Roland Tease a New 808 Drum Machine and the Internet Wept with Joy

What's the deal with that?

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Jan 24 2014, 4:30pm

The producer kids of today don’t worship anything solid: they buy (or find other ways of obtaining) Ableton Live, Logic Pro or Reason—and then they get into making music. Just ask Disclosure (Logic), Madeon or Skrillex (Ableton), none of whom fetishize equipment, vintage or otherwise.

Roland seem to be the latest company looking to change that. Back in the 1980s, drum machines were new. You could suddenly buy a box (sub $2000!) that gave you the sounds of a drum kit, kinda. Behold, the beauty that is the Roland TR-808 (above).

The 808 was designed to replace a drummer, but no-one thought it sounded like a drummer. Nevertheless lots of people thought it sounded AWESOME, so they started making music that put the 808 at the front of the mix: big booming, kicks, clangy cowbells, and snappy snares.

That’s how we got hip-hop, house, and trap. People have been rinsing this box for sounds since 1982. Given that it now costs more than $2000, most of us have given up on the hope of ever owning one. Which is why magazines, forums, and Twitter flipped out when Roland teased their new AIRA series:

The above video delivers a pocket history of the development of the 808, some scuzzy footage of a laboratory (which made it feel like we were watching a Japanese horror movie), and a hint of a new drum machine-looking thing. The stage was set! Roland are surely remaking the 808.

Then, earlier this week, video two came out. This time, the history of the TR909:

So what was the internet to think? Several more of its mainframes melted as lovers of boxes that make noises freaked out, praying that whatever AIRA was, it wouldn’t cost so much that they had to remortgage their house, dog, and wife. The AIRA site still has two boxes which remain locked up tight, so clearly there are more mysteries to be unveiled. For now a pretty sweet takeaway is that you can still buy the cymbal that was sampled for the 909.

Plus here's a fun bonus: a compilation of songs that talk, sometimes incessantly, about the original 808. Wonder if will AIRA spark the same devotion....

Davo apparently cannot shut up about vintage drum machines, so please shout at him on Twitter - @battery_licker