The Roland TR-808 was launched in 1980 and made an instant impact on the way people wrote music. The title of Kanye's fourth studio album, “808s & Heartbreak,” was inspired by the machine. It's also a common sound in trap, hip hop, and electronic music.
Fortunately, there are lots of VSTs that replicate the sounds musicians discovered with the old drum machine these days, so it's no longer necessary to invest in one. Even free ones! Which is what we'll be looking at in this article.
BD-808 by Synsonic Instruments
BD-808, a free bass drum VST/AU plugin for Windows and Mac, has been released by Synsonic Instruments. The signal processing underneath is based on a thorough examination of the original 808 Bass Drum circuit. The plugin also has a MIDI learn feature, which allows you to assign any parameter to any MIDI controller and adjust the pitch with it.
The user interface also includes tune and fine tune settings, as well as decay, accent, and tone parameters, in addition to the MIDI Sync parameter, which provides pitch control through MIDI. I'd like to have the ability to make pitch slides, but I'm quite confident that with a little automation, this is doable. The instrument also has MIDI learning capabilities, allowing you to map the on-screen controls to your MIDI controller's knobs and faders.
According to our research, the DB-808 is one of the most straightforward 808 VST plugins available for anyone hunting for high-quality 808 sounds. Moreover, the fact that it is free ensures that you will not burn a hole in your wallet.
Download: Synsonic Instruments
SUB by Sampleson
Sub is a simple virtual analog drum machine which was greatly influenced by the TR-808. For the most part, the settings are restricted to just pan and level, but there are a few more parameters for the kick and snare, as well as tuning for the toms and congas. Sonically Sub, on the other hand, offers a fantastic 808 imitation (although the hats give a more 606-ish).
Here are some of its features:
- Analog drums sounds (18, to be exact)
- A module for analog drums
- No further purchases (such as Kontakt, UVI, or any other 3rd-party player) are required.
- The files are ready to be integrated into most DAWs (Logic Pro, Reaper, Ableton, Pro Tools, FL Studio, etc)
- An HD Scalable interface.
- Versions for Windows 32/64 bits and Mac VST/AU/Standalone are available.
- Installed memory is somewhere around 35MB.
- Pan and Volume controls
- There is no need to set up a library.
- There is no need to activate your account online.
It's important to note that it's a drum synth module rather than a drum machine, but you can use it with your DAW's sequencer instead.
SUB Analog Drums is a free VST/AU and standalone download for 32/64-bit Windows and Mac. To acquire the plugin, you need only share it on social media.
Drum Pro by StudioLinked
Drum Pro is a drum ROMpler plugin that offers 20 free kits and the opportunity to purchase additional kits through premium extensions. There's no denying that Drum Pro is primarily meant to persuade you to spend money on expansions, but the free sounds are still decent, considering it’s free.
Drum Pro's user interface includes 16 drum pads and a global ADSR envelope for loudness (affecting all 16 drum pads). It also has controls for pan and volume across each drum pad, a reverb mix control, and a global volume control.
Drum Pro's lack of multi-out capability, which means you won't be able to process distinct drum sounds separately, is a potential drawback. That said, if you're seeking for absolute simplicity and a quick process, this won't be a big deal.
Drum Pro would have been really beneficial to me in the early stages of my music producing career. It's a solid drum rompler with a good range of drum sounds built in. If you're a beginning producer or beat creator, this sort of instrument may save you time and provide you with immediate access to a vast array of drum sounds.
RC-808-PLG by Analog Mafia
Based on this first engine, the RC-808-PLG is a free drum machine/synthesizer plugin that allows you to fine-tune each component. With a single click on the drum trigger, you have access to a massive synthesis engine that puts everything in your control for producing your own drum sounds.
The RC-808-PLG's sound source utilizes DCO, or Down Chirp Oscillator, in conjunction with a noise source that generates a variety of noises, including metallic noises. There's also an infinite point waveshaper, variable filter bank, and infinite point envelope generators, among other things.
Here are some of its features:
- The sounds of the original 808 drum machine.
- Velocity-sensitive reactivity.
- Each drum sound has its own 808 knob, as well as controls for pan, attack, decay, and reverb.
- LFO for modulating stereo width.
- Effects include reverb, vinyl, and sens/distortion.
- Check out the keyboard.
- A highpass/lowpass filter.
It appears that the TR series' previous creators have created a useful free plugin. A free and much more accurate Roland Cloud TR-808 replacement, thanks to original developers that worked on the devices at the time. It's great that you can now play with the TR-808's real engine. Please, all TR-808 clone developers, consider going a step further and bringing one with this level of capability. This might be the 808's next-generation hardware.
RVK-808 by Electronik Sound Lab
RVK-808 (KVR DC16) is a Windows and Mac VST/AU drum ROMpler based on the legendary TR-808.
- 272 quality samples.
- 17 drum kits.
- Assignable outputs.
- macOS Catalina Support
In comparison to the previous alternatives, the RVK-808 VST from Electronik Sound Lab could be a better fit for your budget if you don't want to spend any money. However, because it's based on samples, like the Revolution library, you won't be able to adjust sounds as delicately, which shouldn't be an issue for most producers.
Download: Electronik Sound Lab
808 Bass Module 4 Lite by Electronik Sound Lab
R808 Bass Module 4 Lite is a free demo version of Electronik Sound Lab's most popular and best-selling plugin since they started making VST instruments. They've added new and strong 808 basses to the complete version, and those from the previous version have been upgraded and provided as an expansion so you can keep playing your favorite 808 basses. All sounds are in the key of your project and ready to play.
Some features are as follows:
- 15 Electronic Music Presets
- Modulation of the LFO
- Ability to control glide time.
- Control of Distortion
- Straightforward to use.
- There are no royalties to pay.
- Support for macOS Big Sur.
For Windows and macOS, 808 Bass Module 4 Lite is available in VST/VST3 and AU plugin formats.
Download: Electronik Sound Lab
Beatfactory Drums by BeatSkillz
Finding flexible and diverse beat software without the price tag takes some trial and error, but if you're short on time, BeatSkillz Beatfactory Drums is a prime example of a drum machine VST that should fit nicely in a wide range of genres.
They made the instrument using Maize Sampler, and it has the same advantages and disadvantages as most other Maize-based drum romplers. On the plus side, the instrument is completely compatible with both Windows and Mac OS, with both 32-bit and 64-bit plugin versions. It also works well and has a low level of instability.
On the downside, the instrument comes with a collection of pre-made drum kits that can't be mixed or expanded with external sample content unless you buy expansion packs directly from the creator. As a result, Beatfactory Drums is currently fairly restricted, offering a non-expandable set of 120 drum beats that are preloaded with the plugin.
Nevertheless, beginner beat makers and producers who want to use a lightweight drum source instead of a fully customizable sampler instrument might benefit greatly from a free offering like this.
Top Free 808 VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
We hope you've discovered something that suits your style as a composer, whether it's the harshest 808 sub bass VST plugins or a laid-back Roland TR-808 Emulation.
These free VST Plugins will make your music creation considerably more captivating, spanning from deep thundery bass through to percussion, and should get you that classic 808 sound.