808 Day round-up: music, deals, downloads and … a Roland BMX bike?!

#808day has become a predictable annual event, a content churn in the lazy days of summer. That is, predictable except for … the machine’s original manufacturer, Roland. I’m sure precisely no one had “custom BMX bike” on their bingo card. Here we go.


Pictured: The Egyptian Lover stands apart as an inspiration for how to play the TR-808 – an originator of its sound today and an ever-innovative virtuoso on the instrument. So he’s a deserving partner of Roland for this year’s 808 Day – a perfect source of sounds on the 808.


Numbers just matter more – and 808day arrives first – in the machine’s home country Japan. There’s a beautiful love affair it seems between Japan and Detroit and the US and the Black artists who defined the instrument’s use in popular music. Let’s give some Japanese musicians the space today, as my feed on uh “X” is full of brilliant posts. I see a lot of Boutique TR-08s, too.

Hell, yes, acidlab miami – if I had to pick just one 808 recreation, it’d probably be this one over the more common clones and Roland’s Boutique.

Oh yeah, and our friends over at the wonderful Ableton Japan team. (They really are lovely people – no joke – like the industry team I’d most want to intern with. Maybe I’m biased because of the food in Tokyo, though.)

This is the least 808 of these posts, but it’s just beautiful – like the inner spirit of the 808.

Heading east over the Pacific, if you’re in Hawai’i, there’s what looks like a massive event in Kailua-Kona.

Turning the clock back to 2000, Beatport shared this fantastic video of the mighty Egyptian Lover on the TR-808. Accept no substitutes – it’s incredible how he gets this groove out of what is such a limited machine in so many ways:

Tech and deals

From mama Roland, today Roland Cloud Ultimate and Pro users get a delicious pack of 32 kits and 32 patterns for the ACB model. Forget the haters – that ACB model is very, very good, and means that Roland’s sounds run across software and hardware, and in hardware form don’t draw power the way analog circuits would. You can load these on the plug-ins, and tweak and transfer over to the TB-08 and TR-8S. I’ll be honest, that’s my preferred way of working with 808 sounds, not least because I’ve been unable to find any drum machine with the workflow and flexibility of the TR-8S.

I wrote about all that you can learn from and tweak in the DJ Pierre collection for the 303 / 727 / 909 already for Roland:

This is Acid: Exploring DJ Pierre’s Phuture Collection

So I’m personally really excited to add Egyptian Lover’s stuff to Pierre’s. You can’t do quite as much with them as it’s just the 808 and you’re limited to the 808 architecture, but put them together, and wow. We are completely indebted to these cats. To say I’m not always happy with everything Roland does would be a gross understatement (grumble, mumble), but going back to the originators is one of the things Roland is really doing right. And you know, there’s something to be said for choosing originators over knockoffs. I mean, you know – musically.

New TR-808 Sounds by Egyptian Lover! [Roland Cloud]

It’s also worth noting that Roland extended their Play 4 Life offer through the end of the month, so Pro and Ultimate subscriptions get two lifetime licenses for free if you pay for an annual sub. (808 and 909, anyone?) Or if you hate subscriptions, you can also just buy plug-ins outright; their subscription model is fully optional.

In other tech news … and love them as I do, no reason to restrict yourself to the Roland versions:

D16’s Nephaton is probably the best way to get a software version of the 808, packed with features and with a beautiful, authentic sound. (I’m addicted to their PunchBox for kicks…) If you don’t have Roland Cloud and aren’t particularly interested, it’s also far more economical. That’s true even at full price, and for 808 Day, Plugin Boutique has it for a whopping 70% off.

Awesome. Polish. Engineering.

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Nephaton drum machine by D16 Group [Plugin Boutique]

Minimal Audio Octane is the take on the 808 I’m most excited to try out at the moment. It’s sample-based, not modeling, but then it’s got a massive sound library and seems really fresh and contemporary, which is where the action is at once you’ve got the basics covered already (as with the TR-8S / TR-08 / ACB). And so far everything Minimal has done I’ve been taken by. Interestingly, they started with both a vintage 808 and some modern analog recreations to do the kit. Just, you know, free up 2.4GB for this one as it is samples.

Plugin Boutique has an exclusive 40% off deal:

If you buy something from a CDM link, we may earn a commission.

Minimal Audio Octane

Future Audio Workshop’s SubLab line is another one I’ve started diving into. It’s a beautiful combination of sampling, processing, and synth tweaking, with really exceptionally good sound library content – again, even speaking as someone who tends not to be into that stuff. It’s also uniquely focused on 808 bass and tuned sounds and more modern usage of the instrument – probably the best of the bunch for that rather than direct emulation. And yes – really surprised they’re not promoting this more, but Plugin Boutique have quietly added this to what appear to be a bunch of 808 Day sales. Not to be overly opportunistic here, but … yep, I’d splurge on this, for sure, if I didn’t already have it.

Future Audio Workshop SubLab / SublabXL and expansions [Plugin Boutique]

Wait, there’s more…

There’s also the nice BLEASS Sidekick, when you want some heavy ducking – and it’s your go-to on iOS as well as desktop. It’s already a bargain, so no discounts needed, really:

ADSR is promoting their ADSR Sample Manager by adding 25 free 808 sounds and loops to everyone’s account. You do need to download the Sample Manager software first if you don’t have it.

Our friends over at XODES talk a little about their engineering history. So as I’ve reported here, the best way to get XODES’ excellent 808 recreations is now in their 1U form for Eurorack – which is also ideal for a lot of folks, as you can mix and match just the drum parts you really want as part of your larger rig. But yeah, they are kind of hinting that they’re still considering doing a full 3U version that’s closer to a complete TR-808 sans sequencer. Interesting – and feel free to let them know what you think of that:

Nice tutorial for Reason 12, too:

And yes, you can also fiddle around with the online Roland studio, Roland50.studio –


Perfect if you’re at work and your display is positioned in a way that no one can see! (Wow, just look at that model of productivity – the intent focus!)

Round-up round-up

MusicTech has a nice round-up of sample packs and plug-ins.

Ben over at MusicRadar has a solid round-up of stuff to watch and tips / techniques / sounds and other notes. Not sure about the “greatest drum machine of all time,” though – especially given how close parts of the TR-808 are to the CR-78, and how Roland themselves considered the TR-909 superior, but I’m probably just trying to start a feud we can wage right through the 9th of September.

GearNews goes for an 808 Day story focused on the history of the machine.

Synthbeat celebrates by talking about some lesser-known history of writer Keith Walsh’s own band Fahrenheit. And here’s a gem from them from 1982 that’s so pitch-perfect, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was made now. (Nope, genuine 80s.) Kawaii!

Bicycle-related news

It wouldn’t be 808 Day without Roland doing something completely out of left field.

Going live today is an auction on a … BMX bike. Yeah, like the one with wheels. But it is for a good cause:

“1500 Sound Academy was founded with the goal to give back to our community,” said Larrance ‘Rance’ Dopson, GRAMMY-winning producer and co-founder of 1500 Sound Academy. “It is an honor to be a part of Roland’s iconic 808 global celebration where art, music, and culture help young artists fulfill their dreams.”

This one-of-one retro Roland 808 BMX Bike was commissioned from renowned graffiti artist and custom vintage BMX designer, DUROTHETHIRD, and is made from all original vintage parts including a 1993 Dyno Compe frame, GT power series cranks, Odyssey pedals, Dyno pretzel bars, Panaracer tires, custom wheel hubs and other classic parts and accessories. 

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One word: Rad. Honestly, though, this works as production advice this week:

Lead with your head. Take the mattresses out. Don’t over-rotate … uh, the snare.

Happy 808 Day, y’all.

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