Roland AIRA TR-8, TB-3, VT-3 & System 1 Synthesizer Overview

This video, via Nova Musik, offers an overview of the Roland Aira line:

In the video, Roland’s Casey Bishop demos the complete Roland AIRA Series.

71 thoughts on “Roland AIRA TR-8, TB-3, VT-3 & System 1 Synthesizer Overview

    1. Is it the performance you find dated (a tame, polite electro jam)?

      I’m pretty sure you can do a ton of electronic styles with this gear. Demos hardly ever break new ground.

      If your beef is not with the performance, then what exactly is the new sound and what makes it? And did you expect a recreation of an 808 to do it for you?

    2. I find it hilarious that people refer to it as a dated sound. So, what if it is? I guess Fender should stop making Twin Reverbs and Strats and Gibson should burn all remaining Les Pauls. Honestly to me it feels fresh and new amongst all the “new” techno with granular textures, dub delays and long, dark reverbs. That stuff’s been going on for at least 15 years. Does 15 years qualify as “dated sound”? My god the first Pole album came out in 1998. I’ve got some Elektron gear and love it but every time I click on youtube video of Elektron gear 90% of the time it’s delay and reverb soaked dubby techno. I’d rather hear Ceephax Acid Crew, Aphex Twin, Prodigy or even the freaking Die Antwoord any day of the week. That stuff sounds alive and fun. Or how about over the top sound design where dudes spend 2 months making one track. I mean, I dig plenty of that stuff but there is room for everything and the TR-8 looks like a lot more fun than being chained to a laptop for months finishing a track. Also, how is it that the Virus, Machinedrum and Monomachine, all priced over $1200, are accepted as being digital but a $500, modern version of the 808/909 is outrageous? It’s funny the first argument against the TR-8 was that it wasn’t analog, now that most people have realized it actually sounds pretty damn good, the argument is that it’s too retro.

    1. It’s technically 32 patterns, as much as the 808 and maybe the 909(?). There’s an A/B button for each pattern. I’d like to see more too but keep in mind that it’s a very easy machine to program on the fly and working with those limitations really does force you to get creative and record right then and there, it’s that immediacy that I feel like is lacking in today’s electronic music.

  1. does the 808 also have a sequencer that you can can hook everything else up to and sequence with it along with it’s patterns or is it patterns only?
    I love the less is more concept of this setup but a sequencer on one of these things would complete it.

  2. Awful way outdated sounds!!! I can make a better beat with my iPhone… Also kill the 303! If you like 303 you are just dumb..

  3. pianos are outdated too, as well as drums, guitars, bass, and any other instrument that existed before the originals of these emulators… which instrument do you play?

    1. Its a great DANCE rig, but its also clearly not a sound designer’s rig at all. Its an expression of many people’s desires NOT to have to program much, if at all. Sweeping a filter with a knob is not really in the same league. The tools here define their style of use in an almost glaring fashion. I do applaud the system overall, because it sounds meaty and being Roland, the gear probably has a good build. That’s been my general experience. However, if I wanted to really mod my own sounds in depth, this wouldn’t be the place to go. That’s not a dis, just an observation. I saw a guy playing guitar through the VT and it was a great listen. There’s usually a path to any gear’s best use; its just not the one you see on the first look. My bet: the TR-8 will sell well and the rest of the line will make only a moderate splash as random parts of larger rigs.

    2. To be fair you are talking about the bedrock of musical expression here. Let’s not forget that all the instruments you mention have intricate expression and detail that makes them much more of an instrument than a monophonic acid synth. I love the 303 as much as anyone but compairing it to a piano or guitar is a bit ridiculous IMHO.

  4. We have yet to hear a detailed review of the System 1. It’s all been jams and overviews.

    I want to hear the tuning on a single oscillator slowly tweaked – is it fine control with no audible steps? Is that a triangle or a sine on the waveform selector?

    Does the filter self-oscillate? Does it maintain prefilter signal in high-resonance? Does it step? Is it analog-sounding?

    Are the enevelopes snappy? Can they go long, and if so – how long?

    Will the delay overload like on an analog or tape delay? Is it tempo synced or free-running? Can it do super short delays for pitched weirdness?

    How is the build quality? Are the knobs solid? Keybed semi-weighted? Responsive?

    Are there parameters that are not on the front panel?

    Will other plug-outs have higher voice count?

    Is the lack of audio input and vocoder a drawback? How about the lack of a mod wheel? Or the lack of a third osc?

    How does the sound quality compare to other VAs? Does it feel worth the price?

    We need a real review.

    1. Astro Spy

      The only way to get a review like that is to go have a hands-on review at a store. Video reviews can tell you a lot but it’s not a final decision maker for me.

      I’ll never forget one particular music store I used to go to. They had all their synths in one room set up on racks with headphones plugged in (you could also switch them all to a massive monitor system). I spent hours with different synths evaluating what they could and couldn’t do. And nobody bothered me or called me “dude”. LOL!

      1. Agree – hands on is the best. (not a lot of music stores around here that have actual synthesizers.) But an in-depth review would answer a lot of my questions!

        The problem is most videos on the System-1 are little company-approved demonstrations with no opinion or analysis. They play like press releases, and each demonstrator says the same stuff. Pull up a preset, play a note, twist a knob.

        I’ve gone through enough gear to know what I’m looking for, I just need to know if this Aira stuff has it.

    2. These are really shipping yet so all the “reviews” you’ve seen so far are based on a few hours with the devices.

      The System 1 is not fully baked yet. Roland has said as much and also that it will ship later than the other Aira boxes.

  5. Dated sounds is right. This was groundbreaking stuff in the 80’s… today there are a myriad of ways to duplicate these sounds, and has been for a long time (Recycle anyone?). My iPad can do almost anything sonically that the AIRA System can do but the difference is that I can change the sounds on my iPad… the AIRA will sound like the 80’s forever.

    Oh I love the LOOK of these products and the modeling technology is quite nice, and hopefully Roland will take full advantage of the plug-out system and develop more sounds for the System-1 Synthesizer.

    But what are you going to DO with this that’s actually NEW? Answer that before you give my post a thumbs down.

    1. Built in effects, affordable, multiple instruments on one box (on the TB3, TR8 + System 1), individual channel outputs via USB, DAW integration, built in compressor, more flexible sound engines – if you can’t do something new with those options, it’s not the gear’s limitations….

    2. Most people won’t be using this gear in huge and groundbreaking ways.
      It’s aspirational.

      If you’ve grown up listening to music that features classic Roland gear, then you probably have a lot of pent up desire for 303s, 808s, etc. But they are expensive vintage and rare items.

      You probably have a computer that can do a million other interesting things. And they’ve been modeled and cloned before. But having a Roland-badged hardware piece you can use for live jams is attractive.

      I don’t get the confusion about why people want this. You can go to a music store and buy a reissued Fender tube amp for half the price of a vintage one from 1965. There’s a market for new versions of classic gear, because the classic gear is constantly worshiped and referenced.

      Not everyone who buys music gear is a fully self-supporting musician who is creatively killing it. Some people just have fun. Some people want to learn to play an accurate Pink Floyd guitar solo along to an MP3, some people want to twist the cutoff knob on a homemade Higher State of Consciousness. Harmless and fun hobby.

      1. I agree with pretty much everything you say, except to call it “harmless” isn’t quite true, because all of this stuff is going to end up in a landfill. I’ve got a ton of toys myself, but at the same time I know it’s pretty destructive to the Earth to be into this stuff.

    3. trust me I’m a novice but even so I don’t see the point in being more interested in how groundbreaking the tech is than how ground breaking the songwriting is, what am I missing here?

    4. “But what are you going to DO with this that’s actually NEW? Answer that before you give my post a thumbs down.”

      Er, write a new song?

      Cellists like the timbre of the cello. Some electronic musicians like the timbres of 303s. Neither instrument precludes musical creativity.

  6. This is rocking that Roland released a new bass machine that finally sounds as good as my original classic Roland MC-303 !!!!

  7. I’ve said in the past that roland should just re-release a couple of the old classics. Now that I’m seeing these…. not so much. I can see they have their purpose and can be fun and useful, but I’m feeling like we might be at the apex of the surge in analog excitement before the old finally goes away and the new becomes the norm. There is always a “resonant peak”, shall we say, at the changing of technologies.

  8. I’m getting really tired of watching roland staff showcase the entire line. I need to see a real in depth review of the system-1. None of the reviewers have been given enough time with the products to truly judge their merit. Makes me think roland are hiding something.

  9. Always fun and highly useful to see product demonstrations of keyboards by demonstrators that don’t really seem to know how to play keys!

    1. Admittedly, the drum machine looks fun, whether it’s for you or not…whether you need that sound, or not!

  10. Just wondering: Does the tech under the hood of the TR8 actually matter? Its just a drum machine that spits out drum sounds when triggered,in a fire and forget manner. If youre going to use it live i imagine its great. If youre using it in the studio, chances are that you will do some extra sound processing to it anyway. I might get one so i can use its sequencer to trigger my vermona drm. A £400 sequencer with on board sounds and effects. Bargain. The only alternative i can think of is the electribe unless you fork out double or triple the money for something by electron or such like.

  11. Does this description in this article of the System-1 sound misleading and or confusing to anyone else?

    AIRA System-1 Plug-Out Synthesizer – a $599 ((( virtual analog synthesizer that can transform into a variety of classic synths, >>>and<<< act as a hardware controller for a new line of software synthesizers.)))

    Its seemed from the people demoing and explaining the functions of the System-1 that the "Plug-Outs" are the described "act as a hardware controller for a new line of software synthesizers", but the above statements also says the System-1 can also "transform into a variety of classic synths", so what description pertains to Plug-outs? And what is the other feature than?

      1. Thanks, but the question is in regards to the Plug-Outs. Are the new Roland software synths that run on Daws the Plug-Outs? And if the Plug Outs are for the Daws and System-1 , than what does the statement “can transform into a variety of classic synths” pertain to exactly?

        1. They’re going to release a series of expansion cards. When you plug in a card, it “can transform into a variety of classic synths”.

          1. Thanks, it sounds like Plug-Outs are the “new” version of Roland’s expansion cards for the JV synth-rack series.

      1. Acid and Detroit techno , and uk industrialish synth music (joy Div, Cabs,Psychic Tv,Human League etc ) all made on rough cheap gear.

          1. When will people stop comparing hardware to VSTs? Dedicated hardware that I can’t check email on or jerk off to is always more conducive to creativity.

  12. Yeah, because “techno” with granular textures, dub delays and long, dark reverbs hasn’t gotten old at all.

    1. Maybe dub techno has gotten somewhat stale, but I still love that stuff. Probably always will; it just fills the room so well.

  13. I’m impressed. Some people have a real talent for finding something to bitch about.

    This ice is cold! Let’s complain about it and demand coffee. That will give us some time to think about how we can criticize the coffee for not being cold enough.

    At any rate, glad there are a lot of affordable choices out there for people just getting into hardware. I think this series will make a lot of people happy.

  14. I really wish the TB-3 had all the physical knobs of the TB-303, and that the touchscreen was only for sequencing notes. The lack of an Envelope knob really gives me pause.

    On second thought, that giant featureless slab of touchscreen eating up real estate really seems like a short-sighted gimmick. It does not do anything that backlit buttons don’t do, except of course get greasy and scratched, and provide zero tactile feedback. It also probably raises the cost, too.

    I’ll take ACB over analog at that price and quality, but I think Roland risks the TB-3 being decidedly unclassic in a few years.

  15. “It’s a crazy acid machine that sounds like a TB-303, a pure blast of hardware in this age of the iPhone app. The best part is that the interface is dominated by the same pedestrian touchscreen that can be found on everything from ATMs, to that Kaoss Pad you sold on eBay 4 years ago, to your mom’s iPhone.”

  16. I’d still like to see what it is that you are using right now that is so much more special and groundbreaking than this and if the answer is ‘a macbook’ then the fuckouttahere, that has nothing to do with the ability to write a great song, I mean really just how many notes does your bass need to play to make a groove.

  17. You know what that dude Jexus could do with a setup like this, more than the average person with a whole studio.
    nobody listens to music anymore, they just listen to specs, time and date stamps, and patches.

    1. Well, said. Jexus is a great example of someone who appreciates gear for what it is and doesn’t harp on what it’s not. Dude knows how to program a synth better than most of the people that post on synthtopia (you know it’s true) and he doesn’t obsess over whether or not they’re analog or digital. Work within it’s limitations or go spend $3000 on an original 808, $3000 on a 909 and $2500 on a 303 (all of which have limitations), or you could wait for RYTM and convince yourself it was worth the $1500. Elektron definitely makes some cool stuff but there is also a fair amount of hype and fanboy worship with that company. I mean they have a freaking clothing line. I am not impressed at all from what I hear coming out of RYTM so far and the Analog Four has got to be one of the most overrated synths ever made (tell me how how good it’s raw oscillators sound, Oh, not as good as $150 volca bass? that’s right). It’s funny, Elektron’s digital stuff (Machinedrum, Monomachine and Octatrack) are for more interesting but they knew they had to cash in on the analog hype and they are.

  18. I agree with you guys. my computer does more than this. if this cant even do email…then why would anyone get it?

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