Roland's TR808 set a new standard when it came to programmable drum machines but was let down (in its time) by its analogue generated sounds.

Then, of course, came the LinnDrum with its sampled sounds that completely knocked the innovative TR808 off the map. Roland retaliated in 1983 with their TR909... sort of.

Yes... it had sampled sounds but its snare drum was still generated using analogue circuitry. It is said that Roland stuck with this because they felt that samples were too 'static' and that users needed control over the sound's component parameters to tailor the sound to their requirements, especially a sound as important as the snare drum.

Unfortunately as well, the 909's sampled drum sounds weren't actually that good, especially compared with the LinnDrum which, at the time, was as near to perfection as you could expect. The TR909 also retained the TR808's programming method which involved first selecting a sound and then placing the beats where you want them using the 16 buttons across the bottom of the unit. The method was loved by many but compared with the new 'real-time' input method used on the LinnDrum where you just hit the pads and actually 'played' the sounds, it seemed a bit awkward and old fashioned. And whilst the 909 was less expensive than the LinnDrum, the Emu Drumulator had also just hit the streets for about the same price as the 909. Once again, although brimming with innovation, the 909 lost out to another American manufacturer and the 909 did not become the success Roland presumably anticipated... well.... not in the product's lifetime that is.

Like the TR808, the 909 was relegated to the classifieds and second-hand shops across the world. But like the TR808, it was discovered again by the impoverished pioneers of the emerging 'dance' music market. The 909 had a somewhat 'harder' sound than the 808 ... its kick drum could really move air and the hi-hats were far more aggressive than its predecessor and so the 909 won favour with emerging artists who were experimenting with new rhythmic forms.

Of course, once the 909 had made its way onto a few significant records, word got out that this was the beatbox to have and so, like the 808, it became highly fashionable and sought after and an old 909 that had previously been gathering dust in the attic could exchange hands for $1,500 or more!

As with the TR808 soundset, I have used velocity crossfade to provide the variable snare drum settings:

Low velocity will trigger a sample with a low 'snappy' setting... medium velocity will trigger a sample with a 'snappy' setting of around halfway.... higher velocity will trigger a sample with a full-on 'snappy' setting.

So, rather than using the sampler's lowpass filter to emulate this effect as is often the case in other sample libraries, you are actually triggering authentic samples from the original at different velocities.

Two snare drums are available - a short one and a slightly longer one that has the original's 'decay' parameter set to maximum. Both use the velocity crossfade technique described above.

Other samples feature variations made on the original (for example, kick drum) and I have chosen versions that best represent the sounds in question.

The samples in the Nostalgia program are mapped out with the drums spanning C1-B1 and the 909's limited 'percussion' spanning C2-D2 with ride and crash cymbals on C#2 and D#2 respectively.

You will note, however, that I have duplicated the note assignments for the 808 and 909 kits so that the two soundsets are immediately interchangable... i.e. you can program a rhythm using the 808 program but by using the 909 program instead, you can swap it with the 909 soundset (or vice versa) and the same sounds will play.

I have normalised all the original samples for optimum dynamics.