Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer – Return of the groove box

Roland TR-8S

This is an exciting new drum machine / grove machine released by Roland.  The TR-8S is one amazing, capable, versatile, powerful  stand alone drum machine device.

Roland TR-8S
Roland TR-8S

Automate, Automate, Automate

Being a one person EDM performer, beat maker is a challenging task, you have to cover a wide array of sounds that would normally make up a 3-10 person band / musical group.  Most of the time one drum machine will never be enough, there is just so much a single machine can do.  The Roland Tr-8S is a rare exception to this rule.  The TR-8s can automate nearly every significant parameter in a way that enhances live performance and compositions.  When you can automate parameters across a pattern  you can make amazingly complex sounds and tracks that stand out above a typical programmed electronic beat.


Combine, Combine, Combine

One innovate, out of the box thinking feature that  the developers TR-8S came up with is the idea of combining a library of classic Roland drum machine sounds with any samples you wish to load yourself using the on board SD card slot. In addition to combining your samples with the classic Roland drum sounds, you can tweak the classic sounds to your liking as well, this really opens up the capabilities of what would otherwise be a typical remake of classic drum machines.  It really is the best  of both worlds.


Let’s dig into the features

  • First and foremost, this is not just a drum machine, this is an extensive sound library of decades of Roland’s classic drum machines used across a wide array of professional musical compositions.  All of it is at your fingertips.
  • Analog modeling on a circuit to circuit is a new innovation over the typical analog simulations done with computers today.
  • Import your sounds in either WAV or AIFF format frendly to MAC OSX or Typical windows DAW workstations.
  • 81 ACB analog modeled drum sounds.
  • 150 factory on board sounds
  • 600 second sample time makes for a remixer’s dream come true
  • 180 second individual sample time.
  • 11 part step sequencer.
  • 1 part trigger for the on board 1/8th inch output.
  • Parameter locking on any sequence step.
  • Midi clock sync with computer, external gear, Aria gear etc..
  • Tempo controls and TR909 style shuffle control.
  • 16 backlit step control buttons for expressive pattern creation
  • Classic TR-REC sequencing control
  • Step and real time recording gives you control over the groove feel from either a robotic step sequenced sound or human un quantized fee.
  • Real time accenting control for unique groove sound.
  • 8 analog outputs so you can use a giant board of effects and processing in your studio ir live setup (amazing pro feature).
  • Built in computer DAW interface so there is no need to record the audio out if want to directly record to your DAW (digital audio workstation AKA a computer).
  • Program patterns while patterns play allowing for on the fly performance  live session feel.
  • Three drum fill types and eight variations per pattern offer a vast performance setup.

Solid Construction

Your TR-8S is built better than a military tank which is important for touring, jamming and traveling with music gear as many different hazards can affect your gear.

Drum Fills

Drum fills are usually an advanced part of drum machine programming, with the TR-8S drum fills become far more accessible to the user via the three fill per part structure, fills can be triggered on the fly to create a far more complex, non repetitive drum sequence in a live type of environment.

Scatter Fill

Scatter fill is a new feature from the TR-8S that scatters (slices a measure) of your beat to create a unique fill.  You can then store eight variations of these patterns giving you powerful unheard of live performance potential.  This feature can really spice up your live performance as well as studio creations.


Auto-Fill Function

Never before has a drum machine/ grove box been so feature rich with regard to drum fills.  The auto fill feature can automate the playing of drum fills triggered on the second, 4th, 8th, 16, 24, and 32 measure spaces this keeps you from having to program drum fill patterns and frees up time and creativity, this may seem like a small feature unless you’ve tried to construct a long drum pattern with fills and spaces in your music.


Full control of samples and sounds

The Roland TR-8S gives you full control of the decay, tuning, start stop points, speed and direction (forward and reverse) of any sample or sound.  With that level of control you can create fully custom sounds and beats/grooves that stand out.


Drum Effects

The TR-8S can control the depth, spacing of each individual drum sound.   One can apply delay, overdrive, filters, reverb on any individual drum sound in a unique to each sound way. Each sound has a custom control knob that allows you to control the effect parameters of your choice on the fly.  The master effects know controls the effects at a global level.  All parameters of your effects are saved which keeps your sequences as you left them and ready for live performances.

Live and Studio work at the same time

A very fun, productivity enhancing aspect of the TR-8S is the uncanny ability of this machine to sort of morph between creating a pattern and playing it live back and fourth as you go.  Usually the workflow of a drum machine is time consuming and repetitive if you try to jam out a beat, you may be stuck listening to the same beat for 35- 40 minutes and before long you’re tired of the repetition even though the beat is solid and good sounding.  When you can create your variations more quickly you end up with a larger pallet of fills, variations and sequence changes that make for a faster experience that crates better music.

Imagine being able to tweak your drum sounds  without having to stop everything and focus on a specific sound, that is the power the TR-8S can give you in real time.


Poly Rhythms

Anyone who has tried to create unique/ poly rhythms on standard drum machines can tell you how difficult it can be with standard drum machines.  The TR-8S makes this kind of experimentation much more at your finger tips with the ability to change the last step of any drum part, this alone makes this drum machine stand out above others like many other features do.


Simplicity, Colors, And Ease of Use

The TR-8S has a very well designed and thought out layout that makes the important aspects of your groove/beat highly visible and controllable in dim light situations all too common with electronic music performance. The colors are pleasing to the eyes as well and do blast your eyes with a computer screen like so many laptop performance setups have these days.


Standalone or Work with a Setup

With 8 analog outputs and full midi syncing capability you have the option of putting the TR-8S in the middle of a giant octopus style setup or if you prefer simplicity and.or are on a budget you can use the TR-8S by itself and have a full rich sounding experience from the device on a standalone basis.


Is This Drum Machine For Me?


You can get a wide variety of electronic music styles and perhaps hip hop styles with this drum machine. It really does seem to be made for the live performer, vintage drum machine enthusiast. The remixing ability is there as well with 600 seconds of sample time and the dramatic effect, sequencing on the fly abilty the TR-8S gives you. The price tag is about the same as a used macbook so it is relatively affordable. This could be your one drum machine depending on your lust for gear and budget.