It's always good to see companies delivering updates and new features to devices long after they've launched. And Roland's TR-8S and TR-6S were already pretty capable to begin with. But with the latest firmware updates they're picking up two huge new additions, including one that that I'm personally quite excited about.
TR-8S 3.0 and TR-6S 2.0 add an ACB model of the CR-78 CompuRhythm and a chromatic TR-808 mode for building basslines. The ability to play an 808 kick chromatically greatly expands the flexibility of the two drum machines. While you could tune drum hits and samples on the to create some melodic elements it wasn't exactly an easy or pleasant experience. This opens up the 8S and 6S well beyond strictly percussion, but does so in a way that seems natural. The 808 emulation was already part of their feature sets. And, especially in the world of hip hop, it's a staple for creating basslines, not just drum grooves.
The CR-78 emulation is another huge addition. It was the world's first programable drum machine and my personal favorite of Roland’s classic rhythm boxes. In fact, I called out the lack of a CR-78 model in my review of the TR-6S as its one glaring omission. (I'd like to believe I had something to do with the decision, but I know better.) All of the sounds from the hardware are represented, as are most of the original preset rhythms, plus a few new ones. But what's particular exciting is the ability to use the more modern programming features and sound design tools available on the TR-6S and TR-8S to tweak the CR-78 for more modern productions.
In addition to the two new sound engines, the TR-Editor app on Mac and PC is getting an update with some usability tweaks and new compact UI for easier use on small displays. All these updates are available now for free directly from Roland.com.