The Roland TR-09 Revives the TR-909 Legacy

909 Day has arrived. The much-hyped global event invited distributors and media outlets everywhere to help Roland launch over 30 new products, so here we are. Let's start with the namesake.

We'd be lying if we said we weren't excited about the new Roland TR-09 Rhythm Composer. This reincarnation of the original Roland TR-909 drum machine released in 1984 - which now regularly fetches over $3k on Reverb - features mostly the same aesthetic, control surface and parameters, albeit with a few modern updates.

But is this just another example of a company reissuing a watered-down version of one of their own classics (here's looking at you, Ibanez TS-808 reissue...) at a less-than-vintage price? It's a valid question.

Roland TR-09 vs. TR-909: What's The Same

Sentimentalists will appreciate the fact that the front panel layout and user interface remain unchanged. The unit itself is somewhat smaller (a plus), but all the familiar dials and buttons are there, including the rad 1980s font.

Most importantly, the sound - the funky blend of analog tones and samples - is the same. You still get the 16-step drum sequencer with classic Step and Tap write modes. You can still toggle between Shuffle/Flam mode with buttons.

Roland TR-09 vs. TR-909: What's Different

The immediate and obvious update is the TR-09's compatibility with external gear. The original TR-909 was the first MIDI-compatible drum machine, but it was limited. This modern iteration features four separate USB outputs, a technology that didn't exist in '84 but is now industry-standard. It also has a trigger output for controlling external instruments.

In terms of function, the TR-09 can continue playing between write and play modes, toggling between Step and Tap on the fly. This wasn't possible before. Each of the 16 steps on the sequencer has 16 sub-steps for granular control.


The TR-09 also has a 24-bit/96 kHz stereo USB in/out and a jack for an optional K-25m Keyboard Unit. This means you can hook it up and record directly to your DAW. Or if you want make beats on the bus, on the street corner or in the office, this thing has a built-in speaker and can run on four AA batteries.

Revolutionary? Probably not. Right in the strike zone of what today's electronically-oriented music-makers want? Absolutely.

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