Monday, August 29, 2011

Sound Master Memory Rhythm SR-88, Keyboard 1982



Sound Master Memory Rhythm SR-88 drum machine 1-page advertisement from page 67 in Keyboard Magazine August 1982.

Hmmm. Not sure how I feel about this ad. There just seems to be a lot going on.

For example, am I supposed to know who "The Rhythm Section" is? The fact that they include themselves in an already long ad title suggests they must be some kind of a big deal. And then you find their name again in the bottom left-hand corner:
"The SR-88. Another innovative product from The Rhythm Section by Sound Master Distributed exclusively by JTG of Nashville."
So, let me get this straight. JTG of Nashville is the distributor of the SR-88 which was created by The Rhythm Section which is somehow owned or operated by Sound Master.

That is waaaaay to much information. Sounds like something political is going on there, and readers unfortunately get stuck in the middle of it.

There also seems to be a lot of ad-copy which actually doesn't give me much information. Reason #4 gives readers the most info including instant stop/start, variable tone and output switches, and a write/play mode indicator. The most I glean out of the four other reasons put together is: 16 rhythms, clock pulse and a price of under $200.

The actual specs that are probably most important to potential buyers are inexplicably shoved into the bottom right-hand corner.

Luckily for me, there are a few resources on the Web with more information about this beast. Unluckily for blog readers, as soon as I started looking for more info, I got swept up in a certain SR-88/Boss DR-55 controversy.

Comparing the SR-88 and Boss DR-55

One of the first Web sites I hit while looking for info on the SR-88 was Dubsounds.com. The site includes a great little write-up on the SR-88, but, more interesting was finding out about a little controversy about whether the SR-88 or the very similar Boss DR-55 came out first.

The two do seem mighty similar in functionality. For comparison purposes, I did a quick search on MATRIXSYNTH to find more photos. . A great photo of a gray SR-88 can be found in this December 2005 SR-88 MATRIXSYNTH auction post and the less common, but definitely more cool, blue SR-88 can be seen in this January 2011 MATRIXSYNTH auction post.

Comparing the two to the Amdek RMK-100

Interestingly, it's not just these two machines that look and function similarly. In this May 2009 MATRIXSYNTH SR-88 auction post commenter "PAC" notices:
"Interesting. I have an Amdek RMK-100 (sold as kit), very similar!"
Never heard of it, so I Googled "Amdek RMK-100" to see just how similar it was to both the DR-55 and the SR-88. Turns out (according to the Internet) that Amdek products were made by Boss/Roland back in 80s, and, not only that, but that the RMK-100 is actually the kit version of the Boss DR-55. Makes sense on why it would also be similar to the SR-88.

I found an ebay auction for an Amdek RMK-100 going on right now with a great photo of the front panel (see below), and indeed it does share a lot with the DR-55 and SR-88 - but definitely not identical to either one.



For example, it looks like the Amdek and SR-88 share a similar filler function that as far as I can tell is not available on the DR-55. And the DR-55 and the RMK-100 share a similar accent function that I don't see on the SR-88.

Now where does the Electro Dynamics Corporation Programmable Rhythm SR-99 fit in?

I also came across another machine with similar features - the Programmable Rhythm SR-99. No - not manufactured by Sound Master, but by Electro Dynamics Corporation. And, it too resembles the others in functionality, and especially the SR-88 in design also.

I've included a row of photos below to help make the comparison between the two. The SR-88 photo is from the 2005 MATRIXSYNTH auction post and the EDC SR-99 photo is from the excellent BigBlueWave.co.uk site. I've also thrown in a photo from another recent E-bay listing that included both - plus boxes and manuals! Sick!


Obviously, Sound Master and EDC are somehow connected, although I can't find any info on the Internet concerning these two companies. I do know that they were both advertising separately in Keyboard Magazine in late 1983, making it unlikely that one of the companies changed their name to the other. Anyone know anything?

And then there is the Clef Master Rhythm...

Now, I'm going to throw in a late entry. It's Sunday night, and I just came across this August 2010 MATRIXSYNTH auction post for the Clef Master Rhythm. It not only shares part of the name of one of the other units ("Master"), it too has many features of the other rhythm machines, and identical innards as the DR-55, but is expanded to include even more sounds:
"This is essentially a fully expanded Boss DR-55 feature-wise and tone-wise. The circuits are identical (schematically and tonally) to the Boss DR-55, but the Clef Master Rhythm gives you way more instruments than the Boss DR-55..."
Interestingly, according to the post, it pre-dates the Boss DR-55 - and also came in a kit form like the Amdek.
"The Clef Master Rhythm came out a little before the Boss DR-55 in late 1979/early 1980. It was sold in two versions and available in greater quantities in Europe than in the United States. One version was a kit that the user put together and another one was a prebuilt machine."
A photo from the MATRIXSYNTH post really helps show the similarities in functions with the others:



What does it all mean?

So, looking at all five machines, its almost like there was a rhythm machine salad bar of some sort in Japan, and each company stepped up to it and picked out which features they wanted to include in their product.

And that begs the question - since we know there was a kit form available and there are claims that the Clef Master even has the same circuits as the DR-55, could all five products (and probably others) have used the exact same internal parts - each company choosing which features to include and then customizing in their respective rhythm machine? And if so, were those parts supplied by Amdek, or did all five get their internal parts from some other manufacturer?

And if that is the case, then the question of whether the SR-88 or DR-55 came first doesn't really matter much, since it is likely that the kit components would have been available first. Plus, we have that one auction post with the claim that the Clef Master came out before the DR-55 - making it all even more confusing to figure out.

Or, am I totally off the mark on all this? Were they all created separately? Maybe I've just been fixated on this a little too much...

I'll keep on looking for more info on these companies and any connection they might have, but if anyone want to buy all four and open them up to take a look - it would be muchly appreciated. :D

2 comments:

Simon said...

Here's a funny thing - I seem to remember Clef in the early 1980s as a British company that made electronic pianos (touch-sensitive ones!) in kit form. Deep in the back of my mind I recall seeing them at a music fair in London with a couple of their pianos and some drum machines including a prototype drum/bass/chord sequencer called something like a "Band-Box". But it WAS a long time ago.

Simon said...

Looks like (for once) my memory didn't fail me. Here is a 1982 ad for Clef Electronics showing all the products I mentioned, plus a natty-looking little monosynth! BTW, I owned an EDC SR99 drum machine in the mid-1980s, but replaced it with a Yamaha RX-21 a couple of years later.

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