Roland D-10 Synthesizer and Drum Machine

Roland D10 Synthesizer
Roland D10 Synthesizer

Over the weekend I scored a free Yamaha DX-21 and at another shop nearby I also found a Roland D-10 in amazing condition with an internal battery problem. As I often find in Nagano, the sales clerk didn’t want to be dealing with an internal battery issue, so he decided to dump the Roland D-10 on me for a price I couldn’t refuse. Case and all, the Roland D-10 got a new home and I have really found it to be a fun synth to play. The internal battery was quite easy to replace and pretty quickly I was able to get it back on it’s feet. The overall condition of this beauty is superb!

What I really like about the Roland D-10 is it’s functionality. I can quickly sit down, turn it on, play a drum track, and then start playing a split keyboard with the bass on the left and an EP sound on the right. Sure, the sound quality takes you back to the 80’s, but as an 80’s music fan I don’t mind that at all. In fact it’s quite nostalgic for me because back in High School I paid a fortune for the Roland D-110 rack module when it first came out. The D-10 is the synth version and after playing it I wish I had paid a little extra and bought the D-10. At that time, it would have been great to have a built in drum machine with the ability to layer or split the keyboard. The 32 note polyphony is not that bad either, plus you get some decent basic effects.

Here’s a fantasic Youtube video of the Roland D-10 in action. This video is another reason why I bought the D-10. To each their own I know, but I love this sound!!

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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.

Yamaha RY-20 Drum Machine 90’s Vibe

Yamaha RY-20 Drum Machine
Yamaha RY-20 Drum Machine

Today I was going through some used music gear at a nearby second hand shop in downtown Nagano-city, Japan. On a shelf I discovered three Yamaha RY-20 drum machines. One was for $150 and the other two were $10 each and labeled as broken. I took the two that were broken and tested them at the shop and sure enough they operated just fine with one exception. When you pressed play on either one, the patterns would not play. I scratched my head a bit and was wondering why both machines had the same problem….strange! I figured I would gamble a bit and decided to buy both Yamaha RY-20 drum machines mainly because they sounded AWESOME!! I mean, the RY-20 is loud and many of the patterns swing really nice, ala New Jack Swing! I couldn’t stop playing with the drum pads which really felt great and the sensitivity was just excellent. If they indeed were broken I could at least use them for sound modules.

So, I bought both drum machines and they even came with the adapters. When I got home I decided the first thing to try was a “factory reset”. I looked for a PDF manual online and found the reset procedure. You have to press both the -1 and +1 keys at the same time while powering on the unit. Unbelievable! Both Yamaha RY-20 Drum Machines kicked into high gear and started to work beautifully. I later found out that both machines were in MIDI sync mode and wouldn’t play because they were expecting an external midi command. The guy who sold them to the used music store probably left them in MIDI Sync mode. The sales clerk thought they were broken and dropped the price to $10 each. Amazing!!

This evening I spent an hour playing the Korg Poly-61 along with one of the Yamaha RY-20 drum machines and it was a lot of fun. The drum sounds are really nice and you definitely can get that 80’s or 90’s vibe with it. I believe the Yamaha RY-20 was released in 1994 which was a year after I originally moved to Japan. It was quite extraordinary to find the RY-20 drum machines. I can’t believe how great they sound and if I new they were this fun to work with I likely would have bought one earlier. The Yamaha RY-20 drum machines sound much different than the Rolands. I like how loud the RY-20 is and for Synthpop or that New Jack Swing sound it’s just fantastic. There is a special sensitivity or live feel to the drums that sounds much different than most other digital drum machines I’ve heard. I may be stretching it a bit, but sometimes I actually feel like the drums are alive. I’ll have to read more about it, but the Yamaha RY-20 really has a wonderful sound. Stay tuned for future updates as I dive into the machine more.

Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler for Vintage Drums

Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler
Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler

Today I found a mint condition Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler at the local used Music shop here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It came with the original box, 64MB memory card, adapter, and manual. This particular sampler was something I new I wanted to pick up. I posted a video below from a Youtube user called “harlemnightsmusic” who stuffed a Korg ES-1 MKII Sampler with 80s Linn Drum sounds and started recreating some fantastic classic 80’s disco and pop rhythms. I have quite a few LinnDrum samples among a ton of other drum machine samples and thought this would work perfectly for me. I love the 32kHz “Lo-Fi” sound of the ES-1 MKII very much. There’s only 95 seconds of memory if correct, but that should be plenty for making a few kits for playback.

I primarily intend to use Korg ES-1 MKII as a pattern based drum sequencer for me to play along with using the keys. I feel the Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler will be very easy to program drum patterns which could then be easily transferred to other devices if necessary as well. On a side note, I tested the formatting ability on a 128MB smartmedia card and as expected it gave me an error message. Indeed I will only be able to use up to 64MB Smartmedia cards, however, I likely won’t even come close to using that much since the internal memory can only load 95 seconds worth of samples. Currently I am using a 16MB card and that seems just fine for my purposes. Plus I don’t see myself using this for anything other than a drum machine with retro vintage samples in it. For that it’s absolutely awesome and great fun!!

There are quite a few people making great use out of this wonderful sampler on Youtube. I know there are newer updated versions of the Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII, but for the cheap price I bought this for, I’m more than happy with the results.

Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer

Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer
Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer

Yesterday I picked up a “MINT” condition Yamaha RX7 Digital Rhythm Programmer for cheap from a used music store here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It came with the original adapter and manual. The Yamaha RX7 was absolutely in perfect condition so I couldn’t pass it up. I was originally thinking of picking up an RX5 if I ever found one, but then settled on the RX7 and I’m glad I did. The RX5 is great with the individual outputs, individual mixer, and additional sound cards, but ultimately the Yamaha RX7 will work just as good. I currently have the Yamaha DX7 MKI and DX7IID. The RX7 Drum Machine obviously goes very well with those two synths and it’s fun to create retro 80’s jams now. I actually grew up in the 80’s so not only is it very nostalgic for me, but it’s also satisfying to be able to pick up a lot of this gear in great shape for a great price.

The Yamaha RX7 drum sounds are actually very good with respect to capturing that 80’s sound obviously. It blends nicely with the DX7 sounds and I find it very easy as well to program. Sound Quest also has a software editor for the Yamaha RX7 that can be used to tweak the settings which I find to be very useful. The RX7 can also take RAM4 cards like the DX7IID so any modifications can be saved. Some people complain about the lack of memory, but honestly it’s pretty easy to dump data to and from the computer. Plus for me I usually work mainly in pattern mode rather than song mode. Thus I have plenty of patterns and space to work with. I tend to change up my keyboard grooves over a handful drum patterns rather than program a unique pattern for every single keyboard groove. I also have a tendency to use drum machine patterns as a sort of metronome for practicing complex keyboard parts, so the Yamaha RX7 memory is more than sufficient for that.

The Vintage Yamaha RX7 drum machine is a fun “large” device that works well for creating any sort of drum pattern for practicing your grooves with. If you like the FM digital sound and are a fan of 80’s music like I am, then the Yamaha RX7 will surely fit nicely into your nostalgic music rig. Indeed you likely can get sampled sounds and use a sampler, but the ease of use with programming your own beats and the cheap price tag, make the Yamaha RX7 hard to beat. It’s is a rather large box, but once you find a place to put it, then it’s actually quite nice to have the larger buttons. You can also midi this up to anything and work with the sounds via midi.

Roland TR-606 Vintage Drum Machine

Roland TR-606
Roland TR-606

UNBELIEVABLE! Today I snagged a vintage Roland TR-606 from the local used music shop here in Nagano city, JAPAN for only one dollar (thats $1.00)! The unit was really dirty and there was a note that said it didn’t make any sound. I bought it anyway because I couldn’t take their word for it. I’ve bought things in the past from this same shop with notes that said “Not working” when it only was because they didn’t understand or know how to use the music device. I got home and found a working adapter. It turned on right away, but indeed it didn’t make any sound. The reason is that you must know how to operate the unit!

I looked up the manual online as I was guilty as well not understanding how to properly use or test the Roland TR-606. I found some instructions on how to access the patterns. To my amazement the TR-606 performed beautifully. In addition, I noticed on the back there were five custom outputs which meant there must have been some sort of custom MOD installed in the TR-606. I spent about an hour cleaning up the drum machine and it looked fairly nice after that. I still can’t believe I found this for only a buck!

I also noticed that when I went through some of the patterns that the previous owner had programmed in the TR-606, they were quite erratic. If I had to guess, the owner before me was either into speed metal or didn’t know what they were doing with respect to programming the TR-606. Perhaps that also might explain the type of person that would drop this off at a used music shop and allow it to be sold for one dollar. Obviously, the store owner didn’t pay more than a dollar so he must have gotten the TR-606 practically for free. The beauty of this used music shop I frequent is that the music gear must be working 100% so that they can provide their standard 3 month warranty policy. Otherwise it’s classified as junk and the price is set to simply get rid of it as fast as possible. This is why the store employees usually seem me in the shop 3-4 times a week. I’m pretty sure that Roland TR-606 would not be in the junk box for very much longer.

One of the main reasons I am really excited to find the Roland TR-606 is that it has an output trigger ability to send sync signals to my Roland Juno 6 and Juno 106 synthesizers. The Roland TR-606 is really small and by the looks of the controls is probably quite easy to program once I read the manual once or twice. It should work awesome along with the Juno 6 both as a drum machine and a trigger to start the arpeggiator on the Juno 6. Fantastic!

Here is a video that someone uploaded to Youtube with the Roland TR-606 Drum machine triggering and in sync with the Roland Juno 6. It’s not a great video but it gives you the idea of both working together.

Novation Drumstation V2 a TR808 TR909 clone

Novation DrumStation V2
Novation DrumStation V2

Found a mint condition Novation Drumstation for $50 today in the used music shop called “Hard Off” here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. I don’t know much about it but I know that Novation makes some pretty decent products. Besides the price being good, the unit had lots of knobs, outputs, and it was very MIDI capable. The size was small and it apparently does a decent job of cloning the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines sounds. I particularly like the fact that you can tweak the bass drum, snare, etc. separately and trigger it all via an external sequencer. The OS of the Drumstation is 1.3 which is the latest OS version if correct. The Novation Drumstation looks like a V2 unit, but I’m not sure.

Overall the sound is good and I plan to hook it up to my Korg Triton Rack for making RPPR TR808 and TR909 drum patterns. These patterns can then be triggered by any controller or synth hooked up to the Korg Triton. Once the patterns are playing, I can then tweak the Drumstation to taste and hopefully get some cool grooves going. I’m a big fan of the Roland TR808 so having something similar ( but not the same I know ) will be fun. There is also a DIN Sync connection on the back of the Drumstation. Plus I got a PSU4-100 adapter and manual along with the unit. The Novation Drumstation a really neat drum sound module with lots of knobs and it’s very small for a rack. You can basically stick it anywhere and and it will not take up much space.

Here is a pretty decent video of the Novation Drumstation in action. (Triggered by a Roland TR505)