updated 02:30 pm EST, Sun February 16, 2014
Line focuses on bringing older analog sounds to the digital age
Roland has brought back a key piece of music history with their line of AIRA products. With four new products specifically pointed towards the evolving world of electronic music, the company brings back some classic analog sounds to the digital world and resurrects the TR-808 drum machine in the process.
The importance of the efforts of the AIRA line comes down to the idea of taking popular analog sounds and bringing them to the digital world in a way that retains the character for new users to enjoy. With older products like the TR-808 -- which saw limited production and increasing rarity that drove up prices -- Roland is attempting to put these devices back into the hands of music creators in a way that retains the sound and make it more affordable.
Using a process called analog circuit behavior (ACB) the company was able to recreate the older sounds using the original devices to study their patterns and be able to recreate the sounds faithfully. Since many of the devices they were modeling were subject to having their own unique sound based on how the components worked together across the life of the machine, engineers had the task of studying the machines down to the level of connections in order to remap and study each individual part in order to make the correct sounds. Digital signal processing (DSP) was then used to bring the AIRA machines to life in a manner the company says is "without compromise."
Four products will be launched in the line featuring the VT-3 Voice Transformer, the System-1 Plug-out Synthesizer, TB-3 Touch Bassline and TR-8 Rhythm Performer. The VT-3 will allow producers to change processed vocals on-the-fly based on 10 different settings. The System-1 combines the features of the System 100, 100M and 700 models to bring the synthesizer arm to life, acting as a system to host plug-in versions of Roland synths without the need of a computer.
Perhaps the most important devices are the TB-3 and the TR-8. The TB-3 Touch Bassline is based on the TB-303 with a pressure-sensitive touchpad and over 134 sounds which include those of the original 303. The model was based off of a "pristine TB-303 unit, original spec sheets and archival data." The TR-8 is the device that many musicians will want, to obtain due to its connection to the TR-808 and TR-909 machines and 16 included rhythm kits. The TR-8 underwent the same processes of creating the 808 and 909 sounds and design in a way that will be true to the originals, but will put the sounds in the hands of the masses because of the ACB technology.
The AIRA products will be available by the end of the second quarter of 2014.