The 606 is an analog drum machine from 1982, originally built to accompany the TB-303. The original drum machine's sound is similar to an 808, but perhaps a little more unique. The bass drum, snare and toms are classically analog and warm, and the hi hats and cymbals are unbelievably groovy and organic sounding. The 606 can be heard all over early Plastikman, Aphex, Autechre, Paranoid London and more.
One of the unique aspects of the 606's sound is the internal, dynamic clipping that occurs on each drum voice when you start using the accents. The louder the accent, the more clipping that occurs. The resultant sound is a crunchier, more colored transient, which has a different affect on each drum voice:
We sampled the 606 cleanly (turning down the volume of each drum voice) and also with 7 different levels of clipping. The 606 was tracked through the punchy API 512 preamp, coupled with a Reddi (tube DI) for added warmth. This signal path went directly to our 1/4" Otari mastering reel to reel, and into an SSL gate *after the tape machine* to add slight analog VCA punch. Finally the results reached our computer via Apogee Symphony. No plugin processing whatsoever.
While undoubtedly excellent, the 606 is limited - with no tuning for any of the drum voices. Not a problem! We ran it through our two favorite 12bit samplers of all time - the MPC60 and SP1200. By capturing the samplers' unique tunings (15 per voice) and clipping the inputs *just* the right amount, we ended up with a killer pack of re-sampled, dirty and characterful 606 drums. The noise and aliasing the samples give the sounds allow them to really punch through a mix - plus it's an interesting way to directly compare the sound of the MPC60 and SP1200 (in Ableton there is a macro you can use to switch between samplers).
Finally, we sampled a heavily modified 606 that has an entire second body of controls built onto this classic drum machine. There's now a MASSIVE bass boost to the original tom, transforming it into a monstrous, booming sub kick that sounds like a cross between an 808 and 909. There are multi-pitched snares, uniquely metallic hi hats and trashier cymbals, and an extensive collection of tuned toms - none of which you'll find in any other 606 samples.
Ultimately we ended up recording 3 different 606s - the original, the modified, and a third, sampled through the MPC60 and SP1200. The result is a super extensive 606 sample pack featuring clean, unadulterated, classic 606 sounds, but also heavily modified and re-sampled 606 sounds. Time to replace your 808 samples??