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Blog » An Analogue Drum Machine Emulation to Replace Hardware?

23rd November 2012  |  9 comments

Can an Analogue Drum machine be sampled in so much detail that it could be replaced by software?

Over 2 years ago the Wave Alchemy team started out on a journey to find out. Being hardcore electronic music enthusiasts ourselves we naturally gravitated towards the legendary TR-808 drum machine produced by a very well known Japanese manufacturer of the 1980's. Leaving the history of this instrument behind as it needs no further introduction let's focus instead on the task in hand - the faithful recreation of an analogue drum machine in the software world.

Firstly it goes without saying that in order to capture this classic vintage instrument in all of its glory a top class signal chain is required. After much trial and error we decided to use the purest and warmest analogue and digital signal chain possible. Each drum was sampled from its direct output using a pristine 3 inch solid core cable that connected to a transformer balanced Radial JDI and brought to line level with a classic designed AMS/NEVE 1073 preamp. To retain the full frequency response and dynamics of this instrument we carefully matched the peak level of each drum and recorded the samples at 24-bit 96KHz using mastering grade NEVE designed conversion. With the recording process taken care of it was time to ask another question;

What makes an analogue drum machine so desirable? After much thought we arrived at an answer... Variation.

Compared to static samples analogue drum machines generate sound in real time using analogue circuitry. This results in subtle 'imperfections' each time a sound is generated. We believe that these subtle variations in sound are at the heart of why classic analogue drum machines sound so good!

To faithfully emulate this random analogue behaviour we have delved deeply into multi-sampling and 'round robin' sampling techniques. Essentially by cycling randomly through variations of a drum sound for each key the 'imperfect' analogue characteristics of a drum machine can be emulated. For example the waveform below shows the output of a brand new Kontakt Player instrument we have been working on.

It is clear that each note is subtly different by looking at the peaks of each hit.

You might have guessed by now but what we are getting at here is that we believe that for the first time EVER we have captured the true, authentic sound of the TR-808 in a software plugin.

Here's a sneak preview of our soon to be released Transistor Revolution for Kontakt Player.

We have made every effort to capture the true character of the TR-808 even down to the instruments GUI. Furthermore we have taken things a step further with the integration of Kontakts advanced scripting engine and sound shaping capabilities. And this isn't everything... we just may have sampled the TR-808's older brother as well!

For more info keep a lookout for our next Transistor Revolution blog post

Join the discussion

Matt Fudge
@Leandro Absolutely! Check your email later today :)
Hello Matt and Wave Alchemy Team.
Straight to the point: Any upgrade options (discounts) for old costumers?
I have the Transistor Revolution Bundle, so i really hope you say "Yes!"
Petri Hoskonen
Each of seven ;)
edje la playa
A few months ago I found out for myself all the 808 & 909 synth emulations just didn't cut it, so I got myself Sounds outsides the lines 808 & 909 instruments. Been a very happy user ever since. Can't wait to see what this release will bring.
Hi Matt,
glad to see you are on board! (I have both of your kits).
Matt Fudge
Hi Daniel, I'm the developer of the Transistor Revolution bundle which includes both Revolution-808 and Revolution-909 from Sounds outside the Lines. Since releasing the original versions we have have partnered with Wave Alchemy to rerelease these instruments with dozens of new customer requested features including VST/AU compatability inside Kontakt player. The instruments have been completely reprogrammed from scratch and now feature extensive scripting which allows for many new features which we will be announcing over the coming weeks as we approach the launch. Both companies are extremely proud of the new features and feel it is the first time these classic drum machines are authentically available inside of a computer based instrument. Stay tuned to both the Wave Alchemy's and Sounds Outside the Lines' website for more info soon!
How does this differ from Revolution 808?
Oooooo, i cant wait for this!
Awesome!!!! Seems really promising :)

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