Maybe not Believe it or not, if you are older than 19, you can probably identify exactly what one classic, advanced Juno synth sounds like. If you fancy that vintage sound, you can still find it by haggling with weirdos on Craigslist and repairing old circuits, but it will cost you money, time, and possibly aggravation.
No longer: Small, affordable, rechargeable and portable, Roland’s new Aira synth line includes the T-8 drum machine, J-6 synth and E-4 vocal processor. You can sync them without a laptop to perform live or use them with an audio interface to record classic hits. Together, they cost less than a Macbook Air.
The democratization of music production equipment is nothing new. Top 10 singles have been made in bedrooms and home studios for decades, and producers like Finneas are makes hits with equipment that costs as much as a single-day studio rental did in the early 1980s. Aira is just the latest line to step into the country with old-school synths, drums and vocoders for less than the price of an eBay Walkman.
The T-8, J-6 and E-4 come in compact plastic cases with orange, blue and pink backing. A small USB-C port behind each synth acts as a charging port (you can get about four hours of battery life if you want to take these off-grid) with 3.5mm midi in and out ports next to it.
On top of each device, there are two 3.5mm sync ports (in and out, for pairing with other devices on time) and mix-in and out ports to send audio through all three devices without a mixer. It’s a nice touch that lets you play them all at once. At the top right of each device there is a volume knob which is small but strangely satisfying to turn.
Below, they become their own distinct digital instruments. I will not go into how to use them (Roland’s excellent manuals and a few YouTube videos will take you longer than I can with a few hundred words), but here’s what they do.
The T-8 works like a 32-speed sequencing drum machine, just like the classic Roland 808 (read: Kanye West’s favorite drum machine), but with more sounds. It has controls for big drum, snare drum, hi-hat, toms and hand clap. You can also add a bass or keyboard line. If you like the sound of 80s radio beats, you will find them here, as well as more than enough tuning and customization features to write EDM, indie, hip hop, pop and other beats with ease.