These days it’s easier to just load some samples into Maschine Mikro or even just drag and drop them directly into Logic. I can’t be bothered to pull out a box, plug it in, program a beat, etc. When I’m composing I’m moving fast, and I don’t have enough room to have drum machines permanently set up and plugged in. With one exception. My Korg DDD-1.
The DDD-1 was Korg’s flagship drum machine in 1986, a 12-bit digital behemoth that was meant to compete with the other big machines of the time: your DMX’s and Drumtraks and Yamahas. It had 18 drum sounds with room for expansion courtesy ROM cards, velocity sensitive pads, stereo panning, even sampling if you had the extra board. All that firepower didn’t come cheap, and it retailed for something like $1000 in 80s money ($2200 in 2017). Keep in mind though that this was considered affordable at the time. Incredible.
So with all of this amazing tech on board, why isn’t the DDD-1 as revered as the 808, 909 or Linn Drum? Well, the sounds are very 80s. And not timelessly 80s like a Linn but mired in the 80s like a Yamaha RX5. Which means it should be ripe for a synthwave comeback. But the upshot is it’s not popular so it can be had for cheap and if you like digital 80s drums you really should check it out. It’s punchy, the kick and snare have weight and heft, and the clap is incredible. OK, most people hate it because it sounds like someone crumpling up a piece of paper but that’s exactly why I love it.
Seemingly weeks after changing the battery, I was crestfallen to realize that the obnoxious, high-pitched whine that had been driving me crazy in my studio was coming from the DDD-1. At first I thought it was the power supply but after talking with a friend I realized it was probably the LCD display. It certainly looked OK, and the sound wasn’t interfering with the audio, but that keening was just too annoying. I had to do something.
The next problem was getting it aligned in the window. The new screen was too big to fit the guides and so I had to wedge it in and use just a few of the screws (lightly tightened) to hold it in place. I say hold but it was more like cajole. Convince. Plead with it to stay put. Jar the machine and it’s coming right out. But it just sits still on my desk and isn’t used in a live situation so it’s fine for now.
The DDD-1 is still going strong and sits pride of place on the studio desk, even if I don’t use it very much. I’ve since added in a DDM-110, which is even crunchier at 8 bits, and I wouldn’t mind a DDD-5 although I’m not paying more than $20 for one. Also, I’ve learned my lesson and I now have a decent pair of wire strippers. So I guess I really should change out that damaged screen in my CZ-101.