A couple of months ago I became a little bit obsessed with drum synths – it started off after I randomly bought a TAMA Techstar TS602 drum synth and 2 drum pads off TradeMe, I posted this snapshot at the time:
I bought it on a whim but really love jamming with it, and I was also really surprised at the range of very useable sounds I could get from it – useable & interesting, boooom, sctk etc etc. But two drums does not a kit make, so I kept an eye on TradeMe for any other such elements and a while back another TS206 came up for sale, and separately a set of 3 hex shaped drum pads. Now I was starting to get somewhere! But seeing how the analog drum synth units were not really sought after (the first one didn’t sell at all & I bought it after it was relisted a couple of times) I started to wonder if there were any other analog drum synth units that might be equally as rewarding AND under appreciated… Plus I was really interested in another drum synth brain for more variety, so after spending a few hours on youtube I found what I was looking for! If the Tama TS206 units are interesting & a bit idiosyncratic, my discovery was totally anachronistic – I had never heard anything like it! Next stop eBay!!
So I found one in ‘as new’ condition bought it & waited… and waited… and waited. It was shipping from Ukraine and I started to wonder if it had been lost amongst the turmoil that country is going through, but just as I was starting to give up hope, my patience was rewarded:
Fantastic! Old school shipping, in a sack, with a lead seal no less!!
Huzzah! Behold my new/old FORMANTA UDS VINTAGE ANALOG SOVIET USSR 7-CHANNEL DRUM MACHINE SYNTHESIZER!
I haven’t fired it up yet but lucky for me it is 240V, all I need to do is swap the plug to the local variety & look out!
So what was it that made me take a punt on such an obscure device? Well, while everyone else seems to be pursuing new boxes from either Roland or Elektron, I watched this video & I was sold on it surpassing either of those options when focused primarily on the idiosyncratic quirk factor!
Now I know people who own Elektron boxes etc will say ‘oh of course my ABCDEF box could do all that’ but heres the thing: ‘could’ vs ‘would’ – lets face it, in this day & age, anything ‘could’ do anything. Any number of plugins ‘could’ do a version of what the Formata does, but there is a world of difference between the possibility of something & the reality. Listen to that video, it sounds completely bonkers at times! And its bonkers I can plug my drum pads into & ah… go even more bonkers!
See heres the setup – still in pieces, but pending some free time & finding a drum rack to mount it all on, look out!
So I have four channels of the Tama Techstar TS206 drum synths, seven channels of the Formanta drum synths, the HumDrum, a Boss Dr PAD DRPIII, an Amdeck PCK-100, 5 drum pads (+ 2 more on the way), some drum sticks & the motivation to combine it all into one fiendishly mutant franken kit!!
I didn’t make the connection at the time, but Formanta are the same Soviet analog synth company who made the Polivoks synth, which I own the r1982 VCF filter module cloned by Harvestman (he has also created eurorack versions of the Polivoks VCOs and the Modulation generators)
But researching a bit more about Formanta, I would love to have bought the pads that they make, but also check out the guitar/keytar for playing drums!
More info on Russian Synths at RussKeys site