I haven't been very shy about my love for 1980s era Yamaha drum machines. They're not the greatest machines available from the era, but they have an uncommon sound to them, different from the Roland sounds that have become the de facto electronic music standard, and fortunately for me, they're available for next to nothing on eBay. I've been able to pick up several of them, all for under $50, and have found quite a bit of inspiration in them despite their programming quirks.
I've been on the hunt for a Yamaha RX21 to compliment my RX11, RX15 and RX17 machines, so I occasionally check out eBay auctions to see if I can find one for a reasonable price. While looking, I'll sometimes stumble across other machines that pique my interest, which is how I ended up with the exceedingly strange RX120. Recently, while once again looking for a cheap RX21 or RX21L, I found an inexpensive Yamaha Digital Drums DD-5, in its original box no less, and decided to make it mine.
The reviews I've found usually describe the DD-5 as little more than a toy, so while its actually a pretty common drum machine on eBay, I've been hesitant to invest much money in one. I'm glad I finally gave in.
The sounds? Well, like the RX machines I already own, the DD-5 has a pleasant lo-fi quality, but lacking in any low-end punch. Even the Bass Drum sample sounds a bit bright, but the Snare Drum and Hand Claps sounds are kind of fun. The RX machines seemed like they were designed to try to emulate a real drum kit, often being their most charming when they failed that goal, but the DD-5 is so prone to distortion and uses samples with such a short length that it lacks any of the analog warmth the RX machines seemed focused on achieving. Even its output jack is loud and filled with noise. Pile on even more distortion and you might have a halfway decent industrial kit.
What makes the DD-5 truly interesting, however, is not its sounds, but its capabilities. Unlike the RX120 which only had a puzzling MIDI-In, and the RX11, RX15 and RX17 machines that had both MIDI-In and MIDI-Out jacks, the DD-5 has a single MIDI-Out jack controlled by its four, velocity sensitive drum pads. You can probably see where I'm going with this. The velocity sensitivity is fairly weak, only 15 levels according to its users manual, but there is something surprisingly addictive about playing it within Reason and Record, bashing on its rubber pads with sticks and triggering whatever sounds you load into Redrum. I'll admit, I bought the DD-5 because it was a toy, something I planned to give to my son after I sampled its meager 12 sounds, but the more I played with it, the more its charms have started winning me over. With a little patience, you should be able to pick up a DD-5 for less than even a Korg NanoPad, half as much if you're careful, so if you're looking for an unconventional way to build rhythms in Reason, this Yamaha is an interesting option (assuming you already have a way to accept MIDI data into your computer setup).
Like all of the other Yamaha machines I own, thought I would share samples from it with all of you.
- Yamaha DD-5 Sample Pack ( Zip File )
In the past, I've provided Combinator backdrops for my Yamaha machines, little jpegs built from photos I've taken, but I haven't had time to build a Yamaha DD-5 Combinator yet. When I get a little free time, I'm sure I'll whip something up, maybe with an instrument combinator to go with it.