Roland TR-808 vs Korg Volca Beats Analog Drum Machine Smackdown

This video, via SynthMania, captures a comparison between the Roland TR-808 vs the Korg Volca Beats.

Can a $150 Volca Beats hold its own against a classic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, the analog drum machine by which all others are measured? 

We’re going to go out on a limb and call the 808 the winner in this comparison, since it bests the Volca Beats in just about every way but price.

But that doesn’t keep this video from being fun comparison of the two machines – and a reminder that the Volca Beats is a fun and useful little box.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

18 thoughts on “Roland TR-808 vs Korg Volca Beats Analog Drum Machine Smackdown

  1. the volca with the snare mod makes it sound x10,000 better- so much so that it’s questionable whether there was an error in manufacturing (if I’m remembering correctly the component added is a cap that’s referenced on the pcb silkscreen but not actually present on the board). Anyway, that would have been a more fair comparison if you ask me.

    1. agreed 100% waggles. Shoulda done my C78 mod and then the comparison. Plus the hats on the Volca were tuned lower…if he had brought them up it would have sounded a lot closer as well.

  2. Inferior as it is, the Beats is really idiosyncratic. I’d be better off witha Sample but if you offered me a swap tomorrow, I’d miss having the Beats, even if I’d sound better.

  3. Having none of the above but User 808 Samples so much i must say that Regardless of the fantastic 808 Sound the volca is a bang for its price.
    Considering buying one to keep my rytm company. Where the volca Lacks strong analogue power it does have some interesting, 100% analogoue synthesized and very controlable sounds. Maybe people will come up with more mods and make this thing even better. For the price just really good (dont know about noise, Output Levels though)

  4. I have a Beats. It is fun, but no contest.

    I also have a BOSS DR-110, which I believe is the last analog drum machine Roland ever made. Now THAT’s a cheap way to get the Roland classic sounds!

    1. I have a 110 too, I got it way back around when it came out because it was the only drum machine I could afford at the time as a struggling guitarist and it was $15 at a guitar center used. – it is pretty fun actually to use the sync out from the 110 with the volca bass + keys

  5. the kick on the beats is to die for, the rest is totally meh but if you can use it with maschine or something it makes up for that, that bass tone is so pure… i’ve had people ask how i make the sound after gigs.

    1. Agreed and I have both the Beats and the TR-8. The kick on the beats is something to experience and I think the whole kickass drum machine gets automatically underrated because of the crunchy snare. They compliment each other quite well without overlapping. Kudos to both of them.

  6. Beats is such a great little drum machine, Even though I also have the Korg sample, I find myself going back to using the beats sometimes just for the immediacy and the sounds.. I would compare it more to a 606 more than a 808 in its sonic character.. but that’s just my opinion.
    And yea 808s cost how much now?
    Every time I check Ebay it’s like inflation!! I see some for over 4k
    That’s like 33 volcas!!

    Next there should be a minimoog model D vs Volca Keys

    or better 1 minimoog Model D VS 40 volca Keys!!


  7. I agree this video shows the 808 as having a far more balanced and artistically nuanced sound than the Volca, which has in particular strong resonances on the toms that need to be tamed by someone with artistic taste.

    Great comparison, thanks.

  8. if we’re just comparing the output and not price, availability and so on….. I must stick to the 808.
    It is simply far superior in quality and response by miles.
    Its so much cleaner and tighter in each individual sound.

    When it was made compared to when Volca Beats was made, I am surprised how bad the volca sounds.

    30+ years of technology improvements it should sound better. just saying.

  9. yeah better to compare to 606.

    imo a mk2 that’s more easily modable and modular if you happen to break somethig even twice the price would be the real deal.

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