Roland revives the TR-808

The classic beatbox – not an expensive clone or a collection of cleverly-tweaked samples – is back. Roland's TR-08 directly models the original machine's analog circuits to recreate its sound as accurately as possible with modern digital technology, and joins revived versions of the TR-909[Amazon] and TB-202[Amazon] in the company's lineup of boutique boxes.

The TR-08 brings the look, sound, and feel of the original 808 — with stunning accuracy — to the Roland Boutique format. From the instantly-recognizable red-orange-yellow-white markings, the shape of the sequencer buttons, switches and knobs are details that have been painstakingly reproduced to match the iconic recreation of sounds. Along with the aesthetic touches, the TR-08 contains new features like 16 sub-steps for fast rolls, independent trigger out track, compression/gain/tune for instruments and a selectable modified “long decay” bass drum for more of that legendary BOOM!

Unpopular opinion time! The Boutique stuff is cute and it is best, but if you just want all the classic beats in convenient form on a modern drum synth, the Roland Aira[Amazon] seems a more pragmatic choice.

Roland recently asked Propellerheads to quit selling Rebirth too, which seems hamhanded but at least suggests the company's taking a welcome interest in exploiting its own technical heritage. The cease-n-decisting of web-based tribute toys is sad and alarming. Read the rest

Retrospective of legendary 808 drum machine

Chris Norris reports on how the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Controller, an unsuccessful drum machine, became the key musical instrument of a generation.

The 808 sound was also crowd-sourced, with artists building on one another’s modifications of the device. One of the first major innovations came about in 1984, by the producer Strafe, who, in the film, describes fine-tuning the 808’s low frequencies and further widening its bass kick drum to create the sound of an underground nuke test, heard on his 1984 hit “Set It Off.” The song’s original mix, by the disco producer Walter Gibbons, lacked Strafe’s low-end contribution because, according to Strafe, the born-again Gibbons felt “that bass was an instrument of the Devil.” He was probably right.

Can anyone vouch for the Roland Aira TR-8, which supposedly recreates both the 808 and the 909? Read the rest