Roland R-8 Human Rhythm Composer

Roland R-8 Image

Roland R-8

One of the very best drum machines ever. It has excellent sounds which can be expanded by adding additional sound cards (808 and 909 cards). Great rock, electronic, ethnic and industrial style drumkits! Most of the sounds are editable - tune, decay, attack, nuance, output, etc...

But its coolest tricks are the Feel Patches which give your program a human-like groove! The sounds are ROM based samples, the R-8 has 32 note polyphony, 68 instruments, 100 patterns and 10 songs! The R-8 later became the R-8mkII with more memory and sounds. It is used by Orbital, Underworld, Jimmy Edgar, Autechre, 808 State, Dave Holmes, Fluke, Human League and The Shamen.

Roland R-8mkII Image

Roland R-8mkII

A single-space rack-mount version - the R-8M - was also available. It had no sequencer but it did have the R-8 sounds and the ability to read R-8 expansion sound cards. There were also 8 individual outputs, 12 voices polyphony and 4-part multitimbral MIDI. Later, an mkII model was released with upgraded features and memory (pictured above).

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50 Visitor comments
Evan Long
February 2, 2011 @ 9:31 pm
Some of the R8's samples sound almost identical to some of those found in the DR-660, DR-670 and DR-770 drum machines by Boss, which is, of course, owned by Roland. The R8 might be a bit punchier and has more individual outs but the "Dr. Rhythm" boxes have a wider variety of sounds and more pattern and song memory.
January 16, 2011 @ 8:08 pm
I have been trying to nail down the specs for the MKII because I read here that it had increased memory and sounds but when I look in the manuals on Roland's website the R-8 (check page 224 of the manual) appears to have a number of features that I would think would be more desirable than the R-8MKII. It appears that that the specs for the MKII are closer to the R-8M. Can anyone tell me if this is just an error in the manual or what?
Mr Yakub
December 31, 2010 @ 9:52 pm
We used it on 2 metal albums in early 90's to replace a human drummer (with some success too! (the replacing, not the albums as such...))
The main feature to us was that sounds were multisampled, so we could tweak the sound keyed to velocity, and create plausible double-kicks. The R-8 allows proper patterns, we could do all time changes and pattern variations we needed.
However the vastly overpriced memory cards were too small to hold more than 2-3 songs. That was an annoying racket.
July 11, 2010 @ 5:41 pm
probably my favourite drum machine of all time. i bought the r8m **brand new* when they were released and immediately added 3 of the expensive cards. i've added a few more over the year and, even though i own nearly 20 drum machines, i use the r8m a lot. dynamic & aggressive if necessary but mostly 'typical 80s'. its a great unit & i will never be without one!
An O'Nymous
December 26, 2009 @ 6:59 am
I've used a Roland R8 for years. With the Dance & Electronic cards. It finally went on the fritz. Currently, I'm using an R8m with a Yamaha RX-8 as the master controller and an Oberheim Pro/fx Drummer in between the two of them to add a little randomness. When I can find an affordable R8 or R8 mk II, I'll replace my old one.
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Rated 4.04 (549 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 - 32 voices
  • Sounds - 68 Rom samples
  • Controls - tune, decay, attack, nuance, output, etc...
  • Patterns - 100
  • Songs - 10
  • Arpeg/Seq - Sequencer
  • Keyboard - None
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1989
    R-8 mkII - 1992
  • Resources & Credits
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