A new chassis for an SDSV

June 9th, 2013

Many SDSV are missing the outer black casing box. Their owners removed them in order to fit the brain into a standard 19″ rack. So if your SDSV brain demands a case, it is rather easy to make one yourself. all you need are two sheet metals, about 0.5mm thick (shouldn’t be much thicker or thinner), width x height = 600x300mm and an appropriate amount of “speaker skin”.

This is my Musicaid SDSV frame serial number #71 when I got it in 2010. Click here to read more about the restoration of the electronics.

I got the metal sheets (made of stainless steel) from a local metalworker. He also bended the sheets for me. This picture shows an experimental stage with blue pushbuttons and the blank stainless steel case screwed to the brain.

Cutting the skin. It should protude about 5-10mm on every side because it will be wrapped around the sheet edges

glueing the skin onto the sheets. Take care that there are no air or glue bubbles under the skin

the top of the case. Both parts have the same size

The holes which had been drilled into the sheets before. After the skin is glued I burned the holes with an old soldering iron through the plastic

now both parts are screwed to the frame. Doesn’t look too bad?!

the bottom brain has an original case, the top one is the self made. The parts for the case cost about 25-50 Euro. And today, after 3 years, my old fubar Musicaid brain looks like a new one again

Suitcase restoration

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.

Lunchbox Kit

May 7th, 2013

All Simmons pads provide the classic hexagonal shape (exceptions: The Colman Saunders “Head Kit” and the prototype bat- and heart-shaped kits). Really all? Almost… there is one particular kit which was named the “lunchbox kit”. Seb Shelton, former drummer of Dexy’s Midnight Runners was working for the British magazine “Sounds” when he met Dave Simmons in his garden shed where Dave assembled the very first Musicaid kits back in early 1981/late 1980. He got SDSV #0004 with a set of the solid wood pads. Some time later he complained that there were 4 people necessary to move the heavy bassdrum on and off stage. So Dave Simmons took some parts and assembled a set of pads which were … quadrangular! The backside shells are ordinary plastic boxes, painted black and screwed to the wooden surface. Technically these pads are just the same as the wooden pads: speakers as trigger, the pearl tom mounts, even the aluminium profile rims have been simply rapped around this construction. Really no beauties but at least light and portable. Apart from one single TV show this kit has never been used and was about to be thrown away many many times in the past (so was the brain!). However I am lucky to have saved those pads from the electronic waste. Although Dave Simmons gainsays that it was him who did those pads I have no doubt  about the truth of Seb’s story. All parts, the style of assembling… yes, it’s a Simmons :
A nice opportunity for a one-day trip to London and … St. Albans…



Some impressions from the journey:

3:20a.m. not a nice time to wake up

6:30a.m. somewhere in Belgium


7:45 boarding Eurotunnel

England – no wonder…

9:00 the fog has gone. I am a bit early. A nice opportunity to visit…

… [url=’http://blog.simmonsmuseum.com/?p=291′]St. Albans[/url] vorbeifahren :-)))))))

9:20 mission accomplished

The employee’s pub – still standing

Abbey Mill: The womb of the SDSV

10:30: London. Seb Shelton and his SDSV #0004 (bought by someone else but still not delivered)

…my Lunchbox Pads

12:00 On my way back home. The compulsary picture of a doubledecker bus

Good night…

Likely the first SDSV review ever…

April 27th, 2013

Seb Shelton, former drummer of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and editor of the magazine “Sounds” kindly provided a copy of a review he made for the January 1981 issue. The picture shows the “batwing kit”  which had been exhibited at a music trade show in London in early 1981 together with a set of heart shaped pads and a set of … hexagonal shaped pads.

Bat shaped Simmons pads (late 1980)

Original review:

DRUM SYNTHS currently on the market provide, to my mind, interesting, expensive additions to acoustic drum kits but little else. Now for something completely different!
The SDS V Modular Drum Synthesiser is capable of producing synthesised percussion sounds and acoustic drum sounds ranging from Rototoms through to standard rack toms, timpani, bass drums and snare drums. Difficult to believe isn’t it? However, after spending two afternoons pawing the set-up, I believe that these could adequately replace standard acoustic drums for most studios and live work.
A prototype SDS V was first shown to the unsuspecting public a few months back at the British trade show and was the result of over two years’ work by Dave Simmons who had previously designed Britain’s first indiginous production drum synth. By the time you read this a six-piece production version of the SDS V will be available as well as limitless custom variations, ranging from one module (drum) upwards in any shape, size and colour.
The basic idea for the set-up is simple. Electronic modules have been specifically designed to reproduce sounds created by a single item from a standard drum kit (ie snare, bass drum etc) and are linked up to a touch-sensitive pad. The shape and size of the pads is obviously immaterial as it is the modules which are responsible for the sound. Of course, the real technology comes in incorporating the controls needed to simulate the performance of acoustic drums. Thus the SDS V has ‘hiss pitch’, ‘tone pitch’, ‘bend’, ‘decay’, ‘balance’ and ‘click balance’ features.
These terms are pretty self-explanatory so suffice it to say that with a bit of knob twiddling I got some ‘acoustic’ drum sounds which really shocked me, not to mention the normal range of typical electronic percussion hisses, pings, whoops and cracks. This was all achieved with standard controls and the aid of a battered old mixer/amp through an equally battered old bass bin and horn unit.
What is exciting about this outfit is the prospect of linking it up to a sophisticated studio or live mixing desk. In this situation each drum sound could be refined to a much greater degree, and all of the ‘effects’ which can so easily be applied to other electronic instruments — echo, flanging, phasing etc — added to your electronically produced acoustic drum sounds.
The proposed production model consists of five identical 11 inch hexagonal pads acting as hi-hat, snare drum and three rack toms, plus a 22 inch hexagonal pad for the bass drum. Each pad consists of a black or white perspex playing surface backed by about two inches of hardwood. The edge of the perspex is protected by a metal rim and each pad is connected to its respective module by Cannon connectors. The six modules are fitted together into a 19 inch rack complete with power supply. Finally the pads are mounded into a playing position via two of the excellent Pearl Variset series of floor stands. There’s little else to comment on in the hardware department other than the huge spurs on the bass ‘drum’ which make it immovable when playing.
Sensibly no bass drum pedal is supplied with the kit; the bass drum pad is of course designed to be triggered with a pedal but because it’s touch sensitive it could equally be triggered with a stick, which opens up a whole new set of playing possibilities.
For example rolls could be played on the bass drum using sticks getting the same kind of power and sound as if playing them with a pedal, but without the legwork. Alternatively a combination of stick and pedal could be used, or the bass drum module could even be plugged into the snare pad and triggered that way. Magical, huh?
The hi-hat is again a pad but this time a pedal is supplied and it works like a volume pedal. When playing with the pedal depressed the sound from the pad/module is the ‘tick-tick’ of a closed hi-hat, and with pedal ‘open’ it’s the sizzle of a part opened hi-hat. It can also be played with the foot like a normal hi-hat.
Of all the modules this was the most difficult to get a good, natural, quality sound from. In the basic playing position it lacked some of the bite of a good pair of cymbals and there was no bell sound available. However, an acceptable sound can be produced.
The rack’s control panel has, in addition to the six knee of knobs, a square of four push-buttons which control the four memories of the system. The top left hand button calls up a preset sound for each of the pads but the remaining three are free and can be programmed according to the player’s requirements. Thus at the push of a button four different sounds are available far each pad. So in effect there’s a possible 20 drums and four hi-hats in front of you when the memories are programmed. Obviously this is not quite as effective as having all those drums and cymbals physically there because you have to push buttons to ‘create’ them, but from a collection of little pads it’s not bad!
So far, so good, but a couple of obvious queries need to be cleared up. Rimshots for instance. When the outer metal rim of the pad is struck simultaneously with the pad, there is a change in tone and increase in volume as with a standard drum. But to achieve the higher-pitched type of rim shot used a lot in reggae and ballads, one needs to employ one of the memories and create that sound electronically.
Another point. At first I thought devotees of the finer drum skills such as brushwork might be at a loss with the smooth perspex pads but the answer is simple — fit a rough surface to the pads.
Undoubtedly there’ll be a few raised eyebrows and the claims made for the SDS V that it can replace acoustic drums in modern music will be disputed. Two thousand years of tradition are, after all, quite an obstacle. However, providing it stands up to the rigours of eye work, the advantages are too overwhelming to ignore. Obviously the different response of a hard playing surface is something to get used to but I find the perspex a positive advantage. On acoustic drums it’s visually impossible to apply many sticking patterns if the heads are tuned down, but this problem doesn’t exist with the SDS V.
Also as there are no conventional heads there are no worries about detuning during playing, unwanted snare buzzes or general overtones.
Consider too, apart from needing no microphones, the advantages of being able to increase drum volume via the ‘drum stack’. No doubt other advantages will become apparent with time (and perhaps drawbacks too) but all I have to add at present for the doubtful among you drummers is: remember those who thought the electric guitar would never catch on. Where are they now?

modular drum synth by Analog Solutions

April 5th, 2013

OK, the sound is more (vintage) Roland rather than Simmons and not the variety of parameters, still the look is close to the SDSV and it is worth to check the demos. I like the fact that also Clap or Conga modules are availabe. Would have been possible for SDSV as well  (an SDSV frame for percussionists… nice vision…). I wonder if those modules would fit into an SDSV frame (with minor modifications, obviously)




SDS7 Dual Sample voice cards

March 22nd, 2013

Thanks to Paul Metcalf for leading me to a document about the dual sample voice cards for the SDS7. The latest SDS7 systems featured voice cards which could carry 2 eproms = 2 sounds. There are several ways to trigger those sounds:

  • a dynamic threshold can be programmed. This means that the SDS7 was the first kit featuring velocity stacks (even earlier than SDX had been introduced)
  • by a stereo snare pad (snare and rim sound)



Clap Box – A clone of the Simmons Analog Clap Trap

October 18th, 2012

yes, it’s 2012. I just stumbled over a clone of the old Simmons Analog Clap Trap. It’s an app made by Puremagnetik.

And here’s a pic of the original:

Simmons “muscle drumming”

August 29th, 2012

A freaky video that I found on Gavin Harrison’s Facebook wall

muscle drumming

Baroque meets future

March 25th, 2012

Today my father gave me this original James Last vinyl record from 1985: “Aren’t these the drums you are interested in, son?” “Indeed!” I put the record on the player but too bad all drums had been acoustic. So the pads had been chosen for a particular purpose: the contrast between old and modern. This record cover (which provoked a constant grin in my face) is a perfect proof that in 1985 Simmons must have been the synonym for technology and future. I wonder why they showed 3 SDSV pads on the front cover but a white SDS8 on he back?

Mission SDS4

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