Clef Products (Electronics) Limited aka Clef Electronic Music1/2-page advertisement including Clef Master Rhythm, Band-Box and Microsynth from page 15 in Electronics & Music Maker October 1982.
I got a few emails after my last few blog posts on the Sound Master Memory Rhythm SR-88 and Eletro Dynamics Corporation DM-1000 Super Drum Machine. In those blog posts, I had found a number of rhythm machines that seemed to share a common ancestor - the SR-88, the Boss DR-55, EDC SR-99, Amdek RMK-100 and, also, the Clef Master Rhythm. I also asked if anyone had more information.
One reader - "vout" - sent in a great email that included a photo of his SIX different rhythm machines -including the Clef Master Rhythm, along with a great explanation of how they were programmed. With vout's permission, I've also included the photo he sent (DROOL!):
"All these drum machines are linked by the fact that they use a simple step-time programming system that basically just uses two buttons - once you get your head round how it works it's a great way of programming beats, often with a bit of randomness thrown in. Roland developed this idea more than anyone else by using it in both the CR-78 and the CR-8000 drum machines, these are probably the most complex machines that use only this method of programming."vout also provided a lot of information on the individual machines - including ones that I hadn't even heard of like the Movement Sequence Memory Rhythm and the Kay Memory Rhythm. He concludes his descriptions with a big nod to the Clef Master Rhythm, calling it one of the best of the bunch:
"The Sound Master SR-88 is only one of many variants of the same design. The Kay Memory Rhythm is another, as is the rare Movement Sequence Memory Rhythm (Movement were a UK company better known for the large and very rare Movement Drum Computer, famously used by the Eurhythmics). It seems that an (unknown) Japanese company licenced its design to many distributors in the early 80's. The Sound Master machines, Kay and Movement machines are all variants of this design and all sound identical, though the casings and control layout were sometimes different, they all have the same circuit design inside.It was this final bit about the Clef Master Rhythm's superiority that made me dig a bit deeper in some UK magazines to see if it had done any advertising. Sure enough, I managed to find one in Electronics & Music Makers.
The Electro Dynamic Corporation EDC-99 is a very interesting variant, it is far more complex on the programming side, having a microcontroller (some sort of PROM I think) and far more extensive programming, you can actually program songs, not just patterns on it, but the sounds are identical to the SR-88.
The Boss DR-55 was Rolands own design and though it is similar (the control circuit is almost but not quite the same) the voice circuitry and sounds are very different. Because of Roland/Boss market penetration this is the machine that everyone thinks is the original that everybody else copied, but I don't think this is the case.
The Amdek machine was also designed by Roland (Amdek were a Canadian subsidiary of Roland who distributed many type of effects pedals and the Amdek drum machine, all available only in kit form). The design is not the same as the DR-55 - the voices in particular are more sophisticated, more like the TR-606 in fact.
There also exists the Sound Master Latin Percussion, a very interesting non-programmable version of the SR-88 with more voices and a 'Latin' theme. I'm still looking for one of those!
Finally, the Clef Master Rhythm was a totally independant design from a UK company who specialised in Musical Instrument kits and effects units in the 1970's. This machine is more complex than any of the others (with the possible exception of the EDC-99), with more sounds and program memories - it's actually the best machine here IMHO and arguably predates the other designs."
The ad doesn't disappoint either. It not only backs up vout's excellent comments about the machine (not that I had any doubt!), but also provides a lot more information about some of the other kits and products Clef offered lucky UK readers. Don't forget to read the fine print in the ad scan to learn more about these products!
Two really cool MATRIXSYNTH posts popped up during a Google search that provide some great historical info. The first is actually a December 2008 auction post for the Clef Microsynth, including a low res version of this ad. But, what's also cool is that in the comments section, someone who worked at Clef says that the Microsynth was the only product not designed in-house. Varifying that the Master Rhythm was designed in-house (and also backing up what vout said earlier about it being an independent design).
The second search result is an August 2008 auction post that I linked to in that earlier SR-88 blog write-up. If you didn't check it out then, check it out now. It includes some good close-up photos, a programming demo video, and some sound examples. Excellent stuff.
My quick scan through E&MM provided a bit more info. I've found out that the Clef Master Rhythm was still available until at least July 1985, as it was included in E&MM's check list series of drum machines that month:
"Clef: Master Rhythm - 129 Pounds. 13-voice analogue drum machine, 24 programmable patterns, mono output; 2 cymbals, rimshot, brushes, claves, snare, 4 toms, 2 bongos, conga, bass drum.But, unfortunately, by the January 1986 drum machine checklist installment it had stopped being included.
+ Wide range of voices for the money;
- doesn't sound as good as FR110, and isn't as easy to use
- if the voices are the ones you want, there's simply no alternative"
Thanks to vout, I think I can now stop fixating on these addictive little rhythm units.
And, if anyone has a Sound Master Latin Percussion unit he would like to give vout, contact me and I'll send on the info! :D