One of the biggest buzzes to NOT come out of the recent NAMM show, Roland’s new AIRA line of instruments starred in a collection of interest-generating videos and press releases released during NAMM. Many, including myself, were hoping they’d follow Korg’s retro lead and release true analog versions of the TB-303, TR-808, and TR-909.
Well, the AIRA units were officially announced today — a Valentine’s Day present to synth lovers everywhere — and while they aren’t real analog instruments, they leverage a new modeling technology called Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB). ACB appears to provide a good simulation of that classic sound, and the AIRA line offers a host of interesting features at a good price point. Roland may have a winner on their hands.
Let’s take a quick look at the AIRA products including their street price. If Roland wants to give the intrepid new music technology analysts at TabMuse promo copies, we’ll gladly accept them!
Roland TB-3 Touch Bassline (MSRP $299)
While not an actual TB-303, Roland’s new TB-3 bass synth is the most intriguing of their AIRA line to me. There are tactile knobs for filter cutoff and resonance, and I really want to try out the touchscreen keyboard, which looks to be superior to the original 303.
Real-time control of the 16 step sequences is possible, and I would be shocked if odd time signatures weren’t part of the equation. (According to a TB-3 review at MusicRadar — they are!) Throw in a street price of $299 and I may be picking one up later this year — promo copy notwithstanding.
Roland System-1 Synthesizer (MSRP $599)
With a Moog Sub 37 on pre-order, I’m not in the market for another analog modeling synth (a Korg Prophecy and Z-1 still hold court in my rig). But the Roland System-1 has some unique features that pair nicely with its $599 street price.
Most impressive is the System-1’s ability to download analog synth emulations from a computer. I assume the software to manage this capability is included with the synth or can be downloaded from Roland’s website. The synth itself also sports all the standard knobs and sliders to easily program a subtractive synth in real-time.
Roland TR-8 Rhythm Performer (MSRP $499)
The TR-8 looks like a 21st Century version of the TR-808. A host of controls appear to allow powerful control of drum beats in real time, but its $499 price tag makes me wonder if it is really worth it compared to something like the Arturia Spark LE.
Roland VT-3 Vocal Transformer (MSRP $199)
Hiring Darth Vader for your band might be a drag, so Roland’s VT-3 is a vocal processor that brings all the benefits of a Sith cyborg’s vocal stylings without the hassles of the Dark Side. At a street price of $199, the VT-3 might make sense for musicians looking for an inexpensive vocoder with other vocal effects.
While I admit to being disappointed that the TB-303 isn’t being re-released, that TB-3 looks to be something worth checking out more closely. The System-1 also intrigues with its unique “plug-out” architecture deserving its place in a crowded market, especially if some interesting synth models are available for download. At the risk of sounding a bit cloying — Roland, hit a brother up?!
Expect the AIRA series to hit stores next month.