The 10 Best 808 Plugins (2023) – Free and Paid Options
The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was manufactured from 1980-83 and like an acoustic drum kit, it has a kick/bass drum, snare, toms, conga, rimshot, claves, clap, maracas, cymbal, and hi-hat sounds.
When Roland released the TR-808 in the 80s, it became singularly responsible for the birth of many new genres of electronic music. Although these are now incredibly rare and hard to find, many brands have developed their own interpretation or replication of the unique 808 sounds. Here is a list of the best ones available right now:
1. Synsonic BD-808 by Synsonic Instruments
Synsonic BD-808 is a free plugin that emulates the iconic bass drum sound of the 808. Just like the original 808, this plugin has sound shaping features such as ‘accent’, ‘level’, ‘decay’, and ‘tone’. Additionally, there are features that let you tune in halftones, extend the decay range, and various MIDI effects.
The Synsonic BD-808 is easy to use and great for beginners.
This is available for both Windows and macOS users in 32 and 64-bit. The plugin is compatible with Cubase, Logic Pro, and Ableton Live.
Check it out: Synsonic BD-808
2. Niche Audio Planet 808 by Niche Audio
Niche Audio Planet 808 is Built to integrate seamlessly with Maschine and Ableton Live, this plugin has thirteen kits and two special ones: percussions and low-end subs that emulate the vintage 808.
The sounds are ideal for musicians and producers making Deep House, Techno, Club, bass House, Minimal, Tech House, Tribal, RnB, and Hip Hop.
However, you do need a full version of Ableton 9 live or a more recent version and the Maschine 2.2.3+ to run this plugin.
Check it out: Niche Audio Planet 808
3. 808 Studio 2 by Initial Audio
808 Studio 2 is an 808 Bass Synth that can be used for a wide variety of bass sounds, ranging from clean sub-basses to more dirty ones. It comes with a sampler, you can either drag and drop your own sound or choose one from the presets. It also has a built-in sequencer and is fairly easy to use.
The plugin is 64 bit and has sidechain capabilities along with an effects rack containing overdrive/distortion, compressor, a 3-band EQ, chorus, and a highpass and lowpass filter.
Since the bass sound of an 808 is unique, you can get this plugin if you want to incorporate it into your music without necessarily having the need for the entire kit.
Check it out: 808 Studio 2
4. Zampler Expansion by Plugin Boutique
Zampler is a workstation available for free and comes with two primary banks of sounds to choose from.
The ‘Dance Production Sounds’ pack is a great tool for beginners or for those looking for readymade sounds to get their project going. ‘MainRoom and EDM DrumKits’ has 30 kits/patches for you to use.
It goes without saying that the workstation has effects rack to further manipulate your sounds. Get this plugin if you want something easy to use and ready to go.
The drawback to this, however, is that it is not compatible with Reaper. Although available as VST and AU, Zampler does not guarantee that it will work with macOS Big Sur. It is also not compatible with macOS Catalina.
Check it out: Zampler Expansion
5. Punchbox by D16 Group
Punchbox is a kick drum generator Splice plugin.
It has an EQ, Filter modulation dial, and a limiter. The Bitcrusher comes in handy if you are looking to quantize or modulate the frequency. There is also an option to Resample and change the sample frequency.
You have over 1000 preset sounds to choose from. The only downside to this plugin is if you are not a Splice user and prefer to download your packs for DAWs directly from the manufacturers.
Check it out: Punchbox
6. TS-808 by Tactile Sounds
The maker of the TS-808 calls it their “labor of love” and is available for free. It is a software emulation of the legendary TR-808 by Roland created using SPICE simulations of the individual circuits.
The voices, in their digital form, have more parameters than the original hardware. The major drawback, however, is that this is available only to PC users.
Check it out: TS-808
7. DopeSonic Bass Engine 2 by DopeSONIX
One can never have too many bass sounds. Bass Engine 2 consists of traditional 808 bass sound, Sci-fi, Live, and Sub basses. You can thus choose from a wide variety of presets.
What makes this plugin unique is that the sound samples have been treated with a vintage Drawmer 1961 Dual Vacuum Tube Equaliser to give them warmth and richness to the tone.
It is compatible with most major MIDI controllers. Windows users can choose between a 32 and 64-bit version. macOS users have access to the 64-bit version.
This plugin is compatible with most DAWs but not Pro Tools.
Check it out: DopeSonic Bass Engine 2
8. Transistor Revolution MKII by Wave Alchemy
If you are an existing Kontakt user, you will enjoy the Revolution MKII.
The graphic interface follows the traditional TR style and has a 16-track step sequencer with unified instruments for an 808 and 909 kit.
There is also a 10-track mixer with individual processors, reverb/delay sends, volume, and pan control. You can mix your kit using the master tape section.
There is an additional Ableton Live drum kit and Maschine 2.0 preset.
You need the full version of Kontakt 5.2.1+ in order to access this plugin.
Check it out: Transistor Revolution MKII
9. KICK 2 by Sonic Academy
If you are looking for a drum sequencer that gives you total control to sculpt and shape your sound for a perfect kick drum then you should check out Sonic Academy’s ‘Kick 2’.
There are over 200 preset kicks to choose from including Analog, Bass, Drum & Bass, House, Live, Percussion, Pop, Progressive House, Psy Trance, Snares, Techno, Toms, Trance, and Trap. These can be further manipulated using the EQ controls.
The ‘Snap’ and ‘Tag’ features let you stay in a key using the X-Y pad to dial in the exact key for your kick drum.
The plugin is available in 32 and 64 bit in AU, VST, and AAX.
Check it out: KICK 2
10. Subdivine by Diginoiz
Beatmakers or producers who play genres such as trap, hip-hop, R&B, etc can download Subdivine.
You can choose a sample from the 2 main categories: analog and digital, which have their own unique sound that can be shaped further using the ADSR envelope and Drive.
The plugin is available in 64-bit for both Windows and macOS users. It is compatible with Cubase, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Ableton Live 10.1+, Studio One, and Garage Band only.
Check it out: Subdivine
An 808 is an incredibly versatile instrument and although it is difficult to get your hands on the original hardware, having access to some of these software plugins can be a great addition to your library.
The learning curve for most of these plugins is not very steep and if you are a beginner, you should find most of them easy to use. They integrate seamlessly with your workflow and will add uniqueness to your sound.