Don’t read this if you want to wait for Roland’s big announcement next week. I’m pretty sure this will ruin the surprise.
A few weeks ago I became aware of Roland’s forthcoming “Aira” series when I got linked to their first teaser video about their drum machine, the TR-08 (or is it the TR-8?). Every few days they have been releasing new teasers, and finally sometime within the past 24 hours they added another couple of videos, and interestingly, two images of the Aira series, darkened to the point where all you can really see is black silhouettes of the sleek new boxes, and all the pretty light-up buttons.
Well … it occurred to me that if I make some adjustments to those images, it could be possible to reveal some details. This is exactly what I did, and the results are very telling, indeed! These two images were orginally posted on Roland’s site, and I have enhanced them to reveal sufficient detail to discern almost everything on their front panels!
Click on any image in this article to see it in its full-size glory!
Not bad, eh? Let’s have a closer look…
SYSTEM-1: The Roland Aira Synthesizer
The keyboard appears to have a two-oscillator subtractive structure, with dedicated ADSR envelopes for filter and amplitude, as well as an AR envelope for pitch. It is difficult to make out the labels on all the controls. A large round knob exists to the left of the meager two-octave keyboard. I loathe two-octave keyboards.
It’s hard to tell if the instrument will be polyphonic or not. I can almost guarantee it will have an arpeggiator or a simple phrase sequencer.
The entire instrument is adorned with beautiful green light-up potentiometers that grace the entire Aira line. I’ve always been a fan of that stark green-on-black colour scheme, harkening back to the green computer displays of the late 1970s / early 80s, and played up in movies like The Matrix.
TR-8: The Roland Aira “Rhythm Performer” Drum Machine
We’ve seen lots of pics of this one. Previously posted images appeared to be called the “TR-08″. It clearly offers lots of tweakability of its analog-modelled sounds, and the colour scheme of its step sequencer is a throwback to the TR-808. I am really excited to hear this one. I especially like its front panel, which looks like a no-nonsense UI with no menu diving required.
The top row of knobs starts with a section for “Accent“, then sections for “Reverb“, “Delay” and “External In“. A large knob on the top right is surrounded by pretty green LEDs and labelled “Scatter” – no clue if this is a digital effect… a la bitcrusher perhaps?
TB-3: The Roland Aira “Touch Bassline”
The pretty light-up sequencer section is presumably a touchscreen-like device. Dedicated knobs for volume, cutoff frequency, resonance, and more that I can’t read. Obviously this is their answer to the TB-303. Hopefully it is more than a clone of that.
VT-3: The Roland Aira “Voice Transformer”
This is another product that has been plastered all over the web. A large central knob determines the effect that will be applied to an external microphone. Four faders control aspects of the sound. If we’re hearing this in Roland’s Aira videos, it is probably an awful lot of fun. I want to hear it processing other, non-vocal sounds. I’ll bet this one could be lots of fun to abuse.
Yes, but Will It Blend?
My forecast is that of all these products, the TR-8 will be well received, and could possibly become a modern classic. I don’t think anybody wants a modelled TB-303, so we’ll need to hear what other sonic territory the new TB-3 can cover, otherwise it will appeal to analog enthusiasts about as much as the MC-303 or Jupiter-80. The VT-9 looks cute, but it is the type of product that becomes played out very quickly. Hopefully it’s cheap. And the System-1 synth … well, it needs to sound good, and it needs to have some attitude.
Remember you heard it first at juggernautmusic.com … the site that might even officially launch one day.
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Nathan writes: I just thought of this same idea early today, and then thought i’d look to see if anyone else had altered the pictures by searching for “touch bassline”. Here’s my attempt if you’re interested. [Thanks Nathan - I'm always interested!]