MATRIXSYNTH: New Analog Mafia RC-808 from Roland's "Mid-O Series" Developers and the "Failed" Roland TR-808

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

New Analog Mafia RC-808 from Roland's "Mid-O Series" Developers and the "Failed" Roland TR-808

Published on Aug 8, 2019 藤本健

Update: demo above spotted and sent in via Soviet Space Child.

This post is a bit of a doozy so bear with me. :)

First we have a new software model of the TR-808 from the original developers of the 808:

"The RC-808 'Re-Create the 808' emulates the original TR-808 sound with analog manner synthesis. As the name implies, it is with respect to the original 808 sounds which is a criterion for sound synthesis as a vintage. Starting from this criterion, explore the multiverse of sounds, stretch out your vectors, to find out new criterion of your own. Yes, it can take you to the new sonic worlds that are completely different and yet so close and familiar to you.
Hence it is not a drum machine but is a drum synthesizer. No samples nor effects processing are being used, just genuine synthesis only, all in analog manner.

The sound source employs DCO which is in this case Down Chirp Oscillator, combined with a noise source that outputs various kinds of noises including metallic noises. There is also a infinite point wave shaper, a variable filter bank, infinite point envelope generators etc. With maximum 8 partials per voice, it allows sound designing in subtractive synthesis manner which is familiar to all and yet still with vast space beckoning to be discovered.
Thanks to this flexible architecture, all instruments can have Open and Close variations just like Hi-Hats or cymbal choke performance. Coupled with piano-roll sequencer utility this brings new expressions with gate time programming, that you don’t see on a drum sequencer..."

You can download the Windows version here. A Mac version is coming.

Second, the following is some info on the people behind the RC-808 (pictured above) via Vector808:

"We the Analog Mafia, lead by Tadao Kikumoto, is the original R&D staffs who developed the Mid-O Series from Roland Corporation. We would like to express full gratitude and respect to all the people who were in Roland, and supported us at that time.

In above photo, from left to right, we the Analog Mafia are:
Jun-ichi Kadoya: Roland 1977 - 1983, Mid-O Series software / hardware engineer, still is a programmer
Hisanori Matsuoka: Roland 1979 - 1995, Mid-O Series software / hardware engineer, still is an engineer
Kyokazu Fujiwara: Roland 1978 - 1981, Mid-O Series sound source, now a general manager of a software maker
Tadao Kikumoto: Roland 1977 - 2009, Mid-O and V-Series R&D, now Silent Street Music concept maker and promotion
Yoshiro O-e: Roland 1978 - 1988, System-700 and Mid-O Series R&D, now operating a chemical company

Also are:
Hiro Nakamura: Roland 1975 - 2000, CR-68, CR-78, TR-808 sound sources, engineer
Atsushi Hoshiai: Roland 1982 - present, sampling for TR-909, engineer

We all are still analog manias ;)

Because we are independent from Roland Corporation, they nor we can not answer to any kind of inquiries about us and our deliverables including this website. Thank you so much for your understanding and cooperation for everything.

Tadao Kikumoto is currently also working busy on another equally innovative project, called SSM - Silent Street Music. It is multi-channel concurrent streaming and listening technology that allows zapping through multiple music or lecture sources instantly. Join us on its exclusive introduction website (at the moment the website is only in Japanese language)"

Third, vector808 has a fascinating historical account covering the development of the Roland TR-808 starting with the x0x series, or as the original Roland developers referred to them, "The Mid-O" series. The following are three excerpts followed by a link to the full article. Note how they perceived the TR-808 was a failure compared to the LinnDrum in the second excerpt.


"The Beginning
In 1983, a number of instruments were released with MIDI, the standard that I was involved in. After the tough times with all the difficulties of development, Roland launched the TR-909 the successor model of TR-808. Yamaha made debut of the ground breaking DX7, a serious digital synthesizer and again with MIDI. It was the opening of the new chapter in the electronic musical instruments, the dawn of full digital synthesis.

Roland then was still a new emerging enterprise, and did not have enough resources to pursue digital technology. To combat the situation, the Fundamental Research and Development Department was established."


"To meet the low target price, I employed oscillation technique of pulse wave modulating the simple T-network bandpass filter. By short circuiting the resistors in the T-type network for the certain initial duration with transistors, it was possible to raise the frequency. This allowed us to enforce the attack sound compared with conventional rhythm boxes.

But the initial reputation of the 808 was nothing but crippled as it was compared with the Linn products. Furthermore, the sound had insufficient impact or punch at the beginning, which resulted to have pronounced fundamental frequency 60 Hz. But then again, it was this prominent fundamental which attracted the attention of later time hip-hop and EDM artists, and they gave a name to it as “Deep Decay”. This led to the rediscovery of Mid-O Series. The long decay sound was made possible by decay parameter that I added to show at least as a sign or as an evidence of the 808 being a synthesizer. Even inside the company this was regarded as going too far, but later it became one of vital identities of the 808.“


"If you liken it in the picture art world, the TR-808 sounds are simple line drawings and illustrations so to speak. It puts more weight on showing essence simply rather than realistic photography. The traditional painting of Japan known as Ukiyo-e is a pictorial method and manner that is primarily made of outlines derived from specification of printing and paints. This manner has its own limits, and hence is a vector of criterion. Katsushika-Hokusai, famous for his Mr Fuji pictures, created The Great Wave off Kanagawa(神奈川南沖浪浦 Kanagawa Minami Oki Nami Ura). In that piece of work, he threw off the photographic details into abstraction that boldly enhanced the great waves by outlines, and made contrast with a pointed Mt Fuji. This manner derived from its own limits is something impossible with realistic paintings that put priorities on details.
The inventor of the bass drum must have done trial and errors like enlarging the diameter or making the membrane thicker to produce fat low sound. Large portion of the beater strike energy to the skin however must have been consumed by uneven fractional vibration or parasite vibrations, resulting unwanted muddy sound. Also, the drummer spends a long time doing a lot of work on damping with blankets and else in order to suppress the unnecessary resonance with the body or with other drums. But once adequately used, this dirt will become important part of the sound, its identity, reality, and criterion.

The TR-808 bass drum was without the reality of the drums but was like an enhanced great wave depicted in the Hokusai’s picture. It is with abstraction of the details, but then again, also with dynamic and ideal low sound. It lacks with the attack impact and the release decay of sampling drum reality, but the artists chose its ideality."

You can find the full article here:

P.S. Not sure if the brand is Analog Mafia, vector808 or both. Giving this post both labels below.

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