Roland has rebooted its Boutique range of portable synths with the addition of three new models. News of two of these - the TR-09 Rhythm Composer and TB-03 Bass Line synth - had already leaked out, but the third - the VP-03 Vocoder - comes as more of a surprise.
As predicted, the TR-09 recreates the classic 909 drum machine but comes in a super-compact format. Sounds are created using Roland's Analog Circuit Behaviour (ACB) technology, and you can program a 16-step sequencer in Step and Tap write modes. You can switch modes and tweak parameters on the fly, and there are MIDI, USB and trigger ports for connection to other gear.
The TB-03 is an ACB-powered TB-303 clone, and, like the TR-09, borrows its inspiration's look and feel. There's a 4-digit display, and you can get hands on using the tuning, cutoff, resonance, envelop mod, decay, and accent knobs. Both saw and square waveforms are included and there are overdrive, reverb and delay effects.
The original 303's Pitch and Time write modes are joined by a new Step mode on the TB-03, and you also get fine tempo control. As with the TR-09, you can switch between modes while sequences are playing, and there's a dedicated trigger input to drive the internal sequencer. MIDI I/O, USB and CV/Gate ports are also here.
The new devices certainly look cute, but the fact remains that Roland has already revisited both the 909 and 303 recently in its Aira range, via the TR-8 and TB-3. This being the case, some will question why we're getting alternative versions in the Boutique format; we're keen to find out how they compare.
The new VP-03 is a more intriguing prospect, taking inspiration from the VP-330 Vocoder Plus. We're in ACB territory once again, and you get not only vocoder but also human voice and string sound sources onboard. A gooseneck XLR microphone comes supplied, and the 16 Chord Memory setups enable one-finger chord playback. The Voice Step Sequencer enables you to create rhythmic effects, and the line and headphones outputs are accompanied by MIDI I/O and Micro USB for 24-bit DAW interfacing.
As with all the Boutiques, the VP-03 can be bus- or battery-powered and comes with a built-in mini speaker.
The TR-09 will cost £369/€449, and both the TB-03 and VP-03 will be available for £329/€399. All three models will be released in October. Find out more on the Roland website.