Now, with the embargo lifted on new Roland gear, brace yourself for a lot of discussion. On some level, any comparison of a $349-$399 new gadget to anything before it is a bit silly – when original 909s start selling for three figures, let us know. And I think starting with a direct comparison misses the point: the TR-909 and TB-303 sound terrific, and you’re unlikely to record or play either totally dry. (Classic records, uh, used processing too, ya know?) Relax and go enjoy a great drum machine and bassline.

Of course, from the perspective of curiosity, though, why not compare? And I’m likewise keen to see what others think of these.

So, let’s have at it. Remember, this is all worth revisiting. Having talked to someone from the Harajuku office at Roland, in fact the team built totally new circuit models. They didn’t reuse the ones you’ve already heard on the AIRA TR-8 (as those sounds were sort of grafted atop an 808 model) or the AIRA TB-3 (which wasn’t strict with how it followed the 303 architecture). Roland says they were built anew. And unlike the AIRA, authenticity seems to have been more of a priority.

First, TR-09 and TR-909 comparisons:

And here’s a TB-03 / 303 comparison:

Plus, here we have some of the reviews.

Let us know what you think of these videos, if there’s anything you especially like or disagree with as far as the reviews, and if you spot more videos on YouTube etc.

  • If it is a completely remodeled 909, not taken from the TR-8, I would be much more interested in a TR-09 vs. TR-8 comparison here. Edit: Saw the bonedo video now. The TR-8 sounds much fresher and clearer to me. But maybe that’s what puts the purists off?

    But I seriously still don’t get it (and please forgive my ignorance): This is basically 1/5 (808, 909, 707, 727, 606) of the TR-8 in a smaller box, admittedly nicer to look at than the still hideous Aira green, with tiny knobs, and without all the added features, effects etc. that the TR-8 comes with. Now, the TR-8 comes at 499 $ + the 7X7 expansion for another 110 $ vs. the TR-09 at (probably) 399 $.

    Is this really only about giving all those retro nerds the looks they want? I mean, the TR-09 does not have single outputs – not even a regular audio jack (ok, that’s like with the other Boutiques). What is the point of this? I can’t help but being underwhelmed.

    • Brett Anthony

      “But I seriously still don’t get it (and please forgive my ignorance)”
      Agreed. Me neither. The only reason I could see Roland done this was marketing, the “look” of the original. I would suspect that under the hood, the software is almost the same. I have TR-8 and I love mine, I was really hoping the 909 was going to be an analog 909 remake. I mean they own the copyright. Once the release a 909, then that just instantly shuts everyone up. How can a unit made from the same circuit design sound different? I wish they did the same for the 303. That way I wouldn’t need to save a million bucks to buy them again 😉

  • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

    Thanks for posting the comparisons. I do think that side by side comparisons are important, even given the price difference, because if a great 909 sound is what you’re after (and is the main priority more than hands-on control), even if you can’t afford a 909, it’s worth considering whether nice 909 samples are a better solution than the TR-09. Especially given the existence of stuff like Transistor Revolution, with thousands of samples, round robin, etc.

    To me, the TR-09 sounds way better than the TR-8 (especially the kick). The 909 and TR-09 sound very similar, not exactly the same, but I couldn’t really say one is better without hearing more. Which maybe means it’s a small enough difference to not matter. Still would love to hear more comparisons, with uncompressed audio, etc. But it sounds good!