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
Paul FitzZaland
May 13, 2012 @ 11:57 pm
I've had my DR-55 since 1990 and it's still a prized possession. I even use it occasionally!
I usually have it providing drum sounds and running an arpeggiator sequence on my Juno-6 while I noodle around on another keyboard. I also remember syncing it to a Korg KPR-77 at one time.

I'd love to get a sync-to-MIDI converter so I could use it as the master clock some time. I've also always wanted to get a CSQ-100 or 600 sequencer but the present prices are ridiculous. My MSQ-700 cost $75 in 1989 but a CSQ today is up around $800!!! Sheesh.
April 26, 2012 @ 2:52 pm
I wouldn't say it is a stripped down TR808 at all , but I will say it is a stripped down Cr78, because that's exactly what it was released as. It precedes the 808 by about 3 or 4 years.
I had one in the 80's and sold it in the 90's. If you want to know what it sounds like listen to early New Order ( movement album) and you will hear it spitting out its bum ( not BOOM) tiss - bum-tiss on a few tracks. I can't believe the prices I have seen this on sale for on Evil-bay recently........ Just waiting for the time the eBay value for game changing kit like the old akai s1100's etc is 'realised'.
January 19, 2012 @ 3:03 pm
January 18, 2012 @ 5:41 am
Also, you can pull out the AA battery bay and get away with using one 9v battery to power the thing.
January 18, 2012 @ 5:37 am
This is basically a scaled down 808 as far as the sounds go. The specs on here are wrong, rather it has 12 16 step patterns ("variation" A and B) or 6 32 step patterns along with 4 12 step patterns or 2 24 step patterns. Despite the half assed review of this site, I think this thing is awesome and well worth more then the price VSE says it is. This plus an effects pedal equals an invaluable tool to your setup.
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Rated 3.4 (267 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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
  • Images from

    Reviewed August 2008.

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