Roland DJ-808 – Review & Guide
Welcome to our review of the Roland DJ-808. This 4 channel controller is built for Serato DJ, but features the legendary Roland TRS drum machine along the top. It’s a beast with an abundance of performance features. There is a full review video at the bottom of this post. Let’s have a closer look…
Roland DJ-808 – The DJ Features
This controller is built in partnership with Serato DJ. In short it basically has a button for nearly every feature within the Serato software. This makes it a very tactile but complex controller. DJs also get a license for Serato’s Pitch ‘n’ Time expansion with the controller. This enables songs to be pitched up and down in semitones and can also be useful for tone play techniques.
It has a very stable build quality, all the buttons, pads, faders and knobs feel great and well produced. It boasts some of the lowest latency jog wheels and tightest cutting crossfaders on the market.
Personally we are not a fan of the asymmetrical design, for example the tempo adjusts both being on the outside of the unit and the play and cue buttons on the inside. We prefer a symmetrical layout similar to a CDJ/mixer club set up. However this is just a personal preference and this layout is easy enough to get used to.
The output level definitely has some of the best headroom of any controller we have played on. It’s truly built with sound quality and build quality in mind. The built in sound card means you can use this controller as a standalone mixer with any CDJ or turntable or with Serato DVS.
Our thoughts on the DJ aspects of the Roland DJ-808
From playing extensively on this controller we can safely say its a powerhouse. It’s multi functionality makes this a perfect centre piece for any DJ set up. It feels very comfortable to play on if you’re used to using a controller. The sound quality is great and honestly there isn’t really anything apart from the asymmetrical design we don’t like. Even if you never touched the drum machine this controller would be a great product for nearly any confident DJ. The reason we say confident DJ is that this is not an intro controller. We definitely wouldn’t recommend this to any first time DJs as it will be just too overwhelming.
Are you a DJ that wants to start producing your own music?
If the answer to this question is yes, then we can highly recommend this controller. It perfectly bridges the gap between DJ performance and music production. Its a very tactile way to start learning about producing drums and incorporating them into your DJ sets. This leads us onto the most exciting part of the Roland DJ-808…
Roland DJ-808 – Music Production Elements
Firstly please note this isn’t an all in one production set up. But, its certainly a lot more than just a DJ controller. Roland are renowned for their TRS drum machines. Along the top of this controller sits this legendary drum machine, allowing you to sync up drum patterns and samples with your DJ set.
What is a TRS Drum Machine?
In the 1980’s Roland designed a drum machine called the Roland TR 808. This produced analog drum sounds and allowed the user to create rhythms with those sounds. Later came the 909 drum machine. These drum machines became synonymous with the hip hop and dance music community, making them go to units for producers of the era. So how does this relate to this controller?
Basically roland have redesigned those drum machines, adding the 707 and 606 sounds, creating a synthesised version and added it to the top of this controller.
Pretty damn cool, right?!
The colourful buttons are called a step sequencer allowing you to program a pattern of 4 different drum sounds; Kick, Snare, Closed Hat, Open Hat. Each drum has its own volume fader and patterns can be stored and recalled at any point. You can also adjust the attack, decay, sustain and release times of each drum sound for further manipulation to your patterns. If you prefer to play in your drums with the pads there is a dedicated performance pad mode to do just that.
This drum machine syncs to the master deck assigned within Serato or it can act as the master deck meaning the decks will always stay in time with your drums. On top of all of that you can also apply the Izotope effects built within Serato DJ to the TRS drums too. Just bare in mind it applies the effect to all drums and unfortunately not to individual sounds.
The possibilities really are endless as you can access the Serato DJ sample decks and create patterns with any sounds loaded into your sample bank too. Best start getting those creative juices flowing…
Our thoughts on the Roland TRS drum machine
It’s a lot of fun! We really enjoyed making beats on the fly and adding extra elements into our usual DJ sets. One thing it’s great for is getting DJs to think outside their usual comfort zone. To really make use of the drum machine takes a bit of practice, but is the perfect way to get started on a journey into music production. It’s also amazing for any producer who wants to start mixing and creating live DJ sets.
The Roland DJ-808 could be the centre point to a live set up. It’s midi outputs mean you can also hook up extra drum machines, synthesiser and samplers and sync them all up to this controller.
All in all, this really is a powerful, multi functional controller with endless set up possibilities. It’s also prcied at a very fair price point.
Roland DJ-808 Video Review
Currently at the time of writing just £999.00 in the UK and $1299.00 in the US.
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