Roland Aira

Roland Aira

Just prior to NAMM 2014 Roland announced a series 2 new products with many more on the way: the Aira line. So far they have announced the TR-08 (apparently a unit with physically modeled 808/909 sounds) and the VT-3 (which contains the indented pitch and formant shifter of the much sought after VT-1). They also released a series of videos touting the happy accidents that were the TR-808 and TR-909 and some teaser shots of the new black, backlit green units. Then at NAMM they only released details to the press who are sworn not to release their details until some time in February.

In many ways this entire campaign is frustrating. Why not release all of the details at NAMM like everyone else? On top of this, Roland is constantly criticized for not releasing anything compelling for musicians that cherish the early 80's machines. Korg has shown us that a 40+ year old electronic musical instrument manufacturer can go back to their analog roots. And Moog stopped during the digital era only to help usher the analog resurgence back in with the Moog Voyager. Smaller and younger outfits like Novation, Studio Electronics, Dave Smith Instruments, Elektron, and Arturia have been making new analog synths for most of their existence while the mainstream, established synth makers stuck to digital. And then there is the the Eurorack scene explosion, and the return of Tom Oberheim and Don Buchla. Forbes even wrote about this.

So for Roland to come along with big hype and no real details is...something else. And by allowing fans to speculate for weeks give them the opportunity to complain, lament Roland's lack of participation in the scene for the last 20 years with the exception of the JP-8000 and maybe SP sampler line starting with the SP-808. But what are they up to? Well, it seems they are finally going to give people what they want: the most coveted and hard to find/expensive discontinued Roland and Boss units. We also know Roland strives to make big innovations which can be hit and miss. The model numbers start with the classic two-letter prefix followed by removing the first number of the x0x and appending the original 3rd number.

What we know:
VT-03: VT-1 features in new case
TR-08: Physical molded TR-808/909
GAIA SH-01 (this a current model, not part of the Aira line, but it would be hard to see them come up with another VA architecture concurrent with this one)

My wild speculation on the rest of the AIRA line and guess on the model number:
-RE-05: emulated RE-501
-TR-08: Physical modeled 808/909/606/CR-78/DR-55 sound with din sync
-TR-03: Physical modeled TB-303 with din sync
-TR-07: TR-707/727/505/626 sounds with din sync
-MC-02: Physical modeled MC-202 with din sync
-VP-03: VP-330 vocoder (based on the hint in the audio of the video where a vocoder is heard)
-System 07 or System 01m: virtual System 700 or 100m (think Nord Modular) in a tabletop or rackmount
-FX-01: emulates RX-100 Boss spring reverb, Boss DM-100 bucket brigade delay, and the Roland SDD-320 Dimension D chorus

All din sync units have some sort of Bluetooth-like wireless sync and two-way communication protocol. They make the specification open and free for other manufacturers to use as midi was. They have secretly collaborated with Korg and Elektron on the new Specification. All units feature midi and USB.

iPhone, iPad and Android app with additional hardware dock piece acts as master sync, mixer, and audio recorder. Direct to SoundCloud/Bandcamp upload feature.