8 reasons we’re excited about the new Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer

It’s been just over four years since Roland’s ground breaking Aira series of products were unleashed into the world. They have been hugely successful due to their obvious celebration of the genre defining machines that they emulate and because they looked forward, with brand new technology and features, built for a modern market.

To add to this range, Roland have just announced the TR8S Rhythm Performer. It looks amazing! Here’s 8 reasons we’re so excited about it.


1. Sounds


Much like the existing TR-8, it has models of the TR-808, TR-909, TR-606, TR-707 and TR-727. However, there is one crucial difference. The TR-8S uses a new version of ACB (Analogue Circuit Behaviour) technology. This means that the sounds on board behave and sound more like the originals than ever before. In addition to this, there are 300 sampled sounds too!

Why is this good? Bigger, fatter and more present sounds which behave more like the original devices plus a load of other sounds to pick from.


2. Sample playback


As well as the built in sounds, TR-8S allows you to import .WAV or .AIFF files directly, via the SD card slot. It is not a sampler where you can record sounds in real time but, by importing audio files, you can sequence any sound you like.  Each sample can be a maximum of 180 seconds with a total sample time of 600 seconds in mono. What’s more, we can affect and modify these sounds with the various controls and effects built in. More on these later.


3. Sequencing


The sequencer has been upgraded a fair bit here. On the original TR-8 we can sequence a maximum of 32 steps per pattern with storage for up to 32 patterns. Each pattern on the TR-8S has 8 different variations which means we can sequence up to 128 steps per pattern with a total memory of 128 patterns!
To make things even more flexible, it is possible to set a separate “last step” per instrument meaning that interesting poly rhythmic sequences can be easily constructed. 32nd note steps can also be added without having to change the scale length. As a result of all this, the sequencer is incredibly versatile allowing for really unusual and interesting rhythmic options.


4. Effects


There are loads of effects inside the TR-8S and they are split into different sections. “INST EFFECTS” are effects that can be applied to each track individually.  This means that each track can have its own filters, drive, compressors, transient processor, bit crusher and boosters giving you an unprecedented level of experimentation and expression on your drum sounds and samples.
There is a reverb unit with 6 different ambient setting and a delay unit with 3 delay types, including tape echo, perfect for spacey grooves.
The “MASTER EFFECTS” Section gives you even more to choose from, including all of the above, with the addition of fuzz, distortion, flanger, phaser, side band filter and noise generator.
Finally, there’s various side chain modes for the external in and good old “Scatter” tucked away in the “fill in” section. More on this later.


5. Work Flow


My favourite thing about the original TR-8 is how quickly and easily you can get ideas together on it. It is so user friendly that we have successfully taught kids under 10 as well as adults who’ve never even used a drum machine how to sequence on it.  The key to this is its great user interface and the TR-8S offers a similar workflow. With more features, there’s more to do on the panel to access them, however, the TR-8S seems to keep everything quick and intuitive.
Any sound can be assigned to any channel or even duplicated, meaning we could have any combination of sounds we want.  You could even have 8 different kick drums running on 8 separate tracks.
Sounds can be easily manipulated using the dedicated controls for pitch and decay as well as edited further using the the assignable control knobs. A huge upgrade is being able record parameter automation via the “Motion Record” controls. This really opens the door to melodic sequences and unusual characteristics, helping further increase how unique your beats are.
Another great addition is the “INST PAD” which allows you to tap your sequences in in real time manually. It’s also velocity sensitive, meaning yet another level of variation and expression is at your finger tips.


6. Performance


One of the real advantages of instruments like these is how easy and fun they are to perform with. Not only are they incredibly stable, their whole interface is geared towards live interaction and experimentation.
For example, the “FILL IN” control allows us to place drum fills every 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 or 32 bars with custom drum fills or the “scatter effect”.  If you want to do these a bit more spontaneously, you can hit the manual control button to trigger them when you see fit.
A clear 2 line LCD helps you see exactly what’s going on, especially helpful when playing with multi effects or assigning controls or samples.  From here you can also back up all your beats, samples and settings to SD card so if someone spills a pint on your machine, your ideas are safe, ready to go in a new TR-8S after you bill them for it.


7. Connections


After getting a lot of user feedback from the original TR-8 customers, Roland have responded by putting loads of connections on the back. There’s a main left and right out as well as 6 assignable 1/4″ jack outs. These can double as analogue trigger outputs, ready to plug into an array of other synths and modules. In addition to these, there’s a separate 3.5 mm trigger output, with it’s own sequencer track. This is great if you have any of the boutique series or the System 8 as you can use it to step forward notes in the sequence, giving you constantly evolving patterns.
It has MIDI in and out as well as USB for sending each instrument into a DAW on a separate channel. It also sends MIDI over the USB so you can use it as a control surface.
In a similar way to the TR-8 it has an audio input as well, ready to process the sound from external devices using the side chain and other effects.


8.  Available now!


Finally, these will be in store this Friday or Saturday, ready to go and at £609, they are incredible value for money. So what are you waiting for! Come in and try one out or place an order now!


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