Roland’s new Aira TR-8S emulates classic drum machines, lets you import your own samples, and offers more hands-on control

Released in 2014, Roland’s TR-8 was the drum machine that a lot of us had been waiting a long time for, but it wasn’t perfect. So, we’re pleased to be able to report that Roland has now unveiled the TR-8S, which offers a sleeker design along with more features and functionality.

As well as modelling all of Roland’s most famous TR drum machines - the 808, 909, 707, 727 and 606 - the TR-8S also features a set of samples from the company’s history. What’s more, you can import your own (via SD card) for even greater sonic flexibility, with the option to adjust the decay, tuning and other parameters.

Further fun can be had with the “percussion-tuned” effects - use the Master FX knob to process the whole kit or work on each channel in turn with its individual control knob. You can pre-configure both knobs to control your favourite effect parameters on the fly, strengthening the TR-8S’s performance credentials.

Grooves can be constructed using the TR-REC sequencer, which offers 16 buttons and a velocity-sensitive performance pad. You can adjust velocities, add accents and flams, and work with adjustable sub-steps. Up to 128 patterns can be stored, each with eight variations and three fills, and patterns can store tempo, kit assignment, knob position and effect data.

As well as the stereo mix output, the TR-8S also comes with six assignable audio outputs so that individual drum sounds can be processed and mixed externally. The trigger output comes with its own sequencer track, and the assignable outputs can also be set up to output trigger signals if you so desire. There are stereo audio inputs, too, giving you the option of mixing external sound sources. The TR-8S can also operate as a USB audio/MIDI interface and supports Aira link for syncing with other Aira gear.

You can find out more about the TR-8S on the Roland Aira website. We’re expecting it to cost $699/€699 and to be available soon.