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Roland TR-808 Rhythm COmposer
General Specs
Controls: Power On/Off Switch, Mode Selector, Rhythm Programming Modes, Play Modes, Compose Mode, Instrument/Track Selector, Tempo Control, Auto Fill In Selector, Voice Selectors, Step Buttons, Basic Variation Switch, I/F Variation Switch, Start/Stop Button, Tap Button, Master Volume
Output: Master Out Hi/Low, (8) Multi-Instrument Outs, (2) Pedal Switch Jacks, Sync In/Out, (3) Trigger Jacks
Years in use: 1981
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).

Jimmy Page used a Roland G-505 Guitar Synthesizer Controller Guitar, G-808 Guitar, TR-808 Rhythm Composer and (2) GR-300 Guitar Synthesizers (connected via US-2 Unit Switcher) in composing the soundtrack to the 1982 movie Death Wish II.


Roland TR-808
Roland TR-808
Guitar Player, April 1982 Advertisement

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