With the NAMM trade show just around the corner, leaked details of Roland’s new product releases hint at models inspired by analogue classics.

Leaked image purporting to show the new Roland AIRA TR-08

Leaked image purporting to show the new Roland AIRA TR-08

A new promotional video and leaked images and model numbers suggest that Roland is set to launch new products based on the legendary TB-303 bassline synth and TR-808 drum machine.

Roland’s official video describes the AIRA as “the evolution of the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Machine” and shows Roland engineers using the TR-808 as a major reference point in the product development process. The video also features other vintage Roland models including the SH-101, TR-909, Space Echo and TB-303.

There have been rumours for months that Roland was set to join Korg in jumping back on board the analogue bandwagon. The Volca series, Monotron/Monotribe range and the reissued MS-20 Mini have all been major successes for Roland’s main rival over recent years.

Roland has traditionally been very reluctant to look back to past glories – and even more reluctant to turn back the clock and begin redeveloping analogue hardware – but there appears to be high demand for official reissues of some of the company’s iconic models.

Our suspicion is that the TR-08 and TB-03 will turn out to be newly developed digital models rather than analogue reissues (the leaked TR-08 image, if genuine, at least shows that the unit will look significantly different to the 808). The video’s assertion that “musicians want new and exciting things so the time has come to take the next step” suggests we’re looking at an evolution of the TR-808 concept rather than an exact replica.

There are also clues elsewhere in Roland’s product range. The Jupiter-80 (which draws on the look and spirit of the Jupiter-8) and GAIA SH-01 (very loosely based on the SH series of analogue monosynths) demonstrate Roland’s current policy of referencing models from the analogue era when naming new digital products. Older producers will also remember the MC-303 way back in 1996, and the disappointment when it turned out not to be the ‘modern TB-303’ many people expected it to be.

So, what’s it to be? Analogue or digital? Expect full details to emerge at NAMM or on Roland Connect and AIRA pages over the coming week.

15th January, 2014

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