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
Teddie Behr
August 25, 2013 @ 5:34 pm
Has some interesting features on the drum machine/sequencer portion, and the ability to randomize nuance and other settings per hit should be industry-standard, but honestly the sound quality here is lacking, and the R-8M (rack version), has only 65-ish waveform options, some of which are really dated and cheesy and stick way out in a mix (in a bad way). After working with 90's Yamaha drum machines for a number of months, then returning to the R-8, the first phrase that went through my mind was, "This sounds like ****." Just sayin'.
August 11, 2013 @ 5:12 pm
Aphex Twin and Autechre use this quite frequently.
July 23, 2013 @ 3:31 pm
@bob: Those sample cards are ROM... No batteries inside. Unlike the M256 or M512 RAM-cards. They contain a battery which needs replacement after a while. But that's easily done..
June 27, 2013 @ 8:50 am
I have a Roland R8. It's been on the attic for at least a decade and I pulled it out today. It's still in very good condition but the only problem is that it hasn't been powered on since I put it on the attic. The battery drained ofcourse. I powered it on and things parts of the LCD screen light up but that's all it does. Since the battery drained I imagine the software dissapeared. Does anybody have and hints/tips/help where I could find solutions in order to get my R8 to work again?
June 21, 2013 @ 9:52 am
I'm wondering how long the cards will last? I have the dance, electronic and metallic percussion cards - they must be 20 years old! Surely there's a battery inside that will eventually run dry, and these don't look like they are designed to be opened.
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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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