5 Ways for a Hip Hop Producer to Fatten Up an 808

Is your 808 sounding a bit weak, especially on small speakers? Since most people today listen on ear buds or on laptop speakers it can be easy for the bass frequencies to get lost. If you are a hip hop producer, we’ve got some ideas for you.

Ever wish your your bass had a bit more hmph to it like in Lucid Dreams?

So what’s the secret that the pros use? Essentially you want to add higher end frequencies, and that often means adding harmonics, adding saturation, adding distortion and fuzzing up your 808s in general. Going wide with stereo can help too. I’ll go over 5 things that I typically try when trying to improve my 808s.

Here is the dry sample that I’ll be using for each effect, and what it looks like in the Ozone EQ Analyzer.

808 Sample Dry
808 dry signal in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 dry signal in Ozone EQ Analyzer

1. UAD’s Ibanez Tube Screamer

The first option is the Tube Screamer Plugin. At least one big name hip hop producer uses this trick. This adds waaaay too much distortion in my opinion, but it is pretty simple to implement (only 3 knobs) so it’s an easy first thing to try. You can see it adds a lot more harmonics up top if you turn the tone knob to the right.

808 with Tube Screamer
Tube Screamer plugin
Tube Screamer plugin
808 Sample with Tube Screamer in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 Sample with Tube Screamer in Ozone EQ Analyzer

2. SPL TwinTube by Plugin Alliance

The next thing to try is the SPL TwinTube Processor. This example has both the Saturation and Harmonics engaged, with both set to about 75% of the way up. It’s much more subtle than the Tube Screamer. While it’s better behaved, the downside is that it doesn’t excite the top end as much.

808 Sample with SPL Twin Tube
SPL Twin Tube on 808 Sample
SPL Twin Tube on 808 Sample
808 Sample with SPL TwinTube in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 Sample with SPL TwinTube in Ozone EQ Analyzer

3. Vertigo VSM-3 by Brainworx

This bad boy offers both 2nd and 3rd order harmonics in an attempt to emulate both tube and tape saturation. (It’s also my usual go to.) The first sample is in Parallel Mode, and you can hear it’s similar to the TwinTube, but with a tad more fuzz.

Here’s where the fun begins. The second sample is in Serial mode, with the 2nd Harmonics applied to the Hi-Mids and then the 3rd Harmonics applied to the Highs. It adds a nice punch to the initial hit, making it sound like a snare or beater head. This could really help it punch through the mix.

808 Sample with Vertigo in Parallel Mode
808 Sample with Vertigo in Serial Mode
Vertigo VSM-3
Vertigo VSM-3
808 Sample with Vertigo VSM-3 in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 Sample with Vertigo VSM-3 in Ozone EQ Analyzer

4. Neutron Exciter by iZotope

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The Exciter in Neutron allows you to apply different types of excitement for up to 3 different band ranges. In this sample I chose 248 Hz as the cutoff between two bands. Below that a Warm excitement is applied at full Drive, and above it a Tube excitement, which I backed off a bit from full Drive. This adds the fuzziness, but also a bit of the “hit” that the Vertigo had in Serial mode.

808 Sample with iZotope Neutron Exciter
Neutron Exciter
Neutron Exciter
808 Sample with Neutron Exciter in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 Sample with Neutron Exciter in Ozone EQ Analyzer

5. Decapitator by Soundtoys

The Decapitator has several style settings to choose from. Many hail this as the Holy Grail of saturation. I found that putting the drive around 6, turning tone up to give it more hi-end harmonics, and choosing the P style works best. Punish is just too much (making the Tube Screamer look tame) so I rarely use it.

808 Sample with Decapitator
Decapitator
Decapitator
808 Sample with Decapitator in Ozone EQ Analyzer
808 Sample with Decapitator in Ozone EQ Analyzer

Added Bonus – Ozone Imager

The imager allows you to move the bass from mono to stereo. While the bass takes up a lot of energy and keeping it center has its advantages (especially in EDM) if the track isn’t too busy, then going stereo can really fill out the track, and allow the 808 to be more prominent.

The imager offers flexibility by allowing you to widen the entire track, or pick a cutoff and just widen the upper end. This allows you to keep a lot of the lower energy in the center, but open up some of the higher frequencies that need to be heard on smaller speakers.

Try the imager first if you are worried about adding too much fuzz. Alternatively, if you’ve maxed out your distortion and it’s still not enough, try widening the image.

Finished Product in the Mix

Here’s some drums and keys added in to give more of a sense of how it’d fit in to a mix.

Hip Hop Clip Dry
Hip Hop Clip with Tube Screamer on 808
Hip Hop Clip with SPL TwinTube on 808
Hip Hop Clip with Vertigo VSM-3 on 808
Hip Hop Clip with Neutron Exciter on 808
Hip Hop Clip with Decapitator on 808

I hope that gave you some ideas for improving your weak 808s, and in turn it makes you a better hip hop producer. Check out our tutorial page if you want another Logic Pro X Tutorial . Good luck and go make some music!