The Best TR-909 VST: Put a Classic Drum Machine in your DAW!

The Best 909 VST
Best 909 VST Plugins

There are countless VST drum plugins capable of creating a near infinite variety of drum sounds to suit all tastes and genres but if you’re on the hunt for a VST that captures the sound and vibe of a Roland TR-909 you’ll want a plugin built from the ground up with authentic analog drum machine emulation in mind. Below I take an indepth look at the best Roland TR-909 VST emulations currently available.

D16’s Drumazon is the best TR-909 VST money can buy. You should also consider the Audiorealism Drum Machine, Roland’s own cloud based 909 and the Arturia Spark 2, all of which provide superb emulations of the classic TR-909 sound.

What is the D16 Drumazon VST Plugin?

Drumazon, from German audio developers D16, is about as an authentic emulation of the Roland TR-909 as you could hope to get. This VST plugin is available in 32bit or 64bit formats for PC (Win 7, Win 8, Win 10) and Mac (OS X 10.7 to OS X 10.15).

Drumazon uses analog synthesis to emulate all the sounds of the original 909. All of the original machine’s drum modules are synthesized with meticulous accuracy and so, as with a real TR-909, you get 11 sounds in total: Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Low Tom, MId Tom, Hi Tom, Rim Shot, Hand Clap, Closed and Open Hi Hats, plus Crash and Ride sounds.

Complimenting the sounds is a fantastic recreation of the TR-909 step sequencer (with a few additional features). The sequencer is used for programming, editing and playing back your drum patterns – up to 12 in total – each consisting of 16 steps.

How Does D16 Drumazon Compare to the Real Thing?

Did you know that only 10,000 Roland TR-909s were ever made? This means that most musicians and producers have never actually heard one in real life! Luckily, the Drumazon is about as good as it gets in terms of emulating the sound of a real TR-909 and has received universally positive reviews from producers.

On the D16 website you can see a set of graphs which compare the modules synthesized by Drumazon with the output from an original TR-909. The charts look near identical but sound isn’t only about the visuals, of course, and the Drumazon plugin sounds as close to the sound of Roland’s iconic drum machine as you could hope for.

Does the D16 Drumazon have Multiple Outputs?

Each of Drumazon’s 11 drum modules can be routed to individual outputs for further shaping of sounds in the DAW of your choice. Below I give you an example of how to do this in FL Studio. The exact process varies slightly depending on the DAW you are using.

How To: Drumazon Individual Outs in FL Studio

If you’re new to FL Studio or plugins in general then getting your Drumazon plugin to output each drum part to a different mixer track in your DAW can be confusing.

Below I walk you through the process of achieving this in FL Studio. We want the Drumazon Bass Drum to output to mixer track 3 and the Snare to output to mixer track 4 so that both drum parts can be processed individually.
(I will assume you already know how to have Drumazon running in a Fl Studio plugin VST ‘Wrapper’).

Step 1: First things first, in the top right of the Drumazon plugin wrapper, set the output to mixer track 1 (by default in FL Studio it will default to the Master track ).

Step 2: In the Drumazon plugin GUI, set the Bass Drum output number to mixer track 3 and the snare drum output number to mixer track 4 by dragging with your mouse. (You can target whichever mixer tracks you prefer but for the purposes of this tutorial stick to tracks 3 and 4 to start with.)

Step 3: Click the Gear icon at the top left of the wrapper to access the VST wrapper settings.

Step 4: In the VST Wrappings settings box go to the processing tab and click the ‘Auto Map Outputs’ button. Exit the settings screen by clicking on the plugin editor icon (to the left of the gear icon) so you can see the Drumazon’s GUI again. Your Bass Drum is now being routed to mixer track 3 and the Snare Drum is being routed to mixer track 4.

To check everything is working, try inserting an instance of a Fruity Fast Dist to mixer track 3 to instantly add a bit of distortion to the Bass Drum only and then add an instance of Fruity Reverb 2 to mixer track 4 to add reverb to the Snare Drum only.

If you look at the Drumazon interface and try changing the Bass Drum output number from 3 to 4 then you should notice that the Bass Drum output is routed to your mixer track 4 instantly and you can hear the reverb affecting it instead of the distortion.

Who Uses the D16 Drumazon?

Rest assured the D16 Drumazon is good enough to find a home in the plugin directory of many world class producers. One such famous user is Techno guru, DJ and producer Chris Liebing.

How Much Does the D16 Drumazon Cost?

Usually the Drumazon costs 99 Euros however you can often pick it up cheaper in one of D16’s seasonal sales so look out for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Spring deals. When you consider the price of a real Roland TR-909 you can see that the D16 VST plugin represents fantastic value!

3 Awesome Alternatives to the Drumazon.

While the Drumazon is my first choice for TR-909 plugins it is certainly not the only viable software option. Below I take a look at three of the best TR-909 emulations and weigh up their pros and cons. All three are more than capable of competing with the D16 Drumazon in terms of sound and bring their own unique benefits to the table in terms of features so check them out!

1. Audiorealism Drum Machine (ADM)

The Audiorealism Drum Machine (ADM) emulates a number of classic Roland drum machines. For your money you get not just a TR-909 emulation but also theTR-808 and TR-606. Best of all, sound from all three drum machines can be mixed however you wish so you can combine a 808 bass drum with a 909 snare, for example.

Sound generation comes courtesy of 25 individual drum synth parts and 4 PCM players. You can also import your own samples.

The ADM features a 32-step sequencer with global accent per step, four prescale selections per pattern, flam and shuffle. Useful features allow you to quickly cut/copy/paste patterns and parts as well as duplicate steps, randomize patterns and parts and more. A Pattern Controlled FX (PFC) feature lets you automate any of the drum machines parameters on a per step basis.

There’s a useful of selection of presets to get you started in seconds and the ADM can import Rebirth patterns and 909 Sysex data, sync to host tempo,

Overall this is an excellent plugin with a sound that is about as authentic as you could hope for.

2. Roland Cloud 909

Roland were a bit late to enter the VST market and I can only wonder how much money they have lost out on over the years by not providing their own 909 plugin and leaving it to other developers to cash in on the obvious demand.

Fast forward to 2021 though and Roland are certainly making up for lost time with their Roland Cloud service which allows subscribers to access an ever expanding treasure trove of classic Roland gear in plugin (or app) form.

Roland’s own attempt to capture the sound and spirit of their TR-909 in software form is, as you might expect, fantastic! Roland’s developers have clearly nailed the emulation game. In fact, the reason this isn’t my first or second choice TR-909 plugin is purely because it is part of Roland’s Cloud service which means it lacks the immediacy of Drumazon and ADM and requires an ongoing subscription.

In addition to modeling the 909’s analog circuits, Roland have also integrated the original sample ROM as well as modeling the 909’s primitive digital technology.

Programming your drums on the software version works exactly the same as with the original hardware although Roland have added a number of thoughtful enhancements to the sequencer including the ability to drag patterns from the TR-909’s step sequencer directly into your DAW in the form of MIDI or audio clips.

One awesome feature is that TR-900 plugin can be controlled by the Roland TR-8S hardware, should you happen to have it. The TR-8S comes ready-mapped for hands-on control of the plugin’s parameters.

Because this emulation is part of the Roland Cloud service you’ll also get access to a full library of Roland’s VSTs which gives you access to several decades worth of drum and synth sounds for the price of a monthly membership fee. In my opinion the monthly subscription is excellent value however I personally prefer to be able to buy and own my software outright right from the start and it is for this reason that the Roland Cloud version of the 909 does not make the top of my list.

Reservations about the subscription model aside, Roland’s cloud based TR-909 is highly recommended and boasts a sound that is about as authentic as you could hope for.

3. Arturia Spark 2

Spark 2 is French developer Arturia’s flagship drum plugin. It’s been around for over a decade now and has found a home in many a producer’s plugin folder.

Starting with the negatives, there’s a few minor quirks with the Spark 2 interface that I don’t particularly like – the software could do with further development and an update in my humble opinion. A Spark 3 would be much appreciated, Arturia! Minor niggles around the GUI aside, Spark 2 offers fantastic sounds and represents excellent value for money.

Arturia are famous for their software recreations of classic synths and Spark 2 benefits from that expertise to bring users authentic TR 909 sounds plus so much more. More than ‘just’ a basic drum machine there’s a lot of good stuff packed into Spark 2 including 3 different types of sound generation (Arturia’s proprietary TAE Analog Synthesis, Physical Modeling and Samples/REX Loop playback), automation and effects and in some ways Spark 2 feels like a mini DAW within a DAW.

As well as covering the TR-909 sounds you’re looking for, Spark 2 also offers the chance to play with emulations of other classic drum machine gear including the TR-808,TR-606, Roland CR-78, Simmons SDS-V, Linn Drum and many more making this a fantastic one stop shop for classic drum machine sounds. In effect you are getting the sounds of tens of thousands of dollars worth of vintage drum machines for a bargain price.

The Spark 2 16 step sequencer on which to enter your individual drum hits is not designed to look exactly like the Roland TR-909 step sequencer in the way the Drumazon and Roland Cloud plugins do, but it offers all the functionality you would expect.

You can switch from the main drum machine screen with its 16 steps to a dedicated sequencer screen at any time where edit complete patterns, adjust parameters and lay down automation. This sequencer screen is usually where I end up spending most of my time in Spark 2.

When you are happy with your individual patterns you can string them together in song mode.

Unlike the other drum machine plugins mentioned above, Spark 2 also gives you access to a dedicated mixer page and a comprehensive selection of 14 different effects including reverb, distortion, EQ and compressor which can added to any individual drum channel and/or the complete mix.

The Spark 2 plugin will happily run in your DAW of choice where you can manipulate the onscreen controls via clicking and dragging the mouse, as with any such software, but you can also opt to purchase the SparkLE hardware controller which plugs into your computer via USB and gives you hands on control of all of Spark 2’s main features.

The SparkLE is great for laying down beats, live performances and on the fly tweaking but when creating tracks in a DAW I do tend to stick with the mouse and the SparkLE hardware gets neglected – just be aware that you can absolutely use the Spark 2 plugin without having to shell out additional money for the SparkLE controller.

Overall the Spark 2 plugin is a great choice for anyone seeking a library of Roland TR inspired sounds – and much more – and it could become your go to drum plugin.

Closing thoughts: If you’re in a hurry to start playing with a fantastic sounding TR-909 emulation as soon as possible then plump for the D16 Drumazon – a demo version is available on the D16 site. Check out Roland Cloud and its superb selection of plugins if you’ve got the time and are not put off by the idea of cloud based software (and monthly subscription fees). The Audiorealism Drum Machine is excellent value for money offering as it does emulations of three individual drum machines and Spark 2, while suffering from a few minor interface niggles, does give you access to a comprehensive library of classic drum sounds, effects, automation and mixer for a very reasonable price.

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