Analogue v Digital
There are several late-middle aged men crying on the news that these are digital – indeed, I was one when I heard the news. But Aira is not for me nor them, Aira is for the next generation of producers to employ the best Roland heritage sounds into their tunes and, as such, the whole analogue thing should not be an issue, and the ACB technology mentioned above should make it a non issue anyway, if they sound that good. At the time of writing Roland are being a bit cagey on giving too many details away on the technology so we’ve got some audio examples below so you can listen and decide for yourselves.
Before we do that let me throw this into the mix. Is it really that important that these units are not analogue? At some point along the recording process they will end up in the digital domain, whether that is within your DAW via USB audio, or as MP3s or CD audio so what does it matter that they are digital in the first place? I guess the argument back from an analogue point of view is that the recordings would be from an analogue source so better, so we may return to that so make sure you like us on facebook because we’ll generate some A-B comparisons over the next few weeks.
All the recordings below were made in Logic Pro X via the TR-8’s USB audio connection – which worked flawlessly – and with the TB-3 slaved via MIDI with its audio routed back through the TR-8. (Make sure you listen to these on proper speakers or headphones – our Mac speakers just don’t do them justice!)
TB or not TB?
The 303 sound does hit the spot although I do prefer some of the later presets over the classic square and sawtooth simply as they have a bit more attitude. Here’s a classic saw 303 pattern from the TB-3 with a bit of messing from me on both filter and resonance.
And the same kind of thing with a square wave. These two are the classic waves, preset numbers one and two on the unit.
Personally I like my 303 a bit harder so was drawn to presets number 11 and 12, the kind of thing you’d get in earlier Chemical Brothers releases. Here’s preset 11 and a pattern I programmed in the style of 90s techno band The Aloof or the man himself Josh Wink. Watch your speakers on this as the attack is hard and there’s a large squeal about ¾ of the way through.
And here’s the same pattern with some Scatter effects added where it turns into a drill like sound.
The extra bass sounds that you get with the TB-3 are great for variation and inspiration and make the TB-3 more of an interesting and individual bass-line. Here’s the previous pattern triggering some of the bass sounds in bank 2 of the TB-3.
The leads might not interest you as the much although with effects tuned up to about 50%, a lot of them are worth experimenting with. Here’s the same pattern triggering a lead sound from bank 3 and two effects from bank 4. The last one in particular could tear through some mixes.
TR-8 Sonic Verdict
The TR-8 concentrates only on the original sounds and I think pulls it off. The 909 kicks sound booming and rounded and the 808s as tight as the original, so the kicks really do kick – especially a hard, techno one you get on several patterns. Here’s a simple pattern in the style of Jam & Spoon.
And here’s a more 808 based one. The kick here is much tighter.
And here’s he same loop with some Scatter effects added.
And again switching between two different Scatter effects.
The other kit sounds are crisp and clear, the snare cuts through as it should and at more extreme settings. The ride cymbal, closed and open hats really do take me back 25 years and I’d say they are easily as accurate as the original. The unit could do with a few more patterns – 16 is a bit tight – but I suppose you could fill the B variation slot effectively doubling it.
Overall my opinion is that both offer a great sound both for lovers of the original and, in the case of the TB-3 a lot more besides. And do remember those extra effects too, especially the Scatter effects on both units. That’s what takes them on from the originals. With those and all of that real time performance control you really can get them – the TB-3 especially – to sound very different.
If you only listen to one demo make it this one: the two machines together with the 3’s audio coming through the TR-8. Scatter is used first on the TB-3 and then rhythmically later with the TR-8. Note that all this was done in real-time with me first operating the TB-3’s Scatter, then the TR-8’s which affects both units.
There’s a massive, more in-depth review of Aira plus hands-on tutorials and a first look at Aira System-1 (the third in the Aira range) in MusicTech magazine on sale 20th February
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