I would dare to say the only thing electronic drum wise out there better than a real Roland TR-808 is the Tiptop Audio Eurorack drum modules. The reason I say that is each module actually gets the sound right but is also controllable in a creative modular environment. It’s not just the sound they get correct. It’s also the pressure or chest feel. Tiptop gets it right. The fact that you can then take these sounds a throw them into Euclidean sequencers, Echophons, Plague Bearer’s etc is just fantastic. They just released the MA808 which emulates the TR-808s Maracas. $99 USD.
“The MA808 is Roland’s TR-808 Maracas sound generator adapted for modular
synthesizer use.” – tiptopaudio.com
TipTop Audio has released another in their line of Roland TR-808 modules for the Eurorack system. I own all of them so far and they are all stellar. I believe I read Gur used to repair or clone real 808s so he really knows what he is doing. This time the Rimshot and Clav are covered in the new RS808 module. The sound is right and besides the flexibility of being in the modular environment the module has slightly more variation than the original.
“The RS808 is the TR-808’s analog Rimshot and Clavs sound generator in Eurorack format. It’s a low-cost module that brings back that classic sound, but with even more variation and control, continuing to expand your Tiptop Audio modular drum machine. The RS808 comes with two switches that give a total of 4 different positions: two are the classic Rimshot and Clavs sounds as found on the original, and two are unique to the RS808 module adding a range of snappy “click” sounds the circuit is capable of producing. Two control knobs were added, each have different effect for the selected sound. In general, these controls can be categorized as Pitch and Snap as they control the frequency of the oscillator and decay of the envelope generator. The RS808 is an exact reproduction of the original circuit which sounds like a fresh machine coming off the assembly line back in the 80’s.” – tiptopaudio.com
This months issue of Sound on Sound has reviews of the MFB-522 and 503 drum machines. The 522 is sort of a Roland TR-808 clone. It is full analog and in the ballpark but really sounds like it’s own machine. I’ve have a lot of music on my to do list and because I’m using a lot of analog hardware these days I decided to put a mini studio on my dining room table. The heart of it is the 522. I also have an old Boss BX800 mixer from the 80s. I have fond memories of the way it distorted. Unfortunately after playing with it a bit I ended up switching it out to a new Yamaha MG102c. The kick’s attack is much sharper on the new mixer and that’s very important to me. The 522 has individual out, lots of knobs to control the sounds, a fill pattern and it’s fun to program. Check out the little video above of my MFB in action. You can hear it has a nice tight groove and how fun the fill is. The video was recorded with an iPhone though the iPhone’s speaker with the audio coming from a TDK Boombox. There is a suped up version of the 522 called the 523 coming this year. You can buy a 522 for $425 USD.
“MFB-522 is a drumcomputer with a fully analogue sound engine that offers plenty of editing capabilities. It includes a step-sequencer with popular TR-style running-light-programming. Memory locations are available for 72 patterns as well as for 8 songs.” – mfberlin.de
Wave Alchemy are sound designers from Nottingham in the UK. In the past 5 years Dan Byers & Steve Heath have built up a reputation for producing some of the better sample packs especially when it comes to drum sounds. Recently they released a very ambitious project called Transistor Revolution which uses 22,000 samples to recreate a Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Some people will ask why do we need more 808/909? I think theses specific drum machine sounds are the pencil and pen for electronic music. They are important backbone sounds that can be used a million different ways. Real 808s and 909s are continually going up in value. Last time I checked an 808 is about $2500 on eBay. Transistor Revolution is currently less than $100 USD (introductory price) so if it sounds good it’s value is apparent. “TR” uses Native Instruments free Kontakt Player and is a 6GB download. That’s 6GB of essentially 20 different drum sounds! When you turn a knob in Transistor Revolution changing each of the sounds parameters the drum samples are actually changing from one to the next behind the scenes. In addition, “7 variations of each drum sound… cycle randomly each time a key on the keyboard is played”. Within the custom TR Kontakt player there are 7 effects: EQ, Compression, Tape Saturation, Transient Designer, High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter and Bit Crusher. Each effect has it’s own page with multiple parameters that can be edited and saved. There is a full mini mixer within the plug-in so you can mix and place drum sounds on separate virtual outputs and add Send Effects. Send Effects inlcude the ones mentioned above and others including a Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Delay, Rotator, Stereo Modeller, multiple Distortion types and Convolution and standard Reverbs. The interface reminds me of Propellerhead’s Reason. Each drum sound has it’s own rack piece which can be closed and opened. Without reading the manual I was able to find my way around.
So how does it sound? Very good. Different model 808s sound different from each other. However, in my own opinion when listening to hardware or software clones there are things to look for. You want super clear white metalic high hats, rides and crashes. Snares and claps should have a very sharp transient attack. Kicks should go from tight to boomey. Transistor Revolution does an excellent job. I have one criticism and two things for the wish list. There are 4 “multis” which are basically a full 808 or 909 group of samples with some settings. For example there is an MP60, S1200, Lite and Analog version of the 808. I’m not sure if they use different sample sets or just the effect settings are different. Either way I want to see many more Multi presets. As I said above 808/909s lend themselves to treatment very well. Give us 50 flavors of each please! For the wish list I would like to see a TR style sequencer and MIDI file player. Why just give us the sounds? Part of what makes a the drum machines great is the patterns. Give us a few hundred MIDI patterns built-in and give us 16 lights going from left to right please.
Wave Alchemy are on the right path here. I suspect we will see more drum machines meticulously multi-sampled by the UK duo. In short of a real 808/909 or maybe the Tiptop Audio modular stuff this is the best sounding and certainly most affordable convient way to the TR sound.
“Our aim with Transistor Revolution was always to produce a product that could completely replace the hardware in our own productions.” – wavealchemy.co.uk
Acidlab who already make great Roland TR-808 (Miami) and TB-303 (Bassline) clones is recreating those products in beautiful Eurorack modular form. As far as pro-audio gearlust these things rate high on the wow I want to touch them scale. You can read an interview I did with Klaus Suessmuth here. Klaus posted these photos and information over at the Muffwiggler forum (link).
“The newest products are FRAME with 84TE space, a 5-ch Mixer and the POW-Modul. 3HE Case is at 75 Euro; the Powermodul with powersupply is at 65 Euro. POW-modules’ performance is +12V/700mA und -12V/700mA. Another new products will follow in the near future: 6HE Case, 303VCO & M303 (303-module); the 808-Drumodule will need more time. -a V/Octave to V/Hz Converter (for Korg-CV & Metasonix) will follow, too!” – Klaus Suessmuth
Rob Ricketts from Birmingham has created some fantastic posters! Roland TR-808 drum machine patterns for Planet Rock, Cybrotron’s Clear (I love that song!), Voodoo Ray and Adonis’s No Way Back.
“A series of informative posters detailing how some of the most notable drum sequences were programmed using the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine. Each sequence has been analyzed and represented as to allow users to re-programme each sequence, key for key.” – robricketts.co.uk
Rhythm Studio from Pulsecode Inc. is going to draw comparisons with Propellerhead’s Re-Birth. However, if you check out the video above I bet you may still be interested. It looks pretty nice to me. What do you think? This app is not available yet.
“Rhythm Studio balances advanced features by using an easy to understand interface resembling real instruments. This means that one button does one thing just like it would with real hardware. Knobs turn, switches slide, and buttons press. You won’t get lost in abstract interfaces or design. Rhythm Studio is the next best thing to having the real hardware. Rhythm Studio includes a full 808 drum machine, 303 synthesizer, sample based synthesizer, XY style control pad, and mixer with FX.” – pulsecodeinc.com/rhythm-studio/
The Fingerlab DM1 is a very good iPad drum machine. I think it ranks up there with the iElectribe and Funkbox. It’s quite fun and easy to make patterns and the initial sert of drum machines sound great. After laying in a basic beat on the step grid you can jump onto the pad page and lay sounds in live. There’s a song mode, effects and a mixer page where you can control sound length and more. Highly recommended for anyone who likes drum machines.
“DM1 is an advanced vintage Drum Machine. It turns your iPad into a fun and creative beat making machine. Easy and fast to use, loaded with 24 superb electronic drum kits and beautiful hyper-realistic graphics, DM1 has been designed for a lot of instant fun.” – fingerlab.net
Here’s a trio for Tuesday. Three new interesting pro-audio related products. Number one we have Steinberg LoopMash. LoopMash mangles four loops. It’s an iPhone App. I grabbed it and it has a pretty cool faux 3D swipe to different screen effect worth checking out. Years after abandoning Cubase I’m using a Steinberg product again. Number two is Mike. It’s a microphone from Apogee that goes directing into your iOS device. It’s from Apogee so it deserves mention. Convenience and AD/DA conversion wise it should be a winner however I’m all about high end mic pres and Mike can’t use one. Number three we have SuperAnalog808 a Roland TR-808 sample pack from Goldbaby designed for Loopmasters. If you don’t own a real 808 or Acidlab Miami then samples are your friend. Goldbaby does them right and there’s a million suble differences between 808s and ways to record them so another sample set is always welcome.
This is how it all begins with a little honest playtime. One of these kids will go home and dream of drum patterns. They will hear 808s on records and know where the sounds came from. They will realize how special that machine they played with was. One may become the next Hawtin. I started young obsessing over a TRS-80 Color Computer. When I hit my teenage years, fell in love and heard Depeche Mode it was all over. I knew my calling.
“During computer class some of the grade 3s decided to teach themselves how to program a 30-year-old Roland TR-808 drum machine.” – Selwyn House School