Thanks to all those busy developers and computer boffins out there It’s never been easier – or cheaper – to get the sounds of vintage drum machines in your own projects and recreate the kind of music you (or your parents) were break dancing and raving to back in the day! If you’re looking to build up your library of vintage sounds then check out these varied plugins and sample packs – I’ve tried to cover all bases so there’s a good variety of free samples packs, Kontakt instruments, budget plugins and more.
1. Spark 2 Drum Machine
Arturia’s Spark 2 plugin gives you a comprehensive library of emulated analog drum synths plus hundreds of samples to explore. As well as the core library of sounds there is also a powerful step sequencer, mixer and effects too. There’s even a Modular Drum synth editor for creating your own unique synth patches. If you can get your head around the workflow then it’s quite possible to make complete tracks in the Spark 2 plugin without even touching your DAW.
There’s a treasure trove of vintage drum sounds to trawl through in Spark 2 and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options on offer.
Spark 2 lets you play with analog emulations of the TR-808, TR-909, TR-606, Simmons SDS-V, and Eprom-based Linn Drum, Drumtraks, DMX, Drumulator plus you get a further 10 emulations taken from Arturia’s now discontinued Spark Vintage Drum Machines plugin: CR-78, Mini Pops 7, Ace Tone FR-2L, Yamaha MR 10, Maestro Rhythm King MRK2, Boss DR-55, E-mu SP-12, Roland TR-727, Roland R-8, Casio VL-Tone and SK-1.
Across the board the sound quality is of a high standard and the sheer amount of content on offer means Spark 2 represents excellent value for money – Spark 2 works out as one of the cheapest ways to get hold of a massive collection of vintage drum machine sounds.
2. AudioThing SR-88
While Spark 2 has enough to keep you digging through its content for years, developer AudioThing has created a much more simpler plugin in the form of the SR-88. AudioThing’s SR-88 is a sample-based plugin emulation of the Sound Master Memory Rhythm SR-88, a rare 1980s analog drum machine.
This plugin gives you a set of 5 classic analog sound samples (Kick, Snare, Hi Hat 1, Hi Hat 2, and Cymbal), 15 Factory Presets / 15 Factory Patterns and a very easy to use interface with which you can make simple adjustments to the sounds via pitch, pan, low pass filtering, overdrive, compression and reverb.
The best part of this plugin is the step sequencer which lets you easily build patterns and once you’re happy with a pattern it’s possible to drag and drop the MIDI data into your DAW. As you’d expect you can click to enter notes into the step sequence but there’s also a cool randomizer feature to the right of each track which is a useful way of quickly generating new patterns (this feature can also be found on AudioThing’s Latin Percussion plugin.)
If you’re looking for a plugin that gives you classic 1980s drum machine sounds without breaking the bank then you can’t go wrong with the SR-88.
SR-88 is by no means the deepest drum machine on the market but what it does it does well and with no fuss and no big price tag. The plugin usually retails for around 30 bucks although you can sometimes pick it up cheaper during promotions.
A fully functional demo version of SR-88 is available from the AudioThing website.
SR-88 is available for both PC and Mac (VST2, VST3, or AAX, 64-bit).
3. Mode Audio Beat Drum Machine Samples
Boutique sample creators Mode Audio have an impressive range of sample packs on their website of which Beat: Drum Machine Samples makes it onto my list. For less than $20 you get 460 drum samples in this pack taken from 4 vintage drum machines (namely the Roland TR505, TR808, TR909 and last but not least 12-bit drum sounds captured from a Casio toy keyboard).
There are plenty of useful sounds in this versatile pack covering everything from kicks, snares and hats to toms and percussion and shakers. It’s a great pack to grab if you’re new to beat making and you’re looking to get started building up your own vintage drum machine sounds.
The collection contains a folder of slamming, processed samples treated with various effects chain, plus you get a folder of carefully-matched layered Samples and finally you get all of the raw drum machine samples themselves ready for you to apply to your own effects.
The Layered Samples folder centres around 4 different genre-orientated drum sounds: LA Beat, crushed Chillwave, thumping House and edgy Hip Hop.
As well as drum machine samples Mode Audio have chucked in 12 ready to use Drum Kit Sampler Patches for your DAW with drum kits set up to suit Synthwave, Trap, Techno and Lo-Fi styles.
4. CONNECTD Audio Vintage Drum Machines sample pack
If you fancy getting hold of a much bigger sample pack than Beat Drum Machine Samples pack mentioned above then check out the Vintage Drum Machines sample pack from CONNECTD Audio. This massive pack provides a truly fascinating dive into an inspiring archive of vintage drum machine sounds.
CONNECTD Audio’s Vintage Drum Machines delivers 500 individual drum hits sourced from more than 20 iconic analogue and digital drum machines including the Ace Tone Rhythm Master, E-Mu Drumulator, Roland TR-505 and many more. All the sounds were processed using 4 different methods to give you 2000 hits in total. You get hundreds of kicks, snares, claps, hats and percussion sounds plus 24 crashes and 11 FX.
Each individual sample has been processed using tape, desk, MPC and Lo-Fi methods (a mixture of 8bit modules, tape saturation plugins, hardware bit-crushers and a Boss BR900 digital recorder). For the MPC set, every sample was run into an MPC60 and back out again for that authentic MPC 12-bit, 40khz sound.
In addition to the individual drum hits CONNECTD Audio have included 66 drum loops (with both stripped versions and variants) in .Wav and Apple Loops formats.
To get you up and running there are 10 ready to use drum kits covering house, hip hop, future beats and garage. Each of the kits comes with ready-to-play sampler formats for Maschine 2, Battery 3+, Kontakt, EXS24 and Reason’s NN-XT.
The possibilities with the sounds in this pack are endless and it’s especially recommended if you’re producing hip hop, lo fi or house music with a warm or dusty vibe.
5. Wave Alchemy Free Tape KPR-77 Kontakt Library
Korg’s KPR-77 was originally manufactured in the early 1980’s and was advertised as a cheaper alternative to Roland’s TR-606 drum machine.
Wave Alchemy’s Tape KPR-77 brings you 280 free drum samples all of which were recorded directly to 1/4″ analogue tape from a real org KPR-77 drum machine.
Tape KPR-77 contains three pre-mapped drum kit patches (Clean, Saturated and Driven) for use with Kontakt. Each kit makes use of extensive velocity layering, round robin sample playback and choke groups.
The Tape Clean kit includes 127 drum samples recorded directly to 1/4″ tape via a Studer A80 Mk1 analogue tape machine at a clean / neutral level. The Tape Saturated kit consists of 127 KPR-77 drum samples which have been recorded at a hot level to add an obvious tape saturation to the sounds. The Driven Kit consists of 27 KPR-77 drum samples which have been recorded and processed through a variety of Wave Alchemy’s outboard studio gear.
This is a fantastic drum machine pack and considering it’s 100% free it’s a must have if you’e a Kontakt user in need of vintage drum sounds.
6. Wave Alchemy DRM Drums
The ever generous sample heads at Wave Alchemy also give away this fantastic pack of 380 drum samples taken from a vintage Vermona DRM drum machine. All samples have been recorded through an API pre-amp with every sound boasting eight round robin variations and four accent (velocity) layers too!
If you’re a young producer chances are you’ve never seen or heard of the Vermona DRM drum machine so don’t miss out on this tasty pack and the chance to get the sound of this TR-606/TR-808 type analog drum machine in your DAW.
DRM Drums contain pre-mapped drum kit patches for use with Kontakt and Battery 3. Each kit makes extensive use of multiple velocity layers, round robin samples. In addition to the kits, all the drum samples are included as raw 24-bit wav files, carefully trimmed and labelled, making it easy to build your own kits.
7. Wave Alchemy Revolution VST
Wave Alchemy give away plenty of free samples on their website but you should really check out their commercial products too as there’s some fantastic sample packs and plugins waiting to be purchased on there! If you’re ready to step up a gear – and splash some cash – then you should check out Wave Alchemy’s Revolution VST.
One of Wave Alchemy’s premium products, Revolution is an award winning classic drum machine plugin. It’s an incredibly powerful and ‘deep’ VST instrument which gives you access to a mind blowing sample library built from14 of the world’s most iconic Drum Machines: Roland 08, 909, 606, CR-78, CR-8000, Linndrum, Drumtraks, Drumulator and OB-DX, SP-12.
A drum machine nerd’s paradise, with the Revolution plugin you can spend many happy hours (or years!) creating your very own dream drum machines. Fancy a drum machine that mixes an 808 kick, 909 snare, 606 toms and Linndrum percussion all in one device? With Revolution’s ‘Module’ system, easy to use interface and over 10,000 individual drum samples the possibilities are endless.
As well as the 14 drum machines you get a comprehensive selection of effect, a powerful step sequencer, hundreds of presets, MIDI drag and drop and much more. There’s really not enough space to go into every Revolution feature here so do check out the Wave Alchemy website for the full details.
Note that Revolution is a beast of a program so you’ll need a decent PC (or Mac) to run it properly.
Revolution VST is available in Standalone, VST, AU and AAX instrument formats. Revolution is powered by the FREE Kontakt Player from Native Instruments.
8. Geist Expander: Vintage Drum Box
FXpansion sell a number of tasty ‘Expander’ packs for their flagship Geist 2 drum machine/sampling software of which I have picked Vintage Drum Box to feature here.
Geist Expander: Vintage DrumBox is a collection of synthesized analogue drum samples. The included sounds lean towards the warm and rounded. You also get a bonus selection of riffs and arps from some classic analogue synths.
Vintage DrumBox includes unusual and early preset accompaniment boxes like the Hammond AutoVari and Watford Rhythm Generator. There are samples of percussion tone generators by Amdek and Electro Harmonix as well as rare drum machines such as the Vermona DRM-1. Analogue BBD delay, tape echo and spring reverb has been applied to add further vintage vibes.
For Geist users, Vintage DrumBox includes ready to use loops, kits and presets but if you don’t have Geist or Geist 2 you can still access the individual drum samples that make up the bulk of this pack.
There are plenty of other Expanders on the FXpansion website covering bases such as Japanese drum machines, classic hip hop and much more so check them out.
9. Beatskillz Retro Hit
There’s no sign of the trend for 80s sounds dying out anytime soon so if you need even more 80s drum samples then check out Retro Hit VST from Beatskillz.
Retro Hit is a Rompler vst that serves up 50 different 80s retro flavored drum kits each of which consists of 12 sounds per patch (Kicks, Snares, Hats, Cymbals, Claps, Toms ,FX and Percussion) in both processed versions and also dry versions.
The processed sounds offer instant inspiration and are a great way to get your tracks started quickly – leg warmers not included!
Controls for tweaking the individual sounds are minimal with volume and panning controls only but you can adjust global settings for pitch, reverb, attack and sustain. You can actually bypass the Retro Hits GUI entirely and just grab all of the 600+ drum samples in .wav format to drop straight into your DAW or for use in your own software or hardware such as MPC and Machine.
Beatskillz state that the samples in this pack were recorded directly from vintage drum machines including the EMU sp12, OB- MX, LINN DRUM and Fairlight and all the samples recorded/processed by a range of authentic vintage studio gear including much sought after pre-amps, compressors, hardware EQs and reverbs and there is no doubt this pack succeeds in capturing those nostalgic 80s music production vibes.
10. Niche Audio Pure Analog Maschine Expansion
Niche Audio have earnt themselves a solid reputation for producing quality Maschine expansions and sample packs and it’s their Pure Analog Maschine Pure Analog expansion that rounds off my list today.
Only genuine hardware has been used to capture and sculpt the sounds is this inspirational pack. Sounds from various drum machines and analogue gear were carefully captured using vintage analogue preamps with discrete tube distortion units giving the sounds plenty of depth, richness, warmth, punch and character.
There are the obligatory 808 and 909 samples here but Niche Audio have moved away from the 80s and looked further afield. They’ve sampled the Elektron Analog RYTM, Vermona DRMIII, Jomox Mbrane and even a Vermona Kick Lancet as well as legendary synths including the Elektron A4, Oberhiem Matrix, Roland SH101 and also Dave Smiths Prophet 08. If – like most of us – you couldn’t afford all that expensive hardware back in the day then now’s your chance to get the sounds of some classic gear in your DAW!
This is a fantastic, diverse collection of 1990s and early 2000s type sounds which are especially useful if you’re making hard hitting house, techno and electronica tracks and you’re looking for a library of well produced kicks, hits, stabs, bass and fx that can punch through a mix and drive clubbers into a sweaty frenzy!
Maschine users get 5 Maschine Projects and 296 samples. Ableton Live users get 12 Ableton projects, 13 Drum Racks, 75 Simpler Presets plus the same 296 samples.