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
Smoinync
January 7, 2012 @ 12:19 pm
Would u do the Dr 55 x 2 = DR110 review?
& let's just put every Boss' synth related item up in here too, eg; Boss PC2, HC2. Although some of items are toy-ish , somehow considered as being rare & sought after
Smoinync
January 7, 2012 @ 12:19 pm
Would u do the Dr 55 x 2 = DR110 review?
& let's just put every Boss' synth related item up in here too, eg; Boss PC2, HC2. Although some of items are toy-ish , somehow considered as being rare & sought after
Paul FitzZaland
December 30, 2011 @ 11:35 pm
This is one of my favourite drum machines... definitely underrated.

I've read several reviews bemoaning the lack of connectivity however I've never had any difficulty integrating the DR-55 into my set-up as long as it's being used as the master clock. Right now I'm using one output to trigger an SDS-8 bass/kick sound and the other to drive the arpeggiator on a Juno-6. I've also used it to trigger short sequences on an MSQ-700 and a little Bliptronic-5000 toy.

I got mine used for about $10 back in 1990 and I'd happily pay 10 times that price today.
youknowjuno
November 5, 2011 @ 4:00 pm
VSE rates it 'don't bother'?? I appreciate it's not practical to try out every piece of equipment on this site but please don't dismiss something when you've clearly not used it. It wasn't actually used on Speak & Spell. Depeche Mode used it live when they first started but the beats on that album sound more like the Korg KR55.
prophet8
November 5, 2011 @ 3:01 pm
This was used on Depeche Mode First album in 1981. It was also Vince Clarke's very first Drum Machine.
 
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VSE Rating

Humdrum

User Rating

Rated 3.4 (260 Votes)

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  • 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

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