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Simmons is Founded by Dave Simmons

SDS3 flyer

While working for the company Musicaid in St. Albans, England, Dave Simmons developed a device with similar capabilities to other single-pad analog drum synthesizers, which he called the SDS3. The SDS3 featured four drum channels and a noise generator, and it was soon followed by a functionally similar two-channel version, which was named the SDS4. The drum pads were round at this stage, with wooden frames and real 8-inch drum heads.


The first recordings on the SDS5 were made

Simmons SDS5

With its new hexagonal look, the first recordings on the SDS5 were made by Richard James Burgess on Landscape’s “From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars”, “Chant No. 1” by Spandau Ballet and “Angel Face” by Shock. These were all recorded by Burgess before the SDS5 was introduced commercially.


The SDS5 was released commercially

Simmons SDSV

The SDS5 (also known as the SDSV) was released commercially. The SDS5 was the world’s first fully electronic drum set, and it featured the famous hexagonal pads. It became an instant hit, with Simmons endorsing several drummers, and the distinctive pad shape soon became an icon of the 1980s.

Introducing The SDS6 Drum Sequencer

Simmons SDSV Ad

Also available this year was the SDS6 drum sequencer, which was used to great effect by artists such as Howard Jones. The SDS6 was a computer sequencer designed specifically to trigger existing Simmons modules.


Digital Sampling Sounds on EPROM for the First Time

Simmons SDS7

Following the success of the SDS5, Simmons expanded their range to the SDS7. The SDS7 was another modular rack-based brain which featured digital sampling sounds on EPROM for the first time, expandable up to twelve modules, and redesigned pads, featuring a skin of rubber to make playing a little easier.

A Simmons Kit For Entry Level Drummers

Simmons SDS8

Simmons also produced the cheaper analog-only SDS8 in 1983, featuring a single, non-expandable desktop-style brain with one unalterable factory preset and one custom user preset for each channel. The SDS8 kit was supplied with four tom pads and a bass pad, using similar hardware to the earlier SDS-V, but in a more budget style.


Simmons Expands with Smaller Kits and Pads

Simmons SDS800

Simmons began to expand their product line with smaller kits and pads, including the SDS1 (a single pad with a built-in EPROM reader for playing a single drum sound sample), and the all-analog SDS200 (2 tom system), SDS400 (4 tom system), and SDS800 (bass, snare, and 2 tom system). These products were aimed at acoustic drummers who wanted to add a couple of Simmons pads to their kit on a budget.


The First Kit with a Built-In MIDI Interface

Simmons SDS9

Simmons introduced the SDS9, a hybrid digital/analog brain with three changeable EPROM channels (kick, snare and rim) and analog-synthesized toms. It combined realistic sounds in an inexpensive, compact brain and was the first drum kit that had a built-in MIDI interface.


Providing More Power, Versatility and Control

Simmons SDS1000

Another brain was introduced in 1986 called the SDS1000, which was, in effect, the same sounds as the SDS9 (without the ability to change the EPROMS) in a slim 1U, MIDI-enabled, rack mountable unit. The snare sounds, however, were more realistic and clear than the SDS9. The SDS1000 also included a “second skin” feature, which simulated the sound of dual-headed drums.

The MTM and SDE Break New Ground

Simmons MTM SDE

1986 also saw the introduction of the Simmons MTM, which was an 8-channel interface unit that basically converted audio signals into MIDI data and MIDI into trigger outputs. It gave users the opportunity to generate control triggers from any audio source, be it live or off-tape, and apply those to MIDI synthesizers and sampling units. The MTM was followed in 1987 by the SDE, which was a six-channel, MIDI-controlled percussion synthesizer, capable of generating a huge variety of “tuned percussion” voices which could then be triggered from the pads of a MIDI-equipped kit (such as the SDS9) or through a trigger-to-MIDI converter (such as the Simmons TMI and MTM). The SDE extended the range of an electronic kit, allowing the drummer to create melody lines as well as rhythm on the drums.


Entering The High-End Pro Market With The SDX

Simmons SDX Bill Bruford

In 1987, Simmons decided to enter into the high-end professional market and created the revolutionary SDX. The SDX introduced new features that were unheard of in other electronic drums, such as “zone intelligence” and “pad layering”, and it also included a built-in sampler.


The Silicon Mallet Creates Positive Vibes

Simmons Silicon Mallet

In 1988, Simmons released a MIDI tuned percussion instrument called the Silicon Mallet. The Silicon Mallet consisted of a three-octave set of velocity-sensitive pads laid out in the same way as bars on a vibraphone, and designed to be used with either sticks or mallets. Attached to the pad surface was the Voice Module (brain), containing the sound generation system and the trigger-to-MIDI converter.


New Drum Triggering and MIDI Control Options

Simmons Trixer

As Simmons shifted focus from drum synthesis to drum triggering and MIDI control, products such as the Trixer were launched. The Trixer was used as a drum brain, to trigger any of 4 on-board kits electronically, via MIDI or via audio trigger. It was also used as a drum mixer, to mix an acoustic kit with the on-board electronic samples.


Continuing to Innovate with the ADT

Simmons ADT

The Trixer was followed by the ADT (acoustic drum trigger). The ADT was able to convert any kind of signal such as drum mic, line signal or ordinary trigger pulses into clean midi signals without cross talk.

Opening The MIDI Door To Acoustic Drummers

Simmons Drum Huggers

Drum Huggers were small clip-on acoustic drum pads with integrated trigger to midi conversion that were mounted on the rims of acoustic drums. With the Drum Huggers, you could adjust midi channel and midi note and the sensitivity for each pad.


The Next Evolution in Electronic Drums

Simmons SD7PK Ad

The Simmons name was acquired by Guitar Center in 2006, which led to a new selection of Simmons electronic drum kits hitting the market over the next few years. These included the SD5K, SD7K, SD7PK and SD9K.


Further Advances In Technology

Simmons SD1000KIT Ad

Simmons’ innovation with best-in-class sounds and even more advanced feature sets continued as new kits including the SD1000KIT were introduced. Cutting-edge V.A.R. technology combining more internal memory, custom hi-res sounds, intelligent sample triggering and multi-position hi-hat control for increased natural dynamics. Simmons also launched electronic drum monitors such as the DA50 and DA200S.


New Sounds In The Latest Breakthrough Model

Simmons SD1500 Ad

The SD1500KIT continued Simmons’ innovation and became the latest breakthrough model featuring new sounds in an expansive, hi-res sample bank, and an amazingly robust hex rack.


The Shape Of Things To Drum

Simmons SD2000 Ad

With Dave Simmons back in the fold, Simmons brought back the iconic hexagonal look with the SD2000 Mesh Head Electronic Drum Kit. Featuring tension-able mesh pads with variable attack response technology for expressive performance and nuanced playability, the SD2000 provides unprecedented creative control far beyond what traditional acoustic and electronic kits can offer. And the Simmons Signature Sound Library features sought-after acoustic drums, world percussion, and vintage Simmons sounds taken directly from Dave Simmons’ personal library.