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Total recall - Doctor Beat

Vintage technology strikes back

Article from The Mix, May 1995

The Roland TR808 may have achieved legendary status, but one of its humbler stablemates offers similar sounds for a fraction of the price. Chris Kempster rediscovers his Boss DR-55, the original Dr Rhythm...

Although I've owned many drum machines over the years, I've always hung onto my trusty old DR-55, also known as 'Dr Rhythm'. Bought new for just £30, the Dr Rhythm provided an ever-ready source of beats, when my mate couldn't be arsed to drag his drum kit over to my house. With the easiest pattern programming method known to man, why... even guitarists could master it (only joking — Ed). Its analogue sounds, though, were eventually to banish it to the bedroom cupboard. In the 80s, the Holy Grail of the drum machine became 'realistic' drum sounds, so when a Roland TR505 landed in my hands, the old DR-55 got the boot...

Times change, however, and the DR-55 is now a cheap way of reproducing those desirable 808-type analogue sounds, as well as being a lot of fun to play with. With only four sounds to choose from — bass drum, snare, hi hat and rim shot — those people brought up on today's thousand-sound beatboxes might feel a little neglected. Velocity control is limited to applying an 'accent', which gives a heavier version of the basic sound, and is controlled via one of the four pots on the front panel. The other three pots govern tone (low to high), volume and tempo.

Programming patterns is simplicity itself. A large dial selects one of eight patterns, six of which are 16-steps long, and two of which are 12 steps long. Flick the Play/Write button into Write, and you're ready to tap your pattern in, using the Start and Stop buttons. One represents a note, and the other a rest. Once you've got your basic pattern in, you can do a variation on it, then switch between the two on playback, using the Variation buttons. By selecting AB, the two variations will be played alternately.

A Footswitch socket is provided for starting and stopping patterns, and a mono jack output is the DR-55 sounds' route to the outside world. The DR-55 can be synched to external units (such as the JX3P) via the CSQ and DBS mini-jacks, and power is supplied by four AA batteries. Secondhand, you can expect to pay up to £50 for a decent DR-55, though there is one scam you can pull to get it cheaper. Unless you have a lead inserted in the output socket, the DR-55 won't work, and there'll be no blinking tempo LED. Unsuspecting sellers could be persuaded that it's dud, and sell it for scrap value. So how much did 'Brixton Barney' pay for his DR-55? Oh, something under a fiver...

On the RE:MIX CD

Sample the delights of the Boss Dr Rhythm with the following sounds:
1 Bass drum
2 Snare drum
3 Rim shot
4 Accent
5 Hi-hat

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Total recall

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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The Mix - May 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Nathan Ramsden


Vintage Instruments

Gear in this article:

Drum Machine > Boss > DR55 Doctor Rhythm

Gear Tags:

Analog Drums

Re:Mix #11 Tracklisting:

28 Boss DR55 samples

This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at - Re:Mix #11.

Feature by Chris Kempster

Previous article in this issue:

> Rough mix

Next article in this issue:

> Total recall

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