“It’s almost impossible to imagine the modern musical landscape without the distinctive sounds of the Roland TR-808 drum machine.”
A Legend in the Making
In 1980, the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was released as a quick and easy songwriting tool for musicians. At the time, the high cost of memory drove Roland engineers to use analog synthesis instead of samples for its sounds. Through a series of happy accidents, they utilized unique transistors, creating a one-of-a-kind sound that set the 808 in its own sonic universe. However, it didn’t exactly deliver “traditional” or “realistic” drum sounds, leading to it being dismissed by many at the time, with only about 12,000 units ever made.
The Thing That Goes Boom
Once a few adventurous musicians and producers got their hands on the TR-808 and started tweaking those knobs, the world began to (literally) feel the impact it would leave on music forever. For decades since, the sizzling hi-hats and snappy snare, the clicky rim shot, the unmistakable cowbell, and yes—that booming bass drum—have been heard on worldwide hits and underground classics.
That 8 Oh 8
Increasingly revered by musicians and producers around the globe, the TR-808’s influence only continues to grow. New musical genres make heavy use of the 808 sound, with some utilizing it as the main instrument and defining sound of the style. Its influence is so deep that it’s been name-dropped in famous songs, had albums dedicated to it, had bands named after it, and even been the subject of a feature-length documentary film. For some younger music fans, the 808 is no oddity—it’s simply “what drums sound like.”
Plug In Your Own TR-808
Original TR-808 units sell for huge sums on the used market, and its sound is often imitated with sample-packs and knockoffs. But the 808 is a complex beast and far more than the sum of its parts. Using our proprietary Analog Circuit Behavior technology, we’ve painstakingly recreated the original analog circuits that are the essence of the TR-808’s sound. Our TR-808 plug-in sounds identical to the original—with all its nuance and detail—while adding some groundbreaking new features:
- Tuning and decay on each instrument and the ability to overdrive the internal circuitry update the 808 for modern sounds
- The classic 808 step sequencer expands with lanes for each sound, so you can program faster and more fluidly
- Each pattern has eight variations for evolving sequences that keep things interesting
- Drag and drop audio or MIDI patterns directly from the 808 into a project
- Adjustable flams, sub-steps, and soft hits create detailed fills and ratcheted sequences
- Each instrument has its own “last step” and shuffle settings so you can play with timing, experiment with complex meters, and dial in just the right groove
Our TR-808 software instrument integrates seamlessly with our TR-8S Rhythm Performer and TR-08 Roland Boutique hardware. Transfer TR-8S patterns directly into the TR-808 plug-in or create beats on the go and send them back to the hardware. Or you can use the TR-8S or TR-08 for direct hands-on control of the plug-in.
Join Roland Cloud today for the famous boom and sizzle of the 808 along with a host of other legendary Roland instruments. Curious to hear what came after the 808? Check out its equally influential sibling and a dance music staple: the TR-909.