I can't pass up the chance to share this hilarity. I've seen this Roland TR 909 come up on Ebay in the past and now it's popped up on Craigslist in Denver. I wanted to memorialize it in all it's glory before it's gone for ever! Be sure to check out the gallery. It's just crazy. The TR 909 looks like it was brought into a burning house to play a DJ set by the fire department!
Direct Quote from Craigslist :
Roland TR-909 Drum Machine - $1500 (Longmont)
Simmons electronic drums were developed by Richard James Burgess and Dave Simmons. Burgess' idea was to make a fully electronic drumset that could be played by a real drummer or a sequencer. He pioneered this idea while working on the first Landscape album From the Tea-Rooms of Mars... To the Hell-Holes of Uranus ( a great soundtrack styled listen BTW ). In 1981 he produced the Spandau Ballet hit, "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)". It was the first breakthrough hit with a real drummer playing the now famous hexagonal pads and the first production Simmons SDS-V brain.
They offered a Kick drum, Snare drum, Toms, and even High Hats and Cymbal modules although the Cymbal and HH ones are super rare. Seven of any combination could be housed in one brain and triggered via octagonal pad, sequencer, and even acoustic triggers attached to drums. There was even an open/closed HH pedal input to trigger 2 different variations from the HH module. You could program your own sounds via the front panel of each module with full controls for 3 presets on the front and one 'factory' set inside that are all adjustable. The Brain did double duty of allowing trigger inputs while offering basic mixing of the internal sounds via a stereo and mono output ( with individual out as well ). These brains quickly became cult like in their status and were used in everything from jazz bands by Bill Bruford to rock groups like Def Leppard ( by the one armed Rick Allen ) and of course funk and dance groups like Prince.
And i never get bored of this song:
I had picked up an SDS-V brain with a Kick, Snare, and 3 Tom modules. But there was those two empty slots at the end... hmmmm... Then it occurred to me, What if i turn this Brain into a full DRUM MACHINE!!! Lo an behold, a few Googles later yielded my plan of attack. I could fit a modern modular sequencer into this old brain and make an instrument of the future past! There's some technical hurdles to surmount in adding a sequencer to the SDS-V brain.
1, The MFB SEQ-01 is designed to work in a modular synth case. the SDS-V case is of equivalent hight but the mounting holes are not lined up. So, more accurately, the MFB fits vertically and horizontally but the mounting holes don't line up. To avoid damaging the original mounting setup i opted to temporarily put washers over the adjacent screws to hold the sequencer in.
2, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be routed to the trigger or sequencer inputs on the SDS-V cards. I had a few options here. One was to connect the sequencer outs to the Simmons' native sequencer inputs. The other was to hook it up to the trigger or pad inputs. I opted to use the trigger inputs ( counter intuitive, i know! ) because this gave me a gain adjustment on the face plate of the brain for each trigger from the sequencer to the drum module. The SDS-V drum modules are very dynamic and it's useful to be able to hit them with sequencer trigger more or less to taste.
3, Lastly, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be powered and it runs at a different voltage than the SDS-V. I had MFB modify the Seq-01 to run on 15 volts in the SDS. Then i connected the power from the +/-15 volt rail in the Brain to the power input on the MFB edge connector. Pretty straight forward!
Photos by J-poo.
Future plans for the SDS-V:
1, So, there's one quirk in the Simmons SDS-V design i'd like to point out. The audio outs are wired pin 3 hot. This is the XLR wiring convention used by many old British companies and it's the opposite of the US convention of pin 2 hot. Reversing this would be great to more easily interface with other equipment.
2, I'd eventually like to disconnect the back panel sequencer jacks from the SDS-V modules and instead wire them to the MFB SEQ-01 outputs. This way the sequencer outs could be used to drive more than just the Simmons modules. there's actually 12 sequencer slots and the Simmons SDSV can only hold 5 cards with the sequencer installed. Maybe someday!
::: IF :::
The Linndrum we have has a long and illustrious lineage! It was originally owned by a good friend of mine who is now a great painter ( Alvan Long )! He is also a drummer and was in several boston bands long before my time! Here's a Pure No Wave Gem from one of those bands called The November Group: :::
So, some of the people involved in that band started a studio called New Alliance Audio. After several years the Linndrum was packed up in it's road case and put into storage.
And it sat there for almost 15 years. Those years took a toll too. The batteries leaked, the capacitors went bad, and the foam from the road case became a rubbery dust that permeated everything!
When we pulled it out of storage i decided to send it to Bruce at FORAT for a refurb. He's the Linndrum expert! He fixed the batteries, power supply, sliders and pots, EVERYTHING!
I love this machine and use it all the time. It's built like a tank, has the OG JL Cooper Midi interface installed ( so it can sync to anything ), and it sounds great! The Linndrum also had a great 'pocket'. The shuffle is sexy and if you tweak the hi hat decay while it's playing you can create a great human feel. It's a great middle ground between the bright and open Roland 808 / 909 drum machines and the darker Oberheim DX / DMX 8 bit eprom machines.
XBS has been making an effort to do more tech related stuff this month. In for repair today is a Roland TR-909 in messed up shape. Someone had tried to refurbish it and made most of it's age and design related problems worse! 1, The main drum switches were replaced which is nice but they were installed sloppily and so out of true that the buttons don't fit in properly. On further investigation the problem was often the fact that too much silicone was used to glue in the drum switch LED's so that the switch didn't fit flush to the switch board PCB.
2, The ribbon cables were re-soldered and rendered non functional because the ribbon cable ends were not trimmed evenly prior to soldering ( anyone familiar with multiconductor cable work knows that the trimmed end lengths of all parts must be exactly correct or else they break off immediately due to imbalanced strain distribution ).
3, One of the new drum switches was actually bad so it was replaced with one of the original ones that was removed.
On another note, the previous owner did manage to get the Roland TR-909 OS v4.0 chip in and it works which is a huge relief as that would be hard for me to troubleshoot. Also, the pots and small switches were done well when they were replaced and all seem to be working. =D
So, I have to say that this is one of the most annoying designs ever conceived by man from a standpoint of repair and maintenance. The boards barely fit in on top of each other inside the case with some long shaft pots going through the switch board from the voice board. Everything needs to be taken apart to get to the switch board and that's the one that gets the most abuse! The switch board is also where the CPU and OS live, right next to the buttons all the 'house music' dudes are banging on. The ribbon cables are soldered to the PCB on one end and have connectors on the other. I wish they were connectors on both ends so you could replace a cable or work on a board without having an octopus of cables to be mindful of. They also barely fit in the case around the boards that are barely in there to begin with. The drum switch caps are so flimsy i don't know how they were ever on there solidly in the first place. And the OS is pretty clunky and unintuitive to make music with. Nothing like the OB or Linn ideas in language or execution. It does sound Great though. I just wonder how this was designed when all the Roland synths of that era that i've been inside are immaculately designed and completely modular for maintenance purposes! Who knows!
::: IF :::
So, the Oberheim DX Stretch is working and i figured i'd do an update to the repair post from earlier. The Clap button is still non functional but the part is in the mail and will be fixed soon. i figured i could put the machine through some testing to see if the upgrades and other bits are working ok. This file is based on one longer pattern. The DX was synced to a Simmons SDS-V to add some fun layering and make sure the Memory, Sync I/O, and CPU are working solidly. The SDS-V is triggered by a sequence programmed into an internally mounted MFB SEQ-01 ( that's another post all together ). Also, i added one crash cymbal ( there is NONE natively in the DX )
This is not my SDS-V but has a similar mod for example:
They were both clocked to a Roland SBX80. RADD!
Simmons mix only ( for reference )