Roland has been teasing new entries in its black-and-green AIRA series for about a month. Now, it's pulling the wraps off of the new lineup that's led by the new TR-8 drum machine. It's worth noting that this isn't the first time the instrument maker has revisited the legendary 808, 909 and 303 units that debuted in the '80s. If you've listened to a bit of hip-hop, dance or techno, you've likely heard the trademark sounds of the trio already -- like the iconic snare of the 808. Building on decades of TR-808 and TR-909 use, Roland "obsessively analyzed and faithfully recreated every detail and nuance of the analog circuitry" of those machines and packed it all inside the TR-8 Rhythm Performer. There's "full reproduction" with new Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) tech that recreates the tone and behavior from the original pair. If you're thinking that this sounds like the new device is all-digital, you're correct. However, Roland says the tone and character of the analog units have been enhanced with new features like tune and decay controls on each instrument and an added scatter function. The latter feature is said to "freak and tweak" sounds with real-time adjustments and accurate sync. Needless to say, we're anxious to try it out.
Like the 808, the TR-8 houses a 16-step sequencer that now has full-color LED lighting for visual status updates. In terms of recording, an improved version of TR-REC is also modeled here for creating patterns, while toggling between programming and performance modes can be done easily. For keeping tabs on tempo, there's an LED display and tap functionality for quick adjustments. A USB jack allows audio and MIDI connections (which the original didn't have) and the device can use MIDI clock info to sync with external instruments -- like the other AIRA series units that we'll examine after the break. If all of that sounds too good to pass up, the TR-8 will retail for $499 when it arrives next month.