Are you a tech-minded individual with a penchant for electronic music production? Lacking the necessary disposable cash to purchase vintage hardware? Well if you don’t have roughly four grand lying about or mind a bit of dad dancing, this may be your best opportunity to see the inner workings of a truly iconic drum machine. In a ‘teardown’ video from YouTube electronics whizz Markus Fuller, we get a look at the guts of the Roland TR-808, while learning a bit more about this famed piece of music technology.
The TR-808 (not to be confused with Roland’s equally prominent bass synthesiser, the TB-303) has probably touched your life, even if you didn’t know it. From Yellow Magic Orchestra to New Order, Dr Dre. to François K, it’s left a lasting impression on modern music. Fast forward thirty-six years, and despite great advancements in technology, the 808 sound is still sought after, utilised and replicated by producers in 2016. Old? Yes. Antiquated? Not quite.
All that said, it isn’t perfect. Actually, far from it, but those imperfections only add to the charm of a timeless piece of gear. At one point Fuller comes across a button that hasn’t been soldered down properly. Weirdly, the fault appears intentional upon closer inspection, as it wouldn’t function properly otherwise. Why they couldn’t acquire the right button, we’re not really sure, but it lends a bit of insight into how things have changed in thirty odd years. You couldn’t imagine such a significant manufacturing oversight occurring in the 21st Century.