Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zenhiser's Roland CR-78 The Machine Sample Pack Review

CR-78 The Machine - Zenhiser Sample Pack Demo by The Synth Symp

The Roland CR-78 is a classic drum machine. Whether you've heard of it or not, it greatly influenced the sounds of the 80s and is featured on many famous tracks. Some of the artists who used it include Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Blondie, Ultravox, OMD, Roxy Music, and Gary Numan. While the CR-78 lacked full programmability like the Roland TR-707 or 808, it still had enough customizability to make it a great addition to any musician's studio. Unfortunately, eBay prices for this collector's item have forced it well past the $500 USD range. If someone wanted its classic sound for a new recording, they'd have to pay out a pretty penny for it.

When I heard Zenhiser was putting together a high-quality sample pack of the famous drum machine, I'll admit, I was pretty excited. The samples I had before this pack lacked any low end and needed desperately to be tampered with in order to make them come to life at all, so much to the point that I've never gotten anything I like out of them. With this new sample pack, I would be able to enjoy the sounds of the CR-78 without tampering with them or putting a massive hole in my pocket. But would it actually live up to such a classic machine?

Zenhiser has included three sets of sounds: Drum Sounds, which contains 106 samples, Classic Beats, which has 157 loops, and Modern Beats, which has 166 loops. The loops contain several versions of each loop, usually 1 without the kick drum, and 1 without the high hats, and then the final with all sounds happening together. The classic beats has all the original CR-78 loops at 110BPM, whereas the modern beats, which were constructed from the hit samples, have many different tempos. All drum hits have regular and + versions, of which the + seem to be louder and cleaned up.

For me, this pack is really special. Even having just the great drum hits would be great, but the nice big collection of loops really adds value. The hits have all the quality you want them to, with 24 bits/ 48khz wav files for each sound. They sound like a professional with a great audio interface (one much better than my own) recorded them right into their computer and handed them over to you. If you wanted to cover an old track that used the CR-78, you could easily fool anyone into thinking you had the real thing. The hits sound so good, I hope Zenhiser continues this practice-- it would be great to see other 80s classics like the Oberheim DMX, the LinnDrum, and the Sequential Circuits DrumTraks become selections for "The Machine" Collection. Using the classic loops feels a bit like I'm Phil Collins sitting back in a studio in the 80s, plugging in the machine for the first time. The loops are varied and easily inspire a new 80s sounding track. Don't forget, of course, the most customizability can be found by sequencing the hits themselves.

While the CR-78 probably isn't a drum machine for everyone, its definitely a staple if you like the sounds of the 80s. For me, it would work perfectly when trying to write a new song that sounds straight out of 1982. Even if you find the snare or kick inappropriate for a track, one of the other sounds would nicely create the nostalgic vibe you're looking for. One of the reasons I always liked the CR-78 is it works really well with other drums as well. It can be a nicely coupled with live drums (like 'In the Air Tonight') to create a hit. For $26.11, you're easily paying for less than 1/20th (probably even more, the only eBay CR-78 I see at this time is around $900) of the actual machine, which is an incredible deal, considering it is almost as good as the real thing. I highly recommend this sample pack for anyone who is after the CR-78 sound, or looking to add great 80s samples to their library, and doesn't want to empty their pockets.

Check out Zenhiser's site for more sound samples and to buy CR-78 The Machine.

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