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Roland's revival of the iconic TR-808 makes classic sounds portable

The TR-08 drum machine joins the TR-09 and TB-03 that debuted last year.
Billy Steele, @wmsteele
08.08.17 in AV
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Roland

If we know anything about Roland, it's that the company loves to debut new gear on the corresponding date. Today is August 8th, or as the company calls it "808 Day," so naturally it's time for a new piece of kit. As you might've already guessed, there's a new version of the iconic TR-808 drum machine that first debuted in the '80s. Last September on so-called "909 Day," the company debuted its TR-909 revival (the TR-09) alongside a new take on the TB-303 (TB-03) and one other synth for its Boutique line. Now, the company is adding the TR-08 Rhythm Composer to its stable of reissued classics.

Like the revived instruments that came before it, the TR-08 employs Roland's Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology to recreate the sound of the original. The company says that it achieved this by "modeling each analog circuit right down to the component level." Sure, it's not analog, but Roland didn't cut corners when it came to bringing as much of that classic sound as possible to this new model. Speaking of the original, the new TR-08 features all of the buttons, controls and knobs from the TR-808 despite its much smaller size.

There are some added features to the modern music maker as well. The TR-08's sequencer offers 16 sub-steps per step which gives beat makers the ability to add even more detail to snare fills and other key elements. Another new tool is a track-selectable trigger that can be used with other instruments and modular audio gear. With the built-in LED display, there's more control over tempo and shuffle and the TR-08 allows users to tap in parts without having to stop and change modes. In other words, when the beat is playing, you won't have to switch to a specific setting in order to make changes in real time.

The smaller size makes the TR-08 portable, as does the fact that you can run it on four AA batteries. To be more specific, this new version weighs in at just under 3 pounds (1.3 kg). There's a speaker for previewing tracks and annoying your roommates as well as MIDI support. And yes, the TR-08 also supports MIDI and audio over USB. The TR-08 also comes with an angled dock/stand/case so you can adjust the angle for optimal comfort.

This isn't the first time Roland has brought back the 808. In 2014, the company debuted the TR-8 as part of its AIRA line. That instrument was more of a tribute than a re-creation or a reissue even though it offered some of the TR-808's sound profile and features. When you consider the original drove the iconic sounds of Afrika Bambaata's "Planet Rock" on up to Kanye West's "Love Lockdown," it's easy to see why Roland would bring back the instrument for modern beat makers.

Roland isn't sharing pricing and availability details for now, but the TR-08 has already popped up for pre-order at Guitar Center and Sweetwater for $350. Guitar Center's listing shows an August 26th ship date. Retailers in the UK also have have the TR-08 up for pre-order at £340.

The new drum machine may be a much smaller version of the original and lack its analog backbone, but it allows you to get your hands on some of the iconic sounds that shaped hip-hop, electronic and other genres for under $400. That might make you rethink starting a music hobby. Of course, if you don't want to tap into your saving account, there's always the browser-based 808 for you to try.

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