We wait in anticipation for what Roland is going to reveal on this day, Friday the 9th of September 2016. As most of you know this day is what Roland has labelled 909 day and there has been much build up with a few leaks and a lot of speculation. Will it be analog or will it be digital? This is the main question on everyone's lips.
Let's first look at the leaks - There has been a Boutique box looking very much like a 909. In the same vein, there is a TB303 looking unit and VP330 Vocoder. There is also a new AIRA contender. This is what we have all seen but is this all Roland have to offer?
Roland are very clever about how a product is launched - look at how they did the first run of Boutique Synthesizers - there were no leaks, not even Roland Australia knew what was coming. This begs the question, have Roland purposely leaked these units in anticipation of something even grander? I think so! There has been rumour as well that there will be a fully fledged TR 909 in all its analog glory coming. This I'm not so sure of.
Roland released the TR 909 in 1984 - 3 years after the TR 808. Unlike the 808, and contrary to what many people think, the TR 909 is not fully analog. The cymbals were in fact samples. The TR 909 is very much the stuff of legend and inspired a generation of music in the early 1990s, but just like the TB303 and the TR808 the TR 909 didn't generate massive sales and Roland never got rich off these now very sort after machines. They were originally designed as an accompaniment for a musician - a guitarist or keyboard player. They were supposed to sound like real drums or a bass guitar in the instance of the TB303. We all know now that they didn't, but at the time there was nothing else available.
I've heard stories from actual Roland reps from the 80s, of hundreds of TB303s being thrown into dumps. I heard this story in the 90s and my heart sank - It was techno season and these little units were rare as hen's teeth and prices were on the rise. I also started to hear stories of people bragging about picking one up for $100 in some unsuspecting pawn shop. Sadly those days are long gone.
Roland have been a company that have always said "we will not look backwards" so it comes as no surprise that people are asking, why have Roland decided to finally take note and reproduce these classic instruments. I guess the answer is two fold really - A. they are sick of everyone else capitalising on their legacy and B the market is just screaming for it. Fair enough.
I personally think Roland have done a stellar job with the Boutique range and I expect, contrary to popular thought, this will be the continuation. Let's look at the JP08 as an example. Roland have made this synth completely inclusive. Everyone had a chance to soak up the legend that is the Jupiter 8 because the cost was right. If Roland made a screw for screw replica of the Jupiter 8, it would be totally exclusive to those with deep enough pockets to buy one. If you have the money to lay down $8k just find a second hand one or look at other big modern polysynths like the Modal 008.
Do I care if these new versions will be Analog or digital - to be perfectly honest NO! I'm old enough to realise my stupidity in selling off all my old analog gear in the early 2000's. If I just kept my 909, 808, Jupiter 8, Jupiter 6, Oscars etc...I would now have enough for a sizeable deposit on a house. Don't get me wrong I love analog gear and pride myself on being able to easily distinguish the difference, but I've now heard side by side comparisons of Jupiter 8's and 909's with the JP08 and TR8 and was pleasantly surprised I couldn't really pick it. One thing I can say for sure is that the kick drum on the TR8 is far better than the kick drum on both the TR909's I've owned in the past. What does that say?
Well, we'll soon find out what Roland have lined up for us. I'm talking hours. I'm excited, are you?
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