Archive for the ‘Report’ Category

Simmonizer – SDS3 clone

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

With only 100-200 units built around 1980, 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 in 2005 I forwarded it to Michael Buchner asking him to do some repairs and to give him the opportunity to study and draw the (real) schematics (Dave Simmons’ original schematics had some errors). One of Michaels following projects was a one channel clone. 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 Michael’s project was more or less fun. But short time later the German synth manufacturer Touched-By-Sound also 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 under Touched-By-Sound’s label Mode Machines.

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 (which 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 anticipated more of a 1599 Euro device. Not really pocket money and even more than the most expensive original I have seen on Ebay in the past. Hopefully the producer gets a grip on the technical issues. I am confident that they will manage to develop the Simmonizer till series maturity. I will have a look again in Frankfurt 2012. Promised…

First German drumkit museum

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

It was last year in November when I exhibted a red SDSV at the edge of a huge drummer meeting in Karlsruhe/Germany. I met a lot of vintage geeks such as Marcel Vogelmann, Ludwig supporter, living encyclopedia and owner of “Herr Vogelmann’s Wunderbarer Trommelladen” (which means “Mr. Vogelmann’s wunderful drum store”) in LUDWIGsburg, Germany (no joke!). Likely Germany’s biggest fan of John Bonham, owner of several collector’s devotionals such as very very very rare and old Ludwig gear, probably the most important trader of vintage spare parts in Germany and a really nice and enthusiastic buddy. He was recently forced to move his store to antother location, but luckily he found a large hall providing 2 floors: one for the store and one for his long time dream: a drum museum! Obviously a great opportunity for me to stage one of my SDSVs right there. Marcel was thankfull and keen about that idea so we had our appointment today for the handover. The museum is supposed to open in March. There is obviously still a lot of work to do but I am confident that this is going to be successfull. If you ever happen to be in the Ludwigsburg/Stuttgart area: Have a look at original Bonham, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker or Buddy Rich gear! After the official opening I will file more pictures subsequently…








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)

A dignified evening of life (part 3)

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Remember the rusty scrap heap a few months ago?

Probably it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get one of the seldom early Musicaid versions of SDSV with a very low serial number. In my case #78. Although the frame was in an awful condition I was quite confident to revive it. Luckily there was no serious defect. At least nothing that could not be fixed by my own unexperienced hands. And today was that day when the LEDs shined again.

The fuse socket was broken. I had to remove it anyway. In order to test the board I bridged that socket and replaced it later.


on the backside of the board a soldering point came of.


The power LED was broken and needed to be replaced


Finally everything’s there and ready to test: The unit powers up, a test modul receives the trigger voltage


the marriage: The electronics go back into the chassis.


the screws are tightened….


assembling the front panel again. all new knobs and knob caps


a final test. Everything works properly. The only issue is that due to the thick layer of antirust protection the metal cover does not fit over the chassis anymore. Probably an opoortunity to get a custom cover? Made of stainless steel? Brushed aluminium? … First I’ll find some moduls to fill the gaps 🙂

SDSV prototype

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Richard James Burgess, world famous producer of many successfull New Romantic acts in the 80s, musician, educator, writer, etc…etc… (too much to mention) was so kind to open his treasure house for Thanks for sharing!

Richard was a friend of Dave Simmons and drummer of the 80s band “Landscape“. He was involved in the very early development of SDSV and still possesses the very first development prototype.

RJB: “Here are some pics I took of the prototype SDSV that I used for Landscape’s From the Tearooms of Mars… album and for Shock’s Angel Face and R.E.R.B. tracks. After those I used one of the early production models that came out of Musicaid that I have included some pictures of. I had several of those so this is not the earliest one but we kept improving upon it as I made more records with it.

The pale blue triangle is the first pad that was made – it has the riot shield surface and, as you can see is just two pieces of particle (or chip) board screwed together. the center hole on the back was for the stand and there is a jack for the trigger out to the brain.

The following pictures come from the private collection of Richard James Burgess.

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


Sunday afternoon in the garden

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Sunday is supposed to be a family day. But what happens if none of the jobs get done during the week? 3 weeks ago I got 4 white Musicaid pads from my Simmons buddy Sibi to restore. Well, why not combine work and family life?

So here are some impressions of today’s day:

one of the old surfaces removed with the help of a hair dryer

the table on the terrace. Interesting: The shells are mounted to the plywood with rubber fittings, they are not screwed! First time I saw that.

a crack fixed with two component glue (and later with a layer of white lacquer…)

although there is still a tray for the speaker, this pad already features a piezo … but not in the center?!

polishing the new surface with plastic cleaner

Everything cleaned and assembled again.. Johanna drawing in her book.

not everybody is interested in what I am doing

Girls often don’t take me seriously 🙂

The Stepp guitar

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The internet is full of coincidences. Watching the Kate Bush video “Experiment IV” I was already enthusiastic about the Simmons kit when I saw the guitar player’s synth guitar.

I was sure that I have seen this before and I was right! It was the “Stepp Guitar” synthesizer.

taken from Complete Simmons Drum Book

In the “Complete Simmons Drum Book” Bob Henrit writes about the “Stepp Guitar”:

Over the last few years when I’ve been visiting either of the Simmons factories, I’ve frequently been confronted by a very futuristic guitar which has always been whisked out of sight the moment I’ve asked any questions about it. However, this bunch of hi-tech components has finally emerged as the ‘Stepp’ guitar, which now has only tenuous links with Simmons, to the sort of critical acclaim which greeted the original SDS.5 drum set. Being the go-ahead company that they are, Simmons have frequently carried out, via their ‘R and D’ department, feasibility studies on a number of percussion, and non-percussion-linked musical properties. They’ve not only looked into guitars, but also keyboards and the like.
Back in the early days at Abbey Mill, a chap called Steve Randall came along wit a sketch of a guitar on the back of a cigarette packet. This was his dream and he felt that Dave Simmons might well be able to help. They talked about the project and Dave experimented with an ARP 2600 and some pickups and applied what knowledge he had about voicing to get the equipment to produce guitar-like sound. From there he built prototypes, and then ran into so many problems that it became obvious very quickly that he’d either have to devote all of his time to the project, or none at all.
So, even though there were many times that the guitar could have been a total of Simmons venture, the board decided to pass on it in favour of drums. Steve Randall consequently took their joint work to a Cambridge consultant where it has resided ever since. Dave says that the formative ideas where mostly Steve’s, and post-Simmons he’d been searching for some time for very good brains, as well as a large amount of fonance to make the dream a reality. It has not, I understand been easy for him and has necessitated a great deal of stubborn determination to get this revolutionary guitar into the market-place.
The guitar, with its inherent complicated technology, was beset by many problems which were unfortunately not solved overnight. Dave Simmons says that, had his company remained involved, they would not have had sufficient resources left to fight their other drum battles. Obviously it would have been a great coup to have Simmons hi-tech drums and guitars, but the company decided they had a big enough battle on their hands building the market for drums, let alone guitars.
Just like Simmons drums the ‘Stepp’ guitar is unique. It’s not a bastardisation of an acoustic instrument, and they haven’t simply mounted a pickup and endeavoured to pluck control signals from the strings. They’ve taken a sideways look at the whole soncept. In their philosophy they parallel Simmons who always maintained that if you’re going to do something different, then you might just as well go the whole hog.
From bitter experience Dave knows that there are going to be guitarists who critisise the ‘Stepp’ in the same way that drummers originally derided the SDS.5 drums. They’ll probably say why should they pay a great deal of money for an instrument which sounds something like the guitar they already own? the fact is, if they’ve managed to make it sound like a guitar and play like one, then they’ve more or less ‘cracked it’. It is relatively simple then to persuade it to sound like an organ, a trumpet or perhaps even a drum!

While we discussed the guitar, Dave admitted that some of the problems Simmons have had with their products have been of their own making; they were simply too complicated. He feels that they ran perhaps too far ahead of the general public. It’s frustrating for the company, but they can understand the public too. For ‘Stepp’ guitar to be successful the people behind it will have to realise this. The player will want to pick it up, plug it in and scintillate. Because of dummy strings he may have to modify his technique a little, but otherwise one would have thought all the lessons learned from marketing Simmons electronic drums, could be just as succinctly and valuably applied to the ‘Stepp’ guitar.

(Steve Randall performing on his Stepp guitar)

Photo shooting (Part 2)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Part 2 of the great day in the photo atelier. Please note that these snapshots as well as the ones in my former post are only taken with my cheap 70 Euro camera. The high resolution pictures, taken by the actual photographer, will follow somewhere in the future. These will be definetely even much better.

These snapshots are supposed to replace some very old pictures on my site.

Virtual SDS

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Although unexpectedly many SDSV brains and pads appeared on Ebay, I am sure that not everyone who has been desperately looking for an SDSV could get his personal instance. Anyway here is a virtual substitude:

This “unit” can be purchased at as a scalable polygon file. Probably this can be combined with a virtual SDSV sound library in the near future?