Archive for September, 2010

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.

SDS9 manual

Friday, September 17th, 2010

There are some Simmons items for which I had to wait several years to get a hand on. I am not talking about one of 250 SDX, one of 100 SDS3, one of 15 Suitcase Kits. No, I am talking about the manual of the most common Simmons kit ever built: The SDS9 manual. While I got the German version already in 2005, I had to wait another 5 years to get the english version. Another tiny piece in the jigsaw. As the SDS9 is not that easy to program, I hope it will provide relief to its owners 🙂

A Trigger To Midi device: Megadrum

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Every generation of electronic drums claimed to be a final substitution for acoustic drums. That was the same in 1980 as well as today and in the future. The difference between 1980 and today: 30 years. 30 years are 1000 years in computer ages. I would have expected a breakthrough in sound but there wasn’t. There had been a handful of milestones in hardware development: Positional sensing ZI (Simmons SDX), mesh head pads.

Toontrack’s Superior, XLN’s Addictive drums, NI’s Abbey Road drum libraries, BFD etc: They all did a great job producing real sounding drum libraries. Much more realistic than any Roland or Yamaha device, even the ultra expensive TD-20 or DT XTreme. But how can I trigger these libraries without noticeable latency? Where is the link between advanced mesh pads and the software? Essential components is fast computer hardware and fast D/A converters for audio out. Last but not least: The midi interface. People who already own advanced Roland Hardware like TD-9/12/20 will be disappointed about already 4ms of only midi latency! Much less is possible…

Associated to this question I found the megadrum project. The developer Dimitri reminds me of the young Dave Simmons: Having an idea and forming this idea into a product. Megadrum is an open source hardware project. Plans and documentation are free of charge. If you cannot solder it yourself, you can buy the ready assembled device. Of course without any warranty and not in a shiny and nicely designed chassis, but fully functional. It features optionally 32 inputs (16 stereo) or up to 56 inputs. After I wasn’t happy with the latency of my Alesis Trigger I/O I assumed the risk and ordered the 32 input megadrum. It arrived a couple of days later, unfortunately with one knob broken of. Dimitri, the developper was helpful enough to take care about sending spare parts. Well, the price of open source… Finally, about 14 days later I had a working unit.

A rather old school display. the electronics built into the cheapest box (no) money can buy. Far away from being road proven. But as I sayed: It is a project and not a commercial item so I shouldn’t be that strict. All prgrammings need to be done with only two rotary encoders, controlled through a two row 16 character display. Torture…. Fortunately the operation of megadrum is well (online) documented, so it only took 2 months to programm a kit with reasonable dynamics instead of years 🙂 . But it was worth every second I spent with it. It is by far the fastest trigger to midi converter I have ever worked with. Fast in the sense of “I can’t notice any latency if I use appropriate audio hardware”. It supports nearly all features of “big” electronic drum systems such as cymbal choking, snare postional sensing, intermediate HiHat states, drum maps, several dynamic curves (for each drum), custom dynamic curves etc… . It has enough inputs even for a huge double bassdrum kit. It receives it’s power from USB. First time it is fun to play VST instruments with pads. I wouldn’t dare to put this particular megadrum device on stage, but if the electronics are embedded in a solid metal box, I would. For studio purposes it is already my first choice