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
March 14, 2013 @ 8:57 am
Half the appeal of the 808 (and the 909) is the sequencer. If you start to MIDI trigger the the sounds then you may as well use samples. I recently picked up an 808 (manufactured June 1983) and my synth tech said it's got an unusually long decay (which sounds great). I had read that some units did vary.

Anyway, that aside, it is an awesome machine. Very inspirational and a joy to use. Better than I expected. I have mine DIN Sync to Logic Pro and it works like a charm.
Matt Evans
February 16, 2013 @ 5:03 pm
you can add Depeche Mode to the list.......check this 2013 video using it! de-heaven
January 27, 2013 @ 8:56 am
Best drum machine ever made! HEY...I see a Audiobits 8 TRON on ebay now! 1-27-13. best TR808 emulation ever made for your DAW!
October 21, 2012 @ 9:10 am
depeche mode didn't use the 606 directly, they used only the snare and the hats and sequenced them via an arp 2600. they did this in the a broken frame album, even if you sample the snare dm effectively used and the 606 one, well, it's not the same...
Gear Before Beer
October 12, 2012 @ 2:42 am
Great classic drum machine, but honestly? In my opinion it's only really worth it if you can one that's modded with midi. And if you can find one that is modded with mid *and* tunable drum sounds (for the sounds that aren't tunable, like the clap and snare), that's a MAJOR find. The guy who sold me my 303 had one that was like that. I'd never been so jealous in my entire life. ;)
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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
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