As ‘909 Day’ is upon us, we decided to throw the spotlight on the Roland Boutique TR-09 – the compact, modern version of the renowned Roland TR-909
Since the TR-909 was discontinued in 1985, we musicians and producers alike were desperately trying to get our hands on an original model so we could create our own electronic, 80s inspired beats. However, unless we wanted to sell body parts to science that was never going to happen as an original Roland TR-909 was fetching a hefty price on the second-hand market.
That all changed in September 2016 when Roland released the TR-09 Boutique Rhythm Composer - a more modern, compact version of this lush drum and rhythm machine.
So, to celebrate the Roland TR-09 on this 909 day, we thought we’d take a look at this reissue model in closer detail.
But first, a little history…
If you’re thinking you’ve never heard a TR-909, chances are you actually have, as this drum machine was ubiquitous within the 80s music scene and continues to appear in popular music even today.
The original TR-909 has been used by artists such as Daft Punk ('Revolution 909'), Gorillaz ('Plastic Beach'), Phil Collins ('Take Me Home') and Technotronic ('Pump Up The Jam') so if you’ll understand what type of sound you’re dealing with here.
Originally designed in 1983 to provide musicians with a 16 step sequencer and electronic drum kit that would be a budget friendly way of getting drums into track without the use of an actual drummer! There were only 10,000 of these made, but as soon as they were released, musicians and producers everywhere snapped up these partially analogue, partially sample-based, drum machines designed by Tadao Kikumoto, the engineer behind the Roland TB-303.
Since the original models were produced, a huge number of artists have relied on this nifty unit to create their sound. The likes of Phil Collins used one on the track ‘Sussudio’, Aphex Twin has used it on countless tracks, as have the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem and Kanye West to name just a few!
Its influence on music cannot be denied, so when it was announced on 909 Day in 2016 that there would be a reissue that was more powerful, had more connectivity yet retained all the playability, functionality and mojo of the original, we all freaked out a bit! Since then, the Roland TR-09 has taken the music world by storm due to the fact it can be connected to your modern workflow, be transported A LOT easier thanks to its smaller size (around the size of a pencil case) and vast connectivity options including Trigger Out port ideal for connecting to modular synth that has percussive synth sounds.
So, before we waffle on too much, let’s round up some of the coolest features on this glorious 909 Day.
Here’s 5 reasons why you need a Roland TR-09
Fancy listening to what it can do? Check out our video below with the awesome Gaz from PMT Newcastle and David Ahlund from Roland.
1. New pattern Switching Mode
One of the most popular improvements within the TR-09 was the new Pattern Switching mode, which allowed you to change drum and percussion patterns and modes on the fly. The original model didn’t allow you to switch to a new bank without having to stop the existing patterns. This new feature is ideal for live musicians and producers that need to make changes quickly without disrupting creativity.
2. Far more connectivity and control over your external hardware
The Roland TR-09 has also been designed to connect to other gear you have in your studio and even act as a high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz audio interface that you can use to record direct to your DAW via USB. Simply sync and control your existing gear via the standard MIDI parts or USB! You can even send individual drums to separate channels – ideal for recording. You can also send a selected instrument to the right channel, with the other instruments output to the left just by re configuring the main stereo mini-jack output.
You can even utilise the mix input to route external audio through the main outputs. The trigger also lets you drive both vintage analogue synths and modern gear such as the SYSTEM-500 modular series via your Roland TR-09.
3. Highly portable beat machine
The original TR-909 was a bit of a beast in terms of size, whereas the new Roland TR-09 is around the size of a pencil case, just over 30cm, making it easy to slip into your laptop bag. In addition, you have a built-in powered mini-speaker that allows you to enjoy music anytime, anywhere.
4. Battery or USB Powered
The Roland TR-09 is not only highly portable, but it is also able to be powered via USB or 4 x AA batteries which means you can fire it up via your laptop, or with a set of batteries when inspiration strikes on the train, plane or in your hotel room. The addition of a headphone in means you can create music anytime you like without disturbing anyone.
5. Roland’s ACB (Analog Circuit Behaviour) Technology
The appeal behind the original TR-909 was the ability to blend analogue kick sounds, snare and tom drums to create some epic sounds, however due to the analogue nature, it had its limits when it came to being able to change settings in a live scenario. So to keep up with the demands of the modern musician, Roland equipped the TR-09 with ACB (Analog Circuit Behaviour) technology, something found in the AIRA series which could provide users with the ability to edit and tweak parameters on the fly and create a more modern unit for the modern musician. This means you get a digital emulation of the original sound, with extra control and improved reliability.
So happy 909 Day, everyone! Here’s hoping there’s some more juicy announcements coming from Roland soon!
Shop the Roland TR-09 over at PMT Online today or call in to your local PMT store to try one out for yourself!