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Roland Goes Modular!

Published: Wed April 15, 2015  News Feed
Roland are taking their AIRA range to the next level, by going modular. Synthesis fans are already excited by the news, already the hottest to emerge from Musikmesse 2015, which begins today.

Roland AIRA goes modular

When Roland first launched AIRA, it's fair to say not everyone was convinced. The products were excellent, of course, but Roland took the bold step to release digital gear, when everyone was going crazy about the return of analog synths. That's because Roland, who were one of the pioneers of analog synths, are not ones to simply look back into the past - what they really care about is that most essential thing: sound quality. So, AIRA came to do precisely what Roland always did best - innovate. The System-1 Plug Out Synth was a digital synth, but one that was also able to sound like many different classic analog synths from Roland's past.

Well, it seems now that Roland's forward-thinking approach is finally paying off, big time: pretty much everyone seems excited about Roland's return to modular. Once again, it's all digital, but really, who cares? These new products are actually quite awesome, and can also attract a new range of customers, not just previous (or new) AIRA owners, but anyone who fancy experimenting with analog modular effects, from keyboard players to guitarists to hardcore fans of analogue synths.

Besides the modular version of System-1, the AIRA System-1m, Roland are also releasing four modular effects: the Bitrazer Crusher, Demora Delay, Torcido Distortion and the Scooper Scatter / Looper. Here's their intro video:



WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MODULAR?

Modular effects

Modular goes back to the very origin of synthesizers. The first synthesizers were all modular, later supplanted by the more practical, internally wired  and portable synths such as Moog's classic Minimoog, ARP Odyssey and others.

But modularity gives you one very special thing: total flexibility. A non-modular synth will give you just a certain number of filters and oscillators to play around with. If you go modular, your imagination - and budget - is the only limit, you can go whichever way you choose, have five, ten oscillators, whatever really - and patched whichever way you can imagine. Modular synths give you an almost infinite range of options to create new sounds.

Modular synths

Despite all this - modular synthesis has been very niche for many years now, but since Moog resurrected some classic modular synths earlier this year, it seems there's growing interest in modularity - the next natural step since the renewed interest in (mostly analog) synthesizers we've been seeing in the past few years. Korg has already released the MS20m kit.

But Roland is the first mainstream brand going modular with the addition of affordable modular effects units. This is a very interesting develoment! And one of the most special things about these new modular effects is that, because they are digital, they pack a whole lot more in them! Each of them features 15 virtual sub-modules, with more available through future expansion, in true AIRA style! These 15 sub-modules (so far!) are:

LFO, ADSR, NOISE, SAMPLE & HOLD, RING MOD, FILTER 6dB, FILTER 12dB, TONE, AMP, MIXER, STEREO MIXER, CURVE CONV, GATE DIVIDER, TRIG TO CV DELAY TIME, MIDI CLOCK TO GATE

This is simply an outstanding feature, and it's easy to see how these modules could temp even those who prefer analogue synths!

ROLAND & MODULAR - A RICH HISTORY!

Roland Modular past

Of course, this is not the first time Roland does modular. These guys know what they're doing, and have done it extremely well in the past, with their System 100 modules. The System 100 was one of Roland's best-loved analogue synths, followed later by the System 100m. The concept is now returning, with these new modules allowing you to combine them into the instrument you want. One of the sub-modules (available in all of the new Roland modular effects) is the Sample & Hold module, which can be very cool, as this demo of an original System 100 shows:



HOW TO USE CONTROL VOLTAGE ON A MODULAR SYNTHESIZER?

This very interesting video shows how to create new sounds with control voltage (CV).



Yes... the time is right for modular! Modular is fun, modular is a great aide to your creativity, and modular is - or should be - an essential part of synthesis. It's time to start patching!


For more info on modular synths, check this great Roland blog.


VIEW MORE MUSIKMESSE 2015 PRODUCTS

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