The Best Hardware Drum Machine for Many People in 2020

A part visible of the Roland TR-808 drum computer and also of the Linn Electronics LinnDrum drum computer

There are some great hardware drum machines on which we can program drums and drum rhythms that we can use in our productions or live performances. However, not all of those machines have drum sounds that many people like consciously or unconsciously. The purpose of this post is to inform you about a drum machine that can be the best choice for many people.

What is for many people the best hardware drum machine? The drum machine TR-8S from Roland is the best choice for many people for our productions or in live performances. This machine has sounds from the 909, 808, 727, 707, 626, and 606 TR drum machines, but also many more with non-TR drum machine sounds. Many people recognize these TR drum machine sounds from songs, and the TR-8S creates these sounds with circuit-modeling, by which it behaves exactly like the original hardware.

After this introduction, this post goes more in-depth about why the Roland TR-8S for many people the best drum machine is.

The TR Drum Machine Sounds

Probably most people today have heard some of the Roland TR drum machine sounds. However, not all those people are aware of it that sounds they have heard such sounds. The most popular TR drum machine sounds are the 808 and the 909.

Many people like me want to make drums rhythms that sound as good/similar as in their favorite songs. By knowing that the TR-808 and TR-909 drums are that well-known/good sounding, the Roland TR-8S becomes very interesting for many people.

Artists used the TR-808 and TR-909 drums in many songs. The TR-909 Wikipedia page mentions that the 808 was influential in the development of hip hop and that the 909 was more influential in the techno and house music genres. However, there are hip hop songs with 909 drums, and there are techno and house songs with 808 drums, which the subsections below explain.

The LCD of a Roland TR-8S that shows the active TR-808 drum kit

The Roland TR-808

The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer is a drum machine. Between 1980 and 1983, the Roland Corporation manufactured this machine. TR-808 was one of the first drum machines with the possibility to program rhythms, and it generates sounds with analog synthesis.

Some of the reviews the TR-808 received called the drum sound of this machine unrealistic. The TR-808 was a commercial failure, and Roland discontinued this machine. Roland built only around 12000 units of the TR-808.

After Roland discontinued the TR-808 in 1983, the price of this machine often dropped under $100. Since the TR-808 was easy to use, was now better affordable, and had a characteristic sound, it became an important factor in music. Today an original TR-808 is way more expensive than $100.

These mentioned things about the TR-808 came from the TR-808 Wikipedia page. If you want to know more about these things, reading this page is probably a good option.

Today, there are countless songs with TR-808 drums, like these ten songs mentioned songs by Flavorwire. Also, The New Yorker and the Roland mentioned the rich history of TR-808 music in the EDM and the non-EDM genres.

There is a documentary film about the Roland TR-808 drum machine with the name 808. Rotten Tomatoes is positive about this film, and here follows the trailer of it.

The Roland TR-909

The Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer drum machine is the successor of the TR-808. In 1983 the Roland Corporation manufactured this machine for about one year long. Further, this machine was Roland’s first drum machine that uses samples and MIDI.

Like the TR-808, the TR-909 was also a commercial failure since people preferred the more realistic sampled sounds of alternatives, such as the Linn Electronics LinnDrum. Roland built only around 10000 units of the TR-909. Further, in 1984 Roland replaced this machine for the TR-707, which uses only samples for its sounds.

When TR-909 was released, it cost around $1195. Today I looked on eBay and saw this machine sold for $8786. In my opinion, these prices are very high, and probably too high for many people.

These mentioned things about the TR-909 came from the TR-909 Wikipedia page. Therefore, if you want to know more about these things, reading that page is probably a good thing to do.

Same as for the TR-808, there are countless songs with TR-909 drums. However, probably most of the 909 songs are within the house and techno genres, like the songs that Complex and Mixmag mentioned.

A Roland TR-8S that shows an open hi-hat rhythm and on the LCD the active TR-909 drum kit

The Other Roland TR Machines

As already mentioned in the introduction, there are also other TR machines besides the 808 and the 909 available on the TR-8S, which are the 727, 707, 626, and 606. The Roland Corporation provides an overview of all their TR and other machines in a timeline.

When we look at Roland’s timeline machines overview, we can see some TR machines that are not available on the TR-8S, such as the 505. The missing 505 is not a problem since the 626 is the same as the 505, but with additional sounds and more control. The other missing TR-machines like the TR-66 are very rare, and therefore probably (almost) nobody misses them.

Roland TR-8S

The Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer is a drum machine. This machine is inspired by the Roland legacy, which consists of the most influential and famous drum machines ever made.

By looking at the features and specifications of the TR-8S, we can see many advantages that TR-8S have above some alternatives. However, if something is an advantage depends on the needs of the person. The possible advantages follow in the subsections below.

Possible Advantages of How the Percussions (Such as Drums) Sound

Here follow some possible advantages of how the TR-8S percussions (such as drums) sound:

  • The drum machine can make the drum sounds from the 909, 808, 727, 707, 626, and 606 TR drum machines with circuit-modeling, by which it behaves exactly like the original hardware. Also, we modify the bass drum (kick) and snare drum as we can on the original hardware (attack and snap) with CTRL knob. Many people recognize these TR drum machine sounds from songs consciously or unconsciously.
  • On my received TR-8S (and probably every other TR-8S) are 86 drum kits directly available, by which the TR drum machine kits are part of it. Many of those drum kits are based on sound samples, and are great sounding, in my opinion, which we also can modify with using the buttons. Moreover, the TR-8S supports up to 128 drum kits, and we can make new drum kits from the available kits in combination with our (not TR-8S) samples.
  • The TR-8S does not only have percussion sound samples. Also, the machine has samples of sound effects, voices, synths, and scaled (like a piano) sounds.
  • There are many choosable sounds effects on the drum machine, such as reverb, echo, filters, and distortion. There are 22 of those effects that we can use on drums and 19 that we can use on the master channel (the combined result sound of all the individual sounds). Also, it has a side-chain effect for external in, and a scatter effect as auto fill-in function.

Other Possible Advantages

Here follow some possible advantages of the TR-8S:

  • Roland made the drum machine with the goal that it is usable in our productions or live performances.
  • We can add fill patterns that come every 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 bars.
  • Possible to modify drum parts and drum patterns without interrupting the currently playing patterns.
  • Creation of drum patterns with fills using accents, velocity, sub-steps, and flams.
  • Possible to make drum patterns in polyrhythms and complex meters.
  • Possible to create melodies, basslines, chords, and similar things with the motion feature and selecting an appropriate sample sound, such as a synth sound.
  • In a way, the TR-8S is a drum machine that consists of multiple drum machines. Therefore, it saves space and can be convenient when we want to use drum sounds from multiple machines. Also, it can decrease the costs since buying multiple machines probably always ends up in higher costs.
  • By connecting the TR-8S to a computer with a USB cable, we transfer MIDI and audio over it. Therefore, we can record each drum in a different channel in our DAW, or use the DAW to change parameters on the TR-8S. Also, we can sync the TR-8S to a computer or something like the Roland MX-1 Mix Performer.
  • The TR-8S has a design with RGB color faders and buttons, which are customizable. The design looks great but also gives feedback, like what is playing.
  • It has a backlit LCD that also shows feedback to the user, such as which drum kit is active.
  • Possible to backup drum kits and patterns on an SD card.

Closing Words

Hopefully, you have learned something about why the Roland TR-8S drum machine is the best choice for many people. Furthermore, maybe this post even helped you with choosing a drum machine, which would be great.

If you like this post, then you may want to look at some posts in the lifestyle part, since this post is also part of it.

When you know someone who likes to know more about a drum machine that is for many people the best choice in 2020, then feel free to share this post. Additionally, what is your favorite drum machine, and why?

By Markus Kreukniet

Markus Kreukniet is an electronic dance music (EDM) producer and founder of Passion for EDM. He wants to share his EDM knowledge with the rest of the world. Read more about Markus Kreukniet.

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