Roland 808

Kanye bear

The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was one of the first programmable drum machines. Introduced by the Roland Corporation in early 1980, it was originally manufactured for use as a tool for studio musicians to create demos. Like earlier Roland drum machines, it does not sound very much like a real drum kit.

One of the machine’s earliest mainstream hits in the United States was on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing.’ A TR-808 was also David Byrne’s sole accompaniment (apart from his acoustic guitar) at the beginning of ‘Stop Making Sense.’

As more realistic and tubular drum computers appeared, the TR-808 was discontinued and it became easy to buy a used machine for a low price. Its availability lead to a second life as a cheap source of rhythm for hiphop artists in the mid 1980s. The Beastie Boys breakout album ‘Licensed to Ill’ consists mostly of hip-hop rhymes backed by the characteristic TR-808 beats and samples from popular rock songs; its success lead to a new surge in popularity.

As with many analogue electronic musical instruments, a great deal of effort has been put into sampling the sounds of the TR-808 for use in modern devices; however, due to the nature of analog circuitry, the result is often considered unsatisfactory and can sound unduly static and digital. Demand for the real 808 sound is so great that street prices for a used TR-808 have stayed close to what the cost of a new TR-808 was upon its initial release in 1980 when adjusted for inflation (~$2600)

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