The Roland TR-08 release date was expected for a long time. In 2017, the Japanese Brand finally released a truly faithful and improved replication of its well-known TR-808. Back in the 1980s, the original 808 defied sound and genres to become one of the most popular products in the electronic music world. Our Roland TR-08 review demonstrates how its successor brings the look, sound, and feel of the authentic 808 (with technological improvements) back to the forefront.
- overall rating 86% 86%
- Features 80% 80%
- Design 100% 100%
- Performance 85% 85%
- Specifications 80% 80%
Compact & portable
Easy to use
Only mini jack included
Knobs are too close to each other
Roland TR-08 Key Features
Ultra-compact recreation of the legendary TR-808 drum machine
Programmable via classic Step and Tap write modes
Includes DK-01 Boutique Dock for multiple-angle viewing
Dedicated, track-selectable trigger output for controlling external instruments
Hands-on control including tone, level, tuning, and decay
Added Compressor, Gain, Tune, and Pan for selected instruments
Battery-operated (4 x AA) or USB powered
Sequencer has 16 steps with 16 sub-steps for detailed patterns and rolls
Built-in powered mini-speaker
What is the TR- 08 best at…
What was the TR-808 known for?
- Sizzling hi-hats and snappy snare
- Robotic sound
- Clicky rimshot
- Unmistakable cowbell
- Booming bass drum
Roland TR-08 Review
Functionalities & features of the Roland TR-08
Obviously, the Roland “boutique” TR-08 has modernized the original TR-808 with more precise features. Now, you have the possibility to create accurate and intricate snare fills thanks to its 16 sub-steps per step sequencer. Moreover, you can also use the TAP button which allows you to generate any beats you want (as seen in the Roland TR 08 tutorial below).
The TR-08 is also battery powered and incorporates USB (audio/MIDI) and MIDI DIN connections. Additionally, the built-in battery offers lots of comfort in any situation. The drum machine includes a built-in mini speaker as well.
Moreover, Roland has included a built-in compressor. Sound-wise, 11 instruments are present on this new version. 5 of them are switchable, meaning that there are 16 different possible sounds. However, you cannot program 16 sounds simultaneously. Each instrument has its own sound level, some has tone and tuning (for instance, the drum and snare drum have tone and tuning).
You also have to keep in mind that this drum machine isn’t meant to be a drum machine with which you can play sounds easily. Conversely, it is much more like a sound programming drum machine. It has 2 pattern parts. If you use the first one, you can have a 16 step pattern. On the other hand, if you want a longer pattern, you could go into the 2nd part to have a 20 step pattern.
Furthermore, compression, gain and tuning can be added to bass drum sounds using the “menu/substep” button. Essentially, the substep function to give more action in the pattern. Roland also offers a DB step function which further contributes to a deep sound.
Decay and a pan functions are featured as well to let you modify the sounds to your own taste. Furthermore, the instructive Roland TR-08 manual will help you master the drum machine quickly. Another source of useful information is the youtube channel of the brand or videos by passionate users which demonstrate some useful tr 08 tips.
“The idea is that the product isn’t meant to be a versatile groundbreaking unit. The primary idea is to simulate the original TR-808.”
Handclaps cannot go as low as you wish but the idea is that this product isn’t meant to be a versatile and groundbreaking unit. In fact, the primary idea is to simulate the original 808. In that respect, the Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) contributes to this impression and delivers a vibrant and lively sound. With its extensive functionalities and features, the Roland TR-08 price seems completely justified.
Connectivity of the Roland TR-08
MIDI controllers can be plugged (through a mini-jack) into the Roland TR-08 to trigger the sounds through your MIDI controller. Triggering means that all the sounds of the TR-08 can be instantly accessible through your MIDI controller (all the congas or toms for example).
Additionally, the originality with the TR-08 is that you can use your laptop to record a pattern. The great thing is that it is possible to simultaneously record all the channels from the TR-08 on separate individual tracks (also processed separately). In terms of connectivity features in relation to your computer, there is a decent feature which allows you to choose which drums you want within the mix or the stereo mix.
Roland TR-08 Design
The overall design is similar to what the original looked like. Nonetheless, it is important to mention that the TR-08 is much smaller (Size: 30.8 (w) * 13 (d) * 5.1 (h) cm | 12*5*2 inches) and lighter (1.3 kg) which also makes it more portable than its predecessor. For the rest, Roland kept the same color scheme and nearly identical buttons and knobs disposition.
The construction of the TR-08 is well thought out. Indeed, the machine gives you 3 different angles (flat/mid/straight angles). Accordingly, it has a nice usability which is paired with a solid build quality.
However, having mentioned the reduced size earlier, at moments, you may be uncomfortable with the confined design of this drum machine. A final feature worth mentioning is the mix-in which allows you to pass the sound through other drum machines for extended creativity.
How Does The Roland TR-08 Compare?
TR-09 Rhythm Composer Review
- 80% 80%
Just like the TR-08, the TR-09 is a modernized drum machine of the legendary TR-909. It has the same front-panel layout and user interface (like the original). Like the TR-08, it has also the ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) technology and includes a built-in speaker. Despite its compact size, the TR-09 offers a tremendous amount of sound features, drum parameters, and switching modes. Pertaining to user memory, the TR-09 has more patterns and tracks.
For studio purposes, it has many outputs: USB audio, external instrument control via a trigger output, and USB MIDI. The rhythm composer of the drum machine features 16 steps with 16 sub-steps and 11 instruments. Overall, the TR-08 offers a little bit more controller features which have a slight impact on the price. Finally, it is worth mentioning that size and weight are approximately the same as the original model.
What we actually appreciate with this Roland TR-08 is that it gives additional functions and subtle tonal variations making patterns more interesting compared to the old 808. To conclude, what is also worth mentioning in this Roland TR-08 review is the ability of the device to output audio over USB.