TR-808 Drum Machine Flashback

Revisiting the TR-808 Drum Machine


Author: Oz Owen and Roland UK Features Team

Let’s kick this off with a little bit of trivia: the TR- 808 has been used on more hit records than any other drum machine. Read that again. This simple fact is made all the more improbable when you look back at the inauspicious launch of the TR-808. The year is 1980, and Linn has just unleashed the (much more expensive) LM-1 sampling drum machine. Consequently the TR-808 is considered a poor relation due to its synthesized sounds and lack of “pro” features. A pretty harsh debut, given that the TR-808’s designers intended for it to provide rhythmic backing for demos. So against the odds, just how did Roland’s all-analog beatbox prevail to become the world’s most popular programmable drum machine? More