Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-110 drum machine "Lousy guitar playing" full page colour advertisement from page 7 in the December 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.
Wow, if my blog labels are any indication, this is my first ever Boss post. It's even more of a wonder this ad hasn't been posted yet since I have such an infatuation with vintage (and not so vintage) drum machines. My drum machine shelf is overflowing but the collection just keeps growing. Its a good thing that many of these 80s drum machines are so small. :)
I distinctly recall this ad from 1983 - that's gotta say something. Maybe I identified with the teen struggling as a bedroom musician. Or maybe I was already infatuated with drum machines. Or maybe it was the comic-style artwork used to market to its target audience with pin-point accuracy. Probably a bit of all three. And those are the exact same reasons I like this ad today. Especially the artwork (see the blog's "artwork" label for other ads based around artwork).
The DR-110 seems to be at or near the beginning of what I call the third "wave" of compact drum machines. I don't know if you can actually call it "waves", but my mind always wants to categorize everything. In my head, the initial wave included first gen machines like the Ace Tone FR7L or Roland TR-33/55/77 series. Then the second wave included more compact machines like the Boss DR-55, Korg KR-55 (1981), Sound Master SR-8 (1982) and Clef Master Rhythm (1982). And the third wave included drum machines like the Roland TR-606 (1982) or Korg KPR-77 (1983).
Well then, you may ask, where does the LinnDrum fit in? Or the Roland TR-808?
That's the thing - they don't fit into those waves. To me it seems like after that first wave or so, drum machines split off into two streams. The first stream consisting of lower-priced drum machines like those above. The second stream consisting of higher-priced professional drum machines like the Linn LM-1 (1980) and the Linn Drum, as well as the Roland TR-808 (1981), and Oberheim DMX (1981). And then later drum machines like the Sequential DrumTraks (1984). But as higher-end technology such as sample memory got cheaper, the two streams merged again later in the 80s to bring us drum machines like the Korg DDD-1 (1986), Roland TR-505 (1986) and Kawai R-100 (1986).
Now, like I said - this is how my mind categorizes them - and not necessarily how they should be categorized. Don't email me angry letters. :)
So, like I said, I kinda fit that DR-110 into that third wave of cheaper drum machines that weren't necessarily made for professional use. You only have to look at this DR-110 ad to know Boss was also thinking along these lines. The whole theme of the ad is NOT one of a professional musician in a studio, recording a hit record. Nope. It's one of a father telling his "98 pound [bedroom] musician" that his rhythm sucks donkey balls. And although the ad-copy does describe the sounds of the DR-110 as "studio quality", even Boss doesn't go as far as saying it could be used on professional records.
"Whether it's a bedroom jam, or a drum sketch for the studio..."Luckily, myself and many others didn't listen to the ad and didn't stop at just using it to form drum sketches.
My DR-110 gets used regularly, either sampled clean or pumped through my modular, or my ever-growing Boss half-rack effects tower (see right with my 303). I bet they could make those effects racks even smaller now - maybe 1/3 or 1/4 racks with itty-bitty knobs. How adorable would *that* be attached to a Monotron.
I really enjoy the sound of the DR-110 and often when I'm asked about it, I compare it favorably to the TR-606. And it looks like I'm not the only one that makes this comparison. Through Vintage Synth Explorer's DR-110 page, I came across a nice short video by AnalogAudio - a lovely way to end this blog post:
End note: You can also listen to my 303 being pumped through that Boss micro-effects rack tower on the Retro Synth Ads SoundCloud page. Scroll to the bottom and look for "Short bit" and "Boring stuff" (which includes a few notes so you can tell when each effect is applied).