Roland’s Aira instrument range is once again expanding with the launch of three ‘Compact’ instruments that build on the company’s rich heritage: the T-8 Beat Machine; J-6 Chord Synthesizer; and E-4 Voice Tweaker.
It can be difficult to figure out what sets an Aira product apart from a standard Roland product – the Aira microsite, for example, contains the TR-8S drum machine, but not the TR-6S, its slimmed-down close cousin – but it’s quite clear what the Compact series is all about.
These are “fun, affordable and easy to learn” boxes designed to be used individually or together, in a similar way to Korg’s Volcas. However, since this is Roland, everything is completely digital.
Again, Roland’s Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology is in play, and each model comes with a built-in rechargeable battery that promises plenty of runtime.
The T-8 looks like the most straightforward of the three: it’s a six-track drum machine that includes sounds from the TR-808, TR-909, and TR-606. You also get a bass part based on the TB-303, pushing the unit into groovebox territory for now.
There is, of course, a sequencer – it can go up to 32 steps – with functions such as step-loop, pattern shift and probability that allow you to add variety to your grooves. You can adjust your bass sound and there are reverb/delay send effects.
The J-6 Chord Synthesizer is arguably a more curious proposition – it combines a Juno-60 synth engine (presumably the same one you’ll find in the new full-size Juno-X) with a chord sequencer. It is very much designed to be used by non-players; 100 chord sets are included, with each allowing you to trigger chords and make progressions using the built-in keyboard. You can also dial in variations (for example, arpeggios and guitar playing).
Sure, you can just use the J-6 as a synth (like the other Aira Compacts, it has MIDI connectivity), but beyond choosing the sound itself, editing is limited to filter and envelope control. Again, there are delay and reverb effects as well.
Finally, we come to the E-4 Voice Tweaker, a compact vocal effects box that promises everything from basic processors to full vocal transformers. There are pitch and shape sliders for instant gender switching and robot voice effects (among other things), and you also get the usual automatic pitching/harmonization and vocoder options.
You can capture your performances with a 24-second looper, while the Scatter button lets you dial in slice effects.
The three Aira Compact units are available now for $200 each. Read more on the Roland website.