Roland TR-8 Rhythm Performer
Roland TR-8 Rhythm Performer

The first thing I thought when I pulled the TR-8 out of its box was “Wow, that looks great. All of the hardware knobs, sliders and buttons have a top-grade feel. Now, if it only sounds and works as good as it looks.” I wasn’t disappointed. Using their latest circuit modeling technology, the TR-8 accurately reproduces two of Roland’s classic rhythm machines — the TR-808 and TR-909 — while combining modern touches with traditional functionality for an overall experience that’s a blast. Mix and match to your heart’s content. Along with your traditional rhythm elements, the boom of the 808 and slamming thud of the 909 are there. The snap and crack of the snares are there as well. And, they even give you control over pitch, decay and instrument effect.

Even if you’ve never owned the originals, the TR-8 is pretty straightforward. Its 16 colored step buttons feel solid and are touch-sensitive. Not only do you program your “beats” with these steps, but effects, accents and side-chain activation as well. The side-chain provides that club “pump” effect so common in today’s dance music, but makes it easier than any product or software that I know of to instantly create rhythmic variations. Simply connect an external audio source, choose the amount you want in the mix and then use the step buttons to place where it “hits” in the beat. You could even sub-mix several sources and select which ones you want side-chained in real-time (perfect for live environments). Additionally, a dedicated shuffle knob can immediately swing the beat faster or slower while the innovative Scatter function produces a variety of stutter effects in real-time. The creative options are plentiful.

Bottom line: I’ve rarely had this much pure fun fluidly creating beats.

—Expert Product Review by Andy McKenzie, Sam Ash Pro