Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer

Roland TR-808 Image

The TR-808 is a classic drum machine that uses analog synthesis to create its sounds. The sounds have a very pure quality and are closer to the sound of the CR-series of Roland drum machines, as opposed to its popular successor, the TR-909. The TR-808 has become the signature beatbox used in most R&B and hip-hop as well as a lot of dance and techno music. Booming bass kicks, crispy snares and a distinctive cowbell sound made famous in the 1980's are all part of the 808 and its famous sound.

Its 16 drum sounds include the famous boomy 808 kick, snare, low/mid/high toms, low/mid/high congas, rimshot, claves, hand clap, maracas, cowbell, cymbal, open hi-hat, closed hi-hat and accent. Most of the sounds can be edited. Bass Drum and Cymbal (tone, decay), Snare (tone, snappy), Toms and Congas (tuning), Open Hat (decay). All sounds have individual volume controls and individual outputs. Unfortunately it was not MIDI equipped but it did use Roland's DIN Sync.

The TR-808 was OK in its time—it just didn't sound like real drums. When the Linn Drum machines appeared, the 808 seemed doomed. But its unique sound and analog allure have allowed it to find a long-lasting home in many forms of music. Ultimately, the 808 has become one of the more important and famous drum machines in the history of music, spawning imitators (ReBirth, DrumStation) as well as band names (808 State).

Roland TR-808 Image

Famous users include Orbital, Überzone, Download, Aphex Twin, 808 State, BT, Bomb The Bass, Sense Datum, The Prodigy, Josh Wink, Faithless, Skinny Puppy, Bushflange, Jimi Tenor, A Guy Called Gerald, Eat Static, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Edgar, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Freddy Fresh, Richie Hawtin, Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre, Cocteau Twins, Marvin Gaye, Luke Vibert, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, the Beastie Boys, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), and Puff Daddy.

Lookup Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer Prices

The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

51 Visitor comments
July 8, 2014 @ 10:38 pm
I own the comparative machines if you're looking for that BD
808 =101% Miami = 91% TR8 = 71% R8 = 66%
Next to 808
Miami has the best early BOOM
TR8 has a nice decay.
I can get the Miami to recreate the A/B Planet Rock quite nicely, the TR8 is tricky to recreate, even with all those options.

My 808 will be hard to let go of but with 128 patterns the Miami will be my workhorse. I'm going to be backing a lot of tracks with that 808 though. It's the gear love of my life. The 808 and never ending quest for more electro bass. ~Solsonic~BassRecords~NC
May 21, 2014 @ 4:27 pm
The TR-8 is nice till you start comparing it to the TR-808. I don't care about analog VS digital at all but the TR-808 sounds better and mostl of all behaves differently.
The TR-8 is just not capable of all nuances you will get with a real 808.

Something is just plain wrong with the TR-8 emulation, especially the bass drum.
April 26, 2014 @ 3:22 pm
I finally realized how there can be such polarized perspectives on the analog debate, with assertions that the AIRA and original 808 sound nothing alike, or practically the same: some people just can't hear it. You can find this with other senses as well. Some people with an exacting eye can see differences in the color black. Exacting ears can hear the nuances of analog versus digital.
bobby h.
April 6, 2014 @ 4:21 pm
Phil Collins used the TR-808, and 909 on 'No Jacket Required' (think, or don't think, 'One More Night' and 'Take Me Home'), and more extensively and to a better effect on 'But Seriously' and 'Both Sides'. It was also used heavily on 'We Can't Dance' with Genesis as well as the Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford solo albums of the period.
April 4, 2014 @ 5:28 pm
Just sold one for 500 dollars, the AIRA sounded better to my ears and was practically the same.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.31 (704 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 12 voices
  • Sounds - Kick, Snare, Low/Mid/Hi Toms, Low/Mid/Hi Congas, Rimshot, Claves, Hand clap, Maracas, Cow bell, Cymbal, Open hihat, Closed hihat, Accent
  • Effects - Auto fill-in
  • Patterns - 64
  • Songs - 12
  • Arpeg/Seq - Sequencer
  • Keyboard - none
  • Control - DIN SYNC IN/OUT
  • Date Produced - 1981-84
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.