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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47 Visitor comments
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.
Nick Esposito
November 1, 2009 @ 3:08 pm
This thing explains Spacetime Continuum's awesome beats on "Pressure"!
Did FSOL use one? If not, I guess they had to modify their 909 pretty heavily . . .
October 18, 2009 @ 2:02 am
Had one of these for many years, with dance, electronic, jazz, jazz brush, sound fx cards. Great machine for edit-ability, assign a parameter and edit in real time, pitch, pan, decay and nuance etc. Could get crazy long decay on 909 or 808 kicks. Poor mans 808 and 909 if you can get one with the cards, however, the sound quality was not great, digital and a bit brittle, not massive like originals. And user manual possibly worst I have encountered. Also current MPC's offer very similar programming features rendering these old beasties a bit redundant these days with added bonuses of sampling and USB file transfer. Having said that, it was a fun machine, very immediate...felt like I was loosing a good friend when I sold it, would almost consider getting another...
Analogue Crazy
June 2, 2009 @ 4:00 pm
I have had my R8 for 3 years now and simply pove it. It's really easy to program and understand and has some fanyastic drum sounds in there, even without the cards. I have the Jazz card for mine but find myself using the internal ROM's most. It's also dead easy to tailor the preset ROM's to your taste, which makes it a very versatile machine.

Love this drum machine. My other drum source is my W-30 sampler, but the R8 is so simple to use and great sounding, i will just use that most times.
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Rated 4.04 (536 Votes)

  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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

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