I’ve been eyeing that 7×7-shaped hole in Roland Cloud for a while, and I know I’m not alone. Now Roland has added the 707 and 727 drum machines to their growing software back catalog.
I am unapologetically a fan of Roland’s Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology, for a simple reason – it sounds great, on the hardware and software that use it. If there’s a particular emulation you’re looking for, like the 303, it’s worth comparison shopping different plug-ins to find what you like. But if you just happen to be staring at a production and saying “I want 727 sounds,” there is appealing convenience to just hitting download and having a well-executed TR-727 emulation ready-to-go.
Okay, to be fair – the 707 and 727 are the drum machines least in need of the ACB treatment, in that their primary sound source is PCM – that is, they used short, lo-fi recorded waveforms as the primary sound source. And that means the 7×7 samples lurking somewhere in a sound collection you already own will probably get the job done.
There are some analog components, though, which Roland says they’ve faithfully modeled. They took the raw PCM data – which are 100% authentic, since they’re, you know, digital to begin with – and then added details to pitch, decay, and output stages, all of which were analog on the original gear.
Roland also went above and beyond with emulating the TR-707/727 panel, down to that distinctive LED display. They’re even more skeuomorphic and nostalgic than usual – they added the memory cartridge to the UI. Useless, but cute.
The treatment is really nicely done, and even includes extras like DAW drag and drop for audio and MIDI, multiple outputs, the original sounds, kits, and 64 patterns, plus extra sound content.
Unique to Roland’s recreation – some of the aftermarket mods are there, including attack, decay, and tuning for individual sounds, and the ability to overdrive the internal circuitry. This is already great to have in a plug-in, as it makes this more like having the musical experience of owning some maintained, modded hardware, just in software form. And that makes a great argument for going beyond just those stock 707 sound 1-shots you may have used before, because you have more granular control over the sound you want.
The sequencer and pattern programming is also significantly updated, though given you’ll use these inside a DAW, that’s less of a big deal. Now in hardware, though… (hint, hint…)
Honestly, the 7×7 deserves more credit than it gets. The analog/digital hybrid approach wound up – inadvertently – becoming the mold that has lasted to this day, even with far superior digital tech available and more inexpensive components.
Also, while we refer a lot to “808” or “909” tracks, there are plenty of productions that mix and match sounds from the 606, 707, and 727 with the 808 and 909.
And thank you, thank you, Roland, for including the TR-727 properly. The Latin-tinged sounds on that model add loads of additional character and color and variety and don’t have that “oh please not this sound again” feeling of the better-known TR series.
Really, the only thing missing here is hardware. Assuming Roland likes it when people give them money, it seems a no-brainer that we’ll see something like the Boutique Series TR-09 with the same ACB engine here tossed in. I’d be especially eager to see this just because of some of the mods reproduced here. It’s also fun that Roland’s little hardware models can double as controllers for the plug-ins when you want some hands-on control. Update: I should add, you can get 707 and 727 sounds on the TR-8S and its own combination PCM/ACB engine. That’s my preferred solution, and the reason my Boutique TR-09 is collecting dust; the 8S is really the perfect drum machine for any Roland-derived sounds, bar none.
That being said, your time will be well spent taking those individual outs and simulating some of the interesting circuit bends and mods of the 7×7 over the years. (I still want to get my hands on some 727 hardware to bend – used that once at Rotterdam’s WORM, and I’m totally hooked.)
But the great news is, if all you can afford is your computer and a Roland Cloud account, you can still make something like this:
Get a fader box and do some MIDI assigning to get more hands-on, and you’ve got the full experience.
Roland did put some love and care into this, down to the marketing on the product site:
US$149 each for a lifetime license is steep, but the Roland Cloud subscription winds up being a good deal if you use a lot of stuff there.