Roland TR-707

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Roland TR-707 Rhythm Composer
Technical specifications
Polyphony10 notes
Synthesis typeSample-based
Storage memory64 Patterns, 4 Songs
External controlMIDI In Out & DIN Sync In Out & Trig Out (outputs a Rimshot sound as trigger)

The Roland TR-707 Rhythm Composer is a drum machine released by the Roland Corporation in 1985.[1][2]


The TR-707 has fifteen digitally sampled sounds. The instrument is capable of 10-voice polyphony. The alternate bass drum, snare, and hi-hat sounds cannot be triggered simultaneously. The instruments are labeled as Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Low Tom, Mid Tom, Hi Tom, Rimshot, Cowbell, Hand Clap, Tambourine, Hi-Hat (Closed or Open), Cymbal (Crash or Ride), as well as an additional function labeled accent, which serves to rhythmically modify the volume of the other instruments.[3]

The instruments on the TR-707 are samples of recordings of actual acoustic instruments and are not synthesized individually like the instruments on the TR-808.[4]

The TR-707 provides four levels of shuffle that operate globally on the rhythm, as well as flam that can be applied to any step. The device offers 64 programmable patterns, which are editable via step-write or tap-write, that can be sequenced together into any of four different tracks. Patterns and tracks can be stored on the device (providing that two AA batteries are inserted) or onto an optional memory cartridge with twice the capacity.[5]

The TR-707 is particularly sought after by users of Roland gear from the same era because it can synchronize with other hardware via both MIDI and DIN sync, although it cannot do so when controlled by other hardware. There is also an output that allows the Rimshot to trigger hardware that accepts a voltage pulse. There are individual volume sliders and output jacks for each instrument group.[6]


While the TR-707 is a primarily digital device, it still employs some analog circuitry like envelopes and amplifiers.[4]

The sounds where envelope circuits are used to contour the sounds are the Crash and Ride Cymbal, and the Hi-Hats. The Crash and Ride Cymbals are stored and replayed at 6-bit resolution whereas the other sounds are 8-bit samples.[4] This low bit resolution significantly alters the dynamics of the original sounds resulting in very compressed sounds with an unnaturally long sustain.[7] Envelope circuits were used here in an attempt to recreate an approximation the original dynamics of the sounds recorded.

Comparison of the Cymbal samples stored on the ROM and the Cymbal sounds you hear after they have gone through D/A conversion, envelopes, and amplification.

These envelopes also play a role in reducing the quantization noise introduced by the low bit-rate used in the TR-707's circuits, particularly during the decay portion of sounds.[7]

Both the open and closed Hi-Hat sounds are generated by the same sample stored in the ROM. When you trigger the closed Hi-Hat you actually trigger the open Hi-Hat sound that is then enveloped to sound like a short, closed cymbal hit. This approach eliminated the need to store two different Hi-Hat samples on individual EEPROMs. This was a smart and economical move by Roland as digital storage was very expensive at the time, thus allowing them to keep manufacturing costs down.

With the introduction of a 707/727 sound set for the Roland TR-8, Roland published an in-depth explanation of what causes a TR-707 unit to behave differently than a set of sampled sounds from the machine.[7]


The TR-707 was a staple in early house music, particularly with acid house.[8] It is also a staple of almost all electronically produced Arabic pop music (al jeel). Because the TR-707 offers a limited number of instruments sampled at 8 bits,[9][10] its sound is considered dated by modern standards.[by whom?] However, it is still in use because of its versatility in synchronizing with other hardware and its fully featured interface, comparable to that of high-end Roland drum machines such as the TR-808 and TR-909.[citation needed]

The TR-727 is visually identical aside from having blue highlights on the case, but it contains a different, Latin-inspired sample set. The TR-505 contains a subset of samples selected from the 707 and 727.[citation needed]

Songs that use the TR-707 include "Need You Tonight" by INXS, ''Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson and "Washing Machine" by Mr. Fingers.[11][12]


  1. ^ "Roland TR-707 | Vintage Synth Explorer". Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  2. ^ "Roland TR-707". Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  3. ^ "Roland TR-707". Retrieved 2017-08-17.
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ Roland TR-707 Owner's Manual.
  6. ^ "Rhythm Composer TR-707". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  7. ^ a b c Corporation, Roland. "Roland - 7X7-TR8 | Drum Machine Expansion for TR-8". Roland. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  8. ^ "The 20 best acid house records ever made". Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  9. ^ "Roland TR-707". Retrieved 2021-08-05.
  10. ^ "Roland TR-707 | Vintage Synth Explorer". Retrieved 2021-08-05.
  11. ^ "Classic Track: INXS, "Need You Tonight"". Mixonline. 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  12. ^ "Ten Of The Best: Hardware Drum Machines - Page 4 of 11". Attack Magazine. 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2020-06-17.

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