Simmons SDS-3

The Simmons SDS-3 (1978) was the first Drum Synthesizer to be commercially released that was designed by Dave Simmons. This is significant because Dave later went on to form Simmons Electronics Ltd, which produced some of the most iconic electronic drum kits of the 1980s with their distinctive hexagonal pads.

Before any of that, Dave was working for a company called Musicaid in St Albans in the South East of England. I'm still trying to clarify whether Dave owned that company or was an employee because I've read contrary statements, but either way, it was during that time that the SDS-3 was born.

Experimenting with an ARP 2600, Dave figured out what modules and functions would be necessary to make a dedicated drum synthesizer. This was a market in its infancy with only the Pollard "Syndrum" and Star Instruments "Synare" available at that time.

The result was a four channel analogue drum synthesizer with an additional "special effects" channel that could be triggered via a custom set of Pearl drum pads or by any incoming audio signal.

Here's my mini documentary and demonstration of the SDS-3 as well as another performance video where I use the SDS-3 in a musical context.

The four drum channels contain the following functions:

Mic Sensitivity (min to max)

Mic On / Off switch

Pitch (Low to High)

Noise / Tone Mix

Effects Range (Off to Max)

LFO Modulation On / Off

Run Modulation On / Off

Impact Click (Min to Max)

Decay Time (Short to Long)

Bend Level (Off to Max)

Bend Up / Down Switch

Channel Level Slider

The "Special Effects" channel contains the following functions:

Overall Pitch (Low to High)

Overall Output Level

LFO Speed

LFO Range Switch (Slow / Fast)

LFO Shape (Sine / Square)

LFO On / Off

Run Time (Short to Long)

Run On / Off

On the rear of the instrument there are the following connections:

Mains On

Mains In

Drum Pads Din Socket

Mix Output Jack

Drum Mic Inputs (Per Channel)

Drum Mic Outputs (Per Channel)

Channel Outputs (Per Channel)

Pitch Pedal Input Jack

Decay Kill Input Jack

Mic Inputs On / Off Input Jack

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© 2019 by ALEX BALL MUSIC