Roland revives the TR-808

Anyone into old school synths should check out Rick Wakeman’s “Retro” CD wherein he plays only vintage keyboards. No MIDI!

The SH-101 is coming back too, as the SH-01. Here’s dude jamming on both

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It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.


Digital synths were solved like decades ago; anyone who claims otherwise is just trading in elitism. Which is cool. I fetishize gear as much as anyone else.

The main line of critique I have seen for the 808 boutique is that there aren’t independent audio outs, I think.

But Roland has some really cool stuff also coming out in the boutique format. Check out the SE-02 (a Minimoog clone), and the SH-01A.

Oh and the behringer model D looks amazeballs.

Mr. K himself has said in past interviews that defective transistors in the sound generator were responsible for the 808’s signature sound. When transistor manufacturing yields improved and their supply dried up, they had to discontinue production.

Maybe we’re at a point where we can finally get true-to-life emulation of the 808’s sound on fully digital circuitry, but I’d defer to folks like @popobawa4u and @Israel_B who seem far more knowledgeable about this than I.

I’d say it’s more fetishism than limited supply. Roland made some 12000 units which isn’t what I would consider super rare.

I’ve played with actual 808s before and they are quite amazing. Intuitive to the point where even an idiot like me can come up with sick beats with almost zero effort, which for nearly 40 year old hardware is pretty damn remarkable.


I didn’t realize that about the 808, was this true for the 909 as well? (seems like Acid Lab and Jomox managed to manufacture equivalent offerings)

People REALLY hold onto these — if nobody is selling, there is a scarcity. Right now there’s 1 used unit for sale on, and roughly a dozen on Ebay.

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Oh, FFS. All that effort to model the original circuitry, and we don’t even get it as a DAW plug-in.



Because Roland are selling boxes, taking advantage of the current fetish for cheap boxes as fun items.

I have no interest in even better models of ancient rhythm boxes for my DAW: that shit is old. But put me in front of one of these boxes? I’d have a ton of fun. These are physical items that you plug into processing and kick it live with, not the forefront of contemporary music. Fun. Good fun. Cheap fun.

And they are really taking off with young people playing live who can’t afford the thousands an original goes for. I love it for that if nothing else.


Yeah but out of those 12,000 units, how many are still intact and operable 40 years later?

The interface is lots of the appeal for the TR-08 just because its the same as the 808.

The 909 was digital waveform playback so it didnt exhibit the same behaviors of circuitry. Also why there have been so many perfect software clones.

I will never buy another piece of Behringer gear no matter how attractive the price point. Build quality problems, low grade QA on manufacturing and the fact that they are just blatantly a rip off company.

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The TR909 was all analog with the exception of the sampled cymbals. Even then the sample playback had a crude analog envelope and vca.

I have an original TR909 and while it is loads of fun, I didn’t really understand until I got to play it through a good club sound system. It was intense!


Seriously? Even after an A-B test like this?

The fact of the matter is that I could buy, like what, literally ten Model Ds for the price of one Minimoog.

These are old and well-understood circuits.

Gear fetishization is exactly that: a fetish. I’m happy you are willing to forego all the advantages of a modern manufacturing economy, but some of us want to make music and still hold onto our kidneys.


I find the beauty of the 808 to be not only the sounds you hear, but also how those sounds are made—I absolutely adore the circuit design of the 808’s sound generators. They’re so simple, elegant, and economical. To digitally emulate these circuits is to engage in over-engineering a solution to a problem that’s already been solved. Sure, it may faithfully replicate the sound of the original, but it’s still a simulacrum that fails to accomplish what it’s intended to accomplish by the most straight forward means possible. The analog circuity of the 808 will always be simplest way to achieve the sound of the 808: I guarantee you there’s at least an order of magnitude more transistors in the TR-08 than the TR-808. Just look at the schematics: it’s damn good design.

So why use something as powerful as a modern-day digital synth for a task that something less powerful is perfectly capable of doing? It’s overkill. And why buy a digital synth that only permits you to use its presets, when you can buy one that allows you to actually synthesize with it? With the TR-08, you’re sacrificing control. With the original 808, you could mod it, and fix it if a component failed. Good luck doing that with this thing; if you try, you’ll probably end up violating some legal agreement you didn’t know you agreed to.

So yeah, I won’t be buying one.


We’re both right and wrong.

All the TR-x0x drum machines shined best on large speakers. I still have two 707s, they sound flat on home speakers but in studios and clubs they too shine. While the 707 never really had the appeal of the 808/909, the fact that you can use it as a MIDI to CV clock trigger and the built in mixer always appealed to me.

Its not an issue of fetishization for me at all. I’ve just had or scene too many of their products with poor build quality, DOA out of the box or total failure during performance. Sometimes cheap aint worth the price.

That article is bunkum. Check the schematics…

You can see the drums are all analog and the cymbals are counters addressing memory chips, summed through resistors and enveloped by a crude fet vca.


I swear we have had this conversation before…


Thanks for the correction. Now I know better.

You actually remembered this conversation from two years ago?


That’s how the 707 works also, which shares the same cymbal sounds, It’s a discrete… like 6-bit R2R DAC? I hacked my 707 VCAs with fine wires to allow manual decay controls with pots, and switches so I can switch the envelope shapes between drums. Pitching down the toms and changing their envelopes as they played by triggering muted hits was how 707 tablas were born.

Yes, I get my hands dirty with drum machine innards, so the TR-08 isn’t really for me.


I approve of this idea. I kind of want to try this with one of my 707s but don’t trust my soldering skills.


Where’s the 303, though?