Roland revives the TR-606 with three new products – but is it too late?

Behringer’s remake is already in the hands of many TR-606 fans

Roland Tr-606 TR-06 TR-6S

Almost 40 years after its initial production run, Roland’s TR-606 Drumatix is back in business, three times over. The Japanese pro audio manufacturer has unveiled the TR-6S Rhythm Performer, the Boutique TR-06 Drumatix and the TR-606 Software Rhythm Composer, exclusive to Roland Cloud. This is awesome news for anyone wanting an acid companion for their TB-03 or TB-3, but has Behringer beaten Roland to the punch with the RD-6?

The Three Sixes

Roland’s TR-6S looks just like a younger sibling to the TR-8S, the modern amalgamation of the TR-808 and TR-909. The six-channel drum machine is compact and sports a classic 808-style sequencer. This unassuming beatbox is more than just a 606 replica, though, with circuit models of the 808, 909, 606 and 707. Plus, the TR-6S supports custom user samples and boasts an FM sound engine for an expanded palette of sounds.

The classic TR step sequencer is housed along the bottom, with advanced functions like sub-steps, flam, step-loop, motion recording and more. There are also built-in effects, which you can apply to other instruments, as the TR-6S functions as a USB audio and MIDI interface. This machine can be powered by either four AA batteries or by USB bus.

As a new addition to Roland’s Boutique range, the TR-06 is a modernised replica of the original TR-606. Designed with the same aesthetics as the original, the TR-06 will play authentic 606 tones while offering some new features for enhanced sound design possibilities. Parameters for tuning, decay and pan are onboard for each sound, with an internal gain that can be pushed to create “a warm overdrive or aggressive distortion”, Roland says. Meanwhile, a built-in compressor keeps things punchy and a tempo delay gives the sounds some space.

As with the original TR-606 and other Roland drum machines, the TR-06 has a familiar step sequencer. Of course, modern adaptions must be made again, so the sequencer can cater for sub-steps, step-loop, and more. A trigger input and five trigger outputs are housed on the front panel, ideal for hooking up to modular rigs. As with the TR-6S, the Boutique drum machine is a high-quality USB audio interface and can run on batteries. It’s also got a built-in speaker, should you need it for on-the-go producing.

Finally, the TR-606 Software Rhythm composer is available as a plug-in for your DAW, featuring the same sound and behaviour of the beloved original, along with – you guessed it – modernised features for more sound design choices. The plug-in can be integrated with the TR-8S (not the TR-6S) and TR-06 to combine hardware and software and share patterns between devices.

The TR-606 plug-in is included with a Roland Cloud Ultimate membership, which currently costs $20/month or $200/year. All paid levels start with a 30-day trial of Ultimate. Alternatively, any Roland Account holder can purchase Lifetime Keys for individual Legendary series titles.

Battling Behringer

Although Roland’s new digital TR-606 models boast new capabilities and stay somewhat true to the authenticity of the original, the elephant in the room is that Behringer has already revived the TR-606 in the form of the all-analogue RD-6 – which is significantly more affordable than Roland’s new products. The TR-6S and TR-06 are both priced at $400, while the Lifetime Key for the TR-606 plug-in priced at $149. Behringer’s RD-6, meanwhile, is priced at $179 with a whole palette of coloured finishes to choose from.

Behringer RD-6

Many synth fans have been calling out for major brands to bring back legacy products for years, and Behringer has seemingly taken upon itself to fulfil these wishes, for better or for worse. With the first batch of RD-6’s now sold out and another batch due this month, many 606 enthusiasts have already taken to the more affordable option here, which could affect the sales of the new Roland machines. That said, the TR-8S and TR-08 were brilliant drum machines that we still come across in some studios. This trio of new instruments go way beyond what Behringer’s remake is capable of, and Roland is always looking at opportunities to improve on its legacy, rather than merely replicate it – just take a look at the Jupiter-X and Zenology Pro.

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