It allowed you to create
and store 6 x 16-step (i.e. 4/4) patterns and 2 x 12-step (i.e.
6/8 or 3/4) patterns but the VARIATION slider allowed you to double
this. You could play Variation A or Variation B or have A run into
B for longer patterns. There was no song mode to chain patterns
- patterns had to be switched manually in real-time!
It had four sounds - kick, snare, rimshot and hi-hat.
Naturally, they were electronically generated but you can hear the
genesis of the later TR series in these sounds. The kick, snare
and rimshot were totally programmable but the hi-hat was switched
with settings of OFF, 8ths, 12ths and 16ths. There was a simple
tone control to roll-off some HF but this affected all sounds equally
so was of limited use.
Programming was strictly step-time. To write a pattern,
you first selected the pattern memory you wanted to write into then
flicked a switch to the WRITE mode. You then had to select the sound
you wanted to program from a four-way slider switch and press START
where you wanted a beat and STOP where you wanted a rest. Pressing
either advanced you to the next step. Primitive but it actually
worked very well. Of course, the thing had no dynamics - instead,
there was a fourth 'sound' channel selection - AC (accent) - where
you could program in an accent for certain beats (although this
affected all sounds falling on that beat). If only the hi-hat had
Interestingly, for such a budget unit, it had quite good
sync facilities. You could drive an analogue or digital sequencer
or arpeggiator from it and it would sync to Roland's own CSQ sequencers.
Not bad for such a budget device and I remember having great fun
driving a Wasp synth / Spider sequencer combination and Juno 6 arpeggiator
from the DR55... all in real-time... transposing the sequencer with
one hand, playing arpeggiator chords on the Juno with another and
changing patterns on the DR55 with another... ermmm... that's three
hands... I dunno... I managed it somehow!
Nowadays, it could be argued that the sounds have limited
appeal (unless you're doing early Soft Cell covers!) but they are