A year ago we started a series of free drum samples / racks with our friends at Studios 301. It wasn’t planned – we just had some samples after a studio session and then, while creating a rack from these samples, we thought it’d be nice to give these away – after all, how many people get to run a roland TR-808 drum machine through a Fairchild 670 compressor?
This has become something of an obsession with us now – that one free drum sample giveaway became an ongoing series, which includes this new one.
On the anniversary of that Fairchild 808 recording session we thought it time to do a complete refresh. The Fairchild has been serviced and completely re-valved so it sounds a lot different, plus the original rack was built for our own purposes and contained only the samples we needed (no cowbell!). So this new pack contains all 808 voices run through a Fairchild with a fresh set of valves and packed into a more versatile rack.
We recorded all voices in the 808 at various tone / decay / tuning settings wherever the 808 allows it. Given the interplay between drum machine and compressor decays, all 808 decays and Fairchild settings were done to taste, according to what sounded best at the time.
Other sound-specific considerations we had while recording:
Toms / Congas
Pitching the 808 sounds completely different than sampling the 808 then transposing, so you’ll notice we’ve given you several pitches when turning the Sample Select dial on the Toms and Congas.
Kick, Snare and Cymbal
Tone (or the Snappy setting on the Snare) controls for these were recorded at high, mid and low settings.
Cowbell, Clave, Maracas, Rim Shot, Hand Clap
There are no parameters on the 808 so the variations you hear are from us adjusting the Fairchild compressor only and is most noticeable on the longer sounds like Hand Clap and Cowbell. We also left in a couple of Cowbell samples where the compression is so extreme it sounds crunched and glitchy.
At studios 301 we ran the 808 direct into the Fairchild compressor via the Apogee Rosetta 200 converters and then into Live. We monitored it via the SSL 9000k series mixing desk and huge Genelec 1039a mains monitor speakers so we could clearly hear everything – especially the bass, tails and noise levels.
The Fairchild and the 808 each have some amount of low-level noise which becomes noticeable at the end of each sample. The noise gets more pronounced when compression or limiting is applied (if you turn up any of the Glue dials in the rack you’ll notice noise on the tails). To deal with this each sample was edited so the tail fades nicely instead of the noise cutting off abruptly.
Over time our racks are becoming more uniform in their layout – designed to be versatile (the outer macros are freely assignable) and setup to work well with Push.
Overall the pad layout and parameter controls are based on Live’s preset Kit Core 808 with several differences – the main ones being:
To control the noise inherent in the analog signal path of the 808 and the Fairchild each sound has a macro dial named Noise Gate which controls a Multiband Dynamics device, just like our original Fairchild x 808 rack. Turning this dial up applies downward expansion to the sound thereby reducing the noise, particularly on the tails. The effect of this is most noticeable when the Glue compressor dial is turned all the way up (and the Decay macro is at full length) because in that state the noise becomes amplified.
One of the challenges of creating useful control parameters is getting the Decay right.
In a synthesised sound the sustain is set to zero and the decay (and decay curve) is adjustable, thereby creating the tail. When placing a recording of this sound into a sampler, the sampler’s sustain needs to be at maximum so the sample plays out with it’s volume shape unchanged. This is good enough for triggering samples, but if you then want to apply adjustable decay to that sample it gets tricky. This is because the sampler has no “knowledge” of the decay shape of the samples it contains, meaning you can shorten the sample but it won’t sound as musical as it would if you were adjusting the decay / decay curve on the drum synthesiser itself.
The solution we used was to create a macro dial that gradually tightens 3 parameters at once: Decay, Sustain and Release. We set the dial so all 3 parameters are set to maximum by default, meaning the sample plays unchanged. Slowly lowering the Decay macro gradually shortens the decay and release while lowering the sustain. This is inspired by the “Kit-BritishVintage” drum rack from the excellent Session Drums Club pack.