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).

Lookup Roland R-8 Human Rhythm Composer Prices

The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

Related forum topics


Are you looking to buy or sell a Roland R-8 Human Rhythm Composer? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

50 Visitor comments
Rob Beresford
November 10, 2013 @ 4:17 am
"Roland R8 is too old and doesnt sound good. its like an 8bit sample or even less"?

R8 is actually 16ibt @ 44.1kHz (CD quality) and at the time, it was one of the most realistic drum machines on the market in terms of sound quality but that was only touching the surface.

Not only were the pads velocity sensitive but more importantly, they also had aftertouch and in the hands of the experienced, you could build the most amazingly realistic rolls and flams simply by varying the pressure of the pad.

I'll let this slide as quite clearly, you know nothing and are just trolling ;-)
Michel Vocken
October 8, 2013 @ 9:57 am
The Roland R8 is too old and doesnt sound good. its like an 8bit sample or even less.
Its over priced on ebay because it is just hideous and outrageous how many idiots there are. The new Boss ones are amazing.
R & R
September 14, 2013 @ 8:30 am
The R-8 is ridiculously fat. Absolutely huge, rich drum samples perfect for more electronic style music such as Pop, Hip-Hop and Dance music. It was originally designed to replace a drummer in studio, hence the intricate user interface and very raw sound which requires healthy doses of dynamics processing just as real drums do. It's an extremely technical beast aimed at serious pros rather than tinkering hobbyists, not easy to use and therefore not everyone's cup of tea. It does however yield breathtaking results.
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.
VSE Rating


User Rating

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
  • Images from

Errors or Corrections? Send them here.