The Different Drummer Pt. 1

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The Different Drummer Pt. 1

By now most of you know that Electro-Harmonix was a big manufacturer of guitar effects, but did you know that they also produced an extensive line of electronic drums and rhythm boxes? It's true! They made quite a few devices designed to let the drummer get different sounds without the expense of a whole electronic drum set. Let's take a look at this line.

Starting in the late 70's, EH began introducing their drum machines. The first unit was the Rhythm-12 , which is an unusual box in itself. To start with, the casing is not a standard EH style. It's a flat metal box measuring 4" x 6" x 7/8". It has 3 controls with very un-EH knobs and two of them are labeled VOLUME, TEMPO, while the last is unlabeled but is used as a 12 position selector switch for rhythm patterns. Between the selector and TEMPO controls there is a small jack that is labeled TOUCH and it is used as a start/stop switch. On the left end of the unit are jacks for OUTPUT, F/S, and 18V, F/S being for the connection of a footswitch and 18V for the included 18v adapter. Perhaps the strangest feature of the unit is not really a feature at all, but a sticker. In the upper left, there is a sticker that says "Electro-Harmonix" with "Made in England" printed beneath it. What gives? To the right of the sticker is the "Rhythm-12" label. I suspect that if we were to carefully peel the EH sticker up, we would find out who made this thing. Anybody want to try this on theirs? No? OK, here we go...let me get a grip on this corner here...OK, slowly peeling it up.... WHAT?? SOUNDTECH?? All I can tell you about this is that EH bought these units from a company in England. They then put a sticker on them and sold them as actual EH products.  Other units actually had "Electro-Harmonix" printed on them.

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The sound of the Rhythm-12 is what you'd expect of a standard 70's drum machine. The rhythm is made using a bass drum, snare, and wood block. Not much excitement here. The 12 rhythms are: Tango, Waltz, Disco, Rock 1, Rock 2, Swing 1, Swing 2, Slow Rock, Latin 1, Latin 2, Latin 3, and Reggae. Hitting the start/stop switch starts the rhythm at the first beat. The instruction sheet recommends that "To further increase the range of the RHYTHM-12 try connecting to a SMALL STONE PHAZER (sic). The sound is fantastic."

With their next rhythm box effort, EH did a little better. Enter the short- lived DRM-16 "the first automatic drum kit with feeling". The DRM-16 (DRM = Digital Rhythm Matrix), EH-7450, made it's appearance about 1978-9. It was housed in the standard Memory Man style box and was AC powered. The controls consisted of VOLUME, TEMPO, DELETE, STYLE, and COLUMN. VOLUME and TEMPO are pretty much self-explanatory. DELETE allowed you to remove various sounds such as wood block and long and short cymbals. STYLE and COLUMN allowed you to select from 16 available rhythm patterns by setting them according to a chart printed on the face of the pedal. On the chart you had 4 funk patterns, 4 disco, 4 rock (hard, boogie, soft, and slow), and 4 misc. (latin, reggae, cntry (country), and shuffle. On the top edge there was the usual power switch along with two OUTPUT jacks, a BASS OUT jack, and a Space Drum switch. The Space Drum was an unusual sound that was also available in two stand-alone versions (covered in PT. 2). It was an electronic tone that decreased in pitch as it reached the end of its length. The sound was very reminiscent of the electronic drum used in the intro of The Cars' " Let The Good Times Roll".

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Shortly after the DRM-16's release, EH redesigned it and christened the new model as the DRM-15 (fig. 2) alias EH-7451. This unit had the same features as the DRM-16, with the exception of 1 less rhythm pattern (CNTRY was replaced by an OFF position)  Why the change? EH said in its introductory ad that the DRM-15's "different memory technology allows a significantly lower price while sacrificing only the Country pattern."

DRM15bass
The second version of the DRM-15 has the output jacks labeled: OUTPUT 1, CLOCK OUT, and CLOCK IN. CLOCK OUT was used to send a signal to another drum unit to activate it and CLOCK IN was used to synchronize the DRM-15 to an external source.
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Around the same time, EH also released the DRM-32 (EH-7460). This was their top of the line drum machine.  Its biggest feature was that it now had 32 rhythm patterns. The patterns were selected the same way as the 15 and 16, but each pattern on the chart was actually 2 patterns, either of which could be selected by use of a slide switch marked SELECTION which took the place of the SPACE DRUM switch. SPACE DRUM was still available, but now it was always on unless deleted by use of the DELETE control.  The outputs are a combination of the 2 versions of the DRM-15 with Output 1, Clock Out, and Bass Out.

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One of the odd things I've noticed about these units is that the DRM-15 and 16 both say "MODEL 01" while the DRM-32 says "MODEL 03". What became of "MODEL 02"?

If you needed a drum machine for some home recording, the DRM series was right up your alley. The RHYTHM-12 would do in a pinch, but it's not nearly as good as the DRMs. Around 1980, the DRM 15 and 32 sold for $189 and $269 respectively. The earlier DRM-16 also also carried a price of $269, so you can see the redesign really brought the price down. I was unable to find a list price for the RHYTHM-12.