Little did Roland and Tadao Kikumoto know when they launched the TR-808 Rhythm Composer 40 years ago today that they would be producing perhaps one of the most recognizable and influential pieces of electronic music gear to ever produce sound. It is hard to imagine that a piece of equipment that was built in 1980 is still one of the most revered studio items today.
At the time of production, the thought of a piece equipment that could possibly supersede a live drummer was absurd, but in 1980 the use of electronic drums in music was an idea that had not been fully explored. The main difference with the TR 808 compared to other drum machines of the era was that the 808 used analogue synthesis, not sample playback and this is what gives these iconic drum hits such impact and grit. This popularity of the TR-808 is incredible considering that only enjoyed a run of 12,000 units before it was discontinued in 1983. The undeniable success of the original 808 was bound to come back around with a much-needed update and in 2017 Roland produced the Boutique range of gear that included the 808 as well as the 909 and SH-101 synth. The iconic red, yellow, orange, and white sequencer keys and the intuitive controls were an instant classic that Roland needed to introduce to a whole new generation of producers.
What gives the 808 an edge over other drum machines such as the later 909 and 707 is the universal use that it still enjoys today. The 808 was just as pivotal in the early electro sound as it was in hip hop and of course house and techno. We can of course wax lyrical about this legendary piece of kit all day long, but to celebrate 808 Day and incredibly the machines 40th anniversary Roland has spoken to a selection of top artists who has given their opinion on what makes the 808 so iconic. So, we now hand it over to the likes of Carl Craig, A Guy Called Gerald, and Arthur Baker who tell it like it is.