This weekend I had the pleasure to test RC808, a new Roland TR-808 plugin emulation by Canadian developer SampleScience.
RC808 was released three days ago, and from the beginning, it attracted my attention with its exuberant simplicity – a breath of oxygen in the busy world of plugins of today. So, I contacted Pierre Parenteau, the guy behind SampleScience, to send me a copy of his TR-808 vision.
RC808 is labeled as an analog beat machine, which means it gives all the tools to create complete drum beats and rhythms. From the beginning, we clearly see the 12 drum tracks/channels, each with its own customizations, such as a series of knobs controlling the gain, pan, attack or decay, but also some specific parameters like hit amount for the bass drum and the snap of the snare.
The cymbal, open hat and closed hat receive preferential treatment- a handy reverb for roomy percussions. The buttons beneath each channel (colored in the style of TR-808 hardware) represent an individual on/off switch, while the number assigned to each button is the MIDI channel output, an useful addition when you play RC808 in Multi-Out / MIDI Chan: 1-14 mode.
Speaking of modes, there are four predetermined modes that you can use in different situations: Main Stereo Out with all sounds on one stereo output, Multi Out when RC808 is controlled by 1 MIDI channel and each sound have its output, Main Stereo / MIDI Chan: 1-14, all the drum sounds routed to the main stereo output but each controlled by its own MIDI channel and finally, Multi Out / MIDI Chan: 1-14, when each drum sound has its own MIDI channel and output.
RC808 has global controls for volume, LFO rate and depth and a cool vinyl module with its gain and decay parameters. Do not forget the assignable pitch bend and range, as well as the global sens knob which reduces the velocity range and acts like a small distortion unit.
RC808 is a ROMpler instrument, so is based on samples. These samples are arranged across the keyboard in groups of bass drum, snare, toms, claps/ percussions & cymbals, and each group fills an octave. The way they are arranged, invites you to create snare rolls, melodic drum bass lines or complex drum loops and percussions. But keep in mind, that these will be made into your DAW’s sequencer (FL Studio’s piano roll), RC808 doesn’t come with an on-board sequencer. Given that it costs only $12, that’s not a big deal, if you really want the on-board step sequencer, then you have to choose between plugins of three or four times more expensive.
Ultimately, you can opt for sample packs, but you’ll lose all the fun and power that comes with RC808. Highly recommended to all those who are attached to the TR-808 sound and want a high quality software emulation that will not shake their budget.
RC808 is available now as a Windows (32-bit/64-bit) VST plugin, and universal Mac OS X VST and AU plugin.