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
Dennis P. Paul lives in Bremen, Germany. He’s a professor and self proclaimed “interaction designer”. He’s created a pseudo Theremin, Roland D-Beam lazer device to show how every day physical objects can be used as sequence generators. Who needs a MIDI file when you just just pick a plastic clown head?
“A translator and controller module transforms the measured distance values into audible frequencies, notes, and scales. It also controlls the stepper-motor’s speed.” – dennisppaul.de
Here’s a nice video history of Roland drum machines with the narrator Robbie Ryan beat boxing examples and then playing audio samples from actual songs.
“This is a documentary celebrating the 25 year anniversary of the Roland TR909. In this documentary, narrated by Robbie Ryan, we traverse the history of the programmable drum machine from the CR78, TR808, TB303, TR909, and LinnDrum, with audio examples of each.” – iloveanalogue.blogspot.com
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
Here’s the first Roland product that has peaked my interest in a while. R-Mix Tab for iPad lets you filter our areas from music. Watch the video above for a good demonstration. If it works well enough it should be a nice tool for remixers looking to get acapella versions of their favorite songs. $9.99 USD.
“View the instruments or components of the music which imported from your iPod library as color-coded clouds of energy and harmonic matter onscreen. You can lower the level, keep or move the panning position of the selected instrument on the screen. You can use R-Mix to easily create “minus-one” type play-along tracks. You can also isolate guitar sound, for example, and solo that phrases for study.” – Roland
I played with LEGOs and Matchbox cars a few years later than I probably should have. I still have my entire collection safe in boxes in my mother’s basement. Rooms in the house I grew up in with blue carpet were water worlds. Asian rug’s patterns were elaborate streets. I would roll up the corners of the rug’s to make hills and mountains. For some reason my parents let me keep my worlds intact for weeks at a time. It’s hard for me to walk by LEGO stores in malls and not go in. One of the biggest reasons I want to have children someday is so I can play with my toys again. Needless to say I love this LEGO Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer from percussives. He has a few more shots on his Flickr page.
“The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Denmark and have achieved an international appeal, with an extensive subculture that supports Lego movies, games, video games, competitions, and four Lego themed amusement parks.” – Wikipedia
I would certainly love to get some classic analog drum machines MIDIed like this. According to Wikipedia the TR77 was Roland’s very first product. Hey Brandon how about some individual outs and some tuning for the kick drum (always the one weak point in most early drum machines)?
“Just finished building trigger shaper/converter circuits x12 for this project, and it works! Still need to work something out for the Guiro, but all in all, I’m happy with it.Sounds triggered over MIDI from the Electribe.” – Brandon Daniel
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
First off, I apologize for including the Crazy Frog version of Harold Faltermeyer’s wonderful song Alex F in this blog post. The (very European) remix doesn’t hold a candle to the clean fresh sound of the original. However, the remix is a large part of the songs history so here you have it. There are a few reasons the original is so great. I always like music with a strong lead melody and no one can deny this isn’t catchy as hell. Now let’s talk gear: Roland Jupiter-8 (lead), Moog Modular (bass), a Roland JX-3P (chord stabs), Yamaha DX7 (bell/marimba), and a LinnDrum drum machine. I wish Eddy Murphy would make a real comeback and I wish there were more songs like Axel F.
“Axel F is the electronic instrumental theme from the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop performed by Harold Faltermeyer. The title comes from the main character’s name, Axel Foley (played by Eddie Murphy), in the film. It topped musical charts in 1985 and remains a popular remix track. Mixes of “Axel F” topped European pop charts in 2003, and again in 2005 as the Crazy Frog song. In addition to the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, the song also appears on Faltermeyer’s 1988 album Harold F. as a bonus track. Reportedly Faltermeyer was against including it, but MCA insisted, as it was his most recognizable track.” – Wikipedia