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Aly James Lab releases "VSDSX SDSV Drums" Extended Simmons SDS-V Drum synthesizer VST emulation for Windows

Aly James Lab

Aly James Lab has released VSDSX SDSV Drums, an extended Simmons SDS-V Drum synthesizer VST emulation for Windows. It's Donationware, with a minimum donation of 15.00 €.

VSDSX SDSV Drums emulates all the character and internal circuitry of the legendary Drum Synthesizer with hexagonal shaped pads - the SDS-V Drum Brain, invented by Dave Simmons in the early 80s.

Here's what they say:

The Simmons drums were all over the place, on countless records and live shows during the 80s, used by artists and bands like Genesis, King Crimson, Jean Michel Jarre, Prince, Herbie hancock, Pink Floyd, etc. The sound was not especially realistic but it was not the goal... the goal was to be huge and versatile. The most famous drum brain called the SDS-V or SDS5 was a drum synthesizer, bringing synthesis into the drummer hands. To this day the unique sound of that machine is highly regarded and only using samples of Simmons Drums cannot reproduce the wide range of sounds this machine can deliver and especially the warm and punchy analog character. The whole circuitry stands next to the unique sample based characters of the hihat & cymbal in that unique sounding team. It can also be used for non-standard 80s drums.


VSDSX provides the closest experience to the real thing, it models accurately the analog character of the sound generation, internal circuitry, clocks and counters that read EPROM memory, feed the 8bit DAC which decodes the hihat and cymbal EPROMs data in real-time. It models the SSM2044 filters with fine tuning control over a lots of internal circuitry resistors. CV, trigger shapes and VCA response can also be tuned to produce a wide range of sounds, and punch/response, this also emulates how the module will react if triggered with pads, Simmons pads or sequencer... Separate outputs for your DAW, velocity handling, etc. One voice can load your own external EPROM data like on a real SDS1 (EPROM based) pad... This opens up onto a whole new range of sound, still being processed by the circuitry.

VSDSX uses a custom C++ core and 3rd party licensed code where nothing fancy was needed.

Runs on Windows 32/64-bit Systems and is multi-core compatible with 32-bit DAW/Host (works on x64 DAW via bridging). OS X will be available next year.

Video preview playlist

(full playlist)

SoundCloud Demos

VSDSX Features:

  1. Analog modeled oscillator: The special tone character of the drum synth is mainly caused by the raw analog waveform generation and by the circuitry itself, it generate harmonics that are normally not present in an ideal triangle waveform, VSDSX emulates that behavior and also models the analog clipping that occurs when pushed hard. You can also switch to a clean mode which will behaves like an ideal system without OPAMP bandwidth limitation (more highs). These features alone offer a great versatility for sound design.
  2. Noise generator circuitry tweaking: The sound source of the drum synth was mainly a mix between a triangle oscillator and a transistor based noise generator. The way it was initially connected could be tuned for more or less frequency content. Each voice have different configuration and VSDSX offers user control over the internal noise filtering (especially useful on the snare voice card). A lots of the circuitry parameters can also be fine tuned, CV and VCA response, Trigger types (that will mostly impact the click attack generator time), etc.
  3. SSM2044 Filters: The noise source was filtered by an SSM2044 low-pass filter chip, the filter acts on the noise and click part and behave differently depending on the voice, on bass & toms the resonance resistor was usually set to no resonance, but this can be tweaked inside the VSDSX if you want.
  4. Pitch bending & SDS7 LFO FM modulation: One of the obvious thing that must be there in a drum synthesizer is a pitch envelope to simulate the behavior of real drums. the SDSV module featured a bending down effect that can be set to more or less amount of bending. VSDSX also features a bend up option and an optional FM modulation taken from the SDS7 module.
  5. Separate outputs: The SDSV have separate outputs for every voices and so as the VSDSX. You can choose from ALL to 1 Stereo Channel or Separate Channels for each voice in your DAW.
  6. Trigger sensitivity control & velocity: The drum synth is highly sensitive to the power with which a pad or a key is hit, VSDSX gives independent access to sensitivity tuning for each voice, pitch of the tone, VCF cutoff, click trigger etc. you can also disable the volume velocity tracking and only set a pitch sensitivity which gives access to a similar feature than the "run generator" found in certain Simmons Systems.
  7. GUI & automation: The GUI features all the SDSV controls (with the same weird naming) but can also gives access to a full module display with more in depth controls, most of the parameters can be MIDI learned and controlled by an external MIDI Hardware or automation.
  8. Loading external EPROMS DATA: The VSDSX provides one voice which is EPROM based (like SDS1 or SDS7) the imported sample will benefit from the bend and noise mixing feature with that crunchy 8bit sound. load your own custom made EPROM image. EPROM format is the same as VLINN VST (Linn LM-1) for easy compatibility between software VSDSX Supports the following type and size EPROMs binaries (.bin) :
    • 2716 (2048_Bytes) 2K.
    • 2732 (4096_Bytes) 4K.
    • 2764 (8192_Bytes) 8K.
    • 27128 (16384_Bytes) 16K.
    • 27256 (32768_Bytes) 32K.

Hihat & Cymbal:

The hihat & cymbal modules were pretty rare and unique sounding, mostly they were sample based, same configuration for both cards, but in a very particular way. The metallic waveform has nothing to do with a real hihat or cymbal sound, you can hear its looping and the raw 8bit character, but: This is a CULT sound. If you play this with bending up or down while toying around with noise and filter, you get these famous cymbal sweeps. Velocity can also act on the sample rate and it sounds pretty original. Memory was expensive at that time so you cannot store a long sample and be cost effective. So Dave Simmons looped the short sound stored onto a 2732 EPROM, a trick first used by Roger Linn in the LM-1 but this time, the sample is read forward then backward. The loop plays all the time inside the SDSV's digital modules and only VCA and VCF are triggered, this configuration opens up to very long decay settings.

Find out more here: www.alyjameslab.com/alyjameslabvsdsx



Discussion: Active
Aly James
Aly James
1 July 2014 at 6:48am

I am currently writing the manual and you will get deep informations about the internal tweaking and how this can really shape your final sound...expect it in a few days, manual freely available as always :)

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