After a thankfully short tease campaign, Roland has revealed their latest AIRA device. I give you the welcome if not extraordinary TR-8S Rhythm Performer.
Yeah, I know, I was hoping for something new and devastatingly exciting as well but instead, we get a sampler version of the TR-8. Don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome, fun and somewhat exciting, it’s just that it’s a variation on something rather than a whole other thing. I like whole other things.
First of all, as a drum machine it comes loaded with the largest and “most authentic” collection of TR drum sounds ever compiled. The TR-8S has a whole new processor giving those ACB models a new level of next-generation detail and nuance. But the genuinely cool thing is that you can now stuff in your own samples and apply some groovy effects.
Samples of up to approximately 180 seconds can be imported using the SD card slot and run alongside the ACB models. You get some editing control over decay, tuning, start and end points, speed and direction. You can create an entire custom drum kit or mix and match with the internal TR sounds. There are 11 instrument parts to play with and each can be freely assigned to a tone or sample.
The TR-8S has a bunch of percussion-tuned effects to add that extra bit of sizzle. Each channel has a “CTRL” knob that can be assigned to any effects parameter and saved with the kit. Kits can also be saved with patterns along with every single tweakable setting. The effects include a range of filters, Transient, Isolator, Compressor, Drive and Crusher. There’s also an independent Reverb and Delay section. The Master Effects has all the same stuff plus a couple of extras.
Pattern creation is a slick as you’d expect. Sequencing is easy with the 16 buttons and now you can add some velocity performance with a handy single velocity pad. You can now move between editing and performance on the fly and get in-depth with accents, flams, sub-steps, rolls and ratcheting. The TR-8S can store 128 patterns with 8 variations. 3 kinds of fills, patterns or variations can be triggered individually or chained together. You can copy patterns on the fly and work on ones that are not currently playing back.
Each pattern can contain 2 fills which you can customise or create from scratch. There’s also a “Scatter” fill which will bring in some very welcome controlled chaos. An “Auto Fill” button keeps those fills coming in so you can keep your mind on the next thing. All movements and parameters can be recorded as automation with the touch of a button.
The TR-8S has 8 separate outputs for individual track processing and they are all assignable into groups or whatever you want. You can even set them up as triggers to power something else entirely. There is also a dedicated Trigger Out which you can assign to anything you like within your pattern. So you want to use a kick drum from something else – no problem. The external input lets you bring that other bit of gear right back into the TR-8S environment – nice!
USB provides the audio and MIDI interfacing to a computer and also AIRA link is present for easy jamming with other Roland gear.
They have thankfully de-emphasised the AIRA green to a degree which makes it, in my view, far more palatable. Subsequently, the look is fresh and modern enough to stand out. So it’s ultimately a sampling, groove-boxing drum machine? Yes, and that’s very welcome and very on-trend. It’s not exactly new or groundbreaking but Roland is good at this stuff and it looks like a very fun and usable box of live rhythm performance that can be completely driven by your own samples.
Not sure of a release date yet by B&H Photo has it priced at $699.
- Roland TR-8S webpage.