Archive for the ‘Pads’ 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

Before the piezo triggered the sound…

Thursday, 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

1981 Suitcase Kit Replica

Friday, 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

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

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.

Mission SDS4

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Since I’ve been started my collection in 2003 I have missed half a dozen opportunities to get an SDS4. They were too expensive, too far away or both. When I recently noticed a pick-up only auction ending on an early Friday afternoon I scented my chance. I checked my war chest, prepared for a one-day ride to Hastings, south England. I calculated the travel costs and set my limit. And I was lucky! I think it was a real bargain if you know how much had been paid for this particular unit before and that this is one of about 100 units ever built by Dave Simmons himself. And the SDS4 closed the last gap in my Musicaid product portfolio.


still dark in Germany
still dark in Germany

must be the right way
must be the right way

Eurotunnel terminal
Eurotunnel terminal


after 400km
after 400km

it's dark inside the tunnel
it’s dark inside the tunnel


God save the Queen!
God save the Queen!

11am GET - arrival in Hastings
11am GET – arrival in Hastings

right before the big moment
right before the big moment

here we are....
here we are


Monday, October 24th, 2011

There are some events to celebrate: 30 years ago, at the beginning of 1981, Dave Simmons built (Musicaid) SDSV #1. Later, at the end of 1981, Simmons Electronic Drums Ltd. was founded. My way to say “Happy Birthday, Simmons”:

Next step would be a chromatic “Simmophone”?

1981-2011 – 30 years of hexagons

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

It must have been the first half of 1981 when Dave Simmons exhibited 3 sets of prototype pads

During 1981, the company (still Musicaid EP) exhibited at the British Music Show at Olympia in London. They weren’t members of AMII, (the manufacturer’s association), so were forced to exhibit nearby in what was known as the ‘over the road show’, in a slightly sleazy hotel. It took them a week to get just three hand-built kits ready for it. One was heart-shaped and sprayed in some sort of velvet, another was ‘bat-wing shaped’, with no straight sides, and aimed somewhat optimistically at heavy metal drummers, while the third was the now familiar hexagonal shape which has become their trade mark. (Unbeknown to the general public, neither the ‘bat-wing’ nor the heart-shaped kits actually worked!). All three set up in precisely the same way, like a traditional drum kit, with a vertically mounted bass drum with wide-spreading, tubular spurs. The proportions were purposely kept close to those of acoustic drums, the small pads measuring 11 inches across the flats, with the bassdrum roughly 22 inches. ...” (The Complete Simmons Drum Book)

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…

The earliest days of SDSV pads

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

1981: At a British Music Show in London the young Simmons/Musicaid company exhibited 3 hand-built kits. One was “heart shaped”, one was “bat shaped” and the last one had the classic hexagonal shape.

The Complete Simmons Drum says:

The purpose of these more exotic shapes was to demonstrate that anything was possible. But the company were more interested in popularising the ‘more classical’ six-sided shape. So, that became the standard kit, and ‘weird and wonderful’ shapes were really only available to special order.

After the show, a case maker and ex-drummer named Andy McCullough was contracted to produce enough of the six-sided blanks of wood, which were to become the pads, to make 20 sets. These were delivered in a rough form to St. Albans. Many happy hours would then be spent by any of the half-dozen employees available sanding, filling, under-coating and lacquering. It seems that whatever they were actually employed as, they still mucked-in and helped with manufacture in those early days. they had a spray-booth of sorts in the back of Musicaid made from pieces of discarded plywood and a fan from an old Ford Cortina, driven by a small motor to help extricate the fumes. Dave’s special forte was a sunburst finish applied with an airbrush.

Unfortunately they’d spray the pads and leave them to dry overnight, only to return the next day to find flies and other insects embedded in the paint. They would then be forced to start all over again! However, this situation did not last for long, and plastic pads were introduced when stocks of the wooden ones were used up…


back in 2010…

In the meantime I am in the lucky situation that extreme curiosities often find the way to me: A couple of weeks ago a guy contacted me in order to get some advice how to restore SDSV pads. I demanded some pictures to get an idea of the actual condition. But I saw exactly one of those rare early sets made of solid wood. I could not estimate any value as this was the first time I saw a kit like that (I already owned one of those pads from the Trevor Horn kit I picked up In London in May). I knew that the wooden pads were hard to play, above all 3 pads came without tom mounts (which are actually sawed off Pearl tubes). I was absolutely certain that it would be a fair deal for both sides to change that pad set for a set of my mint white pads with stands included. The owner agreed so we made the deal.

The pads really look like being 30 years old. I think I will only fix the missing tom mounts but leave the rest. Probably these pads are the greatest evidence of Simmons’ “happy times”