66 thoughts on “Roland Aira TR-8 Secrets – Under The Hood

    1. Who cares if it’s “over usb” lol??
      I don’t have usb on ZED16R, nor D2424LV.
      Piece of computer-aid crap that’s what this is – so disappoint.

    2. i dont own anything that uses usb, i dont work on a daw or hook up to anysoftwear. however, i would still really like an affordable 808 emulator.

      1. So, Roland should have catered to the very small percentage of people who don’t record to a DAW in 2014 and have 11 inputs to spare on their board? And it would have added how much more to the price? Individual audio outs over USB is the smartest thing they could have done. The amount of whining regarding the TR-8 is amazing. This is a $500 drum machine. If you want 808 and 909 sounds that aren’t “computer aided crap” and have individual outs then go buy an 808 and 909 for a total of $7k. Or you could get a Tempest for $2000 or a RYTM for $1500. What’s even more interesting is the praise given to RYTM without anyone barely knowing the specs or even barely hearing it. Go try to find a demo of RYTM where the snares don’t sound like total crap. Watch the Cuckoo and Dataline performance and tell me how incredible it is. If you do, you’re full of crap and kool-aid. Elektron make great stuff, I’m sure RYTM will turn out great but I’m not impressed at all at this point but it’s amazing to hear the amount of blind praise heaped on it just because it’s analog.

          1. Actually, I play live without a DAW all the time. The point is you’d be looking at a very different price structure. The USB audio was a much smarter move, both would have been ideal but again considerably more expensive. If you wanted to use this live and process its sounds independently would it be so difficult to use your DAW to process it? A lot more convenient than bringing a 32 channel mixer with you, no?

        1. I love how everybody started raving when the Rhythm Wolf was announced. And that thing literally made no sound at all 😀

        1. The TR-8 is hardware to perform with. Also, you could basically apply that theory to every drum machine I named. I have D16 plug ins and I have gold baby samples on my Octatrack. I think the TR-8 sounds way better than both and is a lot more fun and immediate to use in a performance situation. The TB-3 on the other hand, I’ll stick to analog.

          1. I agree with everything you said, and that’s why I’m somewhat attracted to the TR-8.

            I was responding to mytgo who said “i would still really like an affordable 808 emulator.” and I wanted to remind him that there plenty of ways to emulate the 808 for someone who cannot afford the TR-8.

            1. $500 is not expensive considering the price of other drum machines on the market

              or compared to most decent audio gear

    3. Well…the USB thing worked for me once, then never again. I tried to re-install the driver and it will not install…after 20 attempts!!!

      They should have just built a few more analog outs.

  1. Was really excited about Aira, even knowing it would be digital, but I’m so uninspired at this point. I have no issues with the look of it either. It feels like a real missed opportunity on Roland’s part, not the first and probably not the last.

          1. If you hold down shift, you’d get
            1. Dog Bark
            2. Orchestra Hit
            3. Helicopter
            4. Rain
            5. Spooky Ghost

            Sadly, these are 1-at-a-time, so you can’t have a laser ghost blowing up an orchestra.

            1. This is the best idea I’ve ever heard.

              Quickly, someone get Roland HQ on the line! They need to hear about this!!!

          2. If you like it and find it inspiring, more power to you. It may not be irrational, but these Aira boxes seem to lack the spark of the machines they emulate. That’s all I meant in the comment I made.

            Clearly, I can only speak for myself, but in revisiting these devices it seem Roland had the chance to do something bold, either by making clones or honoring the original but adding something mind blowing. They did neither. They continued in the digital emulation that has enamored them for decades. Instead of developing radical hardware, they are putting all their effort into software that runs on dedicated boxes. It’s all they seem to know how to do anymore.

            Meanwhile, their competition is creating actually hardware circuits that do at least as much, if not more at a lower cost. There are many software emulations of these machines available at a lower cost, so I wonder what value Roland is giving us? Just the dedicated box for it with the Roland marquee?

            By it’s nature, an analog system is infinite, there are no “steps” with analog. The devices Roland is emulating are analog. In order to make up for the reduced functionality of a digital system, so much more could have been added. It’s a trade off, but it seems like the trade off was way out of balance. The digital versions offer more than their analog counterparts, but seemingly, not enough more to justify the change. Again, it’s only the opinion of one person here and again, if you like these machines, enjoy them, make great music with them, I’ll be happy to listen.

            1. “…but these Aira boxes seem to lack the spark of the machines they emulate.”
              What does this even mean?

              I have the originals and statements like this are ridiculous. The only question is: “Will these machines inspire me to make the music I want to make?” Everything else is nonsense.

              As for the statement that “their competition is creating actually hardware circuits that do at least as much, if not more at a lower cost.”

              Really?? I don’t get your logic based on what is out there on the market. Hardware circuits are limited by design. Changes are not economically feasible. The AIRA line is just DSP and software, so new firmware updates can give you whatever the company wants to give you. It just requires programming.

              “In order to make up for the reduced functionality of a digital system, so much more could have been added. It’s a trade off, but it seems like the trade off was way out of balance. The digital versions offer more than their analog counterparts, but seemingly, not enough more to justify the change.”

              So digital systems have “reduced functionality” but then they “offer more” than analog. Which is it? This makes no sense. Anyone with any knowledge of DSP can tell you this is just wrong. Digital has more possibilities by design and is only limited by the programming. The fact they are offering multiple models in one unit leads one to believe that they will offer more models in firmware updates. At the price they are selling these at this is a no-brainer. If you want the 808 or 909 sounds this is the most accurate model of them. I have played with all the units and heard them on a large sound system. The variations in sound from the originals are minuscule but they do exist. This is simply because no two 303’s 808’s or 909’s sounded exactly alike. I have owned many of each and they have all had own unique sound. The advantage of the new machines is the simple interface, build quality and USB instrument-split audio connectivity.

              IF you don’t like them because you have some hate-on for Roland so be it, but please don’t try to convince anyone with half-baked ideas and other nonsense.

              1. 1) I believe “lacks spark” is a subjective response to the creative medium that is the machine. Music relies on subjectivity quite a lot, so subjective responses to musical equipment seems fair enough.
                2) Hardware circuits are indeed limited by design. But so is software. These new boxes will never be very good at emulating a piano, or playing Mario, however many firmware updates they receive. The idea that you can reprogram these boxes infinitely is a bit illogical – they are after all, limited by their hardware (including processing power in this instance) in much the same way analog gear is.
                3) Functionality is both qualitative and quantitive. Thus one piece of gear can indeed have “reduced functionality`’ and “offer more”. A knowledge of DSP won’t help you understand this, though a knowledge of philosophy might. (and possible semantics).
                4) The big companies are not famed for offering much in the way of firmware updates. Its pretty bad for business for a product to go on forever.
                5) I think its great that you have owned “many” 303’s, 808’s and 909’s.

                1. 1. To a good programmer a digital system is never limited. Also, if you have no idea what is under the hood, how do you know it couldn’t emulate a piano?
                  2. “lacks spark” is a comment that means absolutely nothing. I’ve never hear any YouTube demo that had “spark”.
                  3. Obviously these boxes could be infinitely reprogrammed based on their hardware limitations, yes? Much like a computer. It’s amazing this point has to be made.

                  1. 1) Suggesting being a “good programmer” holds any meaning in the use of these boxes is ludicrous. (unless you think they will be reprogrammable by the user?).
                    2) I know it couldn’t emulate a piano because I know how enough about synthesis to know it would be beyond the power and limitations of a drum machine.
                    3) bad emphasis on my behalf – they could (theoretically) be reprogrammed infinitely, but not to an infinite level (you made the same point – they are restricted by their hardware limitations (which includes their computational power – not all computers are the same). It is a myth that digital equates to endless possibilities compared to analog gear, it is simply a different set of limitations.
                    4) numbers are fun.

                    1. “Suggesting being a “good programmer” holds any meaning…”

                      Now that’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard. A good programmer always matters.

                      And you absolutely have no idea if the tech under the hood could emulate a piano. If it’s a stem of Roland’s Supernatural then it could certainly emulate a piano. Not that anyone one would buy this machine or even a minimoog to emulate a realistic piano. So, apparently your knowledge of synthesis and DSP is rather limited.

              2. While I attempted to put my emotional responses into words as a result of a question above, the point was not actually to convince anyone of anything. You call my ideas half baked and I agree, it’s a completely emotional response to a group of machines meant to help elicit emotion in the form of music. It’s completely subjective. I have Roland machines that I love more than many others, my Juno Alpha 2 for example, I want Roland to make inspirational machines, and I was originally very excited by the Aira line, but that excitement has faded. I apologize for not being more eloquent in explaining why my interest has waned. It’s not meant to reduce anyone else’s excitement about these devices.

  2. So far most the videos of this product have shown impressive sounds and for the price I’m still stunned how many people bad mouth!

    1. The rhythm wolf does look good. It’s getting to a point where with products like arturia and akai people can build a decent analogue studio for under £600. I’m really looking forward to the arturia cv sequencer. Hopefully this puts music making into the hands of young and poor people, it’s about time there’s a reason everyone took up guitar in school, £100 and your set but synths weren’t a realist prospect until I began working for most people.

      1. Got to shout out korg on the analogue front as well, the marketing makes it look cheap but ms-20 mini is the dogs! Good to see the Japanese brands catering for all types.

    2. SILLY Statement! So what if it’s analog. That does not automatically mean it’s GOOD. So much internet BS hype over analog it’s pathetic.

  3. I like my TR808, 909, CR8000, Linndrum, DSI Tempest. The Aira is for a fresh new generation. The sound continues. Roland did choose to make it digital. They say it sounds as good as the original. They just look the other way. Choosing their emulation technology over transistors. I think the TR8 sounds good. If they made a real 808 it would have cost far more. So many aspects would contribute to that. Analog production line, hand assembly, metal, plastic. Making it heavy results in a higher shipping price. For a company like Roland that is just out of the question. It’s a business that does not take these risks. Times have changed. It’s in the hands of the music industry soon. Personally I don’t think the sound will be more populair than it already is.

  4. hahahahaha roland is such a joke ! Its pretty much a total deathwish for one of the biggest music gear corporations in the world not to make an exact replica of a drum machine thats been discontinued for 30+ years ! Roland have NO idea what theyre doing. I know what im talking about, ive been into synths for 6 months and i know buzzwords like fat analog warmth and thin digital coldness ! Not analog? NOT INTERESTED ! thats my motto !

    1. I think you will find Roland are doing well, here is their share price with similar companies on the nikkei.

      might notice korg missing from these stats, thats because whilst they earn a crust digging up their fossils to knock out to synth heads Roland and Yamaha know their markets, and who to please to profit from.

      todays prices
      7944 Roland Corporation 1,365.00 -34.00 -2.43% 32.47B
      7951 Yamaha Corp 1,306.00 -50.00 -3.69% 252.88B
      7952 Kawai Musical Ins… 184.00 0.00 0.00% 15.58B
      6952 Casio Computer Co… 1,138.00 -21.00 -1.81% 305.94B
      7835 WiZ CO., LTD. 672.00 -13.00 -1.90% 2.07B
      7552 HAPPINET CORPORATION 839.00 -15.00 -1.76% 18.95B
      7867 TOMY COMPANY, LTD. 468.00 -4.00 -0.85% 44.05B
      7865 People Co., Ltd. 560.00 -1.00 -0.18% 2.45B
      6731 PIXELA CORP. 139.00 -3.00 -2.11% 1.79B
      6803 TEAC Corp 71.00 -2.00 -2.74% 20.47B
      6753 Sharp Corporation 281.00 -16.00 -5.39% 475.11B

      Here is a sample of how data is presented on the world’s top 225 musical instrument and audio manufacturers and distributors from 2012

      Company 2012 Est.Sales
      Yamaha Corporation $3,728,121,000 19,688 Takuya Nakata Japan
      Sennheiser Electronic $792,000,000 2,329 Jorg Sennheiser Germany
      Roland Corporation $734,670,000 2,785 Junichi Miki Japan
      Fender Musical Instruments $707,000,000 2,950 Larry Thomas USA
      Harman Professional $630,731,000 1,955 Dinesh C. Paliwal USA
      Kawai Musical Instruments Mfg. Co., Ltd. $553,688,000 2,850 Hirotaka Kawai Japan
      Gibson Brands $477,039,472 2,530 Henry E. Juszkiewicz USA
      Shure Inc. $452,000,000 2,350 Sandy LaMantia USA
      Steinway Musical Instruments $381,706,000 1,700 Michael Sweeney USA

      1. Exactly. Their market is the music industry. Roland made a great move. Good sounding product TR8 Aira is. I am an all analog lover. But even the digital Roland R8 had been a great help for me too. And that was just samples. Good ones infact. I love my 808’s transistor based sound. The sequencer, the tightness that’s an important aspect too. The TR8 has that part too. But it lacks a little silky smooth spot like on the beat of Marvin Gaye’s hit Sexual Healing. I did hear that comparing with the Aira TR8.

        1. Oh, yeah. I kind of didn’t make it to the “into synths for 6 months” part. Good one! And the “420” was a nice touch too. Ha!

    2. Cool. Please point me to the analog synth that can emulate a Waldorf Microwave XT or Korg Z1. The endless cluelessness is mind boggling.

      1. Yes. I am quite tired of the above lazy attitude. However, I think the offending comment was made in jest, but still is sadly accurate.

    3. Cool. Please point me to the analog synth that can emulate a Waldorf Microwave XT or Korg Z1. The endless clueless is mind boggling.

    4. Yes, because that “total replica” would be about $2k, and let’s keep in mind you’d need 2 “total replicas”. How many people do you think would buy those vs the TR-8 at $500? And, I mean, you’re a SikkProducer so you should be able to work with any technology, right? I bet you make the Sikkest tracks since Skrillex!

  5. We all love Korg and Roland. Both made nice analog Synths. I think Roland really took the lead in that. They made the finest series. Modulars, Polyphonics, Drummachines. But they lost contact with analog. That’s just not going to happen. Certainly not after Aira. So… Get used to their new line and listen. It is very ok!

  6. If it sounds good to me, and I feel inspired to make music with it, then… I guess it’s all gunna be OK…

    Not a big fan of having to power down the unit to make some routing adjustments tho… seems like a PITA.

  7. A guy called Gerald was meeting with Roland last summer to discuss some new toys for producers. And now when in production for affordable prices, there are still ppl whining 😀
    I would bet there is more potential for a new creative ways for music when you have audio over usb and can connect it easily with ableton for processing,midi sequencing (with spiral for example) than if you had extra audio outs for your analog mixer. and actually, there are 2 extra audio outs for separate voices..
    Even if you look at this as a plugin emulation, its a very good emulation with dedicated midi controller,mixer, effects…separate the units (vat,sequencer,mixer,efx’s…) the price is right…
    This and some sort of analog synth + ableton/midi controller for ex’s and you don’t even need a sound card and you have perfect minimalistic rig under your hands for jamming out…ideas or just like that (even better 🙂
    Don’t complain, make music

  8. The individual outputs over usb sounds good, but in reality it blows donkey arse.
    To get it to work, you actually need to have the TR-8 as your main sound card in your DAW, to get any individual outputs at all.
    So, what about your real sound card you need to use with your DAW then? Exactly!
    The so called DAW integration with the TR-8 is a damn joke!
    To not have a system similar to what Access have with the Virus Ti, is really pathetic, specially from a company like Roland.
    Also, include a damn USB cable in the package, it would hardly add another 100 to the price.. Jeez!
    Please, give people a proper manual..
    It’s really not good enough now is it?

  9. i’ve got my tr8, and loving it so far.. regarding the actual video..

    it shows how to assign parts to assign out a or b, but not both. i want my ext ins (stereo) running to the aux outs, but using the method above can only set it to go to a OR b, not both. i’ve tried pressing a&b together (obvs), surely i’m missing something obvious?

    1. heard back from roland..
      “At this moment in time, it is not possible to assign the signal to both Assignable Outputs A + B at the same time. The assignable output has to be either A or B, but not both. Mix out L and R is the only output which will currently allow this.

      However, I will pass this forward to Roland Japan for their consideration in a future update of the software.”
      so you CAN’t run a stereo aux in to the 2 assignable outs = 🙁

  10. such a joke, this digital piece of crap. don’t tell me it will take 2k to make an 808 replica. With surface mount technology nowadays that’s total rubbish. look at things like the MFB or Korg analog stuff. And the new Akai. all analog and far from 2k. more like $200. youre a joke suggesting it must cost 2k.

    Roland have been the laughing stock of the music industry for years now. and this dumb move has not improved their position.

    so lets just look at the TR-8…all reviews say “faders and knobs that send CC messages”…but they don’t tell you that the TR8 DOESNT RECEIVE THE CC MESSAGES IT SENDS…PFFTT haha. so you record the movements to your DAW and play it back …and the TR8 gives you the middle finger. Or move a fader/knob and try recording it to a pattern. FAIL #2. or try using USB in your DAW with a session that’s 44.1k 24 bit. FAIL #3. (TR8 is locked to 96k 32 bit…or middle finger again). or just listen to that 1996-quality reverb. ouch. FAIL #4. just for starters….enough already. Roland are so successful over the years at making products that are close to great but consistently with crippling dealbreakers.

  11. Just bought one of these. Forgetting the whole analogue debate for a sec – it’s so much fun to play with.

    I’ve got a Tanzbar too which sounds lovely but it just doesn’t have the instant grin factor. I had a Tempest for a while and that too just didn’t have the instant fun factor.

    Even if you think it’s a toy compared to the competition and its ancestors, give it a fair trial.

  12. I love the TR-8..It looks and sounds great, and is very easy to work with. I don’t care about VST integration, but I cannot even install the driver on OSX 10.6. I get an “installation error” every time!!

    This means I have to use the measly 4 analog outs to record drum patterns, and make MULTIPLE passes in order to get all 11 instruments tracked. I wish they had given us 8 assignable analog outs.

  13. These guys complaining about digital not sounding analog don’t understand what they are talking about. The issue is that like 1% are ultra rich, only 1% of audio software developers know what they are doing, rest are just cashing in from what they learned on dsp101 course. There are some good sounding software out there. Just like one song in ~1000 is good, one software in ~1000 is good. One part of the problem is exactly same as with game graphics: Recently there has been lots of news about old games looking awesome when hacked to render in 8K resolution and then downsample that to 1080p etc – no textures needed to be redone. Amazing. Same applies here and in electronics in general. If you want 48 Khz quality, you need to render in 480 Khz internally, and same logic needs to apply everywhere, eg. if you have knobs with range of 0-127, then the knob transitions from 0 to 1, you need to render the intermediate positions interpotaled that aren’t exposed to the user.

    The amount of software that does all this and doesn’t have various other bugs that make them sound crappy and has eq profile applied to simulate 80’s dac’s? Extremely limited. That’s why software sounds crappy.

    1. Slight correction my post above:
      interpotaled -> interpolated
      80’s dac’s -> the characteristics of the path from the digital pieces to the line out. Both the amps dacs and some other circuitry typically involved here all have small effect. However the biggest factor is likely that the people making the gear in 80s also had some taste in terms of selecting components to make up appropriate filter curves (eg. simple RC combo or even just a resistor when taking the part of the circuit design in account – I participated in Roland synth emulation project and the key developer hadn’t even noticed some issues that were obvious to my ears. I dare say it’s sounding often better than the real 80’s hardware now after fixes were made.).

    2. I’ll add that out of the free software I have tried, AXS and Pg8x (with oversampling and filter options set to 2-8 depending on the sound) have some of that something which most software synths lack.

      They don’t sound as good as the CZ I grabbed off ebay but if you’re looking for something to sound like what’s in old electronic music records without needing master EQ and mix/effects chains or buy old gear then try them out.

      1. I tried a bunch of settings to see what might be the part of the “secret sauce” in AXS and Pg8x: Oscillator anti-aliasing, multi-stage filtering, oversampling. Then to jazz things up a bit: having a chorus and custom oscillator waveform that’s not mathematically perfect but modelled from those old synths. And also probably they run some sort of EQ on master.

        Remove all that and the sound becomes less emotionally involving, more digital/artificial in a bad way. Technically the hardware synths are no less digital than software is, the key difference that makes many of them sound good must be that the people who built them were smart enough to take those things that caused the digital harshness into account and work around them. So it all comes down to the fact that software synths are superbly easy to make, poorly, and most of the devs are either just doing programming for fun or trying to cash in the large number of people who have listening equipment that attenuates or doesn’t have high enough slew rate in the mid-high frequencies where the harshness is most perceptible. Atleast that is my theory.

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