Monday, 9 March 2015

The Boss DR-660 (Dr Rhythm drum machine)

This drum is very under rated.... and cheap too.
It hails from 1992 ... so it's over 20 years old.
Roland/Boss were by then using digitally sampled sounds.
Gone are those analogue days.

This was I feel the first digital drum where the sounds actually started to sound realistic.
Remember the DR 220 - I have both the acoustic & electronic versions.
Neither sound like the real deal. This was a weakness in 1986 but today I love their cheezyness.
The DR-660 has the same appeal.

The DR-660 has 16 velocity/aftertouch sensitive pads.....It's very easy to use.

There are 39 drum kits; 250 patterns; 100 songs.
The songs are created by combining patterns. Each kit was targeted at a particular style of music.
There are also memory spaces for the user to put together his/her own new kits.... Yes you can create your own new drum sounds.:-)
 For example, you can combine samples using the pad layer function.

There are 255 16-bit sounds. (The DR-220 was just 12-bit).
There are TR-808 and 909 samples (which in my opinion aren't spot on).
Most of the samples are however still pretty useable, with the 808 bass being fabulous. The snare is good. But the 909 kick in the 660 is pretty darn weak. You can though tweak this little puppy to create totally new sounds which is where I'm at these days.

So I wouldn't recommend the 660 if you want to emulate a 909.
On the positive side, the 660 has a built-in digital reverb, delay, chorus and flange.
The reverb & delay is pretty darn good.  The chorus and flange aren't too bad either.... a bit noisy maybe. Each of these effects are assignable per drum.

There are stereo outputs plus two individual outputs.

Though this does have its own sequencer its a bit fiddly to program. Using the RealTime Write function where you tap the rhythm in time to a metronome can be fun..... though if you make a mistake, editing is a pain in the arse. Luckily there is also MIDI in and out which make this very easy to sequence via your  DAW.

So probably the easiest way to see this is as a piece of history. ... a snap shot of the early '90s.
I generally avoid using the built in sequencer, and regard this as a tweakable bank of tones.
Its not a 909 or 808. If that's what you want, then buy a real 909 or 808. Nothing beats the real deal.
But if your looking for something different, then this could be what your looking for.

For more info on the history of Roland Drum Machines click here

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