If you caught today's Roland Connect multi-product announcement, and scrolled past the keyboards and guitar gear all the way to the bottom, you were confronted by a triangular green logo for something called the Aira. Clicking on that brought up this teaser video, in which Roland designers openly invoke the legendary TR-808 drum machine to set the stage for Aira.
This being a teaser video, we don't hear any specifics and we see the product only fleetingly. If contemporary Roland synths bearing vintage-cred names such as Juno and Jupiter are any indication, though, whatever the AIRA is will likely have a digital heart, and though it may emulate the sounds of the TR-808 (and will in all likelihood do so extremely well), those will be a small subset of its overall sonic palette.
However, the one picture making the rounds online at the time of this writing shows an interface that has much more in common with a TR-808 than, for example, the Jupiter-80 had with the Jupiter-8. Like its ancestor, it appears to be designed for step entry of different instrument parts into a looping groove. (Click image at left to enlarge.)
Last but not least, a song video has emerged on YouTube claiming that the Aira is the source of its drum sounds. If that's true, the ones used don't sound much like a TR-808, but that's not reason to believe the Aira won't include a TR-808 sound set--or for that matter, several sound sets from classic TR family grooveboxes.
Hungry for more speculation still? Our contributor Peter Kirn has some of the best currently out there, on his blog Create Digital Music. Of course, we'll keep you posted as we find out more.