The Roland AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer


Roland today officially announced the TR-8 Rhythm Performer – a new drum machine that’s inspired by the classic TR-808 & TR-909, but updated with deeper sound editing, live pattern manipulation and intuitive performance controls.

Here’s what they have to say about the TR-8:

In developing the TR-8, we’ve obsessively analyzed and faithfully recreated every detail and nuance of the analog circuitry of these legendary rhythm machines – the boom and snap of the 808; the thud of the 909; the robotic click of an 808 rim shot or a classic 909 snare roll. It’s all here. But not content with mere recreations, we’ve enhanced these classic instruments with capabilities that go far beyond the original units.

Tune and Decay knobs are now present on every instrument, and the Bass Drum and Snare Drum have additional controls such as Attack, Snappy, and Comp. This allows for a wide variety of tones, from subtle ambient percussion to pounding dance grooves. Per-step effects and the massively addictive Scatter function take things into entirely new territory.

With the authentic tone and character of the original units and new sound-tweaking capabilities inspired by legions of users, the TR-8 breathes new life into the sounds we all know and love.


Here’s what’s based on the original TR-808 and TR-909:

  • Full reproduction of the classic TR-808 and TR-909 rhythm machines, based on original design spec sheets and detailed analog circuit analysis of many original TR machines, including Roland’s own pristine units
  • Newly developed Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology allows part-by-part analyses and faithful recreation of tonality and behavior, including the smooth variations of tone that occur when you work the controls of each instrument
  • ‘Obsessive attention to detail’, such as reproducing the original TR’s unique variations in tone that occur when multiple instruments are entered in accented steps
  • Authentic 16-step sequencer with faithful TR-REC behavior, including A and B pattern variations and the ability to play instruments and record to steps in real time

Here’s what’s new with the TR-8:

  • 16 kits made up of 11 instrument types, including custom kits that use both TR-808 and TR-909 sounds
  • Large Tempo knob with Tap Tempo button and continuous Fine and Shuffle adjustment knobs
  • Control the intensity of the Accent function with a dedicated knob
  • Per-step reverb and delay effects with dedicated knobs
  • Mix sources connected to the External In jacks with built-in per-step Side Chain function for rhythmic ducking and gating effects
  • Scatter lets you tweak your grooves with real-time control and perfect sync
  • 7 segment, 4 character LED display and 16 per-step pads with bold, full-color LEDs
  • Real-time pattern creation up to 32 steps with on-the-fly step count adjustment
  • Rec/Play modes have been eliminated, enabling seamless switching between step input and real-time pattern making and performance
  • Real-time play of 4 different types of rolls (8th, 16th, VARI 1, VARI 2) and per-instrument mutes
  • Pattern copy and pattern randomization for rapid, spontaneous creativity
  • Two assignable analog outputs and full parallel outputs via USB for total mixing flexibility


The Feel

The TR-8 has been designed as an instrument to be played. Every control has a solid, predictable feel, with each drum instrument having robust, “playable” faders. Numerous lighted knobs and RGB buttons give both real-time performance feedback.

Pattern creation is intuitive, using an evolved version of the TR-REC method, which originated in the TR-808 and eventually became the standard for electronic rhythm programming.

Based on detailed analysis of the original TR-808, the TR-REC behavior has been faithfully modeled in the TR-8. But the TR-8 goes well beyond the original, allowing you to seamlessly switch between programming and performance modes, and to introduce lots of groovy rhythmic variations from subtle snare fills to total glitch meltdowns.


Scatter is a new performance function that gives you detailed real-time control over variations in your patterns and any incoming external input signal.

  • Scatter can reverse, glitch, gate, truncate, stutter, and perform all manner of rhythmic variations from subtle to extreme, and all in perfect sync
  • Pick from 10 different types of Scatter and smoothly adjust the intensity—or ‘Scatter Depth’ – with the large, comfortable dial
  • Seamlessly switch between Scatter patterns and quickly toggle Scatter on/off for variations when and where you want them


The TR-8 is designed to work seamlessly with other products in the AIRA series.

In addition, you can connect the TR-8 to your computer via USB to send and receive both audio and MIDI data, including MIDI clock information for syncing with external devices and other AIRA units.

Here’s one of Roland’s intro videos, which features a variety of artists sharing their impressions of the new AIRA line:

See also our Roland AIRA overview and demo video from the 2014 NAMM Show.

The Roland AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer is priced at US $499. See the Roland site for more info.

18 thoughts on “The Roland AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer

  1. You’re paying $300 dollars for the box/LEDs alone. There’s no way there is $400 worth of NEW Roland tech under the hood. Probably just a Fantom engine with fancy buttons.

    1. Zing! Good one, probably because the future is about selling repackaged stuff from the past.

      For something based on virtual technology, I would’ve expected a much more broader range of sound coming out of that thing, like access to every Roland drum machine sounds.

    2. They could at least do that LESS the limitaitons of the original (something as simple as copy/pasting patterns or parameter freeze like the Elektron stuff) PLUS other possibilities (more parameters for each drum or cymbal that you can easily have on software), but no, almost a hardware version of Rebirth.

    3. Its just revealing the marketing doublespeak.
      If they only had automation one could atleast get more mileage soundwise.
      only thing we are getting this way is a new wave of samey horribly abrasive and dated sounding music.

    1. Them you must not need a real sequencer, 4 audio outs, a bigger sound palette, stereo audio in for effects processing, compression and effects, 5 times the hands on control, MIDI In/out via DIN or USB or any of the other features that make this a real drum machine compared….

    1. I’ve seen speculation in some reviews that Roland could add more sounds. I’d be most interested in more Roland analogs like the CR-78 and Boss DR-110, but there’s no reason they couldn’t get those digital machines in, too, given that they have already put some samples into the DR-8 to cover some 909 sounds.

  2. Does any one know if the System-1 can be sequenced within the Aira setup? A fun aspect of the SH-101 was the internal sequencer that can be step triggered by the original x0x drum machines and clones. You could also sequence the SH-101 with the TB-303 Gate/cv outs. Any idea if the TB-3 can externally sequence the System-1 or will it need a third party midi sequencer or DAW to do it?

  3. Sweet, I just pre-ordered the TR-8 and TB-3 on . Putting the XoXboX on Ebay soon for $400, I think I’ll keep my 707 though.

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