I can just picture the rage around the Roland office over the last couple of years - while Korg decidedly trump them each year with cheap analogue gear, they had to bide their time with electronic accordions and development of the Aira range before coming back with any kind of clout. Which is what I am glad to see them doing, as it doesn't do for any company like Korg to get complacent and not keep pushing the envelope to stay on top.
Expanding on their existing four unit Aira series comes the MX-1 unit, which looks like some kind of
unifying mixer that not only unifies the hardware series and offers one place to mix patterns with
added effects on the fly, but also bridges the gap between your DAW (Ableton only, from what I can
tell) and the hardware. Something I didn't expect was that this device does not seem to be limited to
the Aira units but I do get the feeling that you will get the most out of it if you do plug in your TR8
and TB3 in - both synths that I have seen going second hand already on Gumtree.
Back to the more predictable was the new synth keyboard, which is Roland's follow up to the lacklustre Roland Gaia digital synth which is seriously showing its age these days. Strangely enough, this synth is a hybrid model subtractive synthesizer with two
digital oscillators complete with samples married with a single analogue oscillator with basic
waveforms and an analogue filter, plus some Tron-like visuals. I get the impression that they are taking a leaf from DSI's playbook
in looking at an analogue filter for doing filter sweeps and other sound sculpting, whilst adding more
flexibility with classic piano samples to use in live performances, though the addition of a single
analogue oscillator seems a bit of a weird design choice and probably driven more by the public clamouring for even more analogue gear.
However, the JD-XI wasn't the only new Roland Keyboard as there were other videos and photos of an
otherwise unused JD-XA synth in the back of Roland's booth which looks like the big brother of the JD-XI - does the A denote all analogue? There doesn't seem to be a lot of definitive information about it just
yet so there's still lots to hear about in the post NAMM frenzy.