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
April 27, 2013 @ 3:07 am
@Paul Fitzzaland,
Theres a chap in Australia that will modify the DR55 for you to work with midi, contact me and I'll send you his email address.
March 13, 2013 @ 7:49 am
I just bought mine on E bay for only 81 us dlls. Old owner said was not turning on but only he missed plug in the line out cable, otherwise it wont turn on. Anyway i am very happy with this little machine. I will use it connected with my Roland JX-3P sequencer. I was wondering if i can use it with my Korg MS-20? Cheers!!!
November 23, 2012 @ 9:57 am
used by myself in this song of mines i distort the drum machine to get a heavy sound after the second verse i love the boss dr 55 it such an amazing cheap but useful drum machine perfect for electronic rock in my view
September 5, 2012 @ 4:58 pm
I had one of these in the '80's and I kept it a long time. The feature that I miss most is the rotary dial to select patterns. You could get some cool variations by twisting that over for just a fraction of a beat then back then over then back. For recording I always used to put it through a guitar amp and mic it to get some air and room sound.
May 26, 2012 @ 9:15 am
Awesome lil' drum machine. The snare has a distinct warm snap & it's super easy to program. I added a mod to the bass drum and BOOM! The mod adds tune and decay to the BD. The end result is a BD sounding alot like the 808 kick! Amazing!
I highly recommend the 55, hopefully you can grab one for less than the ebay price.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.4 (268 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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