Roland TR-09 vs TR-909 Drum Machine Smack Down

This short video captures a Roland drum machine smack down, featuring:

The Roland TR-09 (Street $399) is designed to offer the power of Roland’s iconic TR-909 drum machine in a compact and affordable format.

The video compares the same beat on all three machines. It also shows some of the same actions, performed on all three, showing how the three machine’s size and controls affect usability.

via Stefan, Bonedo

36 thoughts on “Roland TR-09 vs TR-909 Drum Machine Smack Down

  1. Interesting but the original sounds richer and brighter and IMO TR-8 sounds better, so its a bit disappointing.
    Anyway its good enough, It is a good device for a Boutique priced and sized TR-909

    1. And the TR-8 looks like the best of the bunch, in terms of actual usability and price/performance. Those sliders look way better to tweak than the little knobs on the other two.

    2. Richer and brighter? What does this even mean? If you wrote a track with the tr8 or tr09 are the people listening going to say “these drums sound thin and dark, must have have used a digital 909”. No because they sound basically the same. Focus on writing good music and stop obsessing over pointless nuance.

      1. They all sound very close, but where it becomes a serious point to consider is in mixing. The tr8 and tr09 will require just a little more work in mixing to get it sounding on the same level as the original 909. The average listener may never be able to tell, but the mix engineer will

      2. @kid versus chemical “Richer and brighter” most likely refers to what I’m hearing as well: more present highs and more defined mid-low / lows. To say that attention to sonic detail is “pointless nuance” is perhaps forgetting that ultimately any audio structure is only as strong as its weakest fidelity link.
        This is not to say that a slightly boxy-er 909 beat is going to be a production deal-breaker per se, but you can’t argue that a gourmet chef might as well employ lesser quality of ingredients and stop obsessing over culinary nuance.

    1. Nah, single TRS out or 4 assignable outs via USB. Sweetwater has all the new stuff posted (except for the TT-99, which Kraft music has for preorder for $349), so you can see all specs and multiangle shots there.

  2. I so far only have had a chance to hear through my iPad speaker, so it’s pretty hard to hear the difference – but still the Boutique form factor really appeals to me for a 909-style machine. Any word on the TR-09 price, yet?

  3. TR-09 is mono (in this video/recording) which the only diff’ I could hear compared to the oldie 909.
    I thought the TR-8 sounded “better” EQ wise…which changed on any 3, with an EQ.

    aside from that, they all sound like the same beast to me.

    Roland specs on TR-09 – Four separate outputs via USB audio.
    That’ll do me 😉

  4. I just listnd on my monitors and I could definitely here a difference. There is a weight in the sub frequencies of the original 909 that neither of the ACB models offer and it otherwise sounds more open, less compressed and with more dynamic fluctuations to the sound.

    The TR8 sounds stiffer but still good and the boutique 909 sounds boxier and smaller. I wonder if it has worse D/A converters or something that would change the sound.

    1. Dude, if you compare two 909’s, you’ll here subtle differences too.

      Just trying to get the volume levels and settings on all three of these to match accounts for some of the differences.

      1. True, and also the component age on the original 909 is I’m sure adding to the variability in individual hits but it still sounds better than either ACB clone and the Tr 08 sounds better than the Boutique 909.

        No individual outs and reselling a previous product with a different case and without the added bonus of 707 and 808 sounds is just ridiculous.

        This is a product that is not made for informed consumers.

  5. It’s really odd that Roland smacks down their Tr-8 buyers so fast.
    The boutique has low end
    The original has a good spread
    The tr-8 is all high end.

    Atleast in their mix, that’s how it sounded. If ACB is so good surely a basic EQ wouldn’t be that hard.

    1. Even on this video you can hear that the TR-8 sounds better than the TR-9. Looks way better too. It’s its own thing rather than a cheap clone.

      The TR-909 sounds better than either of them, but I am sure a good engineer can make up for a lot of things.

      I have 2 909s and while each of them sounds distinct from the other, the 909 in general sounds best, just like the one on this video.

  6. Aha! Now I get the reason to release the TR09: it’s Roland’s way of saying “See, we told you the TR8 was good!”

    Getting the settings the same across all three is probably impossible and I generally sit in the “fucking close enough, write a good song now” camp with all things sonic but listening with some volume on my monitors, it wasn’t even close. I think I might actually have preferred the sound of the TR8 over the 909 actually! I kept randomly scrubbing around with my eyes closed and every time the TR09 stood out as sounding like it was under fire blanket. I do not think I have magical ears or great monitors but to me, in this video anyway, it sounded like a tape dupe of a cover version of the original. And, again, in this case anyway, I actually preferred the cover band.

  7. Fascinating side-by-side: the TR-09 sounds like there’s an actual high-cut filter on it throughout: nothing unfixable with EQ but to my ears the OG 909 sounds markedly more alive in comparison (I never realized how much of the true 909 character is in that high end of the frequency range).

    (listening on Sony MDR-V700 headphones and Mackie HR824 monitors)

  8. The new one sounds the worst. There’s a massive roll-off up the top, do they have a low pass filter happening? I’d take the TR-8 any day.

  9. Does anyone know if each step has two velocity levels like the original TR-909? That really added complexity to the rhythm programming. Unfortunately it’s lacking on the TR-8 too.

    1. The TR-09 has two velocity levels like the original. Also, the TR-8 does as well. Hold down the instrument button below the volume slider for the instrument you want to edit and then press a step on the sequencer. Alternatively, you can go into the system settings mode and make it bevahe like the 909 with two button presses required for full velocity.

  10. The one thing I noticed about half way through was the crackling on the volume pots of the original 909. listen closely when he turns down the snare. I think for the price point the TR-09 sounds great. For a live PA it would be brilliant, it fits in a jacket pocket.

  11. I like it that more people (especially young musicians) can get their hands on a 909 for a relatively low price. Even if it’s not a real analog device (909 is also partly digital) it behaves like the little cousin of the 909.

  12. just having an ipad i am wondering how precise a stream of compressed audio is able to show subtile differences. if there is a comparison uncompressed audio files should be used. i dont mind personally but there are so many purists saying vinyl beats wav or aiff and those beat mp3. not sure how good one can tell about the quality of the product according to that. just some thoughts.
    regarding the products i am not sure what to think about them. in terms of musicability the 909 (regardless which one) is cool however most people use layered kicks these days. having an analog rytm i can say that i surely dont need a 909 or one of its clones. but then the boutique range has a really nice form factor and it would be awesome to have a tr09, tb03 and maybe a ju06 (in case one of the former can send midi out) standing next to each other ready to be played. the sounds are classics and have been used millions of times. the only sound still heavy in use in modern dance music is the 909 hihats and cymbals which all are samples. so in general i think those machines are not made for professinal use. they are toys aimed at professionals. completely needless but still very nice to have.

  13. What I’m hearing is this….TR-909 is indeed brighter, and the bass drum has a little more top end definition, but this machine sounds best on an english mixing desk with lots of outboard. The bass drum could actually use a little compression or at least some low EQ from a neve, amek, etc.

    The other two have a low mid sound that is typical of D/A converters today. Its an improvement over converters pre-2007, which had trouble reproducing bass and had problems with the high end sounding poor as well. Of course, we are listening to poor encoding on the internet. The TR-8 sounds great in person! And I’m a die-hard purist who would choose an original for the studio. But I’d play a new one out live. Good job, Roland!

    This is an opinion I’ve developed over two decades of working with all technologies from 1960’s to present. I think Roland has done a good job of making these new drum machines usable without needing a lot of other equipment. More outputs would be nice, but a large company like Roland deals with certain realities.

    I don’t think the units would sell in large enough numbers if they were exact copies of the originals. Because I don’t think they would be versatile enough for most people. See above. A company the size of Moog or Dave Smith might be able to pull it off, because they are structured differently. But then people would complain about the price. The Tempest is amazing, but I wonder if it has sold well. I’m glad all these machines got made. Options are good!

    I like all the machines. They are all good. I even like my Drumazon Plug-In. These are all viable tools. Don’t forget many Producers in the 90’s were using awful samples of the 909 in the Akai S-950, and it didn’t bother any ravers I know.

  14. What about the timing of the original 909? I like it’s sloppiness… Did they model that down to the PPQN pattern/inconsistency? Or is that just a totally new digital, sterile and precise clock?

  15. I honestly think that this is a great opportunity for our children to sit down and show us what they would have done (back in my day)

    A great price point. Bsttery operation for the bus or school yard, a tb to suit and small enough to fit in a locker with all the school books!

    Truly awesome. Def not a toy!

    As far as comparison goes… compare the name.
    Tr909. Tr8. Tr09.
    Tr909. Tr909. Tr909.

    I believe we would be bored before it begun if all our instruments were black and white.

    I’m also a little disapproving of youtube compression witch really is why people should be happy these maschines can be purchased and listened to without it.

    Oh and I pre ordered a tb03 and own a tr8.

    1. exactly!

      for what its meant for i would even buy it if it would be a small battery powered sample player loaded with 909 samples. If its ACB its even better.

      The fact that they use FPGRs instead of DSPs kinda turns me on too i have to admit 🙂

  16. Meh,TR8 can not come even close to. TR09 sound.Yeah it sounds ok,but to me it Doesent have a charachter.I don’t need a bunch of drum kits in one box I need only one drum machine which has one drum kit a dedicated hardware emulating only one real drum kits 909 but doing it perfectly.TR09 sounds killer and it has soul,can’t say the same about that ugly looking narrow sounding TR8.Even tough both TR8 and TR09 use ACB technology,the only ne way f theTR09 is totally different than that on Tr8.

  17. I already ordered the tb03 and tr09. I know its no “professional tool” as in “i pay my bills with my equipment” kinda professional. But i mean its a pocketsized battery-powered plastic toy, how should this be meant to be professional?

    Its meant for train rides etc. I will put the 03 and 09 together with a 60 sized (300mm wide) modulrig and build a couch-table for them to jam around while my gf watches TV.

    For stuff like that i think its perfect. Also in the rig will be my scooper, that has a built in soundcard too. Already ordered a USB3 hub to let me record all devices over one usb, in case i wanna record.

  18. Can I hear difference, yeah, a little. But I often find people judge too much with their eyes, not ears. If this video was just sound, I would love too know, how many “purists” out there would have picked the original. Guess, guess, guess, I’m thinking…. or in other words, in science, that’s called 50/50, and it means no winner!

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