Are Roland’s recreations the last word on these classic instruments?
A few years ago, Roland finally responded to the requests of many devotees by bringing back some of their legendary instruments, albeit using software modelling techniques rather than analogue circuitry. The TB-3 and TR-8 (which incorporated TR-808 and TR-909 kits) didn’t look much like their illustrious predecessors, but thanks to the magic of Analogue Circuit Behaviour they sure managed to sound like them.
After the release of those two fine machines, Roland might have planned to move on to pastures new, but not so. Next, the Boutique range delivered new software impressions of classic synths, but cut down in scale and polyphony. Even so, it was something of a surprise to hear the range had been expanded to include a Boutique TR-909 and TB-303. On this occasion, the look is very clearly based on the originals and the Aira green is but a memory. Could it be that these ultra-portable versions mark Roland’s last word on the subject? We can only wonder...
Beginning with the dove grey (my wife reckons) TR-09, there are a couple of regular-sized buttons — Start and Stop/Continue. The rest are much smaller and divided into those having an integral red LED and those in clear plastic, able to light or flash. Each drum voice has dedicated controls to match those of a TR-909. As such, they are always live, but in some cases extra parameters are available too — hidden in a menu system complete with a four-character display and data entry encoder. The hidden parameters are: the gain and pan of every instrument, the tuning of specific drums (rim shot, clap and hi-hats) and the decay of others (rim, clap, crash and ride cymbals). All of which presents wider scope for experimentation than the original machine.
The TR-09’s main output is a stereo mini-jack and without any individual outputs at all, that pan control quickly feels essential. There’s a mini-jack headphone socket too, plus a Mix input capable of handling stereo signals from another Boutique, iPad, etc. I looked around for the...
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