808 Drum Machine In An ATTiny 14-Pin Chip

You may not know the 808 drum machine, but you have definitely heard it: the original Roland TR-808 was the first programmable drum machine and has been a mainstay of electronic music ever since. Hackers have been building their own versions of this vintage device for years, but this version from do-it-yourself synth builder [Jan Ostman] is quite remarkable.

He’s packed the entire device (called the Drum8 Vintage) into a single ATtiny84 14-pin DIP package, including the samples and eight polyphonic voices, plus old-school analog CV triggers, a global tune and an analog global accent input. That won’t mean a lot to non-musicians, but suffice to say that these are the same inputs that the original TR-808 had that allowed you to do all sorts of interesting stuff to trigger and modify the drum sounds. Plus some extras.

[Jan] is offering the chip itself for $20, and has made a limited edition version that is built into a patch bay panel for that genuine hard-wired look for $99. If you want to go the home-made route and make your own, he’s released the source code and schematics for making your own. You can check out more of [Jan’s] work in this post on making your own open-source instruments from Elliot. Thanks, Jan!

13 thoughts on “808 Drum Machine In An ATTiny 14-Pin Chip

  1. This is nothing like the 808. The 808 was all analogue. This is just a sample player. Furthermore the samples he has used are from the TR-909 not the 808.
    Impressive but utterly useless as there are literally hundreds of much better sampled or software-emulated 808s/909s out there.

    1. “Utterly useless” is a bit harsh, no? It may not cut it as a commercial product, but presumably that’s still acceptable on HaD? Or are interesting personal projects with shared design files a bad thing?

    2. There are probably a couple of hundred better “Dave’s” out there as well ;)

      It sounds nothing like a 909 at all.
      In fact it sounds very much like a 808 even though its not analog.
      Running with CVs and the internal RC oscillator makes it very live and analog.

      And it is free, no charge at all.
      You can grab the code and use it.

  2. And the best of all, it compiles on the ATtiny85 making it probably the smallest drum synth in the world.
    However you need to figure how to trigger the 8 sounds with only 4 GPIOs on the 8-pin chip.

    1. don’t get me wrong i really appreciate this as an engineering feat (a triggered sample player on an attiny is very cool!) and as a contribution to the open source community, but it’s definitely not a drum synth being there isn’t any synthesis going on.

      i think people are upset because implying “it’s an 808” comes with a lot of hype for sound quality and per-voice parameter manipulation. I think it could’ve done with a different name.

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