Archive for the ‘Tips’n tricks’ Category

Extreme restoring of an almost lost SDSV pad

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Some time ago I got a request by a Simmons mate. He purchased a set of SDSV pads and requested some restauration hints. I offered him to send the pads for a more precise analysis. But what I got was more a bio hazard rather than a set of SDSV pads. Ready for the junk yard? Never!

My first impression was that the pads did not look that bad, but because they simply didn’t work I had to open them. What I found was a bacterial disaster.

Only open with breathing mask!

Transducers after 30 years in the fenland

spare parts and counterpoisons

Removing the original lacquer with circuit board cleaner (looses the lacquer but does not damage the acryl!)

This might work as a salad bowl, too

Fighting the mould

Drying and sanding

Polished rims

Stainless steel screws for another 30 years

Test lacquering on an acrylic plate. Do not use Polyurethan lacquer! It will damage the shell! Actually I used paint for model-making.

Water based Acryl lacquer

Once I was a piezo

The shell is ready

My brother Mr. Perfect: I collect drums, he collects tools 😀

The mounting socket: Before and after

Cutting new playing surfaces. Today we choose … black

Rubber seals from the plumber department. And new stainless steel screws as well

The mounting socket screwed to the plywood board

New 35mm piezo, new XLR socket

Assembling the shell to the board

This pad was born in 1983. 007’s Octopussy as well

The PVC plate is being glued to the board. Virginally shining under the protection foil

Mounting the rim – checked

sweet 🙂

Beta Testing

To be honest: I am sure that it didn’t look much better 30 years ago in the retailers showroom

It was more effort than it might look like. And this is the first pad of a total of five. Still it was worth doing that

The amp: SDC 200

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

First I have to apologize for not posting for such a long time. In fact there would have been enough to post and I will try to catch up with all those nice topics during the last year. This time I have some pictures from an SDC 200 restauration project. This amp had been designed especially for Simmons drum kits. It has separate channels for kick, snare, toms, hihat and cymbals. 200 Watts amplification, a 12″ mid/bass speaker (ILP 312S, 12″ 8 Ohm) plus an Audiotech HF 200A piezo tweeter. The power is ok for personal monitoring, but at least I have heard about many blown speakers and I was adviced to change it for something stronger once it got broken.
However, it’s a rare collectable and I am glad that I got one about 1 year ago. As all SDS 200s I’ve seen before, the foam panel as well as the light blue hexagon disppeared over the years. The artificial leather coat got gray and dusty. Fortunately all knobs are still in place and the amp works pretty good. So all restauration jobs are cosmetical. Simmons used many parts from supplier Adam Hall like the edges, the black coat, wheels and the panel foam. These parts are still available!


This is the amp as I actually got it. I did some testing, took a look inside:

For the cosmetical issues I removed the amp part from the chassis and removed the protection edges to clean and fresh up the artificial leather:

The most interesting part is making a new front panel. I cut a frame from thin wood strips and stapled them to a frame. Afterwards I stapled the panel foam as well as the hook-and-pile tape to the wood stripsx:

Finally I cut some piece of light blue rubber foam to a hexagon and stuck it to the panel:

And here we are! It’s no rocket science and I am glad to have saved one of those amps. I doubt that more than a “handfull” of SDC200s are still in use and working. I would estimate that Simmons built around 500. Anecdote: After carrying this monster back in the basement storey I got a bad back for 3 days 🙂

Hex goes Mesh

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Thanks to Michael (Buchner) for this documentation:

Nobody made sexier pads but Simmons. What would David Simmons do in these times? I don’t know. A plasma pad? With warp drive? One could expect that. But I for myself decided to convert an ordinary SDS 9/1000 pad into a proper mesh head pad. And I kept the construction as simple as possible.
First I disassembled the original pad as shown in pic.1. A mesh head fitting in size was a 16″, as to be seen in pic 2. It was mounted on an old acoustic tom and tensioned as desired later on the pad (pic 3).
Now I built a plywood frame as shown on pic 4 and 5. It has to slide into the main frame easy like on pic 6. A little black paint and a good german beer ended the day with pic 7 and pic 8.
Now the sensational simple next step: The frame was glued with wood glue directly onto the pre-tensioned mesh head on the stand tom (pic 9) and was allowed to dry for one day. Yes, sad, but true: You don’t have the possibility to adjust the tension of the mesh later, but you don’t have to build constructions with rims and lugs: No risk, no fun. After drying, the head was cut out around the edge and the stand tom was free to work again as usual.
I wanted to have the head piezo exactly in the middle, so I cutted away some mainframe plastic (pic 10) and attached a wooden subframe (pic 11). This is not necessarily important. See the wiring of the 2 piezos on pic 12, don’t forget to wire the rim piezo out of phase for Roland use. You don’t need a big piezo for the rim, the small one as showed on the pic avoids gain reduction in your brain (in your ELECTRONIC DRUM brain, sorry) The foam trigger cone is an airplane earplug (pic 13), because these do the BEST job and they are FREE. Sorry if I ruin some companies business now 🙂
You can see the 6 screws around the frame: This makes it possible to remove the frame with the glued-on head to check the electronics and improve the triggers. They don’t have anything to do with the heads tension. The corresponding nuts are glued under the main frame. You never have to remove the back lid again, this means, that no plastic tongues can break away anymore.
Yes, and, as expected, it works and LOOKS great (pic 14). I am not a heavy hitter and so I don’t expect to have the head changed one time. But this would be possible with warm water and starting over at pic 9!

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

Pic 4

Pic 5

Pic 6

Pic 7

Pic 8

Pic 9

Pic 10

Pic 11

Pic 12

Pic 13

Pic 14

A new chassis for an SDSV

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Many SDSV are missing the outer black casing box. Their owners removed them in order to fit the brain into a standard 19″ rack. So if your SDSV brain demands a case, it is rather easy to make one yourself. all you need are two sheet metals, about 0.5mm thick (shouldn’t be much thicker or thinner), width x height = 600x300mm and an appropriate amount of “speaker skin”.

This is my Musicaid SDSV frame serial number #71 when I got it in 2010. Click here to read more about the restoration of the electronics.

I got the metal sheets (made of stainless steel) from a local metalworker. He also bended the sheets for me. This picture shows an experimental stage with blue pushbuttons and the blank stainless steel case screwed to the brain.

Cutting the skin. It should protude about 5-10mm on every side because it will be wrapped around the sheet edges

glueing the skin onto the sheets. Take care that there are no air or glue bubbles under the skin

the top of the case. Both parts have the same size

The holes which had been drilled into the sheets before. After the skin is glued I burned the holes with an old soldering iron through the plastic

now both parts are screwed to the frame. Doesn’t look too bad?!

the bottom brain has an original case, the top one is the self made. The parts for the case cost about 25-50 Euro. And today, after 3 years, my old fubar Musicaid brain looks like a new one again

Suitcase restoration

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

What is a suitcase kit? As the sound of a Simmons kit is being generated in the brain and not in the pads Dave Simmons had the idea of doing a portable set of triggers, all hosted in a suitcase. The seven “pads” inside could trigger all modules of a fully loaded SDSV.

As every Suitcase I’ve seen in the past the main problem ist the disappearing rubber foam inside. No wonder after 30 years. And I have seen quite a few. Still I am lucky enough that I got one in 2005, accidently, by a second hand dealer somewhere in the U.K.. In the meantime I’ve been told that only a hand full had been produced, all by hand, probably around 15 to 20. Before I got mine I didn’t even know about it’s existence and there was no information at all in the internet. Some have been hosted in a plastic suitcase, some in a flight case. The most famous owners were Saga (a briefcase) or New Order.

So here are a couple of pictures from Suitcase. Fortunately it is absolutely no rocket science and anybody can even build his own one from scratch without any electronic skills. A metric plan of the arrangement of pads can be downloaded here

This is the Suitcase when I got it. The original rubber foam is dark grey, on top there is a layer of red felt-like cloth, originally glued on the foam. Actually there are two blocks of foam. The top one should be just as thick as the wood pads which is about 20mm. The bottom block is about 40mm thick.

First of all I removed all the old foam as well as the felt from the inside.

Now you can check the wiring, replace transducers (I recommend these), cable or connectors if necessary. All in all the pads are only miniature SDSV pads: Just the same construction.

Cutting. I chose white foam because it’s the easiest base for red lacquer (which I preferred nstead of glueing new felt). Many owners just ripped the felt off. It was bothering anyway.

fitting the bottom block into the suitcase

a paper template to cut the hexagons out of the top block.


ready for testing

first connection after more than 20 years

The top block has been painted red. I also replaced the playing surfaces with brand new Polycarbonate. So after this cure my Suitcase looks just like a new one.

Stage fright

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I’ve been playing around 1200 gigs since 1993. But this next gig will be different. For the very first time I will play an SDSV on a stage. There are only 4 days left for preparing my gear. Two weeks ago I already set up the same kit for an exhibtion where I got trouble with one module on the second day. One critical part of SDSV, at least after almost 30 years, is the socket where the modules are stuck into. Over the years the preasure of the sockets seemed to have displaced the soft tin-solder on the card side. I also found out that it only takes about an hour to put a fresh layers of tin-solder on the card’s plug-in connector.

All modules work great again now . I can even shake the whole frame without any drop outs. Hopefully this will reduce my nightmares till Thursday. Another issue is that I am still working on the right setup. I rather like when the people have a barrier-free view on the drummer and his movements. That’s why I will mount all 3 toms on the right side from top to bottom instead of left to right starting right above the snare.

Instead of an SDSV bassdrum I will use a Jomox MBase01 triggered by a Roland KD7 and use the bassdrum slot for a side snare instead. The MBase is a full analog bassdrum synthesizer and likely more appropriate for the music I’m going to play. Another point is that kicking “four on the floor” for a whole set of songs will either break my leg or the pad. Playing the KD7 is much more relaxing, but the KD7 is not really the right pad for triggering an SDSV bassdrum module. It’s trigger pulse is simply too pulpy. Still I will set up the SDSV bassdrum pad: It just makes the visual impression complete.
So keep your fingers crossed. I will reward you with media…

Rainy day business

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Some might remember the green kit I purchased on Ebay at the beginning of June. Basically the condition was ok: No major damages such as cracks or tears. The yellowed polycarbonate surfaces had been pasted over with an ugly rubber layer. Some screws were missing and the aluminium frames demanded some polishing.

the original Ebay picture taken by the seller


Polishing the rims with metal/chrome polish


Polishing the shell: once with acryl polish, once with polish for old car lacquers


After the new surface sticks tight to the plywood underground, the protection foil can be removed. Reflecting like a mirror!


Assembling all parts again


bassdrum pad waiting for the new surface. This is a bit tricky as this pad needs to be completely disassembled for a surface replacement. The XLR connector is the reason


The XLR connection must be removed and soldered again for surface replacement


Drowning the soldering points in hot glue (after testing…of course)


a brand new XLR connector


Bright and shiny again


Where shall I dig first?

Friday, January 29th, 2010

One of the most often asked question is: “Where can I find a vintage SDS-whatever kit?” And my answer ist always: “Time, money, patience, luck”. When I look back how I found my rarest exhibits: I found at least half of it away from Ebay. At least “half away”. Let’s pick one of my rarest and favourites: Musicaid SDS3. I digged a broken SDS9 brain on Ebay/Germany. Not very cheap but I couldn’t wait to get one. For the first time after a won auction I asked the seller if he had any more Simmons gear for sale. He responded: “Well, yes, but the device I have is very old, does not even work and likely it’s not worth a cent”. He was talking about my SDS3, perfect cosmetic condition and with all original 4 Premier pads, and asked ME about it’s actual value. I am an honest guy, I did not want to fool him so I offered him 400 Euro (in my opinion a fair collector’s value at that time) although I would have got it for 50. We where both happy. My buddy Michael fixed it for me and analysed it for his own clone project. The SDS3 is a really magic device. Only about 100 units have been built, most or even all of them by Dave Simmons himself BY HAND. Somehow I think it is together with SDSV the best sounding analog drum synthesizer ever built. It is still my first choice for remix and dance productions. Some of my gear found the way to Simmonsmuseum in a similar manner. Only about half of my inventory came by won Ebay auctions. Mostly the not so demanded stuff. But any time I take a look at my collection, I am happy that I have invensted my money in Simmons gear and not in investment funts 😉 Probably in 2035, when I will retire, you may kindly ask whether I would part with something…

SDSV cymbal goes SDS7

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

The sadest aspect of the Simmons company’s collapse is the end of research and great and innovative ideas in Electronic drums, mainly provided by Dave Simmons himself. Really the bitter end? No… My Simmons buddy Michael Buchner (not to forget a handful of other neirds on our planet) still studies, extends and develops this vintage gear in order to make or keep it contemporary and also working in today’s environments. So I am proud that he asked me to share his latest development results with you through my blog. So here is his report:

The digital modules of the SDSV have no triangular oscillator, but a digital sound source. There is an EPROM containing a metallic waveform, a part of a recorded real cymbal.

If this would be played one shot as usual, only a rather short sound would be heard. So Simmons looped the sound, but not one way: It is a real forward/backward loop.
The loop is played all the time inside the SDSVs digital modules; it is not started or stopped by envelopes, only gated out by VCF and VCA. So long decay settings are possible.

This is the original schematic:

The 555 is working as a clock, the 4516 are the counters and the 4013 is changing the readout direction. Because there was no space on the regular PCB, Simmons made an extension called the auxillary or “piggyback” PCB (PCB = printed circuit board).
To be true, the metallic waveform has nothing to do with a real cymbal sound, you can hear its looping, everything is very raw, but:
This is a CULT sound! If you play this with bending up or down while toying around with noise and filter, you get these famous cymbal sweeps!
So here is a description to get this sound into another machine, the SDS7. You can convert any card for the V- Cymbal and the sound is very close to the original!
This is how it was done:
First I had to get the original data bit-by-bit. To read out the original wave data, a simple adaptor was necessary to get the 2732 EPROM into my 2764 reader, because the 2764 has four more legs and the supply voltage has to be connected to another pin of the 2732:

After the readout I had the sample twice in a row. I REVERSED the second half to have the forward/backward effect like in the original. Now I had the data to burn a 2764 EPROM.
I also made a file where this data was doubled by copying it another time for use in 27128 EPROMS.
One real important change has to be made on the SDS7 module (card): The decay kill diode has to be removed. Now the counter loops the EPROM all the time and decay times up to 5 seconds as on the SDSV are possible! Here the position of the diode to desolder or to cut off:

After all this, some cosmetics…

It sounds great! Finally: I have to check out some modifications to get a higher pitch setting (higher than the original) SDSV and a ultra long decay!

And here is the (mp3 encoded) raw wave form, extracted by Michael from the original 8 bit eprom sitting on the SDSV HiHat card: click to listen

How to store your pads right

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Have you noticed that the playing surfaces of most SDS9 pads sunk into the pad? The reason is simple. The SDS9 pads (Mark IV) had so called floating playing surfaces. This means the outer rubber was stuck to the edge and a thin piece of wood was glued on the bottom side without any contact to the edge. So this wooden plate was fixed only by some glue and the tension of the rubber. But over the years this rubber material becomes streched by it’s own weight with the result of a sagging surface. This phenomenon already happens if you keep your kit set up over a long period like a couple of years. The worst thing you can do is to pile your pads one upon the other because the weight affecting the rubber is even multiplied. So what is the best way to store your pads over a long time?

  1. If you have enough space, lay them down on a plane ground with the playing surface to the bottom.
  2. If you don’t have enough space: Put the pads vertically one next to the other:

How about other Simmons pads?
The SDX pads react similarly, although they don’t have this “floating playing surface”, but in this case the grey rubber will even completely come of if you store them with the rubber surface to the bottom (which is ok for the Mark IV pads). It is very important that this does not happen because otherwise the FSR foil will oxidate faster. So the best ways to store SDX pads are

  1. If you have enough space, lay them down on a plane ground with the playing surface to the top.
  2. If you don’t have enough space: Put the pads vertically one next to the other

Mark IV and SDX are the critical pads. The SDSV pads really don’t care how you store them. They are tough enough to pile even up to 10 pads one upon the other

The same with SDS8 and early SDS7 (Mark III) pads though it’s not that easy to pile those because of the unfortunate position of the screws.

Hopefully these words help to keep some more pads in a good shape over the next years, Good night….