The TR-8S Rhythm Performer has been hailed as the best release from Roland in quite some time.
The TR-8 was released in 2014 and although it was great to see the continuation of the legendary TR-808 and 909 drum machines, there was still room for improvement.
Enter the TR-8S. Roland always seems to deliver and this time they have added some big improvements to make this drum machine a big hitter in the mid-range market.
The TR series has always been about hands-on control and authentic drum sounds.
The TR-8S continues this legacy and throws a lot more into the mix to create a truly inspirational drum machine for the modern electronic music scene.
The TR-8S does everything that the TR-8 does but with plenty of additions thrown in as well. Today’s technology is put to great use giving you access to more samples and patterns than ever before. The TR-8S has a lot to offer straight out of the box and that 808 sound is still alive!The Analog Circuit Behaviour modeling (ACB) is combined with sample support to give you plenty of audio flexibility. You can create custom drum kits and patterns in combination with your own samples and on-board ACB sounds. This gives you endless options for beats and loops.
The ability to use external WAV and AIFF samples brings a huge amount of potential to the TR-8S. Many drum machines are restricted to on-board samples. This means that you have very little room to create signature sounds and distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack.
Using your own samples to layer individual elements will quickly give you that unique sound that makes your music stand out from the crowd. You’ll find lots of inspiration with all of the authentic TR sounds from the past. If it’s individualism you’re after then you need the TR-8S in your life.
Sound manipulation is one of the key features of the TR-8S drum machine and you can tweak and adjust your drum sounds in many subtle ways. These options include two automated fill sections for each pattern and the ability to lock parameter values to individual sequence steps.
Drum fills are key to building up those unforgettable loops that get stuck in your listeners head. Fills take away the predictability and the TR-8S is loaded with tricks to help you build better loops. You can use one of three types of fill for each pattern either on the fly or as presets.
The beauty of this is that you can quickly throw in fills without having to step out of the loop to create individual fill patterns. It’s instant and you don’t lose the magic of being in the moment. The Scatter Fill function is also another way to cut up your patterns and mix up the loops.
This drum machine is all about control. You can quickly make those small adjustments that take your drum patterns from sounding great to awesome. Tweak your patterns using the Decay and Tune functions plus you can dial in extra dynamic tones with the customizable Control knobs.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the TR-8S. It was always going to be an inspirational bit of kit with such a strong legacy behind it. Roland has always managed to build upon the previous designs but it seems like this version, in particular, is pushing the limits further than ever before.
We’ll carry on with the list of features that this drum machine has at its disposal. You can already see that the ability to work on the fly is a big focus here. The TR-8S also lets you keep a pattern looping while you get to work on your next pattern idea. It’s simple but ever so effective.
All of the settings are stored as you create each pattern. The knob settings, kit, tempo, and effects settings are all saved and you can quickly recall them whenever you want to use that pattern again. A perfect feature for those who like to improvise and create patterns on the fly.
The step-sequencer is synonymous with the original TR-808 and the TR-8S’s version is an excellent offering. The bank of 16 pads are all backlit and it automatically reminds us of the old classic style. You can program patterns up to 32 steps long with per-step settings also available.
The connectivity is extensive and gives you plenty of options to expand your setup. The audio outputs allow you to control other instruments and the inputs give you the option to keep those sounds within the drum machines audio path. Again, flexibility is the number one focus here.
You also get plenty of USB and MIDI connections to work alongside your DAW and other MIDI instruments. The eight analog outputs on the back panel allow you to separate the sounds for easier recording and mixing, plus the USB will send all data to your DAW as individual tracks.
You’ve got everything you need in terms of connectivity and the TR-8S will sit comfortably alongside any other studio equipment. If live performance is more your thing then this drum machine will suit your needs as well. It’s a flexible instrument that needs to be in your setup.
One of the main additions to the TR-8S is the use of external samples. It gives you so much potential and you can find all sorts of options on the internet. We recommend Aira, they have a great set of sample downloads that will give you a professional headstart with your drum loops.
The TR-8 became a force to be reckoned in the studio and for live performers, so the release of the TR-8S was always going to raise a few questions. Would it be worth it? Is it going to be any better?
We can confirm that it’s a yes for both questions although we can appreciate the price tag might be a bit much for some people.
If your budget can stretch to it then you’re not going to be disappointed.
The fact that you can take any sample, whether it’s something you have bought or created yourself, and give it a whole new lease of life using the on-board features will be a huge attraction to many musicians and producers.
The TR-8S is an excellent push forward for the TR range.
It should be a popular choice in the drum machine market for the foreseeable future, well, until Roland release the next TR model anyway!