808 cowbell drum module

It’s my attempt to build a famous 808 cowbell drum module. I must say, it sounds like nothing else (including real cowbell). I made some mods in original circuit – some of them are well known:

  • decay mode – lets you choose between 2 decay times: “original” and shorter one,
  • filter mod – changes output filter characteristics for more sound variation,
  • 2 generator settings – “original” and user defined (with additional front panel knobs),
  • the circuit uses 7805 voltage regulator instead of transistor circuit.

Schematics should explain everything.

Modded 808 cowbell schematics
Cowbell schematics

The main difference is that 4 generators are used – 2 work as original, tuned squarewave source, 2 other are user tweaked. You can choose with switch which one you want to use – this way distinct cowbell sound will never be lost. PCB is designed for use with eurorack synth standard – +/- 12 V power supply via 2×5 goldpin header. PCB size is around 98 x 46 mm, it will fit vertically behind eurorack module front panel. Better quality PCB shot is added as attachement at the end of the post, along with BOM.

CB808 PCB with dimentions
Cowbell PCB with dimentions

I etched the PCB using Bungard FR4100X160/3500 laminate with light-sensitive coating – very quick and reliable method. One 160 x 100 mm piece costs below 3 euro. Big “minus” sign on the PCB near the power connector (left PCB side) shows where negative voltage comes.

CB808 etched PCB
Etched PCB, still with photoactive coating

Finished drum module looks like this. A always, I used Alpha 16 mm pots and gold plated jacks. Two blue box type trimmers serve as frequency controls for “original” generators.

CB808 eurorack module side shot
Cowbell eurorack module, side view

The small PCB on the back side of the panel holds the trigger LED. It is glued to potentiometers – not very elegant solution. The small caption on every potentiometer really helps while wiring.

CB808 eurorack module back shot
Wiring of the CB eurorack module

And how its sounds? Nothing like cowbell ๐Ÿ™‚

If you want to build one for yourself, here are all necessary project files. Happy DIYing!


Big thanks for Marek, for his photo session!


4 thoughts on “808 cowbell drum module

  1. Hi Jack, just a quickie, could the trigger network be used on the other 808 modules such as kick and snare? Many thanks Ryan

  2. This is one of the best goddamn ideas I’ve ever heard. No pun intended. Thanks for the schem, and the idea, I’m building one…

      1. Hello,
        I am thrilled, I finished my cowbell after almost 10 hours, it worked immediately, it sounds like the original! Use it with +/- 12v! Unfortunately, my Accent does not show any reaction, I soldered the Accent input socket with three cables as shown on the schematic, a mistake?
        Thank you very much for publishing your work !!!!

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