Video: New AIRA Firmware And SH-101 Plug-out

Many fixes and tweaks to the range, official release of SH-101 plug out      25/07/14

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The Roland AIRA range has been the first significant release from them for some time, across four distinct models - Roland TR-8 Drum Machine, System-1 synthesizer, VT-3 Vocal Processor and the TB-3 TB-303 remake.

We were visited by AIRA specialist David Ahlund who gave us a run through of the major firmware features across the range. David also gives us another look at the SH-101 plug-out - finishing up with a performance. (Roland Canada have a blog post on Plug-Outs)

All are based in DSP and can therefore recieve significant operational updates to the firmware. Today sees the first major update eand applies to the entire range, check the Roland AIRA microsite for full details.

The VT-3 gets some especially cool updates, including pitch from MIDI input, excellent for talkbox and vocoder effects, but all are given a wide range of new functions based on feedback from users and innovations from the boffins in the labs.

Also officially announced is the SH-101 Plug-Out - the first of the additional synth models that can be loaded in to a slot (activated by the Plug-Out button) in the System-1 memory. The SH-101 is a recreation  of Roland's classic 80's monosynth.

To go along with the Plug-Out, there is a Plug-in version which runs under VST and AU from within your host DAW. Patches and control can be applied to the hardware, or it can just run as a usual plug-in instrument.

SH-101 plug-out/in comes free to System-1 owners - you can download it free from the Roland site, with further models being developed. We shall see how frequently these come along, but I'm hoping for a Jupiter 4 (next please!)

I've been waiting for a review version to drop, and hope to get this shortly to go along with our first part 1 review of the System-1.



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26 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Benedict Johnson    Said...

I got into an argument with the synth specialist at my local PMT about whether the VT-3 vocoder needs midi notes or just follows the pitch of your voice. Despite my attempts to demonstrate to him on the display model, he insisted it needed a keyboard plugged in.... well I'm sure now he'll be thrilled

25-Jul-14 09:55 AM

Anonymous    Said...

Great! Amazing! I love it!

I still wish that it would be released as a bunch of VST plug ins...

25-Jul-14 03:46 PM

Kevin Nolan    Said...

Does the PWM on the SH101 Plug-out (and Plugin) have the aliasing problem of the Synth Tone in the JP80, JP50, Integra-7 and FA range Nick?

I've asked you several times to check this out but you haven't done it. Its a serious problem on the range I mentioned and Roland are aware of it but refuse to fix it.

You owe it to potential buyers of this system to check it out objectively - In my opinion the reputation of as a balanced promoter is as much at stake as Roland's reputation in VA synthesis.

So please, a thorough, objective, technical examination of this range please, for the benefit of your readership - so far you have NOT done this on recent Roland products. As said, PWM is useless on ALL of Roland's current VA synths, and you need to check it out and highlight it on this plugout.

Thanks for your consideration on this.

25-Jul-14 06:21 PM

RP    Said...

Benedict, I think the line 'plug in a keyboard and if you can change the pitch with the keys I'll throw you $100, otherwise you owe me' would have been apt. Not any more though huh.

Nick, you stood 3 feet from the VT3 so got to see the connections. I did the update today but hit an idiot moment. How the hell do you get a midi keyboard into the VT, is it some USB B male to male type cable needed (which seem rare). Missing something simple Im sure

25-Jul-14 09:01 PM

NIck B    Said...

Kevin, I'll take a look when I get a working version of the PLug - out.

VT-3 it has to go via the computer/USB MIDI

26-Jul-14 03:33 AM

Leslie    Said...

"Anonymous Said... Great! Amazing! I love it! I still wish that it would be released as a bunch of VST plug ins..."

I just wish they release it for iOS. Since it is basically digital synth - "Virtual Analog", I can't see a problem of porting this to iOS. Of course that will never happen though... ;) Roland will "protect" their hardware anyway they can I'm afraid...

26-Jul-14 05:00 AM

Jameson    Said...

BTW; Has anyone commenting here actually bought one of these..? ;)

26-Jul-14 05:14 AM

Mike    Said...


The reason why the JP-80/50 FA etc have this PWM issue afaik is because these synths are not true VA's Roland will disagree I'm sure but they are sample based.

When I tried the Integra I found the Supersaw waveform detune sounds as though it's cleverly crossfaded throughout the detune. This has been done very carefully but there was a slight smear on the fade area, probably due to sample phasing. The PWM from what I recall sounded like the PWM effect one can achieve on a JV/XV type synth by taking 2 waves, one inverted and using the cancellation whilst detuning to cause a PWM effect. The same I "think" is done on the Gaia and SH-32.

The S1 and older JP8K/SH-201 synths appear to use dsp power to generate their waveshapes, which generally don't do this.

I have tried the S1 and whilst I didn't specifically check PWM, the sound was extremely smooth and clean - moreso than any other Roland VA I know of.

Hope that helps.


26-Jul-14 11:23 AM

Dr.Filterstein    Said...

Kevin, i own a Rolalnd SH32 and it's pwm hasn't any aliasing Problem. I would say: different synths have different Bugs.

26-Jul-14 12:25 PM

RP    Said...

Thanks Nick, I guess that makes sense about the Midi.

Jameson, I own the VT3. On paper it was the one I was least interested in but after seeing some initial demos it actually got elevated to the most interesting. I've owned numerous 303, 808, 909 clones over the years and didn't really get any wow factor from the other Aira models to be honest, maybe 10 or 15 years ago they would have been game changers. But the internet is rife with Aira critics vs fan arguments so to each their own I guess.

The VT-3 though from an owners perspective is really great, a really useful little box for under $200. I've been feeding downloaded snippets of speeches and radio broadcast cuts through it and you can really get great results. The fact that the new firmware adds the one feature Id imagine most folks wished the unit did is beyond great. I think this will move a lot more of those units.

26-Jul-14 12:57 PM

Champ    Said...

I guess everything went perfect that day. You both seemed so happy hehe. :) Nice demo at the end. Nice updates as well.

26-Jul-14 02:35 PM


Thanks Nick! @Mike - it's not true to say synth Tones are not true VA. They are. The PWM is DSP generated - only, there's aliasing. Actually, the Supersaw is another issue but I;m not sure if you're saying the same thing. I don't believe its VA oscillators detuned - I believe it's a sample of supersaw and a detune feature bolted on! But the Jp80 was promoted as a brand ew VA, with upwards of 250 note polyphony - and it is exceedingly good in many respects - it's sawtooth waves are exquisite, the filters are magnificent and the access to hundreds of PCM samples too gives it a very JD800 sound too (I own the JD800) - it's just the PWM is a problem and Roland are aware of it but seem unwilling to fix it. It infiltrates virtually every Liveset and Registration on the JP ranges because they can layer so many tones; and it ruins them in the higher pitch regions. I think it's important that Roland acknowledge such flaws, and I am very keen to see if this system suffers from the same aliasing.

26-Jul-14 03:22 PM

Kevin Nolan    Said...

Post just above is by me - apologies for not signing it.

26-Jul-14 03:22 PM

Wheres your child?    Said...

I have the tb 3 and vt 3 . The tb 3 is a great 303 clone and the vocal transformer is stunning. I have had synths for 30 years . The Tb 3 is good although I have the bass bott, xoxbox etc The tb3 is worth having but I do prefer the analogue clones to it, although it is a strong sounding mono synth. ( I sold my tb 303 without regret years ago and would never buy another) The Aira gear is really good and I am very glad to have some of it. I think the only downside is there being 8 memories on the system 1 , that is a joke. Also only four outs on the tr 8? That is really poor .Why on earth do software users bother to get into arguments about hardware?

26-Jul-14 03:38 PM

Kevin Nolan    Said...

@Wheres your child?

Can the8 memories on System 1 be backed up to computer?

What arguments are you referring to that you're puzzled about?

26-Jul-14 07:49 PM

abc47    Said...

I have the System-1, TR-8, VT3. (TR-8, VT3 still boxed as I just don't have enough time.. sad) Heres a little of my Stsrem-1 Exp. After the System1 Firmware update which was easy - the next step was Sh101 Plug-out. I was hugely disappointed that the Sh101 Plug-out was VST3 only (win). I have to download a trial version off a DAW that supports VST3 as I could not use FL11, Bitwig. The initial loading of the 8 SH101 presets to Sys1 was easy- all uploaded at once (the 1st in blue/green on the Presets list)BTW there are Presets 1 & 2, 64 slots in each. I want more Preset banks.

I fond the drag/drop for organising the Presets to place my fav in the top 8. What anoyded me, was I couldn't load the new 8 presets to Sys1 as a bank of 8 all at one. I had to load them 1 by 1.

I'm happy to hear that you can drag/drop from VST to System1 but how I have no idea how to do that...

There was a bug/issue in the Presets management window. In Drag/drop of presets to arrange top 8. It over wrong one of my fav factory presets :( By changing the preset.bin & acquiring original it didn't bring it back. By uninstalling & reinstalling (deleting all SHS101 VST files) it didn't bring it back.

At the time of getting the SH101 & Sys1 firmware from Roland site - there was no information on the v1.1 changes - I downloaded every pdf I could find.

I have a bit of an issue with the Sys1 consistently connecting to the VST - this may be an issue with my PC USB. one of the issue is that it doesn't like my USB hub or USB3 have worked out which yet.

The SH101 VST has to be activated, cant remember is Sys1 had to be connected at same time. This may be to stop people buying Sys1 for SH101 VST & then selling the Sys1.

I'm very happy with some of the sounds. Almost have one of fav sounds from Alpha Juno replicated. Just a little disappointed around the VST management side.

Some of my issue may just be User error... but over write of preset & effect it took loading presets to System1 has made be cranky.

26-Jul-14 09:24 PM

abc47    Said...

@Kevin Nolan

Yes you can load your own preset back to the VST preset slots. - 2 Banks for 64 Bank 1 - 1 to 48 Factory Bank 2 - 1 to 61 Factory If you like to keep Factory as reference like I do. it doesn't allow my free slots.

And doesn't seem to be easy to change out the Preset Bank.bin file as the VST3 presets seem to be held in DAW (Cubase) even if I change files on back-end via files.

26-Jul-14 09:31 PM

abc47    Said...

I still believe 8 slots on the System-1 is too little. Needs to be 16 or 32! Roland, please review.

26-Jul-14 09:33 PM

StrayCity    Said...

Ok say you have a few of these devices like the TR8 and the TB3 and you are having a "jam" can you record all of them at the same time in to your DAW? and on separate tracks? how does that work? do they daisy chain via USB? or you have to have multiple inputs setup? Thanks

28-Jul-14 09:24 AM


I must not be in touch with the music industry... Does anyone listen to the kind of music that our friend Diedric was playing at the end of the video? Does the Aira series only make good 90s EDM? How about music people listen to today? My apologies if I hurt anybodies feelings. :)

28-Jul-14 09:27 AM

Champ    Said...

So now that the TR8 has full midi capability it might be a very nice MIDI controller for drums?

28-Jul-14 11:16 AM

Man Vs. Machine    Said...

Great that the VT-3 gets USB midi note input, a saving grace for many a user including me, now I can control the pitch via midi instead of using my limited vocal range and a more authentic representation of the original VP-330 keyboard, shame theres no actual midi 5 pin connector but hey-ho. As for the VST3 and AU only formats for the System-1, Steinberg the inventers of the VST format have now ceased support for anything but VST3 so all the DAW developers will be forced to support the vst3 32/64 bit plug-in format sooner or later.

28-Jul-14 06:17 PM

Dr.Filterstein    Said...

If you need more memory, voices, effects, sequencer, display and... buy a Gaia or better a FA-6.

28-Jul-14 06:42 PM

Manos    Said...

Me vs machine

So i think this was mentionedmearlymin the post but im confused. I have an audio interface with regular midi out connections. How the hell do you route into a device that only has a usb b connection. Ive only ever come out of something like that (comtroller) into a computer. Cant work put how youd send midi out a computer usb port from a daw. Yup, dopey q i know but any help

29-Jul-14 08:56 PM

Grantham    Said...

Jesus, Im in the same boat as others here. Couldn't just add something to the update txt about how the hell to get a keyboard into the VT3 Roland. I cannot for the life of me work out how to route a midi connection from my mac into the thing, I have a USB cable running from the computer to the VT, I have the update in place, I have a USB midi keyboard plugged into the computer and working fine. I have a DAW loaded (Reason with the External Midi RE). Can I get the pitch to change on the VT, can I b*ll*x.

If anyone knows what Im missing, I owe you a steak dinner

31-Jul-14 12:52 PM

Grantham    Said...

I worked out the 'connecting a keyboard to the VT thing' that me and others seemed to have issues with. You need to install the VT driver, then VT3 will show up in Daws as a valid Midi output and presto, it works.

And by jove, for $199, now being a fully pitch controllable vocoder, this thing is just a steal. So good

02-Aug-14 01:47 PM

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