April 26, 2012


Checking out the service notes for a Roland TR-808, it's amazing to see all that goes into making just one sound. Here is a break down of what the Cymbal sound consists of:

six square wave oscillators going through five filters (two band pass and three high pass), three envelop generators and three amplifiers. If you don't believe me, see for yourself:

Interesting that there is no noise source in that cymbal sound. When one goes to create a cymbal sound with a synthesizer you'd undoubtedly go straight for the noise generator, but of course this is more of an approximation of a cymbal sound and this is why the cymbal on the 808 sounds more "real".

Ever since acquiring my 808 I've been adding white noise to the cymbal sound to make it sound more synthetic. I thought I was being redundant and that it must already contain some noise, but it turns out that it doesn't and my ears knew what they wanted to hear!

Here is an article from Sound on Sound called


  1. I thought to myself, surely there is a noise source for every synthesized cymbal sound. I wonder what the other drum machines are doing in response to this.

  2. The 606 and 808 are among the most elegant percussion circuits ever to have been created. One could/should learn so much just by studying them and playing around with a modular or flexible architecture synthesizer. Turns out the quickest path to a "metallic" sound, like cymbals, isn't a noise source at all but multiple oscillators pitched way up, blended together via various filters, and tuned to discordant intervals - instant sizzle and ring that you'll never really get from traditional white noise!