Emulating the TR-606 (and the DR-110) on a DSI TEMPEST

The short version

If after downloading and installing this, you end up using these sounds, I would greatly appreciate a $5 donation for the work I put into engineering them. Thanks!

Inspired by complaints about Tempest analog drums & by the first AIRA teaser, I spent countless hours analyzing the sounds of the TR-606 and DR-110, then emulating them with a Dave Smith/Roger Linn Tempest. What follows is the result of a year of sound design in my studio. Check out the video below for a preview.

Click here to download the Tempest SysEx file

A list of the sounds is included in the readme.txt found in the above zip file.

If you like and use the sounds I made, consider making a donation via the Paypal button.


The long story

In 1998, I bought the schematics for the Boss DR-110 off eBay, photographed them and posted them online. I did this because I had just bought a DR-110, and while I liked the sound, there wasn't much to it, and I hoped people would take the schematics and post modifications. And as they did, I made a website to collect that information and share it too. In 2011, I finally got around to buying a decent soldering station and a bunch of pots, a MIDI to trigger converter, and had plans to frankenstein together that Boss DR-110 and a Tama Techstar drum brain. While I was building the power supply that would run the whole thing, I saw a video from NAMM 2011 with Roger Linn & Dave Smith and the prototype Tempest. I stopped work, and started saving money.

When I did eventually get a Tempest, I was both overwhelmed and disappointed. It was the most complicated device I'd ever bought, and it had so much promise, but I found the presets uninspiring, and I quickly learned that programming analog percussion is especially difficult. I spent two years half-heartedly poking at it, but in 2014, I put my nose to the grindstone. It all started because I wanted to recreate the handclap in my Boss DR-110. None of the handclaps that came with the machine were analog - they're all samples. So I started heavily researching the analog voices of my favorite drum machines, two of which I happened to own. Around this time, Roland uploaded a video about their then-upcoming AIRA line, showing them using old hardware, Visual Analyzer, and oscilloscopes to oberve the output of the TR-808. I found it inspiring, and located Visual Analyzer.

Using a DR-110, a Quicksilver TR-606, a Tempest, Visual Analyser, Sennheiser HD595s, Yamaha MSP7s, schematics for the 606, 808, 909 and DR-110, an M-Audio ProjectMix IO, and a whole lot of patience, I pieced together an analog drum kit that emulates some of the sounds Roland created with their mid-80s analog drum machines.

Over the course of time, I tried several approaches to the same sounds - sometimes I'd use a self-oscillating filter to generate sine waves, sometimes I'd use the digital sine wave oscillator. I used multiple VCAs to emulate the Roland handclap, but also made a handlcap that used a sawtooth LFO in a similar manner, freeing envelopes up for other uses. Different approaches react to modulation differently. To get the 606 snare, I would sync the Tempest to my 606 via MIDI, and run a pattern of 16th note snares at a high enough BPM that when the signals were viewed in Visual Analyzer, they were in perfect sync, making it simple to more closely match resonant frequencies and envelope shapes. But sometimes I'd match everything very well in Visual Analyzer, only to find that audibly, the 606 snare sounded a semitone higher, so I also relied on my ears to get the sound as close as possible. I included several iterations of some of the drum sounds in the kit.