Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Roland introduced several products that went on to become classics; everyone knows the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, and the TB-303 Bassline is the de facto bass source for several styles of electronic music. Likewise, the original System-100 and its siblings set a standard for analog synthesizers. All of those products are, of course, long discontinued — originals are now collector’s items and fetch stratospheric prices! Needless to say, musicians have been clamoring for Roland to bring back those legends for years…and I’m happy to tell you, the wait is over!
The AIRA family re-introduces those legendary instruments in modern day form. The AIRA line features obsessively analyzed recreations of the originals that faithfully replicate every detail and nuance of the analog circuitry, bringing the classics to music makers of all genres, with up-to-date features, reliability, and style. The AIRA family includes four members: the TR-8 Rhythm Performer, the TB-3 Touch Bassline, the System-1 Variable Plug-out Synthesizer, and the VT-3 Voice Transformer.
TR-8 Rhythm Performer
Introduced in the 1980s, the TR-808 and TR-909 have been dubbed “the most influential drum machines of all time.” Their sounds remain staples in today’s music, defining genres and remaining fresh more than three decades later. The TR-8 Rhythm Performer brings you full reproductions of the original TR-808 and TR-909 rhythm machines using newly developed Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology. In addition to all the features of the originals (up to 32-step pattern sequencing, 16 pads, and more), you can build hybrid kits containing whichever 808 and 909 sounds you desire, add per-step gate reverb and delay effects, mix in external sources, seamlessly create patterns, play any of four different rolls in real time, quickly mute/unmute instruments, randomize patterns, use the innovative Scatter function to “freak and tweak” your grooves, connect to your computer via USB, receive MIDI clock sync, integrate seamlessly with other AIRA instruments, and tons more! It’s the 808 and 909 evolved.
TB-3 Touch Bassline
Created in 1981, the TB-303 Bassline defined the sound of Acid House and other styles of electronic music. Using ACB technology, the TB-3 authentically recreates the TB-303: all those signature bass sounds are right at your fingertips! The TB-3 has 134 onboard sounds, with all the unmistakable character of the TB, including the 18dB/octave ladder lowpass filter. The new pressure-sensitive touch pad brings amazing performance capabilities to the TB-3, while the step sequencer makes it a breeze to create the patterns you conceive. The innovative Scatter function features slicing, reverse, gating, and other effects, instantly taking the TB-3 to an entirely new creativity-inspiring level. Like the TR-8, the TB-3 features USB, MIDI clock sync, and seamless integration with other AIRA series units.
System-1 Variable Plug-out Synthesizer
Bringing back the analog sound and feel of Roland’s 1970s-era System-100, System-100M, and System-700 modular synths, the System-1 breaks new ground with remarkable flexibility and a vast palette of ACB-based synthesized sounds. But what’s this “Plug-out” business? “Plug-out” means the System-1 can host software recreations of other classic Roland synths. These Plug-outs run right on the System-1 — no computer is required. The first Plug-out to be announced is the legendary SH-101, but this is just the beginning; expect many more classics to become available soon. The System-1 also features an advanced arpeggiator, and the new Scatter function allows for incredible phrase variations. Effects such as Crusher bring a modern edge. With USB connectivity, MIDI clock sync, and tight integration with other AIRA instruments, System-1 will lock right in with your entire rig.
VT-3 Voice Transformer
Singing synth effects, VP-330-style vocoder effects, hard-tuned effects, robot voices, lo-fi vocals, and more — that’s what the VT-3 Voice Transformer puts right at your fingertips, all with built-in reverb, wet/dry fader control, and instant bypass. Pitch and Formant each get their own fader, letting you take real-time control over your vocal effects. Three presets store your favorite settings. An XLR combo jack provides phantom power for condenser mics, stereo outputs can be configured as wet/dry outputs, USB connectivity allows loopback recording to overdub vocals on existing tracks, and so much more. The VT-3 is meant to be played live, with brightly lit controls and fast, dead-simple operation.
I had a chance to get a preview demonstration of the AIRA instruments (they’ll be shippin by the time you read this), and I can tell you these are the real deal! They sound authentic, and what I really like is that they’re instruments with lots of real-time control — Roland clearly intends for us to play these music-making boxes.
Expect to see the AIRA family in a lot of studios and live rigs — and not just dance/electronic music rigs. These are products that musicians from all genres will find to be creative tools. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!