Archive for June, 2011

Musicaid SDSV

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Last week a guitar player told me about the unique opportunity to buy a Fender Stratocaster from the Pre-CBS area for a “tip amount” of only €3000-5000. That reminded me of the fact that the Simmons history was devided into the Musicaid- and the Simmons Electronics epoch. OK, probably this comparison is misleading, but still there are parallel aspects. I got my first (complete and mint) SDSV produced as Musicaid. There are some obvious differences (I have not opened it yet so there will be likely some more inside, specially concerning the modules):

  • The outer cover is made of imitation leather instead of bended sheet metal
  • The inner frame is not yet zinc-coated. That might lead to major rust occurence depending on the storage environment
  • The frame is slightly bigger so a sheet metal cover from a later device would not fit over a Musicaid SDSV frame
  • The knobs used for the modules and mixer section are a bit bigger and different to later SDSV devices
  • no rubber feat on the bottom for desktop use
  • the panels show “Musicaid EP” instead of “Simmons”
  • The pushbuttons are red instead of black

From the Complete Simmons Drum Book by Bob Henrit: “… At roughly the same time that Simmons products were becoming a force to be reckoned with, disaster struck. In November 1981 the Musicaid company collapsed. They were desperate for some development money so that SDS.5 could be produced in significant quantity, but were unable to raise the necessary funds from an associate investment company who already had a financial interest. The company was burdened with unwasted general music stock and eventually went into voluntary liquidation. Musicaid could have been saved for as little as £20.000 – a minute sum to secure the future of such a world-beating product, however at that time it was impossible to raise. They still had faith and hope, but precious little charity!
Dave Simmons understandably looks upon this time as being the most traumatic of his life. His workforce were on the dole and had a very lean Christmas at the end of 1981, and he not only had to deal with irate creditors, he had to try to sort out the future too. He was certain that SDS.5 was a world-beating product, but in the light of Musicaid’s demise, he not surprisingly found it extremely difficult to persuade people to invest in it. His only hope was his personal bank. Ultimately it was his wife Kirsty who was able to persuade the bankers to part with the £10.000 necessary to start a completely new comapny and go ahead with production. A company called ‘Clipfinch’ was bought ‘of the shelf’ for £100, and once things began to tick over nicely its name was duly changed to Simmons Electronics. …

Particularly this device was a guest of my museum in 2010 when the former owner asked me for an expertise. It had been originally delivered with the wooden pads I wrote about last year. At that time I changed a set of pure white and mint SDSV pads for these wooden collectibles. He wanted to keep the brain (or sell it for more money I was willing to give…) and recently sold it for no less than €1500. The buyer was desperately looking for an SDSV for years. He tried it with Roland mesh head pads but soon found out that the brain demands sharp trigger pulses from rock hard SDSV pads in order to avoid destorted sounds. So we made the deal that he gets one of my newer Simmons SDSV, 5 module standard version, with a higher serial number (#502), complete with pads, sands and cables and I get the Musicaid SDSV in mint condition. A good deal for both parties as far as I can estimate. What do we learn? Finally Simmons gear end up in my house…

When worlds collide

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It was back in September 1987. Johnny Cash played a show in Rotterdam/Netherlands and I had the pleasure to be part of the audience. After the show we met the band at a local hotel and I handed one of my white SDS9 pads to John’s drummer D.S. Holland for an autograph. Normally he played a Rogers which appeared as old as he was, so he asked me what that was? I explained that this was an electronic drum pad which would be used in many contemporary music productions. He turned up his nose at this strange kind of gear but of course I got my autograph and I got a smile from the band. Unfortunately I don’t have this pad anymore. If I would have known that I would collect “these strange drums” one day, of course I would have kept it. However a nice memory and Johnny Cash was one of the most impressive performers ever.

Simmonizer – SDS3 clone

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

With only 100-200 units built, the SDS3 is one of the most sought-after drum synths. It is very hard to find a reliable working unit. After I got mine I forwarded it to Michael Buchner to let him do some repairs on it and to give him the opportunity to study and draw the (real) schematics. Obviously the original schematics had some errors. One of Michaels following projects was a one channel clone of SDS3. In early 2009 I had the pleasure to check a prototype which was more or less only a ball of wire, but it worked perfect and sounded like 100% SDS3.

In the following period Michael completed the project with a perfect board layout, perfect chassis and perfect design.

The target of this project was more or less fun. But short time later the German synth manufacturer Touched-By-Sound started to develop their own 5 channel clone. Michael shared his board layouts and during the 2011 Frankfurt music fair the Simmonizer SDS3 clone was shown for the first time.

I had the opportunity to check it although at this stage it is still a prototype. The Simmonizer provides 5 channels: 3 drum channels, one Hihat and an FX channel, for example for a crash sound. It can be triggered with midi or with pads. The filters and sound were pretty mouch SDS3 (that should be the minimum requirement of an SDS3 clone 🙂 ). Still it has some errors which are quite funny. For example if you turn the noise/tone to “tone”, you get the noise and vice versa. The filters did not work very well. To be honest: Regarding the simplicity and the fact that I have seen a perfect working clone at Michael’s, I would have expected more, particularly if you think about the price which is targeted 1599 Euro. Not really pocket money and even more than the most expensive original I have seen on Ebay in the past. Hopefully