MATRIXSYNTH: Roland TR-808 | The Best Drum Machine Ever Made?

Monday, February 22, 2021

Roland TR-808 | The Best Drum Machine Ever Made?

video by Espen Kraft

"Roland TR-808 drum machine. A timeless classic that delivers again and again. As prices soar through the roof I find out if it's really worth it. Is it?

Well, I'm a converted man. Happened just now.

Here's my story... I've used the real TR-808 in the past, but never more than very briefly each time. I never had the chance to sit down with it, for an extended period of time.

Until now...

So, like so many others, I turned to samples of it (and I actually still have some samples I sampled from a real one many many years ago, based off a audio-file of all the drums in sequence) and I've been happy using that. I've also used some emulators and clones of it. Worked well too. In a mix, no one will know the difference. But then there is GETTING to that result, how much should you enjoy going towards the end goal? And how much can that trip alter the final outcome?

Having this now, at my disposal for a period of time, has made my appreciate it way much more, as an instrument. This thing is ALIVE and the sounds simply has that early 80s kind of "dull" sound to it that is just right. It's not hyped in the upper frequencies as all emulations and clones suffer from and it's just incredibly alive. It's hard to explain really.

Of course these drum sounds aren't suitable for everything and many songs requires something else entirely, but if I'm in need for the classic 800 sounds, I cannot begin to think of using something else than patterns written on the original itself. And that in itself poses a real challenge, since this 808 isn't mine! :P

I have to figure something out I guess.....

The track I use to start the video (after my intro) is of course "Sexual Healing", a classic 808 song. I've taken liberties with the patterns, again to showcase more on the 808.
The bass, piano, guitar (sampled) and strings are all sequenced live together with the 808 synced through the Doepfer MSY2 giving Din sync to the 808.
Everything is recorded live. The drums are then summed into the SSL SiX with a couple of SSL 611 EQs inserted. The SSL 611 EQs are set to give the 808 a real "oompf" and glossy high end. It's all then pumped through the SSL Bus compressor for final output.

The rest of the instruments/sounds are getting some of the same treatment as well, so these 3 minutes of sexual healing has gone through the whole Espen Kraft "full production" machinery really. ;-)"


  1. TR 909 is the best drum machine ever made.

  2. Someone obviously hasn't used a Pulsar-23 yet.



Patch n Tweak

© Matrixsynth - All posts are presented here for informative, historical and educative purposes as applicable within fair use.
MATRIXSYNTH is supported by affiliate links that use cookies to track clickthroughs and sales. See the privacy policy for details.