For years nothing beat having a real Roland TR-909 or 808. Today I would say the Tiptop Audio modules are even better. Just listen to the Tiptop 909 high hats with some Synthesis Technology E355 LFO destroying them on and off. Such pleasure for someone like me.
The HATS909 is the TR-909’s original Closed and Open Hi-Hats circuits adapted for use in Eurorack modular synthesizer format and was tested to sound like a machine coming fresh off the assembly line back in the 80’s. Improving on the original, we have added some great new features that expand the sound palette of hats that can be produced with this small, powerful module. The original TR-909 circuit is made with a combination of low-fi 6-bit samples that pass through a series of analog elements to provide envelope and filtering to the source sound. The HATS909 module allows for manual and voltage control of the sample’s tuning, which provide anything from crushed hats and short ticks to the original sound and anything in between. A modulation with external control signals or for adding AM or FM synthesis in the audio range from external oscillators, other drum sounds, or just about any sound source. HATS909 also offers a switch for a direct tap to the output of the original sample, bypassing all other internal analog processing, giving you the pure source sound for synthesis any way you want with your own modules.” – ctrl-mod.com
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
It’s some sort of ice raining today in New York so this is perfect “stay in the studio time”. If you’ve been following my life through this blog or Facebook (my profile) or Twitter (follow me) you know my studio is in a container somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean coming from Berlin. Therefore, I can only daydream, watch videos of other people’s studios. Luckily, Vimeo always has something for me to gaze at when it comes to synth gear. Here’s two videos I found this morning I think are tasty…
“The envelope controlling the lowpass filter is set with high attack, decay, sustain, and release. The pitch VC to the lowpass filter is inverted but heavily attenuated. I used no resonance and the notch filter was turned all the way down.” – Elan Hickler
Look at this gorgeous studio video of Stockholm, Sweden’s “The Subliminal Kid” (aka Peder Mannerfelt) in action. He has some class gear including the amazing Macbeth M5N, Roland System 100 sequencer, Roland RE-301, Boss DC1 and a Roland TR-909.
Shot with Panasonic HVX200, Sgpro 35 adapter and Zuiko 55mm firstname.lastname@example.org – Ruben Broman
Here is a screencast I put together showing a few features of D16‘s incredible Roland TR-909 emulator Drumazon and their new distortion plug-in Devastor. I really like both of these. After watching the video I encourage you to head over to the D16 website and download the demos.
I’ve owned a real Roland TR-909 for many years. In fact I bought mine from Chaka Kahn! I can honestly say Drumazon is a better replacement. It’s a joy to use and you get all the nicesties of software (presets). You also get features a real 909 doesn’t have like random and automation. When you add a quality multiband distortion unit like Devastor to it you can’t help but smile. This is audio software at its best.
Just a few years ago if you wanted to play with two Roland TB-303’s a TR-909 and seven Boss Pedals you would have needed about $4000, a bunch of batteries, electric outlets and a mixer. Today all you need to do is click here: http://www.hobnox.com/index.1056.en.html
It wont be long before our professional music software applications are all completely online. Maybe we will rent each use out or pay yearly. You will always have the latest version. You can save and access your songs anywhere there is internet access (which will be everywhere!). You can have your friends log-in and work on music with you. You can pay Trent Reznor $10,000 to fix the mix in your song ($20,000 to add a vocal verse). Export options include: MP3, WAV and Direct to MySpace. Bring it on!