Updates: July 2016
Roland G-808 Version A

Roland G-808 Guitar Synthesizer Controller

Features and Specifications:

  • Body: Ash and Walnut
  • Finish: Acrylic (natural)
  • Neck: Maple and Mahogany, thru neck
  • Fingerboard: Select Ebony
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge: Fixed, adjustable
  • Nut: Polycarbonate
  • Tuning machines: Gotoh
  • Pickups: Two Roland PU-114H Humbuckers
  • Scale: 24 3/4"
  • Truss Rod: Adjustable
  • Neck Width: 1 11/16"
  • Body Width: 13"
  • Body Depth: 1 3/4"
Roland G-808, GR-300 and FS-3

Introduction to the Roland G-808:

The Roland GR-300 and G-808 guitar combination was the original flagship of the early 1980s Roland guitar synthesizers. It was this combination most prominently featured in advertising promoting the breakthrough Roland guitar technology. While more people are familiar with the G-303 guitar, thanks to Pat Metheny, the G-808 was the premium guitar, with complete through-neck construction, gold hardware and more. The G-808 was simply one of the best guitars available at the time, and sold with the GR-300, the finest guitar synthesizer system ever designed.

In many ways, the original GR-300 and G-808 combination was a continuation of the earlier GS-500 and GR-500 guitar and synthesizer combination. These two systems used the same 24-pin cable, but the GR-300 is a simpler system than the earlier GS-500/GR-500. Notably, the GR-300 and G-808 offered a level of playability that had been promised since the introduction of the guitar synthesizers. When players picked up a GR-300 and G-808, they did not have to adjust their style to play this expressive system. And with the G-808, players did not have to compromise of their choice of guitar. The G-808, with its high end hardware, through-neck construction, and ebony fret board, was as good as any mass-produced guitar on the market.

Links to more information:

Version History - A Tale of Two Bridges, Electronics, and Pickups:

Version "A" High Mass Bridge
Early Version High-Mass Brass Bridge

Curiously, the G-808 seems to have shipped with two different styles of bridges. By far and away, the majority of G-808 guitars that I have seen have what looks like a standard Tune-O-Matic type bridge and stop bar tailpiece.

However, early G-808 guitars have a larger, high-mass brass bridge that seems to be more typical of the Ibanez Musician guitars coming from the Fujigen factory. Also, almost all G-808 guitars have a unique stop bar tail piece with a nice piece of decorative wood glued to the top.

Check out the photos below. I have an enlargement from the 1982 Roland Guitar Synthesizer brochure that clearly shows the larger, unique bridge and tailpiece. Also, the guitars in the Roland brochure have the same speed knobs as those found on the Roland G-505 guitar. The majority of G-303 and G-808 guitars have knobs similar to a Les Paul, and this is the same style knob found on the Roland G-202.

I saw one eBay auction, from March of 2007, that has a G-808 with this unique hardware, both bridge and knobs. The center photo below is from that auction.

G-808 bridge close up from 1982 Roland brochure. Note the bridge hardware and knobs. March 2007 auction with a G-808 guitar sporting the same hardware as the 1982 brochure. Typical Roland G-808 guitar with Tune-O-Matic style bridge and wood decorated tail piece.
Click on any image for larger view.

More information on G-303 and G-808 circuit board revisions.

More information on the two versions of divided hex (synth) pickups.

Comparing the Roland G-303 and G-808:

Roland G-303 and G-808 Neck Profile
Click on image for larger view. G-303 (top) and G-808 (bottom)

While the G-303 and G-808 are very similar guitars, there are some distinct differences between these two highly sought after vintage guitars.

Body: The G-303 has a maple top and mahogany body, the G-808 has an ash and walnut body.

Fret board: The G-303 has a rosewood fret board, while the G-808 has an ebony fret board. Ebony is highly regarded as a fret board material for guitar synth controllers. Both the Ibanez IMG2010 and the Godin LGX-SA use ebony for the fret board.

Neck Design: The G-303 has a set neck, while the G-808 has thru-neck construction. The G-303 has a "chunky" profile, while the G-808 has a "slim" neck profile. See the photo at right for more details.

Hardware: the G-303 has Silver/Nickel hardware, and the G-808 has Gold/Brass hardware.

Early G-808 Bridge Design: as previously noted, the early G-808 guitars had a high-mass bridge also in use in Greco guitars made by Fujigen at this time. At some point in the production run, the high-mass brass bridge was replaced with a more conventional tune-o-matic style bridge. The G-303 has also sports a tune-o-matic bridge.

Photos - Natural Finish:

Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar Roland G-808 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar
Click on any image for larger view.

Photos - Rare White Finish:

Roland G-808 White
Roland G-808 White
Roland G-808 White
Roland G-808 White
Roland G-808 White
Roland G-808 White
Click on image for larger view


Videos:

Origins of Roland Guitars - Fujigen:


Roland guitars were not built by Ibanez, or Hoshino, as is often erroneously posted on various websites! Ibanez does not make every Japanese Electric Guitar!

In 1977, through a joint capital investment between Roland Corporation and Fujigen, FUJI ROLAND CORP is established, based in Matsumoto. Together they developed the world's first guitar synthesizer (GR-500).

Some have noted the the Roland basses have the logo "F Roland" on the headstock, for Fuji Roland. And the Roland guitars have "GR" on the headstock, perhaps for "Greco Roland." The 1981 Greco Catalogue shows every Roland guitar synth product in production at that time. The Roland G-808 is a modified version of the Greco GO1000.




Greco GO1000 Guitar
Roland G-808 Guitar

Fujigen Gakki built a lot of guitars, for a lot of people, including Greco Guitars. Greco Guitars were sold almost exclusively in Japan. Fujigen Gakki also built guitars for Ibanez, Fender, Fender/Squire, Yamaha, and of course Roland.

Contractors could provide their own designs to Fujigen Gakki, but often they would consult with the Fujigen Gakki engineers, and make modifications of existing designs. This explains the similar designs and features of Roland and Ibanez guitars of the same era.

Catalog 40-41
Catalog 42-43
Click on the above images to download these four pages from the Greco 1981 catalogue featuring vintage Roland Guitar Synthesizers

Dating Early Vintage Roland Guitars:


Have you wondered what year your Roland controller was built? I located some excellent information on dating guitars produced by Fuji Gengakki. This information is from an ebay page called Ibanez Does Not Make Every Japanese Electric Guitar

"Guitars made at FujiGen from about 1976 through 1985 use a signature serial numbering system. All Ibanez-branded guitars from 1976-1985 use it, as do Grecos and the other Hoshino-associated brands I discuss below. This serial number system makes it very easy to date the guitar. The serial number is made up of a letter followed by six numerals, for example, B781234. The letter corresponds to the month of the year (A = January, B = February, etc.) and the first two numbers correspond to the year (in the example I give, 78 stands for 1978).


The top G-303 was made in November, 1982, "K82", the bottom in January, 1980 "A80" The top G-808 was made in December, 1980, "L80", the bottom in July, 1980 "G80"

Later Roland controllers uses a metal plate attached to the headstock with serial numbers only, and no letters.