Make Roland TR-808 Hi Hat samples sound “real”.

Ableton Live - Impulse and Filter

The Roland TR-808 is my favorite drum machine. To hear a real one in action check out Cocteau Twins - Garlandssongs like Jam on It by Newcleas, Shallow Then Halo by the Cocteau Twins or Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye.

On eBay they usually go for well over $1000 USD so not everyone can afford one. Even if you do own one sometimes using samples is just more convenient. A big tip off to seasoned listeners that your faking it is the Hi Hat sound of most samples. Here is a trick that John Selway showed me on how to make Roland TR-808 samples sound more real.

Roland TR-808

I’m going to use Ableton Live’s built-in Auto Filter but any filter plug-in should work. This is a very simple trick but once you hear it “fix” the sound you may use it often. I am trying to get rid of it that symbalance, feathery, super high digital sound and replace it with something more metallic and clear. Check out the original untreated samples in action here:

Make sure your Hi Hats are on a separate audio channel and add Auto Filter as an insert. Grab the fluorescent yellow dot inside the automation display and drag it about a centimeter to the left and a half centimeter upwards. The kHz should read about 7.01 and the Q about 1.60. Take a listen to the Hi Hats now:

Now take a listen to what these improved Hi Hats sound like in action. Here they are in a song called Body to Body off my new album Attack Decay: click here

Here are a few places you can find Roland TR-808 samples online. Keep in mind that Roland TR-808’s sound different from each other, have lots of tuning settings and can be recorded many different ways. The kb6 set is free, the Gold Baby set was recorded to tape and my personal favorite is the Wizoo set.

If you know of any good TR-808 sample sets online let me know in the comments.

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

9 thoughts on “Make Roland TR-808 Hi Hat samples sound “real”.”

  1. I like 808, but I must say the times I need the sound, I just use the default 808 drum set inside Logic. RMIV from LinPlug also has nice 808 samples, and Linplug should actually very soon release the new version of their drum plug-in. –Kent

  2. Hi Oliver, in the article you say this is a trick to make 808 samples sound more real, I unfortunately never touched one real 808 machine, but aren’t the samples you are processing taken from a REAL machine? could you please clarify the concept behind this trick, namely, why do you need to make the samples sound more real when they are already real enough as it is?
    if there is an aesthetical agenda to it, and you just need to color them into a certain tone then it’s whole ‘nother thing

  3. Hi Bayan. I find a lot of samples sound feathery with too much high end. I like my 808s to sound slightly chrome or metallic. Most real TR-808s actually sound different from each other. Even emulations like D16s Nepheton have 808 presets each with slightly different tunings/sound. I have a Wizoo set of samples that I dont use a filter on but on some of my other kits in Battery or Impulse I do use it. You know… trust your ears and pick what you like!

  4. I cannot seem to find the Wizoo TR808 sample set anywhere
    online. Looks like Wizoo was taken over by Digidesign and the
    original sample CD with the TR808 sampleset (Wizoo Platinum-24
    Electronic Drums) is no longer available. Do you know where I might
    be able to obtain it, or at least hear a demo of it? I really would
    like to hear what it sounds like. I’m very “picky” about how TR808
    hi-hats sound and the sound of the hi-hats and cymbal play a big
    role in how well I judge the overall sound of an 808, whether it be
    the real machine or a sampleset. Many of the 808 samplesets
    available on the net aren’t that great in the hihats/cymbal
    department IMHO. BTW, you’re absolutely right about 808s sounding
    different. As an owner of two very different sounding real 808s, I
    can confirm this. As a matter or fact, I’m thinking about selling
    one of them to hunt down one with better sounding hi-hats &
    cymbals if I can find one as I’m really not too happy with the
    tonal characteristics of the hihats in either one of my 808s (well,
    one does sound better than the other but anyway….). When I think
    great sounding 808 hats and cymbals, I think of KLC back in the
    90’s with Master P and No Limit, Sir-Mix-a-Lot: Posse on Broadway,
    and Dr. Dre and NWA. It’s all about finding the “RIGHT” sounding
    TR808 or 808 sampleset in addition to external processing as the
    ocillators each 808s cymbal section are tuned different and sound
    different. Thanks.

    1. I would email Avid. I’m a strong supporter of not using cracks or sharing sample set, etc… other wise I would send the samples to you. Who knows maybe it’s discontinued and they will let you grab them by any means? Also check out the Kai Tracid kit for Native Instruments Battery. It’s also very good… but each sample set does have a different quality/sound. Curious… have you thought about an Acid Lab Miami?

      1. Yeah I’ve though about the Miami and I’ve seen some demos on Youtube. I actually have the real TR808 machines (2 of them). The problem is, there were only a handful of 808s that were made that has a specific unique tone that I’ve been looking for in the hihats and cymbals and neither of my 808s have that tone. Therefore, I’ve been trying to trackdown a sampleset taken directly from another 808 that has that tone in the cymbals. It’s kinda hard to describe but I’ve listened to so many 808s and 808 samplesets that I can immediately distinguish the tonal characteristics in the cymbals when I hear them. So 808s have them, some don’t. I’ve heard a few people’s 808s on Youtube that has that tone in the cymbals I’ve been looking for. It may be a challenge trying to contact them and get them to sample the 808s for me but I’ll try.


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