If you pick up the new Roland Boutique Series TB-03, you get more than just an emulation of the squelchy 303 bass synth. As with the AIRA TB-3 before it, the hardware is also a sequencer. So that means it’s capable of creating basslines for the internal instrument – or external gear, too. What’s special about the new TB-03 is that it both recreates the classic original 303 sequencer, and introduces a new, modern “reboot” of the same. Now we get to see how they differ in a pair of videos released by Roland.
It was called “909 day.” It was on the ninth of September. And it included a new 909 product. So far, so good. But Roland’s 909 day stops making sense around there. It launched over 30 products, many of them unrelated, over 24 hours. “909 Day” saw new … accordions. Also, record players that said 909 on them. There were four continents, and a marathon Web stream that would have taken 24 hours to watch, sometimes switching between Japanese and English. In years of covering this business, I’ve never seen anything like it. But before you blow this off, there …
808. 909. 303. 330. No, really “330.” VP-330. That last one is also a classic Roland product with a cult following, but suffice to say, it isn’t a household name on the same level. It’s Roland’s 1979 “Vocoder Plus” instrument – the “plus” added because it was not only a vocoder, but also a string and vocal synth. It also got a reboot on Friday’s mega-launch of Roland instruments. Here’s the surprise: it might be the most interesting of the Boutique offerings yet.
One, two, three – Roland has finally made the 303 bassline, 909 drum machine, and VP-330 vocoder that so many people wanted. They’re small, they’re really affordable ($349-399), and they’ve got modern features. But after decades of remakes that strayed from the very things that made people love the originals, at last Roland has learned from their own legacy. So, let’s talk about what’s new and what, mercifully, isn’t.
Now, with the embargo lifted on new Roland gear, brace yourself for a lot of discussion. On some level, any comparison of a $349-$399 new gadget to anything before it is a bit silly – when original 909s start selling for three figures, let us know. And I think starting with a direct comparison misses the point: the TR-909 and TB-303 sound terrific, and you’re unlikely to record or play either totally dry. (Classic records, uh, used processing too, ya know?) Relax and go enjoy a great drum machine and bassline.
Leaks are all over the place, but we’re here in Berlin where you’ll finally get to see some of what you’ve been waiting for from Roland. (If you tuned in randomly earlier today, you might see someone speaking in Japanese about a guitar amp or something like that.) That Which You Most Want To Know About should be starting at around 9:00pm Berlin time, or 3:00pm New York / 12 noon California. See the video below. Important: If you have questions, let us know on social media or in comments here. We will have a full report tomorrow Saturday Berlin …
What do you get when you combine Roland and Serato? Well, a little bit of everything, it turns out. The flagship DJ-808 is a monster mixer controller sampler step sequencer audio interface drum machine vocoder. (Whew!) Some of its functionality is provided in the hardware itself; some is a control interface to Serato software on a computer. But together, you get a device that is perhaps the most ambitious all-in-one DJ gizmo yet.
We’ve seen a minor renaissance in mobile music gear – KORG’s volca series, Teenage Engineering’s tiny Pocket Operators, the Gakken synths, Roland’s boutique series, and more. (We’re a believer in this – that’s why CDM co-produces the MeeBlip synth.) But while these small instruments are great, they wind up getting tossed into a bag. That risks damaging them, and there’s a lot of business of packing and unpacking them when you play. We wanted a solution, so we made our own. It’s called BlipCase.
The next big Roland product unveiling isn’t at a trade show – it’s on the Internet. At a 24-hour streaming “online musical instruments festival,” the Japanese giant is promising a bunch of new stuff (30+). The date is an auspicious one for the company – September 9, or 909. And sure enough, they’re also calling it a celebration of 33 years of their legendary drum machine. http://tfr.roland.com/en/909-celebration In addition to the product unveilings, they’re live in a bunch of cities with artist performances and other events, too – LA, NYC, Toronto, Paris, Brussels, Tokyo, and here in Berlin, among others. …
Roland’s Boutique Series is … dangerous, frankly. These little sound modules (based on the Jupiter-8, Juno-106, and JX-3P) really do sound terrific and are totally adorable in person. They’re one of the things you can easily dismiss when you first see them … then fall in love with in person. The 1.10 update fixes one fatal flaw: now the whole series supports MIDI Control Change send and receive.