SDSV substitute?

January 4th, 2017

No doubt. In my oppinion the SDSV is the best sounding analog drum synthesizer. Still… But I don’t really trust in 30 year old gear, at least in a live situation where you only have one chance. I decided to try something more contemporary. Something with a minimum of complexness. Easy to program, good sounding and particularly featuring the nice Simmons filters. I decided to give this chance to a Nord Drum 2. While the Nord Drum 1 was limited to 4 channels and only a single mono output, the second version already has 6 channels and stereo out. I liked the idea of programming sounds fast and simple in a very small and transportation friendly metal chassis. The Nord Drum 2 is not really analog, but it is not sample based as well. The analog filters are digitally cloned and -as we know from former Nord synths- pretty good sounding. Although the device is quite easy to program, it takes some time to achieve a Simmons-like sound you can work with.

For that particular live situation we used the stereo out to split the kick drum from the snare/toms which worked absolutely great. For future gigs I would like to program different kits for any track.

But is the Nord Drum 2 a substitude for an SDSV?
Yes and no. The ND2 sound is not as powerfull as the SDSV. But still it sounds great. ND2 has some big advantages:

  • light and compact
  • many more filters and waveforms than the SDSV
  • MIDI In/Out
  • Backups via SysEx
  • easy to program
  • reasonable price
  • works great with Simmons pads, even with SDSV pads
  • separate headphone output

The advantages of the original should be mentioned as well:

  • the best Simmons sound ever. There is nothing like the original. Amen.
  • one knob each filter: The sound can be edited while you are playing: No menus, no detour
  • mono, stereo and single (XLR!) outputs
  • up to 7 modules per frame
  • 19″

Final result:
If you can live with a sound that is only 95% of the original, that only provides stereo out and that is only available as a non-standardised desktop version, the Nord Drum 2 is a good choice. It is powerful, reliable and compact. It sounds very good, has even many more filters compared to the analog Simmons filters and works with most Simmons pads (exception: SDX pads) and has contemporary features like MIDI. If you still prefer the original: Think about a Nord Drum as a backup 😉

Some more impressions from that gig can be found here:

A Simmons SDSV for the National Museum of Music Research in Berlin

November 22nd, 2016

“Why on earth do you collect old electronic drums?” At some point I stopped counting how often I was asked this question. But probably the following story is a part of the answer.

May 2015. A scientific assistant of the National Museum of Music Research in Berlin contacted me. He explained that his institute is running a musical instruments museum. They were planning a special exhibition about the history of electronic musical instruments and if I would be willing to provide a Simmons exhibit. Of course I was! Presenting Simmons gear is always better than storing it until the end of days. But nothing hapened until 3 weeks ago. He contected me again and we negotiated the conditions. He was interested in an SDSV and I preferred to bring it by car (600km) rather than unromantically sending it with a carrier. Although the exhibition is from March to June, the institute needed the exhibits at the end of November in order to make the catalogue in time. Last week I jumped into my car with a blue SDSV with brain and cymbal pad plus my Suitcase Kit and headed for Berlin. Incidantally at the same time there was another SDSV for sale in Berlin. I took the opportunity to bring one kit to the museum but also to bring a new kit back home. However… I had the chance to visit the museum. It was very cool! Musical instruments representing all centuries. Musical instruments I have never heard of. Very impressing. If you happen to be in the Berlin area between March 25th and June 25th: Visit the special exhibition “Good Vibrations – A story about electronic musical instruments”

Early in the morning… Don’t make appointments at noon if you have 600km to go

At least not much traffic at that time

12:30. We are about to land soon

First stop in Berlin: Appointment with the seller of a white SDSV pad set. To be honest: A friend of mine asked me NOT to buy those pads and leave them for him. I agreed. He had been waiting for years to find a pad set for his brain. A round of allpause for my modesty, please…

There is still some time until I meet the guy from the museum. Time to discover some essential buildings

Finally! The hall of fame!

After we brought the gear inside I explained hw to set up the kit right

Inside the box on the left there’s a Mini Moog. The exhibition will include around 70 exhibits

I am invited to visit the museum. It is much much bigger than I thought. It shows classical instruments from the 17th century as well as contemporary gear. But the focus is on classical instruments. My favourite exhibit is a “Trautonium”, a predecessor of the synthsizer

This is the space for the special exhibition. In some special events some of the gear will be explained and played

The craziest musical instrument I have ever seen. The organ is only the controller of a hall full of instruments like percussion, snares, timpanies, chromatic percussion, organ pipes… all triggered by compressed air.

I counted more than 20 harpsichords. All vintage and all restored in the institutes own workshop

I really recommend this museum if you are interested in music. I will come and visit my SDSV in March or April (Will it still recognize me?) and of course I will pick it up in June.


November 8th, 2016

When I launched the site it was more a playground for programming while I was studying. My tutor gave me some piece of PC hardware and said “we need a webserver for our project documentations”. So I set up a webserver, installed it in our universty network and launched a pre version of the Simmons site beside several more sites of my projct group. I never thought that anybody would care about Simmons drums almost 30 years after thye bekame more or less outdated. So I programmed some games for this site: Memory and minesweeper (I called it hexsweeper). While Memory is still online , the code of hexsweeper got lost for some reason. However… hope I find it some day

Extreme restoring of an almost lost SDSV pad

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

Pioneers of electronic drums: Kraftwerk

October 9th, 2015

Here is a Youtube finding of a Kraftwerk performance from 1973 in the German culture magazine “Aspekte” with Wolfgang Flür playing his self-built electronic drum kit. Later this kit was also played on the record “Autobahn”

Before the piezo triggered the sound…

July 2nd, 2015

Although piezo elements had already been available, the very first SDSV pads, particularly those (or most) built in 1981, used a speaker to generate the electric pulse for the brain.

While a speaker normaly converts alternating magnitism into mechanical oscillation, it cann also act vicy versa: Converting mechanical pulses into (electro-)magnetic pulses. The advantage of the piezos ist that they respond more exact. You have less trouble with cross talk and better dynamic response. And they are cheap and lighter. They can easily be glued on the plywood instead of intricately screwing them underneath the playing surface. Here is an original sketch ow Dave Simmons adviced his technicians how to convert SDSV pads to piezo trigger:

How can I see if my SDSV pads have a speaker or a piezo inside?

These indicators point to speakers inside:

  • You have a Simmons logo under the riot shield playing surface
  • The tom mount is die cast and made by Pearl
  • The acrylic shells are hand made (the edges are less sharp) or even solid wood

These indicators point to a piezo inside:

  • The tom mount is made of plastic
  • The acrylic shells are series production

The amp: SDC 200

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 🙂

Sibi Siebert & Ufo Walter performing @Drummer-Meeting Salzgitter

January 10th, 2014

Here is the video I brought from the Drummer-Meeting Salzgitter last September: Sibi performing on his vintage SDSV accompanied by the fabulous bass player Ufo Walter who acts almost as a one man band with his loopers, effects and chaos pads…. enjoy!


1981 Suitcase Kit Replica

July 5th, 2013

Two weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to an old black plastic toolbox: “Hey, doesn’t this box have about the size as a Suitcase kit?” Indeed! It had! So he bought 2 boxes, I got one. We ordered all ingredients:

  • rubber foam (40mm and 20mm)
  • XLR connectors
  • 20mm plywood
  • black PVC
  • wire
  • transducers
  • 1 kOhm resistors
  • red felt
  • foam glue spray

The parts cost about 50 Euro. Assembling the suitcase takes a couple of hours. It is pure fun and worth every minute. Fortunately I already had an original Suitcase which I restored a couple of years ago. So I already roughly knew what to do…

Cutting the pads

…and the surfaces

assembling the pads

transducers on the backside

the slot for the connectors

those connectors haven’t changed in 4 decades

cutting the foam

soldering pad by pad. The resistors soften the signal


the bottom layer of foam

The plan



adhering the felt onto the top foam layer


cutiing the trays for the pads

the closed case

Finished, connected and ready to play

and here is a little video demo:

This Replica works very good. I don’t have any crosstalk problems and I am also looking forward to play my VST system. As we still have enough material and as I get the dimensions of Saga’s original Briefcase I am looking forward to clone this one, too.

Hex goes Mesh

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