No can deny that Roland is dedicated to offering the best in the world of electronic music instruments. And with the TR-S8, I can say they are closing in on what can be termed as the perfect music box solution.
Its predecessor, TR-8, was, of course, not a perfect gadget. But it did well what it was built for. It has all the fun and brought to like the unique experience of jamming out on the traditional XOX groove box.
Then came the later additions to the Roland family with TR-09 and TR-08 boxes. Both of them were also great, only that they were too small, and the interfaces made it hard for anyone to follow.
If you have used to use the TR-8, on the other hand, you may have suffered from its poor sequencer buttons. Also, it came with solid rotaries and individual channel faders. Let’s just say the later features gave a beautiful crank as any professional musician would get in their original machines.
About the Roland TR-8S
Now looking at the TR-8S, one may think it is something very new. Well, sorry to disappoint you because there may not be a lot. It is only interesting that Roland has chosen to go back to the TR-8 functionality.
In terms of physical appearance, it is more of the less the same item you would get as the TR-8. But there is more in the software.
This device has been upgraded to being more playable. And the most significant changes is the inclusion of more sample playback,
With the original TR-8, Roland solely used its Analogue Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology. In this case, it imitates the foundational hardware using a component-by-component basis.
And this is the same tech driving the TR-8S. It comes bearing all the goodies to models like 808, 909. 707, and 606.
All these are greatly emulated instruments, in which case they are here linked through sample tracks. Hence, the TR-S8 is perhaps the more advanced box on the market right now.
Here are some of the features that make it stand out.
A better look
Although one may argue that the TR-8S is similar to the TR-8 because it follows the same design, it is easy to notice there are a few great changes that make it all new.
I found it to have more modern looks and oriented towards adult-use somehow. For instance, it is about one centimeter larger, with more buttons and an additional row.
The first thing you may notice is that the classic Scatter knob has been scrubbed off. What you find instead are modern, and a more cluster mode buttons. They are echoes by a nice display, as well as a data dial.
I was immediately attracted to the colorful fader strips. This gives it a more attractive look from the original, which had only a uniform color glow. It is always good to have something new in a classy gadget like this, right?
Apart from the front panel, which is, by the way, most improved, you should expect even more action in the rear.
First, the section withholds the main mix outs does not come with six customizable outputs. You can address each one of them individually, or as stereo pairs.
Consider also, that now you can switch each one of them into a trigger. This helps in working on the analog synths or drum machines.
As if that is not enough, this Trigger Out receives feed from an independent pattern track. This is a feature still on the TS-8.
There is also a USB connectivity, just like we have seen with many Roland products over the past few years. This acts as a multichannel USB audio interface, helping the user to receive excellent digital channels, and mix options with the DAW.
Even there are new ergonomics, and the button has been shuffled, it is still easy to use the device. And I will not forget to mention that this build now comes with new and improved materials.
You may easily notice that everyone seems to have been taken a notch higher. And that is one thing I love about Roland. Every upgrade they make on any of their products can be easily acknowledged as real updates.
I have talked about the new look, which is interesting, but I know you may be less concerned about that. What is more significant, and perhaps what Roland TR-8S will be known for, is the stretch album.
It is prudent to appreciate that the primary model is already pretty good in terms of sounds. It already bears the legendary 808 and 909 drum machines.
But we know there is always something more you can do. And that what the new model is all about.
It allows the user to depend on the 606, 707, and 727 units too. The company, as you could have expected, has included its excellent Analogue Circuit behavior.
Note also, that the new model lets you tweak all these sounds. You can add some modern flavor if you like, just so that the unit gives you more updated styles.
If you are that kind who likes working with their customized sounds, you can upload extra sounds. It will allow you to connect to the company’s large library, or use a computer via USB, or upload through your SD card. It is compatible with WAV, as well as AIFF formats.
This unit is more flexible because not you can replace up to 11 samples on the individual kits. Besides, some of the samples come with separate channels, including sound faders, tuners, and decays.
Generally, the unit has pretty amazing sounds. All of them are digital, which is one of the most notable improvements from the TR-8.
The Scatter effects are no longer as chunky as the previous versions. Also, more controls mean you can create a more dynamic performance. These are the features that bring about practical versatility as they allow the player to create more flavors on top of what they already have.
The USB audio connection makes it even easier to work with DAW software on your computer.
Despite these features, you will be glad to know the unit is pretty easy to use. All the controls are extremely simple, with an added LCD giving you taps in the navigation.
So now you can dial the pattern you want much easier. You don’t even need to learn anything.
The update also carries 128 sound patterns. These are some of the improvements that were much expected from the previous versions.
And then there are 16 pads, which make it pretty useful. In addition, there are eight variations in the unit, with the possibility to use some of the A-H buttons when changing sound character.
More styles more playability
I always felt like there was something missing in the previous model. And now I know what it was since now the TR-S8 covers more style.
And I am not just talking about the quantity. It all features various sound colors.
We all know what this means in a performance.
With the traditional model, it was all about specific old-school electronic styles. Techno was the most predominant choice.
It is, therefore, pretty impressive that the new model also carries everything. You are exposed to almost any vibe you can think of – from Deep House, to hip-hop and much more.
The modern world of music and performance is quite demanding. As such, it is vital to get a unit that exposes you to a wide variety. This is a good reason to love TR-8S.
Start using right from the box
Let face it. The modern world is filled with all sorts of complicated gadgets. And I know many may expect the Roland RT-8S to as complicated, based on the features we have discussed above.
However, you will be surprised at how easy and convenient it is. Even though it is hard to beat tech, everything comes with great simplicity.
If you thought it would require your special skills to ahead of the features, think again. You are ready to play with patterns easily. Many of us know how to use a step-sequencer, which makes it even easier to use this device.
There is no doubt the TR-8S is a top-quality choice. It is also very affordable.
However, you feel like it is not the right gear for you; there are a few alternatives on the market. For instance, you can get pretty decent legendary drum sounds with TR-08 and TR-09 models. There have new boutique versions that deliver better functionality.
Also, Arturia DrumBrute could be a good machine. It comes at a lower price than the TR-8S, and with lesser flexibility.
I have become a Roland fan simply because of what they do with technology in the music industry. For this reason and the features above, I find the Roland TR-8S a very decent and recommendable solution.