How To Make Your 808s Hit Hard and Slap Fast!

808s are one of the primary songwriting elements in many modern music genres like Hip-hop, Trap, Pop, Hyperpop, etc. Thus having a great sounding 808 drum is crucial for your music. In this article, we will tell you 7 ways to make your 808 hit hard.

Table of content

Understanding the 808
7 Best ways to make your 808 hit hard
  • Use Parallel/NY Compression
  • Use Torque by waves audio
  • Use saturation and distortion
  • Increase the RMS Level of the drum bus
  • Use a waveshaper
  • Use Dynamic Equalizer and Multiband compressor
  • Sidechain 808 with Kickdrum


In the late '80s and early '90s, there was a slightly retro drum sound that was popular in hip-hop music called the 808 bass drum sound. It was the bass drum sound on the 808 drum machine, and it's very deep and very resonant, and was used as the backbone as a lot of classic hip-hop tracks. — Steve Albini

Understanding the 808s

Before we learn about processing and mixing 808, we should understand its structure, sound design and components. The 808 is made up of 3 elements
  1. Transient Attack - The initial attack of the Drum
  2. Frequency bend - Adds the punch to the 808
  3. Low-end Sustain - Carries the weight of sound in form of bass
A great 808 has a subtle transient, boomy punch and a saturated Low-end sustain.
You can control the initial transient of the 808 using a single or multiband transient shaper. The punch of the drum can be controlled using a multiband compressor like Fabfilter MB or a Dynamic Equalizer like Ozone 9 dynamic EQ.
The low end sustains the most important part of an 808 since it carries the weight of the sound. To get a great low end, you can add saturation to the bass. Thickify is one of the best VST plugins that can add harmonic richness, even-odd harmonic content and an analog character.

7 Best ways to make your 808 hit hard

Now that you have understood the basic character of 808s, let us look at some ways to make our 808 professional sounding.

Use Parallel/NY Compression

No matter what genre you are producing, when it comes to the best practices to process drums parallel compression, also known as the NY or Newyork compression takes the first place. Parallel compression takes a drum bus compress it to extremes and then mixes it with the original unprocessed drum signal. The result is a hard-hitting drum sound.
1176 and similar FET Limiter Amplifier models are considered the best choice when it comes to parallel compression. The compressor when turned to the extreme can add a pleasant punch to the drum sounds.

How to use Parallel compression on 808

Step 1 - Route your 808 drums bus to an empty channel. Name it Parallel compression.
Step 2 - Load your analog compressor, a FET model is recommended. T RackS Black 76 is a great example.
Step 3 - Engage all Compression ratios and turn the compression to the extreme, mix it with the dry signal.

Use Thickify

Thickify by Rocketpoweredsounds is one of the best and simplest saturators you can use to get a full sounding 808. Its tone function can add and adjust the tone of your 808 samples, the drive can add extra harmonics while adding the character of classic tube components.

Using this plugin on your 808 can not only  add the punch to your sound, but also essential harmonics and analog character. Furthermore, you can control the tonality of your 808 sound.

 How to get best 808 using thickify

Use Torque by waves audio

Ever since Torque was released by waves audio, it has become an irreplaceable asset for hip-hop producers and beatmakers. Torque adds tonality to the 808 drums and refines the body and dynamics of the sound. By using torque, you can get an instant fat-sounding 808.
How to use Torque by Waves audio to enhance 808
Step 1 - Add torque to your 808 mixer channel
Step 2 - Select the frequency band where the main tone/harmonics of your drums are present
Step 3 - Turn up the torque knob.

Use Saturation and Distortion 

One of the best ways to get a full sounding 808 is to use saturation and distortion on it. Saturation adds the analog character to the sound, making it closer to the original 808 drum machines of the 80s and 90s while keeping the spirit of modern sound quality.

Increase the RMS value of Drum bus

Apart from parallel compression, another way to enhance the 808 is to use an RMS compression on the drum bus. This type of compression can increase the RMS(Root Mean Square value) volume of your drums while keeping the punch and transients intact.
A great addon for this method is using a soft clipper on the drum bus to further increase the RMS level while preventing digital clipping.

Use a waveshaper

Most distortion and saturation plugins work on a pre-defined algorithm, they can only add a specific set of harmonic content to your sounds. Waveshaper, however, can add simple as well as complex harmonic content and waveshapes to your 808. You can fold your 808 drums in any way you want.
By using waveshaper, you can control the amount and extent of distortion effect on your 808.
How to make 808 punchy and exiting using FL Studio waveshaper

Use Dynamic EQ and Multiband Compressors

Dynamic equalizers and Multiband compressors are useful for enhancing and controlling one or more frequency bands, As mentioned at the beginning of the video, Frequency slides carry the punch of the 808 drums. Using a Dynamic Equalizer or Multiband compressor in that particular frequency range can enhance the thump in your kick drum.
 How to use dynamic EQ and compressor to get punchy 808
The best advantage of this method is that the overall gain change of sound is very low and it does not disrupt the phase and tonality of sound since it is not adding any harmonics.

Sidechain 808 with Kickdrum

Using a sidechain compression on your 808 using the main Kickdrum is a great way to not only add the punch but also to create precious headroom for other sounds. You can sidechain your 808 using any standard compressor like ProC2, Smartcomp or your DAW's native compressor.
How to sidechain 808
Step 1 - Sidechain your Kickdrum channel to 808.
Step 2 - Load the plugin that supports sidechain compression.
Step 3 - Select the sidechain source from the compressor.
Step 4 - Set your compression settings; a subtle to the high threshold, Fast attack and Slow-release is recommended.


These were the 7 best ways to make your 808 hit hard, we hope that you find these tips and tricks helpful. Keep experimenting with your 808, during sound design, processing and mixing; because that is how you will get excellent results. Thanks for reading!