8-bit is the new cool! Weirdly, that seems to be as true today as it was back in 1984 when Korg launched their first digital drum machine, the SuperDrums DDM-110. Complete with 8-bit PCM samples, accent control, a sophisticated yet easy-to-use programming interface, and a DIN sync socket (no MIDI yet…), it was in many ways ahead of its time. The sound is far from naturalistic, but it’s got that typical 8-bit crunch and power to it that really sets a mix pumping, with the kick and snare sitting very well in all kinds of electro / house styles. The hats also tick over very nicely, with a bit of a fizz to the high-end courtesy of those crusty D-to-A converters. We’ve interpolated a medium Tom to go with the high and low ones, so you can do proper 80s-style drum solos! The key to the SuperDrums sound is the meatiness of its kit pieces. A bit of research reveals a frequency response that tops out around 7.5kHz, giving everything a super-compressed and surprisingly warm attitude with a great deal of weight. This is an ideal soundset for holding down more pumping, hi-energy styles. If you want laid-back, take a look at WurliBeat, because this certainly ain’t it!
Unfortunately for Korg, the DDM-110 came out just as the world was getting its head around MIDI, and DIN sync was starting to look a bit yesterday’s technology. This plus a supremely dodgy blue-and-orange front panel colour scheme may account for the fact that these little beasts are, despite their lo-fi old-skool cool, rare to find nowadays.
Luckily we found one and sampled the hell out of it. All the kit pieces are there, and you can use velocity either to switch between unaccented and accented variants, or engage the “accent crossfade” LED for a more seamless transition. Pan and level can be set independently for each sound, and there’s compression, saturation, drive distortion and bit depth reduction – all our usual favourites! – to spice things up. The Tone control rolls off the top end with a very gently 6dB/octave low-pass filter, just to tame some of that crunchiness if you want.
For their first foray into the world of digital drum machines, Korg did well with this one. It’s packed with character, and the technological limits of its day make it a powerful musical tool in a way the engineers back in 1984 probably didn’t anticipate. Best of all, you can now stick it in your DAW and command its chunky funky awesomeness for yourself!
Crunchy, punchy and unusual! A little plastic gem from the 80s
Retrofitted with all the controls you need to take charge of your kit pieces