Drum Machine News
Drumulator, Korg, MPC, MXR, Roland, Sequential Circuits, Simmons.
Somewhere further back in this issue (in splendid colour) we review the Boss DR-110 pocket sized rhythm box. We say "distinctly brill", so we won't mumble on about it anymore except to say it's not alone. Roland also unveiled the TR-909 at the same time as they broached the subject of the new Dr Rhythm. The 909 is an update on the 808 with extended programming and memory, and a mixture of analogue and digitally sampled drum sounds.
Have to say that on first description it doesn't really live up to our high hopes. Roland would be the chaps to give the Drumulator and the Oberheim DX a run for their money, we posited: a breakthrough in cheap, real sound drum boxes. As the recommended retail is £999 that seems not to be the case. However, it would be unfair to judge fully until we've given it a whirl, so we'll just shut up in the time being.
Just a moment to mention the £63 HC-2 Hand Clapper — a pedal with a built-in triggering pad, plus control over how tight or ragged the claps are, and whether they're generated in a dry studio or a reverberant hall — and the £63 PC-2 Percussion Synth, also with a pad and a variety of sweep and pitch controls.
Enough, we shuffle on to Sequential Circuits. Surely some mistake, you quiz, these are synthesiser people. They are, and considering that the new Drumtraks is their first effort in the drum machine business, they've done a staggering job.
It has 13 digitally recorded percussion instruments but... and this is the corker... you can program volume and tuning individually for each sound. If it does what they say, it could be one of the major drum machine advances of the year, reproducing a 'kit' of virtually limitless size.
It features a programmable mixer with six channels — bass drum in number 1, snare and rim shot in 2, a pair of toms in 3, crash and ride cymbals in 4, closed and open hi-hat in 5, and claps, tambourine, cowbell and cabasa in 6.
There's a memory capacity of more than 3,300 notes which can be allocated to 100 different drum patterns any of which can be up to 100 measures long in any time signature. Each overdub of a pattern can be recorded with a different instrument volume or tuning, in real time (you could use the dynamic keyboard of the Prophet T8, if you had one) or auto corrected to eight levels of resolution. Patterns can be copied and added and up to 100 songs can be defined, each of 100 steps. Like the number 100, don't they.
There are two built-in interface systems — a selectable 24, 48 or 96 pulse per quarter note clock input and a 24 pulse clock output for older style sequencer and rhythm units, and as a sync to tape. Sequential also have a MIDI interface available. Watch these guys, they could be onto something very hot.
Additions on the way for the MPC which we reviewed last month. A set of live performance pads have been completed. The standard set up seems to be a free standing bass drum pad plus two toms on one stand and two toms and a snare on another. The pads are all the same size and presumably you could path up as many or as few as you wanted.
MPC have also promised some rack mounted modular units to expand the drum synth facilities on the current model. That should be good news. The quality and versatility of sound are two of the points that let down the otherwise worthy MPC.
Sound has never been the shortfall for Simmons. The unmistakable thwack of their electronic kits has been heard and copied across the world. Plenty of cheaper imitations have sprung up, and now the good news is that the British company are finally producing their own budget models, plus a luxury, upmarket kit.
If you've already skipped through this issue of One Two, you will have seen the ads for both models — the red one is the cheaper SDS7 and the blue one the SDS8. Price details should be finalised at the Frankfurt show, and Simmons are still being slightly reticent concerning the technical details. All we're promised is that the new kits will have softer, skin like pads (no more table tops) a greatly improved dynamic response and be based on a hybrid of analogue voices as in the familiar SDS5, and digitally sampled sounds. And you'll be able to blend them.