The TR-808, often referred to as simply the “808”, was originally released in 1980, and has slowly become the most important drum machine in history over the past 37 years, having been prominently used on some of the world’s best-selling recordings. Artists who have employed its classic bass drum, snare drum, and hi-hat sounds include Marvin Gaye, who famously used the machine on his early-1980s hit Sexual Healing, and Kanye West, who named an entire album, 808s and Heartbreaks, after the machine. In production circles, it is often said that no dance music album is complete without at least one 808 sound. It is a sound so ubiquitous that there is even a mobile game called TR-REC built around playing it in time.
The new TR-08 is unlike the original in that it isn’t a completely analog audio device, but it does feature what Roland calls Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology, which models each component of the analog circuit and allows the digital machine to emulate the sound of the original TR-808 with astonishing accuracy. Because it is not analog, the new drum machine features a much smaller form factor than the original, allowing producers and performers to more easily take it with them on the go.
In addition, the new TR-08 also features a built-in LED display, MIDI integration, and allows 16 sub-steps per step, offering beat-makers even more sonic possibilities.
The new 808 machine runs on four AA batteries and comes with an angled dock/stand/case for optimum comfort when programming. Another big plus is that the TR-08 will retail for $350, where original TR-808s can sell for more than $4,000 on the used instrument market. That is a far cry from the prices they fetched when it was discontinued in 1983, when original TR-808s could be had for around $100.
This is not the first time that Roland has re-released a classic piece of its drum machine history. In 2016, the company released the TR-09 in a similarly shrunk-down form factor. Roland has also reissued versions of its TB-303 bass synthesizer and VP-330 Vocoder Plus. The company has also recently expanded into the world of audio consumption, with Roland buying headphone and speaker manufacturer V-Moda a year ago.
Those interested in learning more about the new TR-08 can check out Roland’s website.