BOSS DR-55 Dr. Rhythm

BOSS DR-55 Image

The DR-55 Dr. Rhythm was released in 1980 and was one of the first step-write-style drum machines, and it was the first rhythm machine in BOSS' successful Dr. Rhythm Series. It was small, inexpensive and easy to use - perfect for musicians at any level. Incredibly basic controls and sounds made this drum machine an instant hit among guitarists and other musicians looking for drum accompaniment to practice along with and even record into their home recordings.

The DR-55 could store up to six 16-step drum patterns plus an additional two 12-step patterns. The 12-step patterns allowed for 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms. A variation switch allowed you to, on-the-fly, alter the pattern playing. There were only four sounds in the DR-55 which included Snare Drum, Kick Drum, Rim Shot and Hi-Hat. The sounds are comparable to Roland's CR-series of rhythm machines as well as some of Roland's cheaper TR-machines (like the TR-505, TR-606). You can globally adjust the Volume, Tempo, Tone and Accent for the drum sounds.

Step-Mode programming was accomplished in a fairly basic manner: Switch the DR-55 into Write Mode and select a sound from the Sound switch, and use the Start button to place the sound and the Stop button to step through the 16 (or 12) beat pattern. Only Kick, Snare, Rim Shot and Accent could be placed in a pattern in step mode--the Hi-Hats could only be programmed as either Off, 8ths, 12ths or 16ths via the Hi-Hat switch. Primitive programming for sure, but very simple and effective.

Today, where its sounds can easily be sampled, the DR-55 may seem pretty useless. However it does have an authentic sense of nostalgia being BOSS' first DR-machine and also quite a successful early programmable drum machine. You may not find a need for such an instrument today although it does make a great conversation piece! It has been used by New Order, The Cure, Chris Carter, Sisters of Mercy, Chris & Cosey, Xeno & Oaklander, Soft Cell and Thomas Dolby.

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41 Visitor comments
Anvard Davissen
June 4, 2009 @ 8:40 pm
Only one star from the VSE? This created the jackhammer beat for 'Blue Monday'!! H-How dare they!
April 30, 2009 @ 7:03 am
yep, this was the very first "Dr. Avalanche" Sisters of Mercy used on their first record
March 5, 2009 @ 6:32 am
Here's a little tip: remove the plastic harness that contains the AA batteries and plug a 9 volt battery in. Dunno how it does it but it trashes the sounds right up and makes the snare sound like a 909!!
DenDer Acid Cult Records
January 19, 2009 @ 9:46 am
I qoute: Today the DR-55 may seem pretty useless. Useless??? Well think again. I've taken this little boombox to the next level.
My DenDer55 is now equipt with midi sync in and out and has 10 additional pots on it which control:
BD Decay and Pitch, SD Pitch, RS Pitch and Resonance, HH Pitch, Decay and Volume, Full Accent and Noise control.
Further more there are trigger inputs for all the sounds incuding the HH. So now this nice HH is also programmable.
Also has separate outs for BD and RS still working on the SD and HH which have a noise circuit mixed in them.
For pictures take a look at my page and for audio goto my myspace page for the song "Woofertesting" which is a BD work out of the DenDer55.
You can find a link to that on my homepage Acid Cult.
November 23, 2008 @ 5:30 am
I've still got my DR55, having bought it when they first came out. Whilst it doesn't get a great deal of use, I sometimes use it when I want to try some different rhythms - it is really quick to program. I can test things out and if they are worth working up, I then program into my DAW. I have tried an emulation and it did replicate the sounds of the DR55 pretty closely.
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User Rating

Rated 3.4 (267 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 4 voices
  • Oscillators - 4 sounds (Kick, Snare, Rim, Hat)
  • Sampler - None
  • Sequencer - 16 step sequencer
  • Effects - None
  • Memory - 8 patterns (six 16-step; two 12-step). No Song mode.
  • Keyboard - None
  • Control - CSQ sync
  • Date Produced - 1980
  • Resources & Credits
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    Reviewed August 2008.

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