Just over a year ago, Roland unveiled its successor to the iconic 808 and 909 instruments that have a firm grasp on the modern music landscape. That drum machine, the TR-8, was part of a new AIRA line with the System-1 synthesizer, TB-3 bass synth and VT-3 vocal processor. At this year’s Musikmesse in Frankfurt, the company revealed the AIRA Modular: a standalone instrument that can be paired with a handful of external effects or other audio gear. What’s more, it’s designed to be rackmounted or used at your desk, either with all four of the aforementioned add-ons or one or two at the time. While last year’s System-1 offer a more traditional keyboard-driven approach, the AIRA Modular’s centerpiece is the System-1m. The unit features Control Voltage (CV) and Gate control needed to produce a range of sounds and plug-out ability allows the System-1m to be used with other classics, like the SH-101 and PROMARS. On board, the modular synth packs in tone, crusher, reverb and delay effects alongside MIDI and LED-lit controls and inputs.
As far as those additional effects are concerned, there are distortion (Torcido), delay (Demora), scatter (Scooper) and crusher (Bitrazer) options to expand the sonic abilities of the main System-1m rig. Like that instrument, these can either be placed in a rack setup or used tabletop, and their large controls handle “16 million steps of resolution.” In other words, 24-bit audio. These external effects are also programmable via computer, smartphone or tablet, with audio input/output and CV/Gate inputs for patching on the front panel until you hit the sound you’re after. They’re also capable of being used individually, without the need for the full rig to employ them.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on pricing or availability just yet. However, Roland did announce that it’s working on another modular unit: the fully analog System-500. That’ll be another revival of sorts as it’s based on the System-700 and System-500. “The SYSTEM-500 delivers classic Roland sound with all the advantages and reliability of a modern instrument,” the press release explains. Details are scarce for now, but we’re sure to hear more in the months to come.
The tantalising image in question looks very much like the Aira System-1 interface and four smaller units, with the tagline “Start Patching” strongly suggesting that Aira is going modular as of next week.
Currently the Aira range sports the TR-8 drum machine (accurately recreating the classic 808, 909 and – via an expansion – 707 and 727), the TB-3 bass synth (a fresh digital take on the 303 Bassline), and the System 1 synth (offering innovative ‘plug-outs’ that emulate their SH-101 and ProMars synths).
Also along for the ride are the VT-3 voice transformer (a super Boss VT-1) and latest addition the MX-1 performance mixer which plugs all your Airas together under one control surface.
New ‘plug-outs’ (emulating classic Roland synths) have been slow to emerge for the System 1 and the new teaser would appear to show that Roland are expanding in a totally new synth direction.
Their System 100 modular synth – introduced in 1975 set the scene for a synth made of expandable parts and the System 100m from 1979 gained greater exposure and expanded the blown-apart modular concept further. Even from the shadowy outlines in the latest leak it’s clear to see a System 100 influence in these new Airas.
The System 100 consisted of a Model 101 synth with three octave keyboard and a Model 102 expander being essentially a 101 without the keys. It’s easy to see similarities between the 102 and the new Aira at the top of the pic… Likewise the original System 100 offered a 103 Mixer and a 104 Sequencer which could at least account for two of the four new System 100m-shaped boxes below the main unit…
Alternatively System 100m offered 20 different modules in total, adding ring modulators, voltage controlled filters, dual voltage controlled oscillators, amps, LFOs, envelopes and more to the basic single oscillator VCO, VCA, VCF M-110 main unit.
Could these four boxes offer similar powers? And will they be genuine analogue (in the wake of the JD-Xi and upcoming JD-Xa keyboards) or digital recreations as per the rest of the Aira range?
AudioRealism’s ABL3 has had a curiously long gestation period. It was teased more than a year ago, but there was no further news until the revelation that it’s arriving first as a Reason Rack Extension.
This emulation of Roland’s TB-303 bassline synth promises to improve on AudioRealism’s previous efforts (ABL1 and ABL2), and is said to be a complete rewrite that’s been in development for many years.
Additional specs are below, though we don’t yet have a price or release date. AVST/AU version is also in the pipeline.
AudioRealism ABL3 features
Extremely authentic 303 emulation using our ABL3 engine
Ultra natural knob response, tuned to match the original 303 both in range and response
Built-in 303/Rebirth style step sequencer with 64 steps
200+ bundled preset patterns
Hard sync to the host’s transport
Supports 4 patterns of 16 steps, 2 patterns of 32 steps or 1 pattern of 64 steps
CV/Gate input to control the sound engine externally
CV/Gate output to control other Reason devices from the step sequencer
CV Modulation inputs for Tuning, Cutoff, etc.
Resonance and Gate Time trimmers that allow tweaking the emulation to your liking
Three different VCO Models
Settings for VCA Clicks and VCA Noise
Pattern modifiers with Random, Alter, Copy, Paste functions
Unique vibrato which is activated by setting UP+DOWN on steps. This effect is one of the few extensions to the 303 that we are launching ABL3 with.
Full 48 and 96kHz support, which means the engine uses the full bandwidth of the project setting