Saturday, September 22, 2012

Denon CRB 90 Rhythm Box for Hydrogen

Hi all
I finally found some time to finish my 'Denon Rhythm Box' Hydrogen drumkit

A Denon Rhythm Box ?
That's right, a Denon Rhythm Box :

Check out this video if you want to see it in action (note that this box has been modded), and I even found a blog dedicated to this device !

As you probably have noticed : the capabilities of the box and the quality of the sounds are not all that fantastic compared to what other boxes can do, but keep in mind that this box dates from ... euh ... way back !

Btw: I actually don't own the Denon box I used to record the sounds from.  A friend just kinda left it at my parents home after one of our rehersals and 'forgot' about it, but now that I have the samples I can give it back to him (he'll be really happy ;-)

Why ?
Why would I want to sample this box?  As a drumkit-creation test case, and out of nostalgia I guess !

The plan (aka 'plan A')
The plan was simple : connect the box to my sound interface, hit record on my PC, trigger the sounds of the Denon (as you can see on the pic below there are only 5 sounds), trim, normalize and save the samples, create the kit, done.
20min max.

What really happened
The first part was easy : plug in the mono output jack from the box into my Saffire, adjust the levels, hit record, press the buttons ...

Surprise 1 : even though the triggers on the box are just plain buttons and therefore not pressure sensitive, there was a distinct difference in level and sound each time I hit the button (especially for the kick).
This variation had noting to do with how (hard) I hit the button, but seemed to be random ... and also interesting enough to make this a layered instrument !

Plan B
While I was recording the sounds I decided to also record the built-in patterns (see pic below) of the box just for fun, but quickly realized that I could use the recordings to re-create the patterns in Hydrogen.

Most Hydrogen users know that you can download and install drumkits for Hydrogen via Instruments - Import Library, but what most users don't know is that you can also download patterns in the same way.  That is, you can, but currently there are no patterns available. Yet.

Surprise 2 : while I was re-creating the patterns in Hydrogen I quickly realized that the sounds the CRB uses for the built-in patterns are not the same as the sounds you can trigger manually.  There are a number of extra 'variations' on the manual sounds used for the patterns.
So it was back to the drawing board to add more samples taken from the pattern recordings :

As you can see from the image above it's the hi-hat that has most variations, but also the kick, and that brings us to the next problem.

GM midi mapping
Since I wanted the patterns to also be usable with other drumkits there was no other choice than to create a GM compliant kit.  For the hi-hat it took a bit of time to figure out what sound sounded most like a 'pedal hh' or a 'closed hh' (all a bit subjective if you're not the original creator of the sounds) but it was doable.

The kick not so ...
Surprise 3 : well, not really a surprise, but definitely a problem : Hydrogen does not support midi note 35 ('bass drum 2').  This means that there is only 1 GM-compliant place to put the kick sound under and that's Hydrogen's 'instrument position 1' (aka midi note 36).
But I have 2 kick sounds!  Now what ?
There are only 2 options : use only one of the kick sounds, or make the kit a little less GM-compliant.
Both kick sounds are really quite different, so I opted to go the non-compliant route and placed the second kick in instrument position 2.
Who cares about GM-compliance anyway?  ;-P

The result
Ok great! but how does it sound ?

Below you can find a short recording of the CRB-90 kit playing the various patterns I (re)created :

Denon CRB-90 hydrogen drumkit

The kit and the patterns will be made available directly in Hydrogen (Instruments - Import Library - Internet) ... as soon as I know that I can ...
Yes, I actually asked Denon if I can use the samples, but no answer yet and frankly, I dont think they care.
Anyway, the drumkit will be uploaded in the next couple of days so keep an eye on this blog !



  1. I just uploaded the drumkit to the Hydrogen server :-)
    To get it open Hydrogen, goto Instruments > Import library, click the 'Update list' button on the Internet tab, select the drumkit and hit 'Download and install'
    That's it!

  2. Great job, thanks for taking the extra time to layer the samples and get all the nuances. These old auto-accompaniment boxes like the Rhythm Ace and this Denon are funky and lo-fi and saturated sounding but too often the sampled versions are a disappointment. The circuitry adds movement and variation to the sound, as you noted. I can imagine that all kinds of strange things happen, the electronics probably introduce different levels of distortion and compression, etc. Your kit does a very good emulation. Thanks again.