Roland Aerophone AE10 – The Saxophone From Space

Where to start with a post about the Roland Aerophone AE10? It’s not easy, but our resident Roland expert has found a way to do just that…

Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? The iconic scene where “Han shot first” in that sketchy bar in Mos Eisley? Where the band are grooving away in the corner and creating one of the most recognisable earworms of all time? You know “ba ba, ba ba, ba ba ba…ba na na na, na na, naaaaa, na…etc? No? Well you should. Go watch it.

 aerophone AE10
My point is that it was probably one the first times I was aware of a band in a film. I always knew I wanted to be in a band, but at the tender age of 7 years old, my ambition became clear. I wanted to be in a band from space!
AE10 Roland
First things first, I need one of those space Saxophones the the bulbous headed cantina band guys play. I searched the galaxy for such an instrument to no avail. I saw the odd wind controller but they just didn’t seem right. On my journey I got heavily into synths. I even took up trombone, but after 26 years it has finally arrived! Welcome, the Roland Aerophone!
This intergalactic instrument will be landing imminently and retails at a very reasonable 639 galactic credits, sorry pounds. Most importantly it sounds amazing! It’s repertoire goes far beyond the Cantina Theme. If Jean-Michelle Jarre and Wendy Carlos had a baby (in space) that was raised by Yoda and pals with Chewie and Kenny G, then this is the instrument they would have invented!
Aerophone

The Roland Aerophone Review – from our own ears!

So, down to business. What is an Aerophone? Well maybe it’s easier to start with what an Aerophone isn’t. It is not a Saxophone. It is not a clarinet nor is it a phaser rifle. It most certainly is not a “wind controller”. Wind controller makes it sound like some elaborate flatulence management system. It doesn’t really do it justice. The Aerophone is one of the most expressive electronic musical instruments I have ever witnessed. Last month I was lucky enough to travel over 2000 light years to a secret base where I saw the Aerophone played for the first time. What is it? It is the future of wind instruments! Redefined!
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, you blow through it to get a noise. The fingering is very similar to that of a Saxophone making it easy for many players to pick it up and get going. Most “Wind Controllers” have a different fingering layout which strikes me as a wee bit counter intuitive.  Also unlike other electronic wind instruments, it is capable of detecting a wide range of expressive techniques that a saxophonist or clarinet player would find familiar.
When I heard the Soprano sax sound on it I closed my eyes and I could not believe it. There could have been a real sax there in front of me. Other woodwind sounds and even tones from other instruments resonated round the room. The incredible sound engine under the hood allows complete behavioural modelling, meaning it delivers the nuanced and expressive performance you’d expect from a beautiful acoustic instrument. Sounds on board include, Alto, Tenor, and Soprano sax, Tuba, Shatner’s Bassoon, Trumpet and even bagpipes!
Aerophone AE10
Then…there was a pause…a change of pace…The Aerophone successfully made the jump to hyperspace!! It is a truly cosmic synthesiser!! Yes!!! Imagine a sax player. Imagine the initial attack of a note. Imagine how he or she holds a note. Picture with your ears what it sounds like loud and soft and how the sound reacts to different levels of air pressure. Imagine techniques like slurring, vibrato and flutter tonguing. Ok, keep that sonic picture there…then apply all that expression to a synth sound! Yes! Imagine the possibilities.
All of this is possible due to the advanced and unique breath and bite sensing technology inside.  This is remarkably accurate and intuitive for a saxophone player but it also means that beginners can enjoy it too.  There are some great features for practicing, including a headphone output for silent practice. After all, in Space, no one can hear you scream!  Well, that is unless you use the handy built in speaker, perfect for intimate gigs in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Or, use the line outs so you can connect to a massive PA and shred a face melting (Han) Solo for the annual “Lando Fest” on Cloud City.
The AE10 also has a very handy USB for MIDI. Just like R2D2, the AE10 talks to computers very nicely and, via a DAW can communicate with external MIDI modules and synths. Welcome to the party, sax players! Now you can input MIDI notes, control synthesisers, trigger loops in Ableton, and do just about everything else keyboard players and producers take for granted. I’m particularly excited about the opportunities for sonic experimentation that this affords. For instance, I’d love to see someone make specific Reaktor instruments or design some totally barmy MAX for Live patches. Imagine the performances and productions you could create.
So there you go.  The Roland AE10 Aerophone is an awe inspiring and amazing accomplishment for Roland. Once again, they have brought something truly original and expressive to the party. All I need to do now is learn to play it!  I know a little green guy who lives in the Dagobah system who’s meant to be quite a good teacher. Has anyone got his number? In the meantime, as soon as we get an Roland Aerophone AE10 in, we will be posting videos and getting a professional sax player to review it, so watch this space!
Thanks for listening. May the force be with you!
Looking for a deal on a Roland AE10 Aerophone? Be sure to contact Red Dog Music!
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8 Responses to “Roland Aerophone AE10 – The Saxophone From Space”

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  1. Steve Gregory says:

    What a completely non existent and useless review. No comparison with existing wind controllers, no mention of features, and completely irrelevant star wars references that help nobody who is actually interested in buying one. How does it compare to an Akai EWI? or a Yamaha WX-7? What features does it have different from these controllers that are more than 15 years old. Is breath and pitch control available via the reed, or do you need to adjust pitch with your finger like you do with an Akai? What is the MIDI implementation like? How is it priced compared to similar controllers?

    • Dave Gardner says:

      Hi Steve, Sorry you didn’t find the article useful. To be honest it isn’t really a review, more of an announcement. Let me try to answer your questions, now that I have a bit more info on it than I did at the time of writing.

      1. How does it compare to an Akai EWI? or a Yamaha WX-7?

      The AE10 has its own built in sounds which are modelled to behave like their acoustic counterparts where, from what I can tell the Yamaha WX7 is a controller. If we compare to the Ewi 5000, the main differences appear to be that the fingering of the AE10 is far more like that of a conventional sax. There’s no need to learn a different technique. While I’ve not had a chance to compare, reportedly sound quality from the Roland is substantially better due to the advanced synthesis engine inside. Looking at the mouth piece the AE10 actually uses a plastic reed system compared to the EWI’s white wind hole. This means that the AE10 is theoretically able to interpret more accurately, the techniques used by sax players. When you combine the sound engine with the advanced sensing, it should provide you with a far more playable instrument.

      2. What features does it have different from these controllers that are more than 15 years old?

      There have been many advances in technology over the past 15 years and this is where you will notice the difference in terms of the response, sound quality and features. Here’s a few highlights.

      – Advanced Breath Sensing and mouth piece for greater control and more accurate sensing of technique.
      – Built in speaker to practice anywhere
      – Amazing collection (40) of specially designed built in sounds which behave like wind instruments and respond to your technique
      – USB port for easy connection to your computer for MIDI
      – Line input to practice along with your favourite music
      – Runs for 7 hours off a set of AA batteries (rechargeable only)
      – Save 100 of your own sounds on board
      – Clear LCD display for easy operation
      – Dedicated Reverb, Chorus and Multi FX built in
      – It only weighs 855g

      3. Is breath and pitch control available via the reed?

      Yes. Pitch, breath and even vibrato can be controlled via your playing rather than controls on the instrument.

      4. What is the MIDI implementation like?

      Unfortunately, i’m not 100% sure. It obviously sends note information and breath but I can’t see anything more detailed. I’d need to plug it into MIDI OX to see exactly what is transmitted. The manual doesn’t really give any info on this but it will be interesting to try. Manual can be downloaded here. https://static.roland.com/assets/media/pdf/AE-10_e01_W.pdf

      5. How is it priced compared to similar controllers?

      There are aren’t really any similar controllers out there, however the EWI 5000 is probably an equivalent. It’s £579ish and Roland AE10 is £659. You can purchase one here: http://www.reddogmusic.co.uk/catalog/product/006861/roland-ae10-aerophone

      If you stay locally it would be great if you can pop in to try it out. I’d be really interested to know what you think of it. You may have guessed that we are quite new to wind controllers here. Please feel free to contact me here at Red Dog Edinburgh for a chat. You can reach me on 0131 229 8211 if you have any further questions or would like to arrange a demo. Many thanks. Dave

      • Ray Zubler says:

        Dave,

        Thank you for the very useful updates to the review. I am considering a wind-synth and I have resisted in favor of the real acoustic instruments. The Roland AE10 seems to be a very viable solution for the sax-capable wind musician to expand their performance options. The palm keys are a bit of a quirky issue (they are not much of a positive item to any saxophonist, yet alone non-sax players!) and the potential key noise and key performance/maintenance issues may also be annoying when compared to the other wind synths out there. All things considered, and after seeing and hearing the Roland demos, I find the AE10 a compelling item that I will add to my ‘wish list’.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hello Dave,

    thank you very much for both reviews, the original one and the one in the comment section. Here is my doubt: I am a Soprano Sax player but the only moment i can practice is late at night (from 9pm) but i really want to get better in my fingering, scales etc. Sound itself doesn’t bother me a lot, but i heard the sax sounds and there are pretty accurate, anyway, I want it for practice and get better with my real sax. How do you thing it can help me to get my fingering better?
    Best regards and thank you!

  3. Edward R says:

    I have no experience with DAWs or any other software required for recording from my AE10 on my laptop. Roland USA wasn’t very helpful. Where can I find any detailed info regarding this issue?
    Thanks

    • Red Dog Music says:

      Hello Edward, let me see if I can help. What type of laptop do you have? Is it Mac or Windows? Are you looking to record the sound or just the MIDI?

  4. Red Dog Music says:

    Hi Daniel, apologies for the delay in responding to this thread. I seemed to have missed the notification. I’m afraid I’m not a sax player myself so I’m unsure if it will improve your fingering. However, I do know that the fingering is the same as a conventional sax so in theory it should allow you to practice well. Things might be a little closer together than on a tenor sax. The best thing to do is try one out, then I think you will know. Are you local to one of our stores? I can maybe arrange for a demonstration model?

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