The DR-880 is nice, but notice that I got it mainly for banging some srx/v-drums style noises at night, with a headphone. Just to have some fun. And the headphone amp is nice and clean, while could be hotter. For that, the unit is a wonderful stuff!
The pads are a bit small, but they are playable and react to velocity well. Supporting the multilayered sample. Not as musical as my RY30 but better than the MC-909 pads. It didn't have an aftertouch as many earlier top of the line Boss unit have. The unit is light enough to carry, but bigger than earlier Boss DR line. All made of plastic, but looks aesthetically nice and clean.
If you are a fan of older Roland's drums (derived from the R-8mkII to the DR-770 era), may be the unit won't make you happy. To me these older boxex have more aggressive, more in your face quality, just like most of the 90's beat box. Even the SC-880 engine in my MC-80ex has more punch and dynamic to it sounds compared to the DR-880. Also forget about the analog drum sounds, my MC-909 got that covered much more better. The percussion sounds are crisp and clean with some details, but again thinner compared to the MC-909 or older stuff, which could be a better source for current pop music mix.
Sounds like I hate it? NO, I love it!
Because, it covers the type of sounds that I'm looking for. Nice, clean, with the simple - up front "Boss" style sound and "fun" to play with/listen to. It cover stuffs that's missing from the MC-909 or my older Roland's drum collection. Also sounds different from the Bass & Drum board sounds in my JV-1080 which again sounds punchier, has more dynamics and raw. Even may be with the same samples.
For the best source of an acoustic drum kit emulation, may be something like the E-mu protean/beat shop or installing the Dynamic Drums SRX (for more editing power in the MC-909) would do the job better. Listening to the the DR-880 sound is almost like listening to a V-drum instead of a real acoustic drum, which sounds great on a progressive music and the type of sound that I'm currently looking for. I'm using my trusty audio technica M-40fs phones, and it sounds great (as I like it), even sometime sounds a bit "bossy" (cheesy) which could be because of the simpler/lower end engine compared to the Fantom Class MC-909's engine.
The Kick and Snare are my favorite, followed by the tom. The hi-hat, crash, ride, china sounds good, but thin compare to the older line. But yet, sounds more ready mix too and sounds musical as a whole. Great for one, looking for a typical "current" Roland's drum samples type, V-drum style.
As most of us agree, that a drum machine should sound like one. I prefer drum loops for a better acoustic drum track. And the DR-880 sounds more like a hybrid machine :O) which sounds music to me. But if there are any E-mu PX-7 for cheap, I'd prolly got it too, just to bang some rythm, because I like to do finger drumming with a great acoustic drum kits. Plus it has a way deeper engine, and I still can use the component such as the tom, crash, cymbal and synthesis to enrich the drum loop track.
The filterless engine is simple but effective, just around the pitch and decay. There's no way to layer sample, to make thicker sound. But the DR-880 has 3 separate inserts (eq and comp) which is a bit effective to make it sounds more mix ready. TSC which basically just a total eq and reverb, sounds a bit cheesy sometime. But it's better than nothing, since it would add some musical ambiance to the playing and would not to noticable in a mix for a fast demo track.
I haven't make any song with it's sequencer, or using the step editing to make patterns, instead of doing realtime finger drumming. But I did play around a bit with the ez compose beat editing, which is simply a mix and match of drum elements from one pattern to another. The process is easy and fun. This alone, could make the unit as a great practice device. The fill-in library is also nice and effective, but not as instant as the fill-in operation such in the early Boss unit or as in the SR-16.
People said that the video manual is very nice and un-leashed the unit's potential. It featuring the the same person featured on the MC-909 dvd manual.
I haven't tried the GT-6 based fx for the guitar in, but it supposed to be not bad. If you play guitarthen this is going to be another plus point. I hardly wish that those effects can be used with the drum sounds..but no such luck.
Above all the weaknesses, with the right touch, I can see that this unit got a potential to do a finished, slammin hot rhtym tracks. Not to mention a great drum source for a demo track and a jamming/practicing unit.
Hope that this humble review, would give an honest view of this humble device which I really like.