Roland TR-09, TB-03 & more!
‘909 Day’ brings a slew of new products, some of which look very familiar…
Announced on 909 Day (September 9th, geddit?), Roland’s onslaught of new synth, DJ, guitar and drum products, collectively tagged The Future Redefined, marks one of the most significant drops of new gear from the brand in recent memory. Of the production announcements, the most eye-catching are the new additions to Roland’s retro-inclined Boutique range. Launched last year with modern versions of the Jupiter-8, Juno-106 and JX-3P, the Boutiques are compact, battery-powered synth modules based on Roland’s excellent, analogue-aping ACB technology.
This latest announcement sees another three classics getting the Boutique treatments – the TB-303, TR-909 and VP-330 Vocoder Plus. The most surprising is the VP-330, reborn here as the VP-03. The original 330 was an early 10-band vocoder with added string and Human Voice sections, beloved by a number of synth icons in the early ’80s, including Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. This new version, according to Roland, retains the vibe and sound of the original, along with a similar interface, while adding in a built-in sequencer and chord mode. It features an XLR mic input on the interface too, and will ship with a gooseneck mic.
The Boutiques based on the 303 and 909 – here christened the TB-03 and TR-09 – are more curious propositions. While, in a lot of ways, modern issues of two of the most iconic pieces of music gear of all time seems like a no-brainer, Roland have already released modern takes on both these products in the past few years as part of their Aira range, which is based on the exact same ACB technology. Of the two, the TB-03 is the easiest to make sense of – the Aira TB-3 was based around a very modern touchscreen interface, and the new TB-03 looks to replicate the original’s sequencer more closely. It also features an analogue trigger input and CV/gate outputs for linking it up to other gear, which is a very cool touch. The TR-09, on the other hand, appears to offer a similar workflow and a stripped-down sonic offering compared to the TR-8 (which also offers 808 and 707 sounds). It looks very cool though and once again there are analogue trigger outputs for controlling external gear. It’s portability is likely to be a big selling point too.
Blowing up the system
Slightly less vintage-inclined is the new flagship Plug-Out instrument, the System-8, which expands on the blueprint laid down by the Aira System-1. The 8 is a fully-functioning standalone synth based on Roland’s ACB innards, albeit one that can also host emulations as Plug-Outs. The internal synth offers 8-voice polyphony with three oscillators, along with a range of filters, modulation tools and effects. The built-in engine of the System-1 impressed us, so it’s exciting to see an expanded version. Plug-Out-wise, the 8 ups the number of ‘host’ slots to three, meaning it can switch between up to four different synth sounds (including its internal one). It ships with Plug-Out versions of the Jupiter-8 and Juno-106 too. The keyboard is full-sized and velocity sensitive, and is joined by a 64-step, TR-8-style sequencer, an arpeggiator and a chord memory mode. The 8 also features CV/Gate outputs for controlling external analogue gear, and it includes a built-in vocoder.
Keep an eye on www.roland.co.uk for prices and release dates.