Roland AIRA TR-8 vs TR-808 Sonic Shootout

Sonic State’s Nick Batt gets the scoop on comparing the new Roland AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer to the classic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer.

Classic TR-808’s sell for $2,000-3,000, while the new TR-8 will have a street price of about $500. Can it compare at that price?

Give it a listen and let us know what you think!

via sonicstate

85 thoughts on “Roland AIRA TR-8 vs TR-808 Sonic Shootout

  1. This is what all you haters were waiting for… So where are you all? Sounds pretty close to my ears, but the real test is what can the TR-8 do that the 808 can’t..

    1. I must admit that this isn’t an extremely good baseline comparison though, as Nick himself expressed little knowledge of how to program the 808. It would help if the snares were pitched more closely.

      But I do think the 808 has a (hardly noticeable) bit more punch to it. I can’t say that it’s $1500-$2500 worth more punch though.

      The tr-8 sounds a bit compressed.

      1. I don’t understand… are we sparring? Typically a person does not acknowledge their own successful hit. That would be my job, assuming you made a good point. Unless you meant to call me Douche – in which case, touché!

        1. You sound like a bedroom dweller. hahaha. Go play on youtube and blog the fruity loop fourms. Better yet, go join your Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson march, hahaha.

            1. I so hate the soundz from the 808 and 909 , they sound so dry and lifeless , yes I know ,the analog sound is great and all but I can do more with a Vernoma DRM than I can with an 808 . That’s just my opinion . Roland should have developed a new Analog Drum machine . For now ill get the dsi Tempeste 😀

      1. Tell me, what sounds different to you, Mr. Professional? Specifically, with your utterly discerning ear, explain to me what exactly sounds so different?

        “One sounds analog and the other sounds digital” isn’t enough. Lets get granular.

        1. Well, for starters, the TR-8 sounds like plastic, lol. But, the TR-808 and 909 sounds creamy. All sounds have an aurora around them. I was giving you a hard time because you need to open up your ears more. Listen again and again for 4 hours straight, if you have too.

        2. Ah, and the TR-8 sounds weaker in my mix. But my 909 and 808 sounds stronger in my software daw. You need to demo the TR-8 and 808-909 in real life, lol. Then you’ll see what I’m talking about, lol. The internet is the worst place to demo hardware.

  2. once you put them through the FX who knows what they sound like, and once they are in the mix only a true spotter might have a chance, but who makes records for spotters.

    1. “Who makes records for spotters.” Thank you sir, you pretty much summed up most of the analog Vs. Digital debate right there.

    2. I don’t understand ur comment? So u think musicians only make music for the masses and not for others whom are “in the know”? i.e. jus for a $? and not for much more? In that case, SOOOOO much of recorded music is unnecessary….b/c it’s being listened to via iPod earbuds..? 🙁

  3. Here’s the thing about va vs analog: The argument is usually that if you substitute, say, a tr-8 with a tr808, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference in a mix. But! If you were to replace ALL the analogs in a mix with their digital/va/software “counterparts”, the difference between the two mixes would be obvious to EVERYBODY, not only the beard-strokers. The miniscule differences keep adding up, like noise per track in an analog recording system. Put THAT synthetic weed in your pipe and smoke it.

    1. no you cant hear the difference. not really at all.

      you obviously have never truly ab’d a current digital mix vs analog. no you cant tell. and currently there is almost NOTHING significant out there that is totally analog nor digital. a hybrid approach is the new reality.

  4. People will try to convince themselves they could hear the difference between these two machines in a mix. They can’t, and even if they could, no one who actually listens to music cares…

    Good job Roland.

    1. I agree … Roland did a good job. however the 808 did sound fatter … or just a little better. Once your mix is done and mastered I doubt it will matter at all.

  5. errata: I meant replace a tr808 with a tr-8, not the other way around, of course. Btw, I own, use and love lots of digital gear, for the record.

  6. SLIC: see my comment above yours and try it out if you have the opportunity. I can ALMOST guarantee you would agree with my point.

  7. The difference is pretty clear but it doesn’t mean that Aira is bad. IMO the real 808 has a deeper bottom end and Aira has much more high end (in short words). I could spend hours writing about how sonically distinct they are, critical listening evaluations, but the point is: Roland has launched a pretty good device with a reasonably price which will fit in our home studio/djs budgets. However, we are still craving for a real analog device such as original 808, but we all know that some of the electronic components are getting hard to find or reproduce for its analog circuits and they are becoming expensive, so this real analog TR 808 could cost more than 5k at the end. Anyway, tbh i’d prefer an Aira TR-8 than the Elektron Rytm-8 or Tempest (cost/benefits).

      1. ” I could spend hours writing about how sonically distinct they are”

        please, I’d love to read it. perhaps you could teach us all to listen more closely

    1. i am guessing the downvotes are from people that may not fully understand

      there are 4 separate outs on the tr8, there are quite a few analog synthesizers that can clock from a loud (hot) enough pulse, you could send one of the voices to output 4 and set 1/4 notes and possibly synchronize gear to it, one cool advantage is that you could set 1/2 notes and the external device would run at half time, set 1/8 notes and the device would run at double time, etc. even a monotribe can follow this thru the sync port for instance, i am also curious if clocking external control voltage capable devices would work from one of the outputs, it is not at all unfeasible and not that uncommon of a technique in studios with lots of control voltage capable gear

  8. I love the fact that people are decrying the sounds from a youtube videos perfect sound reproduction 🙂

    Looks to be pretty cool, and at that price i think ROland will do quite well with the Aira line!

    PS: all the digital / analog hate doesnt make sense when most people record to….digital

    1. Playback in 1080p, the audio quality will (typically) also be HD.

      Your last point is a non sequitor, as digital recording can absolutely capture the qualities of analog playback. The question is: can a digital sound source replicate those qualities of an analog sound source.

      Digital recording, however, does not take the analog out of analog sounds.

    2. agreed… show me a label recording that’s not digital and i will show you a reel to reel tape, unfortunately most labels aren’t using this method anymore. people aren’t understanding that .WAV and .AIFF are digital formats used for recording and even though .FLAC maybe “lossless” it is still compressed. couple this with the fact that most mixers you use are digital and most amplifiers are too. so, for all those willing to just listen to themselves on a pair of really good studio headphones… sure you maybe able to tell the difference.

      as for anyone that may get one of these, just enjoy it and the endless hours of fun you will have.

  9. My confirmation bias indicates that the one I plan on buying sounds much better. You can really hear that quality difference in the 1/4th-of-a-second blip of white noise Roland calls a closed hi-hat.

    1. I’m much less interested in how accurately the new TR-8 matches one random 30 year-old machine than I am in how well it covers the range of sounds that we associate with the 808/909 line. With the built-in compression and greater range of values that the new machine offers, it should be able to cover the territory better – or at least more easily – than the originals.

  10. It sounds good and its $500? Why not?
    I am really happy and impressed at some of the pricing from Korg and Arturia abd now Roland. I cant afford Moog or Dave Smith or Elektron gear. : (

  11. Dear Roland, You missed one more thing. No emulation of the TR808 Trigger noise. I know you’ve heard of Egyptian Lover because he was featured on your blog. Please add the Trigger noise as an option for the Rimshot/Clave. Many thanks, Efil.

  12. I have a solution to this: The 808 is tired and over-used already, get the fuck over it. It served its purpose historically and has been rehashed in every conceivable way, I think it’s time to embrace the so-called “progressive” nature of electronic music and MOVE ON. i think the biggest disappointment about this whole line is that they’ve completely shat all over the benefits of digital in my world is that it only makes 808 and 909 sounds and has VERY LIMITED SOUND DESIGN CAPABILITIES. In a sense, it’s a joke to me that they would limit these devices in the way analog devices are limited, YET STILL MAKE THEM DIGITAL. Do you see my frustration here? it’s literally the worst of every world… not to say that I’d be much happier with an analog 808 either (unless it was volca size/pricing which I think would’ve actually been the right direction to go with a box that only makes 808/909 sounds). Too bad the Elektron Rytm isn’t more affordable because that is truly the direction that hardware needs to be moving in. It eliminates the argument of “analog vs. digital” because it uses the best of both worlds. I’ve got an analog four and my love for that alone makes me want the Rytm more than ever.

    1. Sorry, I had a really messed up sentence somewhere in the beginning up there. Typing rants on an iPhone is significantly harder than I thought.

  13. once you stop sound-chasing, and start making music, you will be free. There’s plenty of great gear to make music with these days even if Roland never bothered to recreate the 808. So don’t get all hung up on a new piece if gear that you don’t want anyway. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

  14. 99.99% of punters would never know the difference and couldn’t tell a TR-808 from a T-8 bit them on the neck! What with typical Mp3 compression, music played back on phones, or the 3am drunked and chemically influenced Nightclub crowd, none would notice a difference. Well done Roland for releasing these, it’s stirred up a lot of excitement and reminiscing at the same time. It’s the first hardware in a long time I’d love to buy. Planet Rock now Roland Rock again! 😉

  15. Does anyone really care about how exact the two are? There have been quite a few 100% clones on the market for quite some time. If you are looking for THAT sound, buy an 808 or one of those. (Acidlab MIAMI, JOMOX Xbase01, tons of others). If you don’t mind digital emulations, there are excellent plugins that can sound spot-on for much much less money.

    … Which brings me to my point: I’m a little disappointed with Roland for making a software based 808. They had the opportunity to show us WHY they haven’t jumped on the analog bandwagon. They could have given us modern digital, not some almost sorta 808. Where are the advanced synthesis features? FX per part? Parameter locking? Where is the innovation?

    While everyone is drooling over this thing, I’m busy saving up for Izotope’s BreakTweaker. I’m sure it will do 808s very well, and will actually inspire me to take more musical risks. In the meantime, my Elektron Machinedrum will crap all over the TR-08…

    1. I tested BreakTweaker and Stutter edit is actually the more versatile of the two but also does a different task … you may need to buy both.

  16. The 808 I use in the studio is modded for an incredible bass drop … Doubt that is going to happen here unless I can sample the studio tr-808 and somehow hack this thing to upload the sample.

    Wait, I can sample the tr-808 and just use in Ableton. Bummer, the problem is it still sounds like a sample … As I can’t manipulate the bass drop in real time

  17. I’ve noticed the subtly in the differences only on the bass drum which sounded for me with pretty wide smooth 50-60 hz low end while aira IMO missed that. Anyways, “haters gonna hate”, which more closely should sounds like “spotters gonna spot”.
    Nick had no time to conduct a more comprehensive comparison between these two probably because that 38 year old gear is too expensive and highly demanded in production so that he had to give it back from where he had borrowed it. This joke is sources from the following thought – the 90 percent comments regarding sound quality discussion and timbral differences are from people that will not buy and even don’t consider buying it either because that they haven’t got enough funds or because they will fall in trouble trying to find a tr-808 in a good technical condition without requiring to repair its analog parts. Go buy TR-8 or Tempest or Electron depending on your solvency, it is all doesn’t matter; it’s all about inspiration which you can gain depending on your playing style and user interface which you interact with and which is more suitable for you for your specific needs.
    Anyways a much more flexible abilities you would get using an Ableton Live + Push Controller + bunch of VST plugins like Stutter Edit or Break Tweaker. A real analog drum synthesizer and analog grungy filters are a must in case you are a spotter; if not – use a recorded HD samples of the TR’s series and get fun.

    1. Im not… I need to fire up all the gear I already own and use it more. Half of it is just sitting but my computer and plugins get used everyday. We all should not buy more gear and use what we already have. Who’s with me! ……….. Yeah that’s what I thought. Nobody.

      I only buy used anyhow. My next purchase’s will be. An Ensoniq ASR-10 a Roland VP-9000 A rack V-synth and a Electrix looper. I will buy one of the new Roland devices in about 6 years when they cost much less and it will be a used second hand one at that.

  18. Why compare them at all? They sound totally different and failed the analog test anyway. Roland shouldn’t try to say Aria sounds analog, they should create a marketing campaign to get people to embrace digital. I’ll keep my soulful analog warmth and decline to buy the Aria.

  19. Roland now need to make hand soldered museum quality recreations of their original drum machines priced at $500 or less to keep everyone happy!

    Also some mind-blowing ultra new synthesis technology previously unavailable that extends beyond the mere analog/digital debate that will radically change the world, the way people enjoy music and have people declaring they were there when that amazing new technology hit!!

    The good citizens of Synthtopia will live in unadulterated audio bliss at prices affordable by all!

    1. I’d like to see Roland bring out analogue versions of the Aira gear in the same boxes as these modelled devices. Then they can price them at the same price as the original gear they emulate and we’ll get to see how many analogue purists are willing to pay those prices. They might even sell more than 100.

  20. Analog matters LIVE, if you don’t play live and just studio produce, don’t comment on the worth of analog. If all you do is digitally master and do Ableton trigger sets or DJ your tracks then fine don’ buy Analog stuff or even comment cause you are a biased studio artist. For those of us who like to play LIVE, analog 303’s have NO MATCH PERIOD.

  21. Choosing between the TR-808 and TR-8 is easy, there’s a factor 5 price difference. But if I had to choose between the TR-8 and the Yocto 808 clone, which are similarly priced, I’d take the Yocto any day of the week.

    1. It’s never easy to figure out the better buy. It depends on the music you make. But also, I feel like it’s pretty painless to buy old analog classics because they can often be resold for more than you pay. I think that will remain true for the 808, even with all the instruments out aiming to be an 808.

  22. This didn’t seem like a masterfully-done AB test. He was obviously rushed and we didn’t hear any comparisons of the knobs in different positions.

    I agree with many here that the differences were pretty obvious and the 808 sounded better, but that could be simply the settings of the dials. Possibly other settings would make the TR-8 sound better.

    Not an auspicious first test. But not a proven condemnation, either.

  23. Hi just wanted to throw a ‘how much I hate digital’ and I love analog quip because thats the flavor of the moment and these things must be respected. Also if everyone jumps of the cliff I shall follow! Maaaaaaahh

  24. I think even though the TR-8 is digital, it would be stupid to get a vintage 808 instead. Spend the $2500 you save on a UAD2 system or a UBK Fatso rack. Either of those will get that analog sound back.

  25. Sounds great !!! i am all analog in my studio with very little digital but this i ordered as its very nice, i do collect so when i can find the 909 i wiil get one and maybe at a lower price as demand will be lower now

    i wont be surprised the old 808/909 to go down in price for a year or so but then go up alot like most remakes

    1. still don’t understand the hype over this, yeah its ‘close enough’, so are sample packs, analog vs digital, yadda yadda blah blah.

      if they included user sample playback it would be melting hot. id have two.
      one for beats, one for stems and such. bam.

  26. Mmm this looks awesome!

    Was anyone lucky enough to DOWNLOAD THE AIRA TR-8 SAMPLES that were available online? I’m looking for them everywhere and I Can’t find them – it seems like Roland made them take the samples down. I really want these samples though, if someone had them could you PLEASE email them to me??thank you!

    Email: [email protected]

  27. Oi, the TR-8 sounds like software. But, the 808-909 sounds creamy and fat. I like to use creamy and fat instruments in my music. I also love the depth in true analog. IMHO, I belive analog is almost instant in my mix and I like the workflow. I hate playing around with VSTs trying to make them sound good. Analog is quicker.

  28. reading all of this digi v analog shit on here..i have done a test with my tr8 and my friends tr 808 small differerences very small…he agreed that the price is in fact very reasonable for the sounds.

  29. they should at least make 100% proper clones of the originals for those of us that do want to purchase analog versions!!!!!!!!!

    i mean its ridiculous that it costs 4000$ for a 909..
    at least make a 1500$ accurate 100% copy so i can buy it NEW + have some type of warranty rather then forcing me to buy it from dodgy people online on ebay

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