808 Day: Best 808 sample packs and plugins
The Roland TR-808 is arguably the most iconic drum machine of all time – here’s how you can get its sounds
Is there a drum machine more influential than the Roland TR-808? Since 1980, the analogue beatbox has found its way into myriad genres, from new jack swing and soul in the 80s to dubstep and trap in the 2010s. Its sound has since become an essential for producers, beatmakers and DJs for creating and performing music.
- READ MORE: Vintage Rewind: Roland TR-808
We’ve picked out some of our favourite sample packs and sound libraries to arm you with a vast palette of 808 hits and loops. There are also a few emulations that will let you tweak a virtual TR-808 for a more authentic experience of using the coveted drum machine. Whether you just want that infamous cowbell sound or are hoping to recreate Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, these will all set you on the right track.
BandLab Sounds – Turbo 808s
Before you pay for a sample pack, be sure to try out BandLab Sounds’ free Turbo 808s pack. It’s a collection of processed 808 kick samples and loops, with a few other 808 sounds thrown in. There are 49 one-shots and 52 loops at 80, 90, and 125 bpm.
Many of the patterns and sounds have several variations for extra flexibility, including long and short decays, and clean, saturated and effected versions. For some added analogue weight, the saturated sounds come courtesy of feeding the signal through the filter circuit on a Moog Voyager, and also through an OTO Machines BOUM analogue warming unit. You’re sure to get some heated-up beats from this pack.
Editor’s note: BandLab Technologies is part of Caldecott Music Group, which is also the parent company of MusicTech, NME Networks.
Samples from Mars – 808 From Mars
808 From Mars might be the best value 808 sample pack out there. The Samples From Mars team multi-sampled its original TR-808 cleanly through an API 1608 console, and then also more aggressively via a range of hardware EQs, filters and compressors. This includes different decay times, snappy and tone amounts, and both accented and unaccented hits.
Samples From Mars also re-pitched the bass drum through several old-school samplers to get some chromatic kick drum patches.
There are 1,500 individual samples, plus 12 pre-made drum kits for Kontakt, Logic Pro, Reason, SFZ, Maschine, Battery, FL Studio, MPC1000 & MPC2500, and an Ableton Live Rack. These will let you quickly load up and play the sounds on-the-fly.
Goldbaby – SuperAnalog808
This pack has been around for a while, but it’s one we regularly turn to when we want characterful sounding 808s with plenty of punch and mojo. It comes with 1,168 one-shot samples in 24-bit/96kHz Wav format, plus 73 kits for Logic Pro’s Sampler, Kontakt and Battery, and 16 kits for Geist and Maschine.
Goldbaby used an array of high-end studio hardware to process the 808, including an EM-PEQ eq, UBK Fatso and a Great River 32EQ. There’s also extensive round-robin to help capture the subtle analogue variations, plus tuned chromatic bass drum and conga patches that you can play on your keyboard. Goldbaby has several other 808 packs including StompBox808, Tape808 and a free pack called Cassette808.
Roland Cloud – TR-808
- $149 (or $19.99 per month for Roland Cloud subscription)
- Mac & Windows
- Download Roland Cloud TR-808
For some real authenticity, you could try the Roland Cloud TR-808 plugin, which uses the company’s Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology to faithfully recreate the original sound.
It also boasts modern additions that help make it a little more flexible, including extra tuning and decay knobs, the ability to overdrive the circuitry, eight pattern variations, drag and drop audio and MIDI, adjustable flams, sub-steps and soft hits for more detailed fills, rolls and edits. Plus, each instrument has it’s own ‘last step’ and shuffle settings that let you experiment more with timing.
By far the most useful new feature, though, is the expanded sequencer lanes that help you to program faster beats without the need to switch instruments.
Wave Alchemy – Revolution
- £99.95 (runs in free Kontakt Player)
- Download Wave Alchemy Revolution
Wave Alchemy’s Revolution is a deeply-sampled drum instrument that captures every nuance of the 808 (alongside 13 other iconic drum machines) and presents it in an easy to use Kontakt interface. You get the clean sound plus several alternative options including mastered, analogue tape and E-Mu SP-1200-processed versions. You can fine tune each sound directly, or use the built-in effects and custom reverb impulses recorded from classic gear.
There’s also a powerful 32-step sequencer with over 1,000 presets, and per-step modulation routings and humanisation features, plus MIDI drag and drop and more. An Ableton Live version is also available for £59.95. If you like the sound of vintage drum machines, then this one is a no-brainer.
Minimal Audio – Octane
A lot of the instruments and sample libraries in this list are designed to faithfully recreate the original sounds of the 808. But this pack from Minimal Audio takes things a little further, with a more modern-sounding interpretation.
Minimal Audio captured an original TR-808, alongside various modern emulations of its circuits. The brand then edited and processed each sound to create an array of hard-hitting, modern-sounding loops, hits and glitches. It contains over 130 loops, 25 tuned sub kits, and 875 one-shots covering kicks, snares, claps, hi-hats, cymbals, percussion and sound effects, giving you plenty of sounds across a range of musical styles.
Future Audio Workshop – SubLab/SubLab XL
- $70/$80, (currently available for $40/$50)
- Mac & Windows
- Download Future Audio Workshop SubLab/SubLab XL
SubLab is plugin focused on the subby, boomy 808 kick, with an intuitive interface design and plenty of low-end control. The main sound source includes a synth part, a sampler, and a unique X-Sub harmonic generator that can be used to fatten the main bass harmonics or to add sub harmonics.
You can process the sound with a distortion module, a compressor, and a multimode analogue filter, all of which have a mix dial for parallel processing. Then there’s a maximiser and a widener on the master output, plus detailed metering.
SubLab comes pre-loaded with 250 drum machine kick samples, plus a bunch of track ready, artists built 808 samples. You can also buy additional sound packs, or upgrade to SubLab XL, which includes additional FX, a new Super Oscillator, Macros, and LFO modulation.
Datacode – OVRDRV: 808 Techno
Where many 808 packs focus on more traditional uses in trap, hip hop and house, this sample library from Datacode includes sounds designed for use in techno, tech house and minimal dance genres.
It includes 180 sounds with both long and short versions for extra flexibility, and seven drum construction kits that include 51 stem loops. You can expect to find plenty of gritty 808 hits that have been mangled via an array of distortion pedals, bass amps, guitar amps, filters LFOs and delay and reverb units. These include deep kicks, ultra low subs, overdriven synths, distorted basses and filtered drone effects.
Vincent Riemer – iO-808
iO-808 is a free online drum machine created by Vincent Riemer that runs in your web browser. It faithfully recreates the layout of the machine and lets you program and save full beats.
All the sounds are synthesised using the Web Audio API rather than sampled, which means they sound good, but not quite authentic. Still, it’s a great way to get some instant 808 fun and also to learn how to program the hardware, as there’s a useful tutorial included.
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