We listed the best free 808 plugins to help you add some classic analog drum machine sounds to your DAW.
Almost half a century ago, Japanese engineer Ikutaro Kakehashi designed a drum instrument to replace acoustic drum kits. It wasn’t an instant hit. However, as years went by, 808 was rediscovered by various groups of artists who used it as the backbone of their signature sound.
It’s hard to decide which 808 component is more iconic. Is it the heavy analog 808 bass drum, the crunchy clap, the snappy snare, or the cowbell (you gotta have more cowbell!)? Or is it the hardware design and the quintessential orange/red color scheme?
The 808 became the essential ingredient of various music genres, from electronic music to urban beats, pop hits, and indie songs. It is one of the most iconic musical instruments ever built, along with the Minimoog and the MPC.
The original TR-808 machine goes for around $5,000 second-hand nowadays, but you can go cheaper if you purchase one of the numerous hardware clones. Roland offers the TR-08, a digital replica of the original hardware, for around $500 new. Even cheaper is the fully analog RD-8 from Behringer.
But what if you want to get the iconic 808 sounds for free?
Thankfully, numerous free 808 instruments are on the market, and we listed the best ones in this article.
Free 808 Plugins (2023 Update)
Our goal for this article was to create the largest directory of free 808 VSTs. We scoured the web for free 808s and even listed a few obscure freebies that you won’t find elsewhere.
These are the best free 808 VST plugins in 2023:
- RC-808-PLG by Analog Mania
- Sitala by Decomposer
- Cassette Drums by Bedroom Producers Blog
- VR-08 by ALIPAPA333
- RVK-808 by Electronik Sound Labs
- X-Eight Lite by Thenatan
- BD-808 by Synsonic Instruments
- SC-808 by Yoshinosuke Horiuchi
- TS-808 by Tactile Sounds
- 808 E-DRUM by Samsara Cycle Audio
- Tromine8 by Marvin VST
- Drumatic VE by E-Phonic
Read more about the free 808 VST plugins in the section below.
RC-808-PLG uses analog-style synthesis to emulate the sounds of the original 808. It was designed by Analog Mania, a team composed of several engineers who worked for Roland back in the day when the TR-808 was under development.
So, the RC-808-PLG is an 808 plugin created by the engineers who worked on the original TR-808. A virtual 808 really can’t get more authentic than that!
But that’s not the only thing that makes the RC-808-PLG special. The plugin unlocks the full potential of the 808 sound engine, allowing the user to customize the generated drum sounds.
The sound editor is complex, but it allows you to create analog-style drum sounds. You can use the RC-808-PLG to tweak and reshape the classic 808 drum hits to create unique variations for your projects.
If editing sounds from scratch is not your thing, you’ll be happy to hear that RC-808 has a set of presets. To load a preset, use the Import command from the File menu and browse the files in the downloaded folder.
You’ll find a variety of presets, ranging from a classic 808 drum kit to different variations of the 808, 909, and other classic drum machines.
Unfortunately, RC-808 is discontinued and no longer available, but we will keep it listed here for reference.
Sitala is a free drum sampler plugin by Decomposer. It comes with a free 808 drum kit out-of-the-box, so it’s the perfect way to quickly use some 808 sounds in your favorite DAW.
Even better, Sitala lets you process the loaded sounds with built-in samples and envelopes. So, if you need an easy-to-use sampler to play your favorite 808 samples, Sitala is an excellent choice.
More info: Sitala
Cassette 808 is our free 808 plugin, featuring state-of-the-art 808 drum sounds sampled by Gregor Zemljic in his mastering studio. To make things more interesting, we resampled those clean sounds from an audio cassette, resulting in a crunchy, distorted sound.
You can choose between three 808 kits: Clean, Saturated, and Distorted. The Clean kit is perfect if you want pristine 808 sounds. The other two kits are useful if you’re looking for drum hits with more character and grit.
The plugin is straightforward to use. Simply load it in your DAW and start playing 808 sounds right away. There’s no setup required.
The interface lets you adjust each drum kit’s volume and release time. You can also change the master volume and use the built-in keyboard to preview the sounds.
More info: Cassette Drums
VR-08 is an old freeware 808 VST plugin developed by a Japanese developer named ALIPAPA. Despite the dated-looking GUI, VR-08 is a capable virtual drum machine with a sound engine that closely resembles the hardware 808.
It’s also worth noting that VR-08 adds features you won’t find in most other 808 emulations. One notable addition is the Groove Control feature with a customizable swing mode. Users can fine-tune the Shift, Scatter, and Random parameters to apply the perfect amount of shuffle to the beat.
Another cool feature is the Analog mode which applies subtle sonic alterations to each drum hit. The result is a more analog-like sound.
The free version of VR-08 comes with several limitations. Its sampling rate is 44.1 kHz, and the plugin doesn’t support multiple audio outputs.
The website is in Japanese. To get the freeware edition of VR-08, visit the product page below and click the “Free Version Available” button in the upper-right corner.
VR-08 is available as a 32-bit and 64-bit VST2 plugin for Windows.
More info: VR-08
RVK-808 is a free 808 plugin by Electronik Sound Lab. It is a sample-based virtual 808 with sixteen drum channels, built-in reverb/distortion, and individual outputs for each channel.
Being a sample-based instrument, the RVK-808 doesn’t offer the sound customization advantages of drum synthesizer plugins like the 808 E-DRUM and VR-08. However, the ready-to-play 808 sounds make it equally easy to “pick up and play” as the Cassette 808.
The plugin is inspired by the 808, but it offers seventeen drum kits in total. Some of those kits are sampled from different drum machines.
RVK-808 is available in 32-bit and 64-bit VST/AU plugin formats for Windows and macOS.
More info: RVK-808
X-Eight Lite is the freeware edition of Thenatan’s premium X-Eight plugin. It’s an 808 bass drum module with 80 fine-tuned kick and sub-bass samples.
So, instead of delivering the complete 808 drum engine, X-Eight Lite focuses on the kick drum channel. The idea is to provide an 808 bass that can be played chromatically, making it easy to create 808 basslines.
The freeware plugin comes with a limited set of controls compared to its paid counterpart. You can adjust the Attack, Release, Filter, and Glide parameters.
X-Eight Lite is a 32-bit and 64-bit VST/AU plugin for Windows and macOS.
More info: X-Eight Lite
BD-808 is another 808 bass plugin. However, unlike the sample-based X-Eight Lite plugin by Thenatan, BD-808 uses a software recreation of the 808’s bass drum module.
The developer Synsonic Instruments claims that “BD-808” is based on an accurate digital model of the hardware 808’s original circuit.
The plugin features Tune, Fine-Tune, Accent, Level, Decay, and Tone controls. Also worth mentioning is the Long Decay mode, which is useful for creating 808 basslines.
The Tune and Accent controls can be controlled via MIDI notes, letting you play the 808 bass drum chromatically. This feature is essential for making 808 basslines.
BD-808 is available in 64-bit VST and AU plugin formats for Windows and macOS.
More info: BD-808
SC-808 is a virtual 808 drum machine powered by the SuperCollider audio coding platform. It’s less convenient than VST or AU plugins, but you can still connect it to your DAW.
The developer describes the SC-808 as “the most flexible 808 emulation ever,” which isn’t far from the truth. It uses an advanced audio synthesis engine to emulate the 808 drum sounds while allowing users to customize each drum channel.
To use SC-808, you must load SuperCollider and route it to your DAW externally. How the routing works is beyond the scope of this article, but below, you’ll find a handy diagram provided by the creator.
More info: SC-808
Free 808 Legacy Plugins (Discontinued)
This section features some old free 808 plugins that are now discontinued. However, these 808 VSTs can still be useful for users with 32-bit plugin hosts.
TS-808 is one of the most accurate-sounding 808 plugins on this list. The bad news is that it only works in 32-bit digital audio workstations.
If you’re looking for a VST plugin that gets very close to the original 808 in terms of sound, give TS-808 a try. The developer referenced the 808 drum machine’s service notes and extensively analyzed various 808 samples to develop an accurate drum synthesis engine.
The plugin offers eight audio outputs for the drum channels, so users can apply third-party effects to the 808 drums.
TS-808 is available as a 32-bit VST plugin for Windows.
More info: TS-808
808-E-Drum is a virtual 808 drum machine created by Samsara Cycle Audio. It features six drum pads, each letting you choose between multiple drum sounds. For example, the first drum pad hosts two different bass drum types, whereas the fourth channel offers six different percussion sounds.
The plugin is inspired by the TR-808, but it’s not a precise emulation of the hardware. That said, you can quickly get some 808-style sounds out of 808-E-Drum.
You can tweak multiple parameters for each drum, including the envelope (attack/decay/release), filter (cutoff/resonance), pitch, pan, volume, and modulation.
808-E-Drum is compatible with 32-bit VST plugin hosts on Windows.
More info: 808 E-DRUM
Tromine8 is an old free 808 plugin developed by MARVIN VST.
You’ll love Tromine8’s pixel-perfect GUI if you’re into pixel art. The front panel is small by today’s standards, but the plugin is still comfortable, thanks to its intuitive control layout.
You get thirteen drum channels featuring a bypass switch and a volume knob. The bass drum has adjustable attack and decay parameters, whereas the snare channel lets you fine-tune the tone and punch.
Look closer, though, and you’ll notice the Additional Settings label just above the main controls. This portion of the GUI unlocks various advanced settings for all channels, including tunning, pan, noise, and drive.
Tromine8 is available as a 32-bit VST plugin for Windows.
More info: Tromine8
Dramatic VE is a freeware drum synthesizer plugin loosely based on the 808. It’s 32-bit and discontinued, so why would you want to download this old 808 plugin?
Vintage analog drum machines have a unique charm, and so do these old drum machine plugins. Having several variations of the drum sound at your disposal is often helpful, as it allows you to apply interest and contrast to your drum beats when needed.
Drumatic VE is inspired by 808’s punchy drums, and it has a snappy sonic signature that sets it apart from the other free 808s on this list.
Drumatic VE is available in 32-bit VST plugin format for Windows.
More info: Drumatic VE
Free 808s For Your Browser
What is more convenient than loading a free 808 VST in your DAW? Visiting a website that lets you play the 808 in the comfort of your browser.
Here are a couple of browser-based free 808 emulations:
For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.