Roland AIRA _ 808 / 909 Hybrid [Video & News From NAMM]

Roland AIRA _ Feature

Have Roland answered people’s prayers?

NAMM 2014 has been pretty fascinating. New products from Bitwig, Arturia, Elektron & of course; Roland, have caught my eye.

Against all odds, Roland have come out from the shadows with the AIRA, which given the limited information that’s available, appears to be a drum machine (that much is confirmed 😀 ); featuring all the classic 808 and 909 sounds. Teaser video’s have hinted at the AIRA having that classic sound, but with a modern twist for today’s music etc.. so who knows? Maybe it’ll have a few tricks up its sleeve then?

It’s kind of hard to sift through everything and find out whats real, but one of the common phrases I’ve seen popping up on forums must be analog modeling. The original Roland Team look to have been closely involved with the development of AIRA and judging by the tone of the teaser video, it looks as if other classic Roland boxes may be getting an update. Screenshots of a PCB from the video with a TB303 style layout have been posted online. Hmmm..

The Japanese Whispers going around right now seem to hint at it being ‘reasonably priced’, however, it’s safe to say that Korg’s Volca series and MS20 Mini probably both spoiled and set current expectations of value, so it’ll be interesting to see what the price range the AIRA settles in. Fanatics and skeptics alike may decide that the price tag does not justify the purchase should the AIRA lack a certain flexibility and usability.

There are plenty of Roland inspired software and hardware based substitutes and alternatives out there to suit most budgets. Hardware wise, the Volca Beats and Roland inspired ‘clones’ comfortably occupy the foreground while the likes of the DSI Tempest and Elektron Machine Drum UW – MKII reside at the top of the food chain (Elektron have announced Analog Rytm at NAMM 2014, which also has sample support ). The playing field has become so broad that you’ve got to hope that Roland’s baby isn’t dismissed as a glorified ROM-pler. As always, there is plenty of good value out there on the 2nd hand market, so until I find out more, I’ll keep thinking happy thoughts and sending out the good vibes.

If you want to keep up to date with it, there are some places to keep an eye on.

Roland AIRA webpage. The company have been updating this with videos every couple of days. They’ve 5 up at the moment. It has recently been updated to say that the first public showing will be in Feb 2014.

MusicTech have a feature in their forthcoming issue on 20th Feb.

A really dumb, lumbering and almost pointless thread over on Gearslutz.. but you can be sure that when something useful comes in, it’ll be analysed to within an inch of its life over there, so it may eventually produce something useful.

And of course, we’re keeping track of the AIRA in The Hole in the subsekt forums too..

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