2014-01-17

Co.Labs

The TR-808 Drum Machine Is Back, With New Features And A New Name

The music-making machine that almost single-handedly birthed pop and hip-hop beats is back in production with some major updates.



Used in countless songs over the past thirty years and widely credited for the early success of both hip-hop and dance music, the Roland TR-808 drum machine is a landmark in the history of electronic music. Only manufactured from 1980 to 1984, the 808 remained popular for its analog beats as successors increasingly relied on digital samples—try and fetch one aftermarket, though, will cost you thousands of dollars.

There hasn’t been anything quite like the 808 in decades, and Roland may finally be revisiting it this year. Roland is calling their new machine AIRA, and is building up hype for it be explicitly evoking the machine that made it famous.

Roland has been noted to have a forward-moving philosophy, eschewing reissues and always pushing new tech—so it’s almost a certainty that AIRA will not be an 808 remake. The hope, writes Peter Kirn for Create Digital Music, is that it will bring about a renewed focus on analog beats:

The design itself is telling. I wrote a favorable review for Keyboard when Roland unveiled the SH-201. You have to remember, this was 2006, before we were spoiled by loads of brilliant analog monosynths – it was nice to see Roland embrace one-for-one synth controls, with no screens. (Madonna liked it, too.) The TR-08 appears to come from that same commitment to accessibility, so even if it eventually offends 808 aficionados (or even me, for that matter), it could still be an important release for a market hungry for new drum machines.

More details will undoubtedly surface as next week’s National Association of Music Merchants trade show draws near. For a history of the TR-808, check out this BBC Radio feature.






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