The Roland TR-08 is a modern twist on the classic 808 influential drum machine. It’s got all of the original sounds and features, plus some new additions that make it even better. The TR-08 is one of the best drum machines on the market, and it’s perfect for any producer or musician who wants to add some vintage flavor to their tracks. It’s powerful, versatile, and affordable. You’ve been looking for a classic drum machine in a modern package for a long time, and the Roland TR-08 is your answer.
The TR-08: The first product in the Roland TR Series to feature the legendary TR-08 module, the TR-08 was the first synthesizer in the TR-Series that offered both analog and digital synthesis with remarkable realism. Twelve effects have been provided, including reverb, chorus, distortion, tremolo, and the classic tape delay. Other features of the TR-08 include a stereo mic preamp, a choice of four sounds, and the ability to store all settings for a single patch within four banks, providing unlimited sounds. The TR-08 is fully programmable, so you can play it how you want, and the user manual tells you how to do it. It will come with standard MIDI-equipped controllers and has USB MIDI out.
There’s a perfect reason that the 808 is one of the most popular synthesizers of all time. You get the best quality sounds, a user interface that makes the keyboard the center of attention, and an interface that enables you to control all the significant aspects of the synth without having to be a techno-geek or having a Ph.D. in computer science. If you want an electronic keyboard for recording, composing, or live performances, the 808 is a synthesizer for the masses.
The TR08 is a polysynth/step sequencer that allows you to quickly create and record a whole track with all your favorite synth sounds in a matter of minutes. We’re not kidding; it will work up a complete track in a few minutes – a synth track, a keyboard track, even a bass track! The TR08 features an assignable and user-customizable touchpad, as well as a powerful sequencer that supports all major MIDI sequencers, and it also gives you a standard sequencer with real-time performance capability.
- Sound and functionally authentic.
- Extensive control over sounds.
- USB multi-channel audio.
- Battery or USB power.
- Mute and solo.
- High price.
- Limited to 8 voices.
- It’s hard to learn like the original.
- Must pause playback to copy the pattern.
- You cannot mute the local output in interface mode.
Roland TR 08 Rhythm Composer Compact Bijou
Like all boutique kit tools, the TR08 is incredibly cute. Even the photos and videos don’t quite show how small it is. However, the TR08 is undoubtedly not a toy. It feels more like a giant guitar pedal than a shrunken drum machine. In contrast, the tiltable kickstand on the inside is a somewhat flimsy plastic construction, but it is still very comfortable.
The front panel is a small reproduction of the original 808, including a numeric display and menu/sublevel buttons. The controls have been rotated and slid down to accommodate the expanded front panel aspect ratio. Unlike some boutique synths, it doesn’t feel too cramped for all miniatures, and even the tiny knobs and buttons are entirely usable.
The central panel is faithful to the original device, and the rear panel shows modernized connectivity. It has a full-sized MIDI in/out port and a micro USB port for MIDI communication, backup, and audio streaming to your computer (or Aira MX-1).
Roland TR-08 Performance & Variation
A feature of the 808 (and thus the 08) is that learning to override the basic patterns is challenging. Many edits often require you to refer to the manual before pasting. But overcoming the wall of pain gives you a more advanced toolkit for creating complex variations and patterns than you might expect, especially compared to the simplified 808 clones.
There is a default transform switch that lets you add a second part to the pattern and toggles between two different versions (same length and rhythm, but completely different sequences). Automatically switch between versions in a central AB location to efficiently create 64-step models.
On top of that, you have Fill: four samples per bank (actually eight because they have their variation switches). Another large dial allows you to automatically activate the currently selected fill every 2, 4, 8, 12, or 16 bars, or you can activate it manually from the Touch button. Fill in the following box or after the first beat, depending on when you trigger.
As you become more comfortable with these features, you can improvise longer performances with variation and interest. You can swap patterns, edit patterns on the fly, change lengths and interpretations, and place different fills. And, of course, you can play with the knobs to customize the sounds. I saved the newly added features, but a real performance boost is the addition of mute and solo functions for drum sounds, hidden behind a two-button combination.
Roland TR-8 vs TR 8S: What is the difference between Roland TR-8 and TR 8S?
Although the TR-8S follows more or less the same panel layout as the TR-8 (channel strips for 11 drum voices and a row of large, color-lit trigger buttons), it looks strikingly different – more modern and mature. Somehow. It includes more buttons and an extra row of buttons just an inch taller.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Is the TR-08 analog?
The TR-808 reached an unsuspecting and somewhat confusing public in 1980. Its purely analog sound and range of adjustable parameters offered not exactly “traditional” drum sound for many at the time.
When did the Roland TR-08 come out?
Roland engineers discuss the original concept of the TR-808, conceived and built-in 1980. Though intended to create “backing tracks,” creative musicians began using the rhythm machine as an instrument and forever changed music.
At first glance, the TR08 is a rigorous recreation of the original 808, captured in the coveted boutique form factor. Sonically, it captures the magic of the 808. It also has the same functionality and workflow, which means it takes a lot of head-scratching to go beyond basic pattern creation. Truly grasping at the more mysterious aspects of the 808 has been a rewarding experience, and I feel like I fully understand it for the first time! The effort unlocks the full power of the instrument for a dynamic and varied performance in real-time.
Beneath the authentic exterior is many new upgrades. While the front panel controls keep the sounds within their original confines, the digital menu expands the range with tone, decay, and compression. Mixing is boosted with mute and solo, pan and another gain stage, and sequencing goes high-res with sub-stepping.
But it’s the portability and modern integration that I find most appealing. The combination of battery power, instant syncing, and extensive MIDI and audio over USB makes the TR-08 slot easily a backpack jam rig and promises to keep the 808 alive for another generation.