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Drum Machine Supplement

Machines up to £200

Article from International Musician & Recording World, October 1985

D No. of sounds (A = Analogue, D = Digital)
P No. of patterns
S No. of songs
O No. of outputs
X External sync.
£ Price (second-hand target price where applicable)


Almost certainly the best of the machines in its class, the TR606 (or 'Drumatix') can sound thin and weedy one day and surprisingly powerful the next. It's all to do with treating its seven sounds with a little imagination.

Adding separate outputs, a fairly easy modification, can help, but even in its unmodified form the 606, with easy one button per beat programming, has introduced thousands to electronic percussion. Large track and song storage capabilities are useful, and while the toms are weak, the bass and snare can be good and the cymbals are pleasantly metallic.

D 7A
P 32
S 8
O 1
X DIN, Triggers
£ 180


Not very likely to see one of these about today. The KR-series had some pleasant enough sounds of the decent home organ variety, but both in programmability and interfacing these machines are outmoded now.

D 9A
P 96 preset
S -
O 1
X Trigger
£ 70


Simply a cut-down version of the KR55; no level mixing, 48 patterns, no intros or fills.

ROLAND CR 68/70/78

Seminal machines from Roland including the first easily available semi-programmable machine, the CR78. Their wooden casings and brightly-coloured buttons make them seem old-fashioned today, but the CR78 stood John Foxx in good stead all the way through the Metamatic album, and that's good enough for us.

The 68 and 70 were entirely preset devices, but shared most of the 78's sounds including the fascinating "Metal Beat". If you get hold of a CR-series machine now you'll find synchronisation a bit limited, as is the output capability but the machines are certainly still usable provided you don't expect heavy metal drum riffs.

On the CR-78 you'll also need a separate programming switch if you want to exploit the machine's possibilities to the fullest.


One of Roland's earlier semi-programmable machines, with sounds which remain surprisingly lifelike to this day. Decent synchronisation facilities and the advantage of pre-programmed patterns for the terminally lazy make this machine a good proposition at typical second-hand prices, and the intro and fill-in patterns make it reasonably expressive in use despite the lack of song programming. Individual level controls are an advantage too, despite the lack of multiple outputs.

D 14A
P 12+32 preset
S -
O 1
X DIN, trigger
£ 150


A stripped-down version of the 8000, lacking its programmable memories, LED tempo readout and handclap sound.

In a foot-pedal stylee


A rarity, packaged as per one of the Electro-Harmonix foot pedal effects units. In fact there were several foot-pedal style drum machines, but they've all but died now. If you see this one second-hand for a few pounds it may be worth picking up.

D 7A
P 16 preset
S -
O 3
X Bass drum trigger
£ 40


Identical in specification to one of the Stix machines mentioned later but differently packaged, the Kay was another popular introduction to electronic drums. In fact its interfacing capabilities were better than its sounds, and its programming methods identical to those of the hugely popular Boss DR55 Dr. Rhythm.

D 4A
P 8
S -
O 1
X Clock, sequencer
£ 40

A kit not to be forgotten


A popular one with beginners, partly because it was available in kit form at a very attractive price considering its power. Simple analogue sounds but quite powerful if equalised through individual outputs, which could be easily added, as could a clock output. Useful sound variations — stick, brush or Latin feels on many of the sounds — and a simple programming method.

D 10A
P 12
S -
O 1
X -
£ 100

The Synsonics hovered very toy territory


Mattel's Synsonics was really a hybrid drum machine/drum kit which never caught on as it should have (it never sounded as good as it should have either). There were just three pattern memories which you could programme from the pads or from repeat buttons, but as the memories weren't backed up they'd be erased when you switched off. Tom sounds were Simmons-like, cymbals just a splash of white noise, snare sound pretty hideous, but the machine was used by John Otway and Bill Nelson, if that means anything!

D 5A
P 3
S -
O 2
X -
£ 50


Not so much a drum machine as a drum add-on for the Commodore 64 computer, which of course costs a couple of hundred quid. The Syntron module itself is only £65 though, and can be compared to Korg's DDM 110 machine in terms of sound quality and facilities. The sounds are PCM sampled and stored in software, so they're occasionally short but always of very high quality. Excellent snare, bass and Simmons drums, good glass effects, easy-to-use compositional graphics and massive song memory. Anyone with 64 would be mad not to buy it — anyone without a 64 should think about it too.

D 7D (more on disc)
P 50 (more on disc)
S 1 (more on disc)
O 1
X Trigger
£ 65


The Soundmaster range is still marketed by Strings and Things, but now under the name EDC. The Stix is the top of the range and although it only has fairly basic analogue sounds, it's well equipped with trigger and clock inputs and outputs, which could be handy.

The SR-88 was a very good alternative in its day to the Dr. Rhythm, having considerably more powerful sounds and none of the old "coconut shell" effect on the snare drum, and the EDC Latin Percussion machine is certainly worth investigating for the sub-£100 figures it retails at. It's basically similar to the SR-88 but has a good selection of bongo, conga and other more exotic percussion sounds, again all analogue. There's an external clock input so you shouldn't have too much trouble linking up, although all these machine are very much cheap and cheerful and far removed from the dizzy heights of MIDI synchronisation.

Finger-playable pads from Yamaha


An odd attempt by Yamaha to make their Home Studio system complete with a small drum machine/drum kit hybrid. The pads are almost unhittable, the preset patterns dubious at best. But the sounds are very good, with metallic rings to the cymbals and lots of interesting Latin percussion effects.

D 5
P 12 preset
S -
O 1
X -
£ 50


The Dr. Rhythm was the first easily available fully programmable drum machine and as such was invaluable for rehearsal, composition and performance. Pretty nasty for recording though — its distinctive rimshot sound, like two very small coconuts being banged together, put a curse on many a demo tape, and apart from that sound it only had bass, snare and cymbal to offer.

A true original though, introducing the idea of step time programming to numerous guitarists and frequently used as a master clock for sequencing due to its multiplicity of clock outputs.

D 4A
P 8
S -
O 1
X Clock, sequencer
£ 50

The Dr Rhythm's elder brother


A worthy successor to the seminal DR 55 but much more high-tech. The sounds are outstanding in its class, the handclaps being particularly good, and the graphic programming method is a delight. Having even three song patterns is a bonus at this price, and the only limitations are in syncing (with just a trigger out from the Accent) and procesing (with just a single audio output). Otherwise a great bargain; and you can play it manually too!

D 6
P 16+16 preset
O 1
X Accent trigger
£ 140

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Publisher: International Musician & Recording World - Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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International Musician - Oct 1985

Donated by: Mike Gorman, Neill Jongman

Scanned by: Mike Gorman

Drum Machine Supplement


Buyer's Guide

Previous article in this issue:

> How It Works

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> Machines £200 to £500

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