First of all, I have to say that Roland has stepped their game up in the DJ industry and they’ve really put some thought into the Roland dj-808 as we discuss further on in this Roland DJ-808 Review.
Altogether, it’s a 4-channel mixer, a Roland TR drum sequencer, & a vocal transformer all-in-one. Best of all, the Roland DJ-808 is integrated with Serato DJ! Honestly, what more could a DJ possibly ask for? Every DJ can appreciate a drum machine and a vocal transformer!
Located on the back of the controller is this cool Roland DJ-808 logo above. Actually, I have to admit, it definitely stands out and catches my eye. Roland did a pretty good job on the design! In this review, I’m going to show you in great detail some of the best features this controller has to offer, as well as a short little interview with my good friend…
DJ Nick Flash In The House!
Second of all, I would like to introduce you to my good friend DJ Nick Flash whom owns the Roland DJ-808 DJ Controller. In the image above, you can see my buddy DJ Nick Flash looking (nakedly) fresh behind his Roland DJ-808 (I photoshopped him into this photo of his Roland 808. Oh yeah, notice the flash chest hair patch? lol).
Before I explain in great detail what the Roland DJ-808 has to offer, be sure to read this interview below with DJ Nick Flash. In fact, I ask him some in-depth questions about his Roland DJ 808-DJ Controller that he owns.
DJ Nick Flash – Roland DJ-808 Review Questions:
Q- How Long have you had your Roland DJ-808? Is it still in good shape?
I’ve had my Roland dj-808 controller for about 3 years now. I bought the Odyssey Case for it so it stays in pristine condition! Roland did a good job constructing this masterpiece.
Q- Where did you buy your Roland DJ-808 DJ Controller & why?
I bought it from Zzounds because they let me pay monthly payments at 0% interest. The DJ Pro recommended I go through them and I’m glad I did! My 1st payment of roughly around $140 shipped me the DJ controller in 2 days and I was really happy with how fast I received it. Then, it was around $120 a month after that and I’m still paying my payments every month. (This price was in 2018 so it may be cheaper now! Click the image below to see how much YOUR first payment would be!)
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Also, if you’d like to see some of the equipment I’ve purchased through Zzounds, check out my post here:
“How I Afford All of My DJ Gear Through Monthly Payments“.
Q- What made you want to buy the Roland DJ-808 when you first read about it?
I definitely purchased this controller because of the TR-S drum machine & Vocal Transformer. Duh right? I think everyone who buys this controller has a little background in making beats and wants to take their mixing to a new level.
Q- Is the Roland DJ-808 DJ Controller everything you could have asked for and more?
Yes! I love it. It’s the best DJ controller I’ve ever owned, but we will see how long it lasts. Like I said, I’ve had it for 3 years and I’ll definitely give you an update if ever starts acting funny but so far so good. I’m very glad I decided to buy it. It was either the Roland DJ-808 or the Pioneer DDJ SZ2 and I decided to go with Roland.
Q- How do you like the Drum Machine sequencer & Vocal Transformer?
I think it’s awesome. It brings more excitement at each one of my gigs just knowing that I’m going to impress my clients with a brand new revised version of their favorite songs. Basically, I add in a new bass line, snare, or maybe some high hats and I spice up their favorite songs as their dancing. The drum machine sequencer is really cool. I don’t really use the vocal transformer that much unless I’m djing for kids and I want to make them laugh. I used it a couple times for karaoke and let people sing on my microphone and I’ll tweak their voice a little to get a reaction. To answer your question, I really love both features
Q- What are some of the things you think Roland could improve on?
The only thing I could possibly ask for is that Roland add more drum kits to choose from. Honestly, thats it. This controller is bad ass.
Q- Overall, what do you rate this DJ Controller 1-10?
10 out of 10. It’s everything I wanted and more. No doubt!
Roland DJ-808 Review Features
Due to the 16 step sequencer being my favorite feature on the Roland DJ 808, I decided it would be the first thing we talk about in this Roland DJ 808 Review. In fact, not to toot my own horn too much but, if you’re interested in knowing how the 16 step sequencer works then I’m about to explain it to you like a true professional…
How does the 16 Step Sequencer work on the Roland DJ-808?
To demonstrate, I decided to break it down into sections. In the paragraphs to follow, I explain in my own words how to start adding instruments to your tracks with the Roland DJ 808 drum sequencer.
By the way, I put a lot of effort into making this as simple as I possibly could for you, so please be sure to share this post with your friends and leave a comment when you’re done reading!
Nick Flash says, “I can remix & master tracks on the fly with my Roland DJ-808, giving my audience a unique & unforgettable performance”.
Drum Machine / 16 Step Sequencer
In the image above, it shows the 16 step sequencer buttons located on the top of the Roland DJ-808 numbered 1 – 16 (keep a mental note of this). On a side note titled “VERY IMPORTANT”, the integrated Roland TR sequencing drum machine includes authentic Roland 606, 707, 808, and 909 kicks, snares, claps and hi-hats.
For the most part, Pattern mode is going to be a button you visit often when using the Roland DJ-808 TR-S Drum Machine. In fact, once you press the Pattern button, located in the image above under the green arrow, you can choose up to 16 different patterns.
Also, you can combine patterns together! As an example, after pressing the pattern button, you’ll then choose pattern bank 1-16 on the sequence buttons. Ok now what?!
Next, once you’ve selected a pattern bank (you must clear the bank if it already has a sequence), press on the TR-REC button located in the image above under the green arrow. Now, you’re ready to select which TR Drum Kit you’ll be using for this sequence…
TR Drum Kits
Next, in this Roland DJ-808 Review, we will go over the four TR buttons located at the top of the controller which are shown in the image above. For example, from left to right, you have your Bass Drums (BD), Snare Drums (SD), Closed Hats (CH), and Open hats (OH). Usually, after you’ve selected you’re TR Kit, then it’s time to select an instrument.
Instrument Value Knob
In order to change the instrument of the TR drum kit you’re using, you need to turn the instrument value knob. For example, in the image above, notice this guys left hand on the instrument value knob?
Finally, just like that, now you’re ready to cycle through instruments of your liking with the instrument value knob and add them to your sequence on the fly. Unfortunately, I’m not going to go over every single function on the TR-S Drum Machine, but I just wanted to cover the most basic functions to get you started in learning how to operate it.
In brief, when you’ve found the instrument you want to add to the sequence, simply push a sequence button to add it to your track! I’ll explain…
In the image above, notice the guys finger activating button 8 out of the 16 Sequence buttons? Once you have a TR kit selected (Bass Drums, Snare Drums, Closed Hats, or Open hats), you can start to add instruments to your sequence by pressing anyone of the 16 sequence buttons.
Trim, Attack, Tune, Decay
Lastly, to make the Roland DJ-808 that much more unique, Roland decided to allow you to control the sound of your instruments on the fly. To summarize, after you’ve chosen your instrument you’d like to add to your sequence, you can manipulate that instrument by tweaking these knobs to get the exact sound you’re looking for. Now, that’s freaking cool!
TR Volume Level Faders
Also, In the image above, it shows four volume faders that control the volume of each one of the TR drum kit buttons; Bass Drums, Snare Drums, Closed Hats, and Open hats (from left to right).
Performance Pad TR-Pattern Shortcut
Not only does the Roland DJ-808 have a performance pad just like the other leading DJ controllers on the market, but Roland took it a feature above the rest with the TR-Pattern Shortcut Pad. To explain, by pressing the TR button on the performance pad, you can juice up your sets with your stored sequences on the fly!
TR-S Drum Machine Conclusion
So there is the TR-S Drum Machine. In conclusion, The Roland DJ-808 Drum machine is a beast! Roland reinvents the wheel by creating one of the coolest DJ controllers on the market today! Wait a minute, There’s more to this Roland DJ-808 review! Don’t stop reading!
By the way, if you’re interested in this controller and would like to compare it to some of the best DJ controllers on the market today, be sure to check out my post, “10 DJ controllers w/ NO CREDIT, NO INTEREST, Monthly Payments”.
Roland DJ-808 Review- Serato DJ Effect Sampler
Altogether, the effect sampler stores up to 32 samples in the four banks (Bank A, Bank B, Bank C, & Bank D) of the Serato DJ sampler. In the image above, it shows the Serato Sampler banks located conveniently at the top of the Roland DJ-808 controller.
Samples can be manipulated in a number of ways including the Accent button, the four sample channel volume faders, or by adding effects with Serato’s software effects powered by iZotope.
Best of all, It can even capture samples on the fly directly from your mix using the Inst Record mode, or trigger one of 16 pre-programmed drum sequences via Pattern Mode!
VT Voice Transformer
Furthermore, the Roland DJ-808 has a 1/4 inch / XLR combo mic input integrated with a voice transformer that allows you to control pitch, formant, ducking, reverb, highs and lows, and Serato key matching. The key matching function allows you to match the key of the outgoing mix.
In the images above and below, notice the vocal transformer module located at the top right of the Roland DJ-808.
In short, you can manipulate your vocals in a number of ways and adjust the pitch until it matches the perfect key. Basically, Roland decided to give you the power of auto tuning your live performances!
As a matter of fact, this Auto Pitch Vocal Transformer may very well be the reason I decide to purchase this DJ controller next. Well, that and the fact that it makes beats!
AIRA and MIDI Integration
The Roland DJ 808 is designed with full MIDI capabilities and integration with other Roland AIRA devices. You can connect up to two AIRA-compatible synthesizers or effect modules using the two available AIRA Link USB ports located in the center of the image above .
Also, you can control an external MIDI device synced to the beat of the DJ-808 using the standard 5-pin MIDI out port located on the left in the image above.
Additional Features – Roland DJ-808
Notably, I’m just going over SOME of the best features on the Roland DJ-808. Unfortunately, if I were to cover every single feature on this DJ controller, I would develop arthritis in my fingers causing them to fall off and rot…
However, I managed to find some more basic functions of this beautiful beast, and I listed them below…
Performance Pads, Key Sync, Auto Loop, & Sync:
First off, the Roland DJ-808 has several performance pad modes that allow you to pull of some really ear-catching mixes on the fly. To explain, you may enter the modes by pressing anyone of the performance pad mode buttons, Hot Cue, Roll, TR, or Sampler. By holding shift and pressing the performance pad mode button, you can switch to the secondary performance pad mode.
First off, I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it key Sync myself, but I can say that I’ve heard a lot of good things about Key sync in Serato DJ. In fact, if you want you’re mixes to sound most professional, Key sync will ensure every track is harmonically mixed.
Serato automatically detects the key of each song you add to your library. Key Sync will sync the key of each track and if you organize your tracks by key you can match the best possible harmonic keys making your mixes sound more clean and professional.
Auto Loop is a feature found on most DJ controllers today, including the Roland DJ-808. It’s a perfect shortcut to use during live sets to spice up your mixes and add some flavor. Perhaps you need to speak on the mic and want to loop the intro beat of the song your about to spin to have it as a low background beat as you speak (hint hint).. Auto loop allows you to loop on the fly!
The Roland DJ-808 has sync buttons! Generally, a lot of DJs steer away from the sync button because it’s called, “cheating”. However, if you were to ask me, I’d say Sync has saved me numerous times during live sets.
In fact, with the time you save not having to adjust and match tempos, you can focus more on other cool things such as adding an effect, or a loop. Hit the sync button on the track you’re about to mix into and Serato will match that tracks tempo to the currently playing tracks tempo automatically. Remembering to turn this off before the song starts and the mix is over is a little tricky, but be quick!
Roland DJ-808 Review Conclusion
To conclude, The Roland DJ-808 was designed for specific DJs whom are interested in taking the art of mixing & beat making to the next level. As a result, I undoubtably believe Roland has changed the game forever in the world of disc jockeys and producing music.
Likewise, Roland isn’t the only one putting in work. I spent a long time researching and writing this post to make this Roland DJ-808 review post as easy to read as possible so please be sure to share this post with your friends!
If you really enjoyed this post and you’ve already shared it to your social media (please :), then I suggest you check out my recent post titled, “DDJ SZ2 vs DDJSX3 Pioneer Comparison Review”, to check out two DJ controllers on the market today that compete pretty close to the Roland DJ-808.