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Roland’s new rhythm performer is also five classic drum machines in one

Roland’s new rhythm performer is also five classic drum machines in one


Get familiar with the TR-8S

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Today Roland announced its new flagship drum machine, the TR-8S. Succeeding the Aria TR-8, which came out in 2014, the TR-8S brings sound libraries from five classic machines — the 808, 606, 909, 707, and 727 — and expanded performance capabilities, informed mostly, Roland says, by customer feedback over the past several years.

The TR-8S is a rhythm performer, designed with live sets in mind. There is a lot new with this version in comparison to the TR-8, but immediately noticeable is the sleeker and lower profile, along with RGB color faders. The faders can have individually customized brightness, glow, and color, useful for distinguishing sounds or grouping sets of sounds together.

Another essential update: the TR-8S comes with all the sounds from Roland’s iconic 808, 606, 909, 707, and 727, along with additional modified versions. These are not sample packs, but instead use Roland’s Analogue Circuit Behavior (ACB) modeling so that everything “sounds and behaves exactly like the original hardware.”

On the back, there’s stereo and six assignable audio outputs, a dedicated trigger output and trigger track to control external analog gear, a multi-channel audio/MIDI interface, and an SD card slot for importing your own samples and backing up files. If you load in your own samples, the TR-8S allows for a maximum of 600 seconds of 44.1 kHz mono audio, with a per-file limit of 180 seconds. This, combined with the massively enhanced on-board library, means there is not only a wealth of sounds immediately available, but it’s effortless to add your own to really personalize the hardware.

Roland TR-8S
Image: Roland

Also on deck are built-in effects like tune and decay that can be slapped on the master output or individually assigned to channels. Once assigned, parameters for the effect — like filter cutoff — can be mapped to control knobs in a channel. All your knob and effect settings can be saved within a kit, and the TR-8S can hold up to 128 of these kits (a kit is a group of sounds with their settings). The sequencer itself can also now store 128 patterns, and each one of these patterns can have up to eight variations and three fills. All of these patterns can be triggered individually or chained together to create longer phrases and more complex combinations. In addition to the 16-step sequencer there’s now also a velocity-sensitive performance pad on the right side of the machine, allowing for punching in accent, flam, and velocity on the fly.

Automation is another key feature that sets apart the TR-8S. You can automate any parameter you could want, from effects, to panning, to pitch. All motion recording is immediate, and motion playback can be instantly turned on or off. Also in automation: while fills can be customized and made from scratch, there’s an auto-fill option as well, which can automate fills every 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 measures, which can leave your hands free to play around with other parts of the TR-8S.

Visit Roland for full specs on the TR-8S Rhythm Performer, available later this month for $699.