Roland TR-606 Drumatix

I loved my TR-606.  For the short time I had it, at least.  I bought it for £30 from a junk shop in Margate in 1988.  I’d used most of Roland’s equipment up to this point, but this was the first piece of their kit I owned.  It was in remarkable condition, too.  Roland churned them out between 1981 and 1984.  It was designed primarily to be used with the TB-303 Bassline, giving a guitarist, say, an automatic drum and bass line.  Guitarists hated it, however, because the drum sounds were too tinny and unusable.  Having said that, Roland shifted about 30,000 of the little silver boxes.  Everybody who was anybody picked them up for next to nothing in the mid-80s, because by this time the guitarists wanted rid for something with more balls, so every closet bedroom musician had a 606.  Mine had individual outputs for each sound – I do believe the first models didn’t.  Either that or someone had doctored mine before I bought it.

The 606 ran off 4 C-cells or a 9v adaptor.  The original manual says the unit weighed 3.7kg, which is complete rubbish.  It probably weighed no more than a couple of video cassettes.  3.7lb might be more like it.

Onboard sounds included bass, snare, low tom, high tom, cymbal, open hihat, closed hihat.  An accent could be applied to a whole step, but not an individual sound.  In a case that measured only 300(W) x 146(D) x 55(H) mm, there were plenty of connectors.  As well as the individual outs, there was a main mix output, headphone out, dinsync in/output and a run/stop input.

It had a 32-pattern memory, 1-16 steps/pattern and 8 tracks (7 of 64 patterns, 1 of 256 patterns).  They were originally shipped with a soft case and something called a PJ-1 cable, which presumably was to connect it to a TB-303.  I had neither of these things, nor a manual.

The 606 had more buttons and knobs than I-don’t-know-what.

  1. Power Switch / Volume Control
  2. Mode Selector
  3. Track / Instrument Selector
  4. Tempo Dial
  5. Instrument Mix Controls (6 of them)
  6. Clear / Reset Button
  7. Battery Check / Run Indicator (an LED)
  8. Run / Stop Button
  9. Scale Selector
  10. Function Button
  11. Selector Switches (16 buttons along the bottom of the front panel)
  12. Indicators (16 LEDs above those buttons)
  13. Tap Button
  14. Pattern Group Button
  15. Pattern Group Inducator (another LED).

I still keep my eyes out for objects such as this whenever I visit boot fairs and markets and things.  Prices (like everything else of its ilk) have gone supernova, but to people like me it’s something definitely worth having.

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