An irony of the 808 is that it began as an everyman’s machine – a disliked relic that no-name musicians could acquire for prices approaching free. It helped that Keyboard infamously likened its sound to “marching anteaters.” (Note to self: idea for DJ name.) Yet now, the quirky Roland original commands high prices that have transformed it into an (often-unreliable) luxury item.

The fall and rise of the 808 isn’t just arbitrary, however. There is something distinctive about the sound design and usability of the original beast, the result of a twist of fate and history that compelled Roland engineers to bend their will into an instrument that was neither entirely synthetic nor entirely natural. People scoffed at violins and pianos when they were new, too, after all; while the TR-808 isn’t exactly on that level, it is a unique entity, one with a personality all its own.

But as KORG reissues a part-by-part remake of the MS-20 and fits 1970s filters into … well, nearly everything imaginable, Japanese rival Roland is thus far silent. Names make comebacks, yes. Actual circuitry, not so much.

The Yocto isn’t the first hardware to attempt to clone the original 808. It just happens to do it in a way that is promising – in function, in price, and in claimed accuracy.

Cost: 379€. Just be prepared for some DIY.

Each of the eleven drum sounds from the original 808 are here copied component-by-component, say the makers, with only the BA662 VCA Clap replaced by a BA6110.

The front panel, too, looks strikingly similar.

And pattern-making lives up to the predecessor, while adding additional functionality. With the added MIDI sequencer, you can store up to 256 patterns (16 banks times 16 patterns each). And for a generation accustomed to more-complete sequencing, you can now mute each sound, chain, copy, paste, and clear.

If they’ve done this right, in other words, this could be a perfect techno machine.

And there’s reason to root for them. As a set of samples, the 808 … well, is kind of crap. The real appeal isn’t the raw sound samples of the Roland so much as hands-on control of sounds and sequences.

Just be prepared for a DIY project that isn’t for the feint of heart. This isn’t even close to a good build for someone with limited experience; you’ll want some good tools and, as the makers suggest, time for testing and patience. Then again, for those of you with the experience, that may be part of the fun. It’s also nice to see that the board here can be opened in the free version of Eagle, the CAD software.

Having just sung the praises of the hands-on experience, here, at least, is what it sounds like:

For more accessible projects, the folks at e-licktronics have what appears to be a nice set of accessories, including Arduino-based MIDI shield and step sequencer, among other goodies. I’m not familiar with them, so can’t comment on their quality, but worth a look:

Boards Shop

In addition to the Yocto, if your tastes run differently, you can also try your hand on a 606-style sequencer or an Ableton-esque MIDI sequencer in their projects section.

Yocto Project


If anyone knows more about these folks, we’d love to hear.

Via De:bug

  • http://www.softcore.net.gr/ Softcore

    Intriguing indeed!

  • http://fkillmary.com/ Jason Duerr

    I have seen no reliable data stating any audio difference between surface mount components and thru hole. I have an SMT factory. Anyone want to partner on a version that is mass producible for low cost?

    • Henry Beyle


    • Ted

      No!!! It has to cost several thousand! It’s a drum machine for christ sake!

    • Ryu

      maybe it’s a build issue, and not an audio quality issue…

  • Marcos

    This looks pretty good, and affordable…I’ll wait until I see what elektron and roland plan to offer before considering…

  • chaircrusher

    feint = faint SINCERELY YR EDITOR.

  • sebastienpaquet

    what’s up with the handclap? Why does it cut like that?

  • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

    What is that name “e-licktronics” all about, anyway? Too bad that I am completely rubbish at soldering and all that – this is a really nice offering. Comparing it to Acidlab Miami, I can’t hear any difference; and the 880 € price tag for the latter is not making it easier to go for the all-ready-to-plug-in-and-play-the-groove solution.

    • Marcos

      Soldering = just touching 2 things together on a surface. So easy, you shouldn’t let that hold you back!

  • gearslutz

    amazing that the dolts from roland couldnt offer a new 808 lol.

    • xx

      I would be very interested in hearing from anyone that could offer some perspective on why Roland and Yamaha seem reluctant to offer any sort of re-release of old hardware. My only guess would be that they are more in the market for higher-end stuff, pro equipment, and don’t have their manufaturing or R&D teams geared towards development of this kind of equipment- low cost reissues of older equipment, with some design modifications, enhancements, etc. But that’s just blind speculation supported by the fact that they don’t offer a hell of a lot of products in that $50-$250 price range Korg has been in lately.

  • MatthewWillox

    I like the DIY movement, but for that price.. Just put up a few more bucks and get the Acidlab Miami.

    I mean, even if you’re “low on cash” but you have 350 euros to blow on a bunch of components, you might want to consider putting in a few extra hours of work and saving up for the Miami.

    The amount of extra work you put in will likely be less than the amount of time you put in soldering and debugging, unless you are very well practiced.

    Something to consider.

    • Lee Chaos

      One man’s work is another’s play… I’d actually consider buying this for the challenge of putting it together, and I’m not that enamoured with the prospect of owning an 808 clone. So maybe I could have fun building them and then selling them on.

      For me, complaining that a synth needs soldering together is the same as moaning that the Lego set needs assembling… YMMV.

    • MatthewWillox

      Wasn’t complaining.

      “I know that isn’t always the point of DIY and sometimes DIYing it is for fun”

      You must have missed this part.

    • Yanakyl

      So you mean both are fairly priced?

    • MatthewWillox

      Depends. If you’re an electrical engineer with the ability to assemble a unit like this in 30-40 hours I’m going to assume your time is worth more than $10/hour.

    • Shane Warne

      You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to assemble this kit. All the heavy mathematical work and physics is already done for you. Anyone with relatively basic electronics knowledge should be able to assemble this.

    • Ryu

      What a redundant statement. Do you offer the same advice to people who buy jigsaws? “hey, you know you could save yourself a lot of time if you just buy the poster ? something to consider” …. derp derp.

    • MatthewWillox

      Nope, I’m suggesting perhaps that people looking to make music with an 808 economically might want to consider purchasing an 808 clone instead of spending 40 hours building one (arguably the more expensive option)

      I fully acknowledge that people do this for fun and that I am ok with that. If you intention is to have fun and build an 808 from scratch go ahead.

      I don’t see why this is a derp.

    • Ryu

      it’s a redundant derp because no one needs you to remind them what a DIY project entails. even Peter’s write-up comes with heavy disclaimers for novice solderers. Besides, there are holes in your thinking. quite some people are on the wrong end of an economic crisis and simply wanting to work isn’t enough to get it. For these people DIY can be more about necessity (though a synth or drum machine is a luxury) than desire.

    • MatthewWillox

      I’m sure there are holes in my thinking, so what. Get a life.

    • Ryu

      I don’t just buy anything the day I hear about it :) I’ll wait for some user feedback, thank you very much. Have fun informing the world that DIY really does mean DIY.

    • MatthewWillox

      Not what I was doing.

    • Ryu

      ya, it was. albeit in a long winded, patronizing, roundabout way.

    • MatthewWillox

      Explains why you’re so butthurt I guess.

    • Ryu

      I’m not the one trying to piss on the DIY parade with redundant warnings, you’re the one with the aching sphincter methinks.

    • MatthewWillox

      Let us know when you get club scouts “I stood up for DIY” badge in the mail.

    • ThreeCheeseFondue

      Jesus, give the guy a break. He’s making a reasonable statement that some people might prefer to buy a ready made version rather than wrestle with a soldering iron for god knows how long and probably f**k it up anyway. Not everybody took electronics at college when they were younger.
      All he’s saying is that people have another option: to buy one ready-made for effectively a 500 euro surcharge. What the hell is wrong with pointing that out?
      I think there is probably another option though: to fish around for somebody who will build it for you. If you get hold of the assembly instructions you should be able to find somebody who is willing to build it for less than 500 quid/dollars/euros whatever. Certainly if you’re paying for 30-40 hours of somebody’s time, at their convenience (e.g. “as long as you’ve build it in 3 months’ time that’s fine by me) you should be able to get their time cheaper. Must be some electronics geeks/students in need of a few quid who would consider this.

    • Ryu

      I’m not saying he should go to jail or anything, just that he’s an enormous douchenozzle.

    • MatthewWillox

      I prefer elite douchenozzle++

    • MatthewWillox

      I’d be like… look.. I’ll buy two kits. You build both and you can keep one.

    • josh

      except the few extra bucks you’re talking about is 700 extra USD. I already know how to solder, and this seems like it would maybe take an afternoon to actually put together. I’ll pay myself 700 dollars for an afternoon of soldering any day.

    • MatthewWillox

      Lets do an estimate based off of an 8 hour build.

      It’s roughly 1700 solder points ( I just did a component count and multiplied, not accounting for transistors and pots), That’s a joint every 17 seconds for a sustained 480 minutes.

  • awesome

    Wow ! how original ! we live in 2013 we can create new exiting stuff, thinking out of the box, and we choose to recreate the most overused, cloned, and copied drummachine in the world ! awesome…

    • Yanakyl

      As much as innovation is needed, keeping legend alive is good. Don’t you think?
      I’m happy I can listen to hundreds years old music that’s been overused, cloned and copied by so many because some have the patience and talent to mantain it alive.
      Although I wouldn’t be against having the same machine with analog delay, distortion and a filter I can route the sounds in!!!
      If you want an analog drum machine with some modern ideas you can look at the mfb tanzbar.

    • xx

      Thanks for sharing.
      Alternately, the abundance of in-the-box production can leave a lot of folks new to music production a little overwhelmed with the range of options. The popularity of the Volcas shows that there’s a real desire for discreet modules with specific functions- real musical instruments that are reliable, physical and have that ‘right’ kind of limitation in functionality that can be conducive to creativity.
      Or, from a different perspective, the thing is popular, and has been for decades. I would bet that there’s a good reason for it and it’s a solid instrument. No one stays away from guitar or piano because it’s ‘overused’, do they? Or maybe it’s not all that great after all; but it’d be hard for me to know because these things are rare and expensive, and they’re old and likely to have possibly significant hardware issues. Enter the hardware clone. I can have a shiny new clone of a unit Roland refuses to re-release in some form, for a reasonable cost, and then get to work on a way to make a it fresh. Everyone’s happy.

    • Frank

      By this logic we should do away with distorted guitars, and acoustic drums too. Those are used in nearly every rock song!

      I don’t understand why it’s hard to comprehend why certain people would enjoy this. Or anything similar. It’s a hobby, and people enjoy it. No one is forcing you to listen to it or use it or enjoy it. It’s subjective.

    • Ross P

      It’s simple – the 808 is a masterpiece of analog synthesized percussion. One and done. It’s sound is energetic, lively, balanced and it effortlessly fits into a song without being overwhelming, It is now on the level of a quality violin or piano, or acoustic drum kit – timeless, and therefore as relevant in 2015 as in 1984, and way better than any contemporary blip laser glitch bloop you could come up with a million plugins – hence the clones.

  • JenWest

    Fuck this… just get “ReBirth” for the iPad ($15 app), and call it a fucking day.
    I like analog gear just as much as the next girl. It gets me wet, really it does. But I just can’t justify spending that much for a TR-808. You can get your hands on 808 samples just about anywhere these days, and even then the structure is so simple that soft synths (like ReBirth) can create indistinguishable reproductions.
    Software still can’t do as good a job as a real Mini-Moog, DX7, Odyssey, Prophet 5, etc. but it can do a tr-808 just fine.

    • Ryu

      I don’t have an iPad. and an iPad fails in the tactile department. Samples are static. If you want to play the philistine card why don’t you do it right, and tell people to use a tr-808 vst + midi controller. PS: suck my balls.

    • JenWest

      Sounds like someone wasted their money.
      But if you like tactile sensation so much then try sucking your own balls little boy, assuming they’ve even dropped lol.
      You know, little boys who like playing with little knobs usually have little knobs to play with. It’s true! XP

    • Ryu

      why don’t you just suck them out of their abdominal hideaway then.

    • Shane Warne

      Stop being lazy. Building this kit is easy as. Any handyman can build it for you if you’re that lazy lol. Besides, hardware is simply just more fun for group jamming and song creation sessions with friends, and for just passing thru external fx and processors and getting creative with fx chains without it sounding / turning into mush. And honestly 90% of my songs start out primarily by jamming sketches to create sound banks and loops for my songs which I then just cut, paste and re-arrange afterwards, it’s far more fluid that way). Also, if it turns out in 1+ years time I don’t like it, I’ll just resell it for what I paid! Or perhaps even for a small profit depending on my luck! :-) I think that should end all debate right thar!

  • Josh

    the warnings on the instructions for this are pretty funny. I’m gonna go ahead and say anyone who has enough experience to build this kit doesn’t necessarily need to be reminded that diodes, electrolytic caps, transistors, and ICs are orientation specific. 😛