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An Analogue Drum Machine Emulation to Replace Hardware?

Posted on 23rd November 2012  · 
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




Drum Tools 02




Complete Drums 2


Tape Snares & Layers


"Beautiful edgy snare sounds. These sounds have lots of character. There's tons of saturation and noise going on, but it's all very skillfully crafted and the dynamics are intact which is important. Quality!"

Paperskins Snare Toolkit

Resound - DJ and Producer