Roland R-8

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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

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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Demos & Media

Roland R-8 MKII pattern editing R-8 drum machine
David Morley
Audio Clip 1 A bunch of R-8 sounds with some tweaking. From the Future Music CD, Issue 56.
Audio Clip 2 An ethnic demo that shows even the most complex ethnic rhythms are possible. From the Future Music CD, Issue 56.
ManualRoland has made manuals for most of their products available as free PDF downloads.


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