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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48 Visitor comments
bobby h.
August 23, 2011 @ 10:54 pm
Phil Collins used the TR-808 in his solo work significantly between the mid-80s and early 90s. Many of his ballads, including hits like 'One More Night', 'Do You Remember' and 'Can't Turn Back The Years' use the 808 sound. Genesis also used it on their 'We Can't Dance' album, including 'Hold On My Heart'.
Ianski
August 19, 2011 @ 5:46 pm
Good drum machine, very Roland (obviously) and super cool looking. I bet it looks even nicer next to a JP8. I didn't keep it very long after my mad impulse purchase buy though. Was and is too expensive and I really prefer the 909. Triggering my modular synth's sequencer with the accent out was good fun though!
KitKat
August 10, 2011 @ 12:58 pm
Used by *cough* Cybotron *cough*.
Edward H.
June 11, 2011 @ 6:51 pm
I remember I used this in the mid-80's. Maybe the sounds are a little bit too classic, but the sequencer is amazing. Too bad I can't find one in good condition nowadays. I only found some drum samples from 808 at: http://synthpacks.com
Mitch Wells
April 15, 2011 @ 9:38 pm
I made an interesting modification to a TR-808, before I sold it, a year ago. You can see my modification of the sustain and pitch of the bass drum here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeQVGB9Qqbg
 
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  • 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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