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Boss DR-55


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Boss DR-55

Category:  Products / drum machines / old analog drum machines

Added: 10-Oct-07  |  Author: admin

New price: discontinued  |   S/H price: 50-100 quid

Boss DR-55

The Boss DR-55 Dr Rhythm was released in 1979 - A battery powered analog drumbox and first in the long and highly sucessful DR-Rhythm line it gave 3 sounds, kik, rimshot, snare which you could programme with a step sequencer, and then shoose from 3 hi-hat patterns to go with your kik/snare/rimshot beat - Great for playing along to, these appeared in numerouns squat jam sessions throughout the 80's.

I've used one, and interestingly for many people including myself, early drumboxes such as this, the tr606 etc were peoples first ever taste of playing an instrument in time to a very mechanical beat, which was quite a surprise. Anyways, tons of these were sold and used to make demos and play along to etc.

This from Nostalgia sample collection page: http://www.hollowsun.com/vintage/dr55/index.html They make a superb collection of vintage instruments, check them out.

The Boss DR55 'Dr Rhythm' was the first drum machine I ever owned. I had avoided them in the past because they were either too expensive or they only had cheesy bossa nova presets which were hardly appropriate for the electronica I was creating at the time. However, the DR55 changed that.

I bought one new around 1980 (?). It was about 80 as I recall, was battery powered and was wonderful at the time - totally programmable but with a limited range of sounds that were the forerunners of the later TR808 and TR606. Despite its limitations, Roland have to be applauded for bringing this little marvel out through their Boss brand name.

It allowed you to create and store 6 x 16-step (i.e. 4/4) patterns and 2 x 12-step (i.e. 6/8 or 3/4) patterns but the VARIATION slider allowed you to double this. You could play Variation A or Variation B or have A run into B for longer patterns. There was no song mode to chain patterns - patterns had to be switched manually in real-time!

It had four sounds - kick, snare, rimshot and hi-hat. Naturally, they were electronically generated but you can hear the genesis of the later TR series in these sounds. The kick, snare and rimshot were totally programmable but the hi-hat was switched with settings of OFF, 8ths, 12ths and 16ths. There was a simple tone control to roll-off some HF but this affected all sounds equally so was of limited use.

Programming was strictly step-time. To write a pattern, you first selected the pattern memory you wanted to write into then flicked a switch to the WRITE mode. You then had to select the sound you wanted to program from a four-way slider switch and press START where you wanted a beat and STOP where you wanted a rest. Pressing either advanced you to the next step. Primitive but it actually worked very well. Of course, the thing had no dynamics - instead, there was a fourth 'sound' channel selection - AC (accent) - where you could program in an accent for certain beats (although this affected all sounds falling on that beat). If only the hi-hat had been programmable!

Interestingly, for such a budget unit, it had quite good sync facilities. You could drive an analogue or digital sequencer or arpeggiator from it and it would sync to Roland's own CSQ sequencers. Not bad for such a budget device and I remember having great fun driving a Wasp synth / Spider sequencer combination and Juno 6 arpeggiator from the DR55... all in real-time... transposing the sequencer with one hand, playing arpeggiator chords on the Juno with another and changing patterns on the DR55 with another... ermmm... that's three hands... I dunno... I managed it somehow!

Nowadays, it could be argued that the sounds have limited appeal (unless you're doing early Soft Cell covers!) but they are useful nonetheless.

Product Videos

A few old drum machines

Just a quick demo of a few old beat boxes from Amdek and Boss dr55, dr-110 and dr-220...

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User Comments

Product:  Boss - DR-55
Name: Mars
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 05-Oct-09

This was my first ever beat box, and it has been on hundreds of hours of my experimental jams back in the early 1980's. I first saw punk band, The Fast, who used one, and it was so cool looking, and so quick to change beats with, that I ordered one new from Manny's. I was able to sync it with an old Paia analog sequencer I had for some interesting loops. Both the Paia and the dr-55 have spent some time traveling back and forth across the country, between myself and one of my music collaborators, and they have both survived! I'm curious to try some dr-55 mods... hmmm... Mars 10-04-09

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Product:  Boss - DR-55
Name: Paul FitzZaland
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 15-Nov-12

I've had my DR-55 since 1990. It was thrown in by the music shop when I bought a Juno-6 and a bunch of cables. It's been a centerpiece of my home studio ever since.

The sounds are familiar early Roland with crisp/hissy hihats, tight/round bass drum, sharp 808-ish snare, and a distinctive rim-shot. Think early Depech Mode etc.

Programming is pretty straight forward however without any kind of display it's up to the user to count steps and keep track of the pattern in their head. Playback is simple and switching between patterns with the big-ass knob is lots of fun.

You can't slave the DR-55 but you can use it as the master clock running a CSQ sequencer. There is also a programmable trigger output allowing you to create cool arpeggio patterns with something like a Juno-6 or trigger additional drum sounds from another module. I use my DR-55 to trigger a baseline on my Juno while I jam over top on another synth.

As of 2012 these are still pretty cheap. I found one locally on CL for under $50 CDN a couple weeks ago. I'd probably pay up to $175 without regret.

I should also mention that the build quality of the DR-55 is outstanding. Mine has endured quite a bit of accidental abuse over the years and still looks and functions like new. It even had a recent encounter with a sippy-cup full of milk and came out apparently unscathed.

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