Roland TR-08 Rhythm Composer
continues the legacy of the classic Roland TR-808 in a modern, affordable "boutique" version for the 21st Century
There are few drum machines which can claim to be truly "classic" units, yet the original Roland TR-808 is about as classic as drum machines get. The sound of the TR-808 is imprinted deep within popular culture, dance music and especially hip-hop.
Out of production for over 30 years, Roland
has finally reintroduced a modern recreation of the classic drum machine as the Roland TR-08
The TR-808 legacy
In 1980, Roland introduced their now legendary TR-808 Rhythm Composer drum machine; intended to supplant a live acoustic drummer, it failed pretty spectacularly both commercially, and in its intention to sound like real drums.
Manufactured for just three years, the original TR-808 was fairly unsuccessful whilst on sale; it did, however, end up on a couple of famous tracks, such as Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock". These classic tracks introduced the world to the unique sounds of the TR-808.
It was early techno, dance and especially Hip-Hop musicians and producers, which quickly discovered the real talent of the 808, however. The analogue circuitry of the 808 created percussion sounds which were crisp and yet warm at the same time.
The 808 bass drum, in particular, became almost a "stock-in-trade" instrument in Hip-Hop. Ever wonder what created that huge, resonant bass sound that would blow the doors off cars and shake a dance-floor to its foundations? That's the 808 kick baby!
Roland TR-08 - the 808 reborn
Now, almost 35 years on from the original TR-808 going out of production, Roland have answered the requests to reissue this classic drum machine and recreated the TR-808 as the brand new TR-08. The TR-08 forms part of Rolands "Boutique" series of compact recreations of classic equipment from their "back catalogue" of synthesisers and drum machines.
Original Roland TR-808's are now rare and sought after with suitably large price tags in accordance with the reverence in which they're held. They also have the drawbacks of any vintage electronic instrument of the era, being that they're large, heavy and come from a pre MIDI era.
Various clones and sample packs have been available before the Roland TR-08, but the TR-08 sounds and feels like the real thing because it is the real thing. Roland has used their proprietary Analogue Circuit Behaviour (ACB) technology, to model and recreate the details and quirks of each individual analogue circuit, used in the TR-808.
It's not just the sound that Roland has recreated so perfectly with the Roland TR-08, but the all-important interface of the original 808, too. The colours, shape, style and placement of the control mimics the original 808 perfectly. This really is as close as you can get to having an original, vintage TR-808 in front of you.
Modern convenience - Vintage sound
Close your eyes, and you would never know that you're listening to a 21st-century replica of a 1980s drum machine, so accurate is Roland's recreation. Of course, there are aspects of the original, however, which even the most die-hard of users would change, given the opportunity.
Unlike the original, the Roland TR-08 features MIDI, both on DIN MIDI connections and convenient USB; the latter also allows the audio of the TR-08 to be sent directly to your computer over USB connection too! Magic! It also has a track-selectable trigger out for synching other equipment such as the TB-03, SH-01A, or modular gear.
The sequencer has been updated, again with some sensitive modern enhancements. An unobtrusive LED display provides fine control of tempo and shuffle. Program or tap in your parts in real-time without stopping to change modes. Additionally, the sequencer provides 16 sub-steps per step, allowing snare fills and intricate, rolling hi-hats to be programmed.
If you're looking for the sound and feel of the classic and timeless Roland TR-808, but in an affordable, modern package with all the connectivity and amenities you'd expect, then there can only really be one choice: the Roland TR-08 Boutique series Rhythm Composer
is truly the TR-808 reborn!