Monday, February 17, 2014

The Roland AIRA..... Game Changer?

There's been a huge buzz about this ever since Roland announced pre-NAMM 2014 that they were releasing the AIRA which is a new system based on Roland Classic synthesizers and drum machines some of which are still used today on many hit records. Some may say that the sounds of the original are available as samples or plugins and even hardware clones but I was still curious to see what Roland (as the original manufacturer) had to offer with the AIRA. As much as I love the convenience and features of software I still like the feel of hardware and I'm sure there are many others that feel the same. I also like that you can purchase the entire line or individual pieces as you like which is great for those on a budget.

The Roland AIRA consists of the:
  • TR-8 which is an updated and revamped TR-808 and 909 in one unit. ($499)

  • TB-3 Touch Bassline which is based on the classic TB-303 Bassline. ($299)

  • VT-3 Voice Transformer ala VP-330 Vocoder Plus. ($199)

  • System-1 Plug out Synthesizer based on the System 100 and SH-101. ($599)

The AIRA has been receiving great feedback now that actual units are being reviewed. Here's what they had to say over at about the AIRA:

"we can confidently say that lovers of the old Roland gear being recreated here will not be disappointed with the sounds. While it is digital, all of the AIRA gear uses 32-bit/96kHz digital signal path, which means that you cannot detect any digital aliasing (notching) in the sounds, even during long, slow filter sweeps and LFO modulation."

and here's a video they made showing the AIRA being used in an actual performance at NAMM 2014:

also take a look at this extended video of the TR-8 by SonicState;

Roland AIRA Features:

• 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

TR Evolved:
• 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
• Rec/Play modes have been eliminated enabling seamless pattern making and performance
• Real-time play of 4 different types of rolls (8th, 16th, VARI 1, VARI 2)
• Quickly Mute/Unmute individual instruments during performance or production
• Pattern randomizing and Pattern copy

TB Evolved:
• Pressure sensitive Touch Pad
• Dedicated Tempo control with Shuffle and Tap Tempo
• Control built-in effects with smooth, responsive knobs
• Seamless switch between pattern creation and performance
• Enter steps manually or record real-time on the Touch Pad
• Random pattern generation and pattern modification with pattern copy

System-1: Plug-Out Synthesizer
• Advanced Arpeggiator with SCATTER jog dial offers 10 different phrase variations
• Variety of modulation (incl. ring modulation, cross modulation and oscillator sync)
• -12dB and -24dB filter types with independent high pass filters
• 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

VT-3 Voice Transformer
• Voice characters: Pop and electro sounds with two distinct “AUTO-PITCH” effects; VP-330-style VOCODER sounds without need for a keyboard; Glitchy effects that sound like something broke (in a good way) with SCATTER o Loads of lo-fi character with MEGAPHONE and RADIO settings; Synthetic sounding voices with the ROBOT button; Synths you can sing with SYNTH, LEAD, and BASS
• Save your three favorite settings for instant recall
• 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 and USB bus powered

The TR8, TB3 and VT3 ship in March but the System One will be released in June.

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