ModeAudio’s VHS Beats – Drum Machine Samples is a collection for those who want to step back in time to the glory days of magnetic tape. It’s a sample pack that delivers the perfectly imperfect sound of your favourite VHS movie soundtrack before DVD players, TiVo, and streaming services came along and made everything sound better (worse).
VHS Beats offers some vintage nostalgia for modern music makers.
What’s in the pack?
The pack contains 500 royalty-free samples, including 490 drum samples and ten tape hiss & vinyl crackle loops. It also features thirteen drum kit sampler patches, four channel strip settings, and five MIDI loops. The 490 drum samples break down as follows:
- 34 Clap Samples
- 45 Hi Hat Samples (Open and Closed)
- 129 Kick Samples
- 52 Percussion Samples (Shakers, Tambourines, Cymbals)
- 108 Snare Samples
- 22 Tom Samples
- 100 VHS Drum Samples (Processed through a VHS player)
The MIDI loops cover Deep House, Downtempo, Hip Hop, Retro Pop, and Synthwave patterns. You can use them as ready-to-go rhythms or as foundations for tweaking; the Downtempo, Hip Hop, and Synthwave patterns are particularly nice.
If you want to create something more unique, the drum kit sampler patches and channel strip settings make it easy to shape your ideal sound and rhythm.
Name Your Source!
There are so many good sample packs readily-available that we rarely need to think about the quality or the attention to detail throughout the sampling process; it’s almost taken for granted that there will be no issues on that front. It’s especially true of a name like ModeAudio that releases so many high-quality collections.
So, there has to be something different that makes us choose one over another, and that differentiator is often the source of the samples. Sometimes it’s about sampling rare, sought-after, vintage gear in unique locations, but ultimately, it’s whatever adds the most authenticity to any particular sound.
In this case, you’d expect some classic/retro groove/drum machines, and you get sounds from the Akai Professional MPC 60, the PO-33, and the Zoom Sampletrak ST 224.
The PO-33 is quirky, which is good, and the ST 224 had a lot to offer, not least of all its built-in effects; some of which were kind of awful, and that made them kind of great.
As a self-confessed MPC-lover, the MPC 60 stands out most for me. It’s not just the fact that it’s the first-ever MPC unit; it’s the collaboration with Roger Linn. Starting with a unit from 1988 that was designed to have the impact of the LinnDrum with more flexibility was a good choice by ModeAudio.
How good does it sound?
We’ve got high-quality samples from appropriately retro/classic equipment, so how good do they sound? How well does the pack capture the VHS character?
The VHS, lo-fi, retro drum sound isn’t new to us, so I can’t tell you that you’ll hear these samples and be blown away by the sound because, chances are, you already know what to expect.
The good thing about knowing what to expect is that you can instantly spot anything that falls short, and I think it’s fair to say that VHS Beats doesn’t fall short.
A quick listen to the demo is enough to tell you that the samples have the right character.
Once you go beyond the surface level and run through the many samples, you can hear the Linn/Akai influence pretty clearly.
The kicks and snares are fantastic, with just a few bad apples in each group.
Many classic songs and soundtracks used kick and snare sounds from the LinnDrum machine because they just hit so well. But, producers would often (and still do) mix and match drum sounds from multiple machines, with one of the main reasons back in the day being that the LinnDrum hi-hats and claps were a bit clumsy (for lack of a better word).
Sometimes those sounds were a bit obnoxious, too thick, and didn’t cut through well enough (depending on the context, of course).
The Linn/Akai collaboration on the MPC 60 maintained the classic kicks and snares with thinner/brighter hi-hats and claps, amongst other things. VHS Beats benefits from that classic LinnDrum sound in some areas with the added versatility of the MPC 60 and Akai’s approach to curating soundbanks.
Throw in some personality from the PO-33 and ST 224, and it’s a very cool collection, indeed.
I wish the percussion samples offered more variety, and it would have been great if ModeAudio processed the entire pack through a vintage VHS deck rather than 100 favorites. But those are pretty minor complaints for a collection that is just €18.16.
I must be careful because I’m a sucker for buzzwords like lo-fi, VHS, and retro. If it reminds me of 80s movies, I’m almost handing my money over without question. However, I don’t think I’m being too hasty with this one; I like it.
VHS Beats – Not just nostalgia
I’m sure it goes without saying, but there’s more upside to VHS Beats than just helping me live in the past, like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.
The VHS sound lends itself well to all sorts of modern music, like Synthwave, LA Beats, Hip Hop, Pop, and lots more.