Roland TR-808 vs Roland Aira TR-8 Shootout

Here’s another Roland TR-808 vs Roland Aira TR-8 comparison, via INHALTVIDEO.

Here’s what they have to say about the comparison:

Here is a head to head comparison between our beloved Roland TR 808 and the brand new Roland Aira TR 8.

I’ve used the TR 808 for close to 12 years on almost every production I’ve been involved with. I know the sound in and out. The AIRA is incredibly close to the original 808 but there are certain differences.

Chiefly I cannot tune the AIRA to my 808, in terms of the cymbals and hi hats. The AIRA seems much higher in pitch. There are more minute differences that when stacked up definitely reveal what’s a real analog workhorse and what is digital but all that aside, Roland have to be commended for this achievement. There are few digital instruments that sound as good as the Aira range and that have the kind of tactile user interface that’s present here.

We recorded the 808 and the TR8 into Pro Tools HD at 96k/24 bit via a Precision 8 mic pre. Each sound was tracked independently and then general levels worked out in Pro Tools. There is no compression or EQ present here at all … these are the machines completely dry. The video starts with non accented versions of the instruments and then moves to accented versions.

Getting the TR-8 to sound like a random 808 is probably an impossible task, given the variation in parts in vintage analog gear and the effects of aging. But check out the comparison and let us know what you think!

40 thoughts on “Roland TR-808 vs Roland Aira TR-8 Shootout

  1. I made careful measurements as I listened to each example. My jaw opened an equal amount as I yawned.



    Looks like it reaches backward and sideways more than forward, still, for folks who use those kind of tones. I’m sure it is ok.

    I think those cymbal sounds are achieved by using the sub-harmonic series. I don’t know how that is implemented in an analog circuit. Perhaps with a digital circuit it is simply a matter of using a sample (rather than any additive process).

  2. I hear two great drummachines with almost the same character. Loosing yourself endlessly in hunting frequency ghosts is nothing but vodoo science. I am really tired from that discussion.

    You can do very good electronic rythms with both. One is not only an instrument but an unquestionable legend, rare and expensive. The other is one is very close soundwise, 21st century technology, with a great interface and: unbeatable pricing.

    Talk less, make more music! 😉

  3. For something that is explicitely modeled after the 808, I am astonished to hear the snare at a higher pitch.

      1. Well, then…
        for a youtube video explicitly comparing the sound of the two devices, I am astonished to hear the second snare at a higher pitch.


      2. Roland have done a great job. Theres some subtle differences,but youd have to be really anal to complain.
        If you make music for yourself fine. But if youre making music for other people to listen to, nobody actually cares, and probably wouldnt waste their breath asking if your track was made using an 808 or tr8. Besides your music would have to be something really special for it to even matter.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. Shut it up and make music on this, the second chance to own a rhythm legend!
      I own both and I promise I won’t be trying to hear any differences.
      I enjoy the layout of the TR8. I learned 75% of it in ten minutes.
      The only thing I dislike is there is no visible cowbell label. But going through the sets I found the cowbell. I’m sure I’ll figure out the shortcut.
      Thanks Roland from Ike Ternr

  4. I just got one yesterday and its an absolutely great drum machine. The user interface is amazing (turn off screen saver) and effects routing along with the Scatter function adds an additional dimension to drum programming that you will hear for years to come. Fits right in with its pure analogue counterparts in the studio.

  5. Thanks for this test. The living proof the emulation proces is characterless and does not stand up to the power of the orginal. Never the less many producers wil like it.

    1. Hey Tampon, you are living in the past. As someone said earlier you are chasing “ghost frequencies”. No matter what the science tells you, you are convinced that you hear differently. Sad.

      1. Division6, haven’t you read the reviewers outcome? It just prooves the 808 emulation is characterless. Please take your comment with you, Amateur-Hour is over.

        1. You mean when he says this :
          “Roland have to be commended for this achievement. There are few digital instruments that sound as good as the Aira range and that have the kind of tactile user interface that’s present here.”

          Or this:
          “Getting the TR-8 to sound like a random 808 is probably an impossible task, given the variation in parts in vintage analog gear and the effects of aging. But check out the comparison and let us know what you think!”

    2. Really, dude? Really? They don’t sound very similar to you at all? The TR-8 doesn’t even sound better in some examples? Give me a break.

  6. Hey guys,

    Explain me something: why would we like to have “perfect” emulation of TR-series? Even if it’s “divine drum sound” this sound is heard in so many many times and you can either pu your money to real one or – much cheaply way – buy samples of it. I have Arturia Spark which has those emulations but I must admit I never use them. Why? Personally I am not a big fan. What I’d like to have is a drum machine which has a great expressive palette and flexible engine which can support your creative process. My music does not want to have TR-sound, it needs something fresh and new. Ok well, it’s not a bad thing if your drum machine can make TR-type of sounds too, but this isn’t the whole story and ultimate goal. That’s why I like very much my Nord Drum 2. You can make really your own expressive sounds which respond nicely to velocity.

    IMO the big question is: how much different things you can do AIRA products? Are just they digital replicants of those old dinosaurs or can they make something new? I have nothing againts the fact that they take TR-series as starting point but is this the whole story?

    1. I agree 100%. I was actually considering the Nord Drum 2, but now I might get the Aira instead.

      I would still get it even if it was called “Not an 808” and purposely made an effort to not sound like an 808. I just want good drums sounds that have knob per function controls for tweaking the sounds, and fx sends for each voice.


      So why all the hate?

    2. I guess, why not? I just got mine and love it. I’ve being hearing and making “fresh and new” drum sounds for 15 years and it’s gotten old to me. How many different ways can you make a kick? Plenty of modern, dubby, drenched in reverb and delay techno has new drum sounds but somehow the actual songs are virtually indistinguishable. To me hearing 909 and 808 sounds in this fashion feels new. The only time I hear beats like the ones I’m making now is listening to stuff like Drexciya or AFX Analord stuff. I’d never write beats like this on a computer or even with my Octatrack. Also, keep in mind there isn’t a single drum machine on the market with an interface like this and since receiving it yesterday I’ve got to wonder why and I’m hoping we see more. I wish the Analog RYTM was going to be a bit more knob per function. I’d rather see that then pads.

      1. “there isn’t a single drum machine on the market with an interface like this”? Well, you have seen the MFB Tanzbär or the Acidlab Miami, haven’t you? And only the latter mentioned is a dedicated 808 “clone”, btw.

    1. It sounds close and is fun to use. It doesn’t cost as much as a small car. It will receive updates. I own both like many here and, no, they are not identical in sound. Did anyone actually think it was going to be exact? It’s a good drum machine. The manual is a pain in the butt and I would have preferred soft touch pads instead of the hard plastic ones, but that’s about it. Will this cost $3000 in 30- years? Nope. But, you can have a lot of fun and that’s the most important.

  7. I read today that an expedition of meteorologists in the north pole found a Roland Aira frozen in a sheet of ice. Apparently, it is not the cause of global warming because as the meteorologists put it “… lacks sufficient warmth”.

  8. Analog is inferior. It’s too “warm” and imperfect sounding. Machines should sound like machines. They should be configurable by the operator. If I want “warmth” I’ll add some warmth.
    Who wants a machine deciding if their sound is going to be “warm” for them?

    Self-aware machine = never a good thing.

  9. For me now it’s official, Roland just set a new record on the EPIC FAIL chart. I keep asking myself if there is some hearing problem or something of a genetic order involved in the lack of perception of these people.

  10. I would have really liked the TR-8 if it wasn’t marketed towards bedroom DJs who mostly haven’t played the real thing ( or are too young to have true nostalgia with the originals).

    If the TR-8 was for true out of the box hardware guys, it would be built of much better quality materials. A real 808 is a freakin tank. After playing with a TR-8, I can give my opinion that it looks and feels like a cheap toy. I would have also liked Roland to make it look more like an 808… I mean, they did the whole Juno color scheme with their digital ROMplers and not this? WTF Roland?

    It would also have individual outs per part, not dependent upon a computer. For the guys who would say “c’mon!!! Stp living in the past!!!”… I’d show them how using individual analog outs with a hardware mixer or interface gives you more control in a live environment, and lets you use hardware processors live. Those are huge omissions on the TR-8, as most producers using real 808s process the hell out of them on a per sound basis… Even when using them live.

  11. Goku, no one said “living in the past” is even remotely related to independent output you arse! That is a feature, and for you to call this merely a toy speaks to your talent level than than the equipment in question! We are discussing the briliance of the VA. We all know by now your anal love affair with all things analogue. It is well documented. I love analogue kits yet despise relic and outdated thinking like yours! And don’t respond, I lost respect for you long ago!

    1. Note that I didn’t mention the analog vs. digital thing when it comes to actual sound engine. Analog OUTPUTS, i.e 1/4″ jacks… so that you can process and insert things (eq, compression, distortion, etc.) in realtime… instead of after tracking….

      you, know… so you can HEAR what’s going on and place your processing pre-print. It’s something very useful.

      Also… didn’t call the TR-8 a toy. I said it FEELS and LOOKs like one when compared to an 808. Honestly, I think it sounds quite good.

      Lesson here: next time, please read my comment, instead of skimming over it and looking for things to troll on. Also, please don’t assume I love only analog gear. My Elektron Machinedrum and Monomachine, and my Virus TI2 are some of my fav synths… don’t be a dick.

  12. As for the Virus, we are in full agreement.

    Yet again, you called in essence a “cheap toy” and now you are playing semantics with it.

    Tell you what, you be less of an “arse” and I will remove my “dick’!

  13. the TR8 will be great for live, let the pill-heads spill their beer into it and save my real TR-808 from being damaged. Real TR-808 for the studio and recordings tho. no question. So the TR8 is good for something. but the differences are massive. just listen to that first change from the 808 to the TR8 it sounds like someone has swept the whole punch rug out from underneath the poor struggling TR8. its so obvious it is not even worth comparing.

  14. All the negative comments regarding the TR-8 are just plain SILLY, and firmly rooted in the “anorak” hype. And believe me folks, it IS just that. Internet HYPE plain and simple..regarding ALL analog gear. I love analog too, but the tr-8 sounds just as good as either an 808/909. How do I know? Because I own all of them and done my own comparisons.

    Anoraks need to give it a rest already. Digital is great, and nobody would be able to pick out a real 808 from the tr-8 in a mix.

  15. The TR8 sounds identical to TR-808 especially at 128kbps… think I can have a TR-808 hand-built for less than $3k.. the R8 mkII sounds pretty close too. There are one million 808 samples for free on the web.. I bet the pitch is off in some of those as well, but a lot sound better than what you can do with your cheap outboard gear.. I can’t wait for the CR78 and TR-606 soundsets for the TR8.

  16. when the tr-808 came out , nobody wanted this guitarist drum machine ….
    It became legendary after this because someone decided it was hip for dance.
    same with the NS10’s , someone famous said they were great and it became a legendary product.
    tb303 , same story. Since 10 years ago the whole world wanted a good sounding reproduction: Roland listened to us… and they delivered . A TR8(08) for 2016, with effects and technology that makes anyones life much easier. for got sake it sounds superb! i am seriously thinking of selling off my tr808 and 909 , cash in the big bucks and buy new gear. because the TR8 is just superb sounding and superior technology. Actually it is so funny that most people who say “it sounds different ” never saw a real tr808 let stand , owned one. Most owners i know , including myself, love the TR8…….. other story is my jupiter 8 vs the boutique thingy…

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