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.

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51 Visitor comments
johnny esp
July 13, 2009 @ 6:17 pm
I can't believe you left out the most famous artist to use it. Phil Collins used it on his hit "In The Air". Also, he may have introduced it on the Genesis album entitled "Duke". The song was "Dutchess"
February 20, 2009 @ 11:34 pm
I'm going to state a couple of negative things about this machine, for the pure fact that no one else has anything negative to say about it. There are no copy and paste functions, and to chain patterns together you have to play through the entire composition, counting bars as it plays and making sure you switch patterns at the right moment. These two things are a major pain in the arse if you want to program complex patterns.
On the other hand it does deserve a lot of the positive comments. I don't know why, but it really does sound better in the flesh than it does when it's sampled. Maybe it's partially to do with the tactile feel of programming it's little buttons and knobs. Even my brother, who is absolutely gung-ho on software emulators and thinks hardware is a waste of money, loves playing with this machine. It's just so cool and smooth!
January 11, 2009 @ 2:14 am
Nice for composing and educational as pattern building and recording for me. Learning beats. Also great with Jupiters and Junos for making futuristic music.
December 30, 2008 @ 12:39 pm
& the prescription is: more cowbell!!

At any rate, no other drum machine can touch the 808 though they have tried & tried!!
wet lettuce
November 22, 2008 @ 10:11 pm
'nothing sounds like an 808'
Yes beasties that's true.
it's all about that booming can keep the rest..oh ok i'll keep the cowbell too.
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Rated 4.3 (702 Votes)

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  • 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
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