Wave Alchemy Transistor Revolution
Wave Alchemy’s Transistor Revolution is a staggeringly huge collection of 22,000 TR-808 and 909 drum samples. But do we really need another vintage drum sample pack? Yes, as it turns out.
There was discussion in the Attack office just this week about how many more vintage drum machine sample packs the world actually needs. We’d argue that there’s a finite number of classic machines worth the effort and, of those, exactly how many different and interesting ways can you sample their sounds? “Well, quite a few,” was the eventual consensus, “but they’ve all been done by Goldbaby.”
And while Goldbaby have nailed the task at hand (special mention to Tape 808, a personal favourite), it hasn’t stopped pretty much every other sample provider and their dog from giving it a crack too. The result? Literally millions of mediocre iterations of 808 claps, 606 hats and 909 kicks floating around cyberspace and clogging up file sharing sites.
But of course there are reasons why so many of these packs exist. First and foremost, the machines they sample sound awesome; many of them provide the beating heart of the tracks we love. And who wouldn’t want some of that magic in their music-making arsenal? Which brings us neatly onto the second main selling point of vintage drum samples: price. With many of the classics long since out of manufacture, second-hand prices are prohibitive to most of us. Good luck picking up a Roland TR-909 for less than £1,000.
So what do we have here then? Yet more TR-808 and TR-909 samples. And 22,000 of them, too! But before you hit the back button on your browser thinking there’s nothing new or interesting in that, hang on a moment; this one’s a little more interesting than most.
Transistor Revolution isn’t just your run-of-the-mill one-shot library. The guys at Wave Alchemy are far too talented and passionate to merely add to the drum hit overload outlined above. What we have here are two painstakingly crafted Roland TR-808 and TR-909 Kontakt instruments, faithfully reproducing the sound and control parameters of those iconic machines to a frankly stunning standard.
What makes it so effective? Well, the sheer number of sounds on offer here is the first clue. The beauty of a real 808 or 909 lies in its circuitry. Each machine has its own personality, foibles and nuances literally hard-wired into it. You’ll get a microscopically different sound each time the drums are triggered, which pyschoacoustically makes for a pleasurable experience. It’s an experience that’s perhaps impossible to recreate fully in a sampler instrument, but Wave Alchemy have risen to the challenge admirably by serving up seven variations of each hit, which then cycle at random each time you trigger a hit in order to replicate the hardware’s behaviour. I’m not embarrassed to say I found it impossible to tell the difference in a listening test alongside a real TR-909 (I couldn’t get my hands on an 808 to test against, but I’d wager the results would be similarly impressive).
And the obsessive attention to detail doesn’t stop with the sounds. This product has been meticulously executed throughout. The samples are accurately labelled and the 46 kits well thought out, which makes finding the right sounds an easy rather than daunting proposition. Need some dirt and crunch? Fire up the MPC60-processed version and you’re good to go.
In fact, because it’s a software emulation, there are a bunch of extras that take this instrument far beyond the real deals it’s based upon: tape saturation, bit-crushing, EQ and assorted filters, plus the ability to use sounds from both machines simultaneously for your very own dream machine. It all makes this an infinitely more powerful proposition.
There’s just one flaw: despite Wave Alchemy’s diligent approach to the sound itself, the omission of the classic x0x step sequencer does feel like a glaring oversight. Punching in the patterns is half the fun, surely? It’s easily recreated in most DAWs, but there’s something about doing everything in one window that feels a bit truer to the original hardware workflow.
However, this is just one black mark on an otherwise flawless creation that will have drum machine fiends drooling. Whether you’re making Chandler-esque house, Bambaataa-style electro or brooding Boddika techno, this stunning instrument will give you the sound you want without having to live on beans on toast for a year.