method come from? In order to decide whether they are actually doing anything new one would have to know exactly what they are doing. I’d be interested in this kind of information but I guess that unlike Native Instruments Roland engineer’s probably won’t go into the details of their method.

    • DOG

      it’s a tricky subject and you could encounter a few possible situations by disclosing the process: it turns out you’re infringing on an existing patent and could get sued, you don’t/can’t get a patent and someone else copies the process for their own use, or you simply don’t want to call attention to a patent you’ve already licensed (I don’t believe you’re required to disclose specific patent #’s if a design is protected).

      of course it is totally possible they just renamed some old technology with the usual PR spin :}

  • David Comdico

    Maybe a poor translation but the video seems to have skipped the part where the engineers first raced one another in their Formula One cars to determine who would get to model the tb-303.

  • Bot

    The ACB Video: Entertaining.
    The System-1 Keyboard: Love DCAM Synth Squad. So if ACB matches that, in a nice little controller with okay price point… I’m interested.

    • Bot

      The System-1 Keyboard could be a controller? And the first ACB product a SH101, and then later they release other Synths on the same hardware?

  • cooptrol

    maybe no one cares about this, but i found out AIRA is a kind of grass, and also a city in Japan whose flag is green and white, hence the green lights in all of the machines :p

    • enparticular

      que hace bolo todo bien?

  • Josh

    I don’t know if this Roland Aira can be trusted. The pyramid logo and formation of gear in the article picture looks very masonic.

  • Julien Bayle

    my fear seems to be confirmed. flat & usual step-sequencer. I don’t see a lot of informations about that but I’m afraid of STILL NO advanced sequencing features.

    making the music evolving involves providing MORE & NEW sequencing features.

    Here, I see only … yet another (good) machine. another one.

    I’m not a consumer, I probably won’t buy it at all. we can already have this kind of sound with many other machines.

    • Popo Bawa

      I agree, it is sad that with so many options for dedicated “rhythm” instruments, that there is little variety in these offerings when it comes to UI and models of rhythmic performance. The variations on the 16-stage step sequencer tend to be rather samey.

  • Daniel

    So ACB is basically Roland’s take on KORG’s CMT? :)

  • Popo Bawa

    Not please analog purists? How about digital purists, who it is not likely to please either?

    This sounds like a lot of research poured into making something sound like it was made with a 5$ 1980s circuit. For all of the “big deal” Roland make about digital, they (and many others) seem to be afraid to embrace it and use methods which go beyond imitating analog subtractive synthesis. I can hardly credit a new way of replicating these as being a step forward.

    I have always thought that “virtual analog” was pointless. And now, decades on, when we have real analog again, and fast cheap DSP, there seems to be only less of a reason for it.

  • Yanakyl

    I wonder about the system-1, is it gonna be a virtual analog monophonic synth??? That’ll be a bit weird!
    And if not, a bigger version is planned?

  • Adambpmjunction

    Looking seriously nice! Can’t wait o get my hands on them and personally I’m looking forward to a new take on analog synthesis. Let’s hope that drum machine isn’t too high on the price scale. Lots of competition out there

  • pretty boy


  • Dan

    Dear Peter Kirn

    You wrote in your article this:
    “Now we know that Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) is central. Roland describes this as true, component-by-component modeling of analog circuitry. That would differ from the previous SuperNATURAL approach to sounds, which mixed models with PCM samples.”

    But Roland offers two completely different kind of the so-called SuperNATURAL engines in products like the JP-80, which are:

    A) SuperNATURAL-ACOUSTIC engines, which are based on the method involving sample waves, as mentioned in the above quote from you. (Each SN Acoustic instrument group has their own SN Acoustic engine method.)

    B) The SuperNATURAL-SYNTH engine, which is an ANALOG MODELING (term used by Roland) engine, which is described exactly the same way on ,as the “new” Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) in the latest AIRA teaser, and I quote from :

    “…Powerful analog-modeling synth engine consists of three separately programmable Partials (sound chains) in parallel—each with its own oscillator, filter, amp and LFO. Each oscillator can summon vintage modeled analog waveforms from yesteryear or one of 350 PCM sampled sound sources.

    To faithfully recreate the unique sound of analog synths, we’ve meticulously analyzed the behavior of oscillators, filters, and envelopes that are unique to analog synths. In the new JUPITER series, a single synth tone comprises three OSC, FILTER, AMP, and LFO chains, which give you absolutely powerful synthesis control over a single tone.

    You also have access to Ring Modulation, WAVE shapes for creating complex tones, and UNISON mode, which lets you overlay up to eight waves per OSC to create thick and fat analog synth tones.

    Seven types of analog waveforms provide the DNA of vintage synthesizers.
    And more than 350 types of additional PCM digital-synth waveform patterns let you also recreate contemporary digital synth sounds.

    The filter section, which is a key to creating expressive synth tones, now comes with three new types of vintage-inspired LPF (low-pass filter), bringing the total to four types of filters to chose from.

    Emulates the filter behavior of an analog synthesizer. The LPF plays an important role in shaping the tone. It can be used to cut elements from the sound, and can also be used to emphasize elements around the cutoff frequency with resonance.

    When you control the resonance in an analog synth, the cutoff frequency fluctuates, and signal levels below the cutoff frequency are affected as well. The entire filter changes organically as if it’s alive. These changes occur due to the behavior of the analog circuits and the components used, such as resistors and condensers, which make up the unique sound of an analog synth.

    The JUPITER-80 feature four types of LPFs. [JP-80, JP-8, Moog, Prophet-5]

    Each filter behaves differently, even if their cutoff and resonance parameters are the same. The LPF is personalized by its parameter settings and real-time control cutoff frequency and resonance.

    Emulates the envelope behavior of an analog synthesizer. In an analog synth, the electric charge/discharge rate of the envelope rises and falls in a slightly curved line. The JUPITER-80 faithfully reproduce this attribute for all of its envelopes, including the oscillator, filter, and amplifier.
    By using this envelope to control the four LPF types, the resulting sound has an incredibly smooth analog feel…”
    /End Quote from

    So the ACB technology is exactly the same as the SuperNATURAL Analog Modeling technology, they just gave it another name for marketing reasons. Of course they created new analog models for the TR-8, and the other products, but it is certainly based on the previous R&D for the SuperNATURAL Analog Modeling (VA) engine from the JP-80.

    I think you should mention those parallels between the SN-Synth Analog Modeling (VA) engine from the Jupiter-80 and the ACB engine from the AIRA products in your article, just from a journalistic point of view.

    Thanks and all the best!

  • Boland

    Once again Roland shit the bed. This isn’t a digital vs. analog post, but if Korg can reproduce an MS-20, and a lengthly list of companies are producing current analog gear, why can’t Roland?

    I have never, ever heard anyone ask for a TR-808 (digital) version. Do what people have been asking for, re-release the ACTUAL pieces people want.

    If you want advanced sequencing, buy something Elektron, or use a computer. If you want ‘updated sounds’ then don’t bother looking at vintage gear.

    There is obviously a massive demand for these machines, since 808’s have hit the $3000+ mark and still rising.

    You think this hunk of DSP will be fetching $3000 at anytime in history? Sure…

    Roland fails again