Kawai R50 III Drum Machine

Kawai R50 III
Kawai R50 III Version 3

Last weekend I picked up a really nice used drum machine called the Kawai R50 III. There is a standard R50 version and then another “e” version which had electronic drum sounds similar to Simmons drums. I had never seen an R50 version III ( Version 3 ) before but likely it means that the sample sound chip inside has just been replaced with either a newer or different one. I heard the “e” version was simply a swap in sound chips. The sound of the Kawai R50 III is actually very good, especially if you are going for that 80’s or early 90’s New Jack Swing sound. The samples are a bit Lo-Fi which I like very much and the R50 is pretty easy to program.

There is not a whole lot of info around the internet about the Kawai R50 although I do know that circuit benders like the drum machine for some reason or another. I bought it in excellent condition for $10 and thought for the price it was a fantastic little machine. It’s kind of cool pairing it up with my Kawai K4.

If I find any further information about what the version 3 means I’ll post it here in a follow-up. Perhaps it was only released in Japan. Stay tuned!

Here is a Youtube video of the presets found on the standard Kawai R50.


3 thoughts on “Kawai R50 III Drum Machine

  1. Swen

    That one is not in my list of favourites, but I know it too. When I remember right the pads were close to unusable and not velocity sensitive, so you had to play it over MIDI, with other pads or keys to get some expression. Don’t know if mine had a number behind the R50, but there was nothing written upon, it looked like the one in the video.
    I had the one with the “e”, and it sounded very much like plastic and some cymbal samples were really noisy and badly looped. Compared to my Roland R8 this one sounds pretty cheesy. But I have to admit it was also much cheaper.
    BUT if you come across the Kawai XD5, the grab it as fast as you can. I believe it is still up till today one of the best digital drumsynths ever. Very much of its features are unique, only matched (well beaten I would say) by the Machinedrum.

  2. Rohan

    The final KAWAI R50 model with three sound ROMS on board. Known as the R50 III. Switching of ROMS is carried out at power up with combinations of keys held down. Can’t remember exactly which keys. Pads if I remember correctly. Love these little beasties. A very tight little sequencer and chunky sound… I’ll take an R50 III for $10.00. Nice find 🙂

  3. Picked up one just a bit ago. Hold down pad1, pad2 or pad3 as you turn on the R-50iii to load one of the three different ROMs.

    It appears that they share the patterns. In other words, if you create a pattern with the electronic ROM, then turn off the machine and load the acoustic ROM, that pattern number will play back the same pattern but with the new ROM sounds.

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