Roland AIRA Series Offers Classic Sound + Modern Features


Today, Roland officially announced its new series of AIRA products:

The AIRA series is based on Roland’s newly-developed Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) which the company says faithfully captures the sound of some of Roland’s most revered classics. In developing the AIRA line, Roland modeled classic circuits, using original design specs, consultation with original product engineers, and a detailed part-by-part analysis of each analog circuit, using pristinely-archived Roland drum machines and synthesizers.

We got a sneak preview of the Roland AIRA line at the 2014 NAMM Show. The line is hands on, appears to be solidly built and is priced surprisingly competitively. These aren’t purist recreations, but they are not stripped-down knockoffs, either.

Instead, Roland has tried to combine the best features of some of their classic gear with modern functions that today’s technology makes possible. See our Roland AIRA overview for a demo of the new line. 

Here’s the official Roland AIRA intro video, which features artists Arthur Baker, Ricardo Villalobos, A Guy Called Gerald, Rain Man, Netsky, Oscar Burnside, Boys Noize, Dr Meaker, Hardfloor, John Heckle, Hisashi Saito, and Akkord sharing their thoughts on the AIRAs:

Here’s an overview of the four new Roland AIRA instruments:


The TR-8 Rhythm Performer is a ‘performance rhythm machine’. It offers the sounds of Roland’s classic TR-808 and TR-909, 4 audio outputs and greater tweakability than the originals.


The TB-3 Touch Bassline is based on the classic Roland TB-303.

The new TB-3 Touch Bassline uses Roland’s ACB modeling to recreate the classic bassline sound and offers controls that will be familiar to users of the original. But the TB-3 also offers a large touch control surface that streamlines sequence programming and introduces new performance options.


The VT-3 Voice Transformer is designed for creating heavily processed vocal sounds, with pitch and formant shifting, vocoder effects and more.


Finally, the System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer is a new keyboard that can transform into a variety of types of synths.

It’s very hands-on and knobby, but the key feature is the synth’s Plug-Out technology, which lets the System-1 control – and even host – software recreations of classic Roland synths, with no computer connected.

Here’s Roland’s official intro to their ACB technology:

Pricing and Availability:

  • The TR-8 Rhythm Transformer will retail for a street price of $499;
  • the TB-3 Touch Bassline has a street price of $299;
  • the VT-3 street price will be $199; and
  • he System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer will retail for $599.

Roland AIRA products will be shipping by the end of second quarter 2014. For more details, visit the RolandUS website.

56 thoughts on “Roland AIRA Series Offers Classic Sound + Modern Features

  1. These look gorgeous and the price is right. I want to hear more audio demos, but I think they really delivered with the TR-8 and the TB-3, especially.

  2. Why does Roland suck!?! The future isn’t analogue!! Analogue was the height if technology in the 80’s! Modeling each circuit then adding model technology ontop of it all. I’ll take one if each please!!!

  3. Between this and what Korg has done with the Volca/mono line, this feels like a bit of a let down. I bet these sound great, but price wise, I wouldn’t pay $499 a drum machine.

    1. These make the Korg Volca’s look very limited, by comparison.

      The Korg Volca’s are fun, but you can see what Korg had to do to get the price down – everything is plastic, the controls feel cheap and the designs are very limited compared to old-school machines.

      The new Roland boxes are professional instruments – full-size, with tons of performance controls, with all the old-school features, but some interesting updates, too.

      That $500 TR-8 is going to run circles around just about anything but the DSI Tempest or the Elektron RYTM.

      1. Don’t get me wrong I’m not hatting the Aria line, just that to see what Korg has done. I would have thought that Roland would have done something other than just a re-hash of the classic line.

        1. Pro gear should be built to handle the wear and tear of regular use, whether it’s live performance or in the studio.

          The Volca’s are plastic and pretty lightweight – they’re designed for people that care more about bang for the buck than long-term reliability.

  4. I like the spacey look of these but its still really down to that fundamental question of …. WHAT DOES IT SOUNDS LIKE!!!. Controller stuff is on the keyboard looks interesting but a lot of the of the other stuff has & is being done better by other manufacturers. This system also looks very internal looking i.e.: only dealing with digital control, so could be a little one sided. I hope these have a cv/gate connection at least on them somewhere or their not really echoing the past imo. Pics of the back panel please.

  5. I dunno- thing looks kinda dope. Makes me want to play with it. Isn’t that enough? If it doesn’t perform, then whatever. But interface-wise it’s sweet.

    If you want analogue, there’s ebay and about 100,000 brand new synths that seem to come out daily. No one’s going to MAKE you buy this. LOL

  6. I like this. I would take this anytime if it sounds right [like promoted], no matter it’s not analogue. I would take AIRA before any other new analogue gear [electron, volcas etc.]… Roland, hope the sound is right! Must try it!

  7. This is an insult to Roland’s great heritage and an insult to the eyes. Never imagined I would see Roland imitating its own real gear with a VST in a box rather than actually manufacturing it. I guess it is up to Cyclone Analogic and others to carry the torch.

  8. The TB3 is a joke. I agree with Sonic Lab, “even at 299 it seems over priced.” Damn right. It’s into to music production gear. It’s feature set is gimmicky lights and the advanced features don’t exist. Like he said, “it’s basically a preset machine”. To me that equates to ‘this is not professional equipment’. Now, to the person waiting to say “what is professional equipment?” Well I assume you’ve never touched a piece then, you’ll know when you do. I don’t care if it’s built like a tank on top of a tank, without the features you may as well built it out if solid steel with a rom chip in it. These seem very Electribe to me.
    Remember this, these will be looked at as yet another failure from Roland. Thumbs me down, just remember that for the year end review.

    Bottom line is, if you’re going to market the shit out of rebirthing the classics, damn it make a classic. These will not be future classics.

    1. I felt a bit the same. Tr8 is interesting with nice features, the tb3 I’m sure is fun but something about it is not right for me. Maybe cool and easy to integrate in live situation…

    2. You refer to the Electribe like its a bad thing. The Electribe MX is a modern classic. It was so successful that Korg re-released it with nothing but new sounds and an SD card update.

  9. Roland is doing what Korg is doing. Making instruments fun again. So it’s not “professional” enough for you but professional gear costs at least twice as much. So, go, buy your $2,000 Moog and we’ll enjoy these beauties while you try to figure out how to pay your bills after suffering the cost of Moog and DSI. The only limitations in an instrument is the player

    1. What?! Back under the bridge, a$$wipe – how about getting an actual paying GIG, to pay for your equipment? We pay our bills just fine, thanks. Quality is expensive – tough $h!t, Jack. Sorry for YOUR suffering…enjoy your hobby.

      1. You have the worst attitude … I agree Moog is old news and sucks. Long live VA’s and digital. Now you get back under the bridge yourself. The future is digital and the sooner Baby Boomer Analog fan-boys figure that out … the better Synthopia will be for not having to hear your generations whining.

      2. Yes, Synths are hobbies for some. Are you doing it for a living? Sure you are. I think if you did a poll, most of us would turn out to be hobbyists that are reading this and other synth sites. Some of you are pro’s and congrats for that.

  10. I don’t understand the frustrations here.

    It’s not possible to know what someone somewhere might do with these instruments, all it will take is for someone to take this new technology and use it in a way that inspires and captures the imagination of a generation and a new classic will be born.

    It’s not the build quality, the technology or even the sounds that make something a classic or not, it’s the human – instrument interaction in all it’s wonderful capacity for creativity that makes timeless classic music.

    You only have to take the briefest of tours around YouTube to witness countless examples of people making beautiful music with all kinds of instruments from lumps of wood and stone to high end technology like this and everything in between.

    My advice, such as it is, is to approach with an open mind, try them, if you like them then great, if not then move on and find something else to enjoy that does suit you.

    All the worlds problems begin when people start thinking that what’s good for them is good for everyone else – can’t remember where that’s from right now, but it’s pretty famous and very wise!

    Have fun folks 🙂

  11. Out of all the people praising this amazing invention I wonder what percentage of you will actually go out and buy one of these.

  12. it looks like the future of 2001 to me, korg finally caught up with the electribes. at least there aren’t any goofy tubes on the front.

  13. It always grieves me to see $499 or $295 then when you look at British websites it’s £499 or £295 which at present rates is a 30% mark-up on price.

  14. I wonder how many of each unit will ultimately be sold? I suspect more people will add one or two to what they have than will buy the entire setup. They’re selling a system but its also a test case for promoting modularity in-house.

  15. They are not true analog. Volcas may be plastic and addictive (started with bass but I need beats and keys too) but they are true analog.

    1. Who cares if they’re analog or not? Can someone make great music with them? If so, that’s all that matters. Analog is an 80’s technology that makes a come back every couple of years, like other fashion trends of the 80’s.

  16. Id love to see emulations of the 606 and 707 kits added to the TR-8 in a future software update, to make it more flexible.

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