Roland TR 808: All Hail The Beat
“The sounds of the Roland TR-808 drum machine inspire musicians around the world, even though the device hasn’t been made since 1984 and most of its avid users have never actually seen one.”
The TR-808 is a classic drum machine that used analog synthesis to create its sounds. The sounds have a very thin and pure quality and aren’t grungy like it’s successor the TR-909. In fact, the 808 has become the signature beatbox used in most R&B and hip-hop as well as a lot of dance and techno music. Booming bass kicks, crispy snares and that annoying cowbell sound made famous during the 80’s are all part of the 808 and its famous sound.
Its 16 drum sounds include the famous boomy low kick, snappy snares, low/mid/hi toms, low/mid/hi congas, rimshot, claves, hand clap, maracas, cowbell, cymbal, open hihat, closed hihat and accent. All of the sounds can be edited and/or tuned and have individual outputs. Unfortunately it is not MIDI equipped but it does use Roland’s DIN Sync.
The TR-808 was OK in its time. It just didn’t sound like real drums. When the Linn Drum machines appeared, the 808 seemed doomed. But its unique sound and analog allure have found it a long-lasting home in many forms of music. Clearly the 808 has been one of the more important and famous drum machines in the history of music, spawning imitators (ReBirth, DrumStation) and band names (808 State).