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Modifications for the TR-606

Extra memory, Dynamic Bank Switching, lithium battery, individual outputs, audio in to the cymbal and hi-hat circuits, accent button, snare sound modifications, noise level control, switch replacement and new LEDs. 

Also, the Quicksilver 606 CPU replacement system from socialentropy.com, which provides MIDI
In and Out via conventional 5 pin DIN connectors and via an electrically isolated USB socket.

© Robin Whittle, Real World Interfaces rw@firstpr.com.au  26 June 2014

prices-au/ Prices for Australian customers.
prices-int/ Prices for customers outside Australia.

To the Devil Fish page for TB-303 modifications.
To the TR-808 modification page: ../tr-808/ .

To the page for 32 Megabyte memory boards for Akai samplers:../smem/  .

To the Real World Interfaces page.  To to the main First Principles  site.

Roland TR-606 drum machine with Real World Interfaces modifications


 

Contents

>>>  General Repairs
>>>  Switch Replacement
>>>  LEDs of various colours
>>>  32 Banks of Memory and Lithium battery
>>>  Accent Button (*)
>>>  Individual Outputs (*)
>>>  Cymbal & Hi-Hat Audio Input (*)
>>>  Snare Modifications: Fixed or Switched (*)
>>>  Noise Source Level Control (*)
>>>  Quicksilver 606 MIDI In, MIDI Out and more . . .
>>>  Other Mods
>>>  DIY

(*) These should be possible with the forthcoming TT-606 Drum Drone from Cyclone Analogic.

General Repairs

Whenever I work on a TR-606, I clean the the case, buttons and knobs, test the machine and do any necessary repairs. 

For instance, it is usually necessary to resolder the Sync socket, the audio sockets and the white semi-flexible cables which join the front panel board to the main board.  There may also be other problems to fix, such as a burnt-out power transistor in the power supply, corrosion from leaky batteries, and either fixing or replacing the battery contacts.

The Volume pot is typically noisy.  Whether or not it is noisy, I dismantle and clean it with isopropyl alcohol.  This should keep it noise free for quite a few years.

I install two modifications to reduce noise:
Of course, if the volume is turned up high enough, there will still be background noise - but these mods greatly reduce two annoying noises which are part of the standard design.

In some cases with the TB-303, the pins of memory chips corrode due to the acidic or alkaline atmosphere inside the unit and the backup voltage which is on these pins.  This causes erratic memory problems.  If the 32 Bank Memory system is to be installed, these old memory chips will be removed, so any such pin corrosion is nothing to worry about.  If not, I replace the memory chips.

Corrosion can be a problem in TR-606s due to liquid leakage from the C-cell batteries, due to them producing a corrosive vapour and/or due to some kind of inherent corrosiveness in the PCB material which is only important for the pins of the memory chips which are held at ~6V.  I can generally clean up this corrosion, unless it is really extensive.

This testing, simple repairs, the two noise reduction mods, the cleaning of the case, knobs and buttons and the cleaning of the Volume pot, costs AUD$88 inc GST for Australian customers or AUD$83 via PayPal for customers oversees.  Please see the Prices pages linked to from the top of this page.  Other more extensive repairs such as extensive corrosion, fixing any non-obvious fault, repairing cracked PCBs is not covered by this basic charge.

Switch Replacement

The pushbutton (tactile) switches of the TR-606 are open to dust.  With months and years of use, the dust compacts in the contact area, leading to erratic behaviour.   I replace the original ALPS switches with a functionally similar tact switch, made by Omron.  The Omron switches are sealed against dust and liquids.  I expect they will last for decades.

The switches should always be replaced, even if fresh switches have just been installed
unless they are these sealed Omron switches, or the sealed ALPS switches.  Ordinary unsealed ALPS switches will not last very long.  I don't install the sealed ALPS switches because I do not like their feel.  See: ../dfish/tact-switches/ .


Red, Orange,Yellow, Green, Blue and now White LEDs

Please see the discussion of these LEDs on the Devil Fish page:   ../dfish/#LEDs .  I suggest Blue LEDs for all but the Run/Stop switch, which can be a new Red LED.

Roland TR-606 drum machine with Real World Interfaces modifications

We can install LEDs in any colour combination, except that if White LEDs are chosen, these generally should be installed in all 16 pattern positions, rather than just some of them.  These 16 are all part of a scanning matrix, and the White LEDs are much brighter for a given current than LEDs of the other colours.  We alter the resistors for the scanning matrix when we install White LEDs there.  So it is possible to have all White LEDs, or a White LED in any position in combination with other colour LEDs, but if you want one or more White LEDs in one of the main set of 16 switches, but not in all of these, then there will be some extra work involved.

32 Banks of Memory and Lithium battery

This is functionally identical to the 32 bank system described for the Devil Fish here.  

Neither the 32 Bank Memory system or the just-mentioned dynamic switching system can be used with the Quicksilver 606 mod, as discussed below: #qs-606.

Picture of the five toggleswitches and one pushbutton which control the memory bank selection.

This memory system enables you to play beats from the same pattern number (1 to 16, A or B) in other memory banks while the pattern is running.  This can be done by flicking the toggle-switches or pressing the pushbutton, and it can be done for one or more beats at a time, in the middle of patterns. 

The result is a style of improvisatory live performance which involves dropping in beats in an intuitive manner and potentially dramatic.

There are 32 combinations of positions of the 5 toggle-switches.  The pushbutton switch reverses the function of the lower toggleswitch.  If the internal sequencer is playing a given pattern, such as 1A, then by moving the toggle-switches you can select pattern 1A in any of the 32 banks.  Since the sequencer reads from memory for each beat it plays, on the  beat immediately following the change of switch positions, the sequence will read the drum and accent information from the memory pattern 1A in the newly selected memory bank.  So it will play these notes from the newly selected pattern a fraction of a second after the switches have been set to the new combination.  Of course when you leave the switches in a given combination, the sequencer keeps playing its patterns from that bank.

In principle, you can play from Track mode when changing banks, but this is likely to confuse the sequencer unless you very carefully organise the Tracks in all the banks you are selecting.

This system also multiplies the total amount of pattern and track memory by 32.

Please read the above-mentioned Devil Fish memory page.  The simplest way of understanding this system is that the CPU in the TR-606 accesses one "bank" of memory which is the total battery backed-up memory of the machine.  The CPU accesses this "bank", but in reality there are 32 such banks, and you control which one is currently being read and written.  A good analogy is that the drum machine has 32 heads, only one of which is active at a time.

It is best to install a Lithium battery to power the battery backed up memory.  This is true whether or not the 32 Bank Memory system is installed, since relying on C-cell batteries for backup is unreliable.  This is a non-rechargeable battery and cannot leak.  Its life will probably be 20 years or more, since the current drain of either the standard memory or the 32 Bank Memory system is less than a microamp, and the batteries have a capacity of about an amp-hour.  So, if not for the very low self-discharge rate of the battery, the battery would last more than a century.  20 years is a conservative figure.  If the battery is fine in 50 years, I wouldn't be surprised.

Once the Lithium battery is installed, there's no need to install C-cell batteries for the purpose of powering the memory.  If you don't need to run the machine from batteries, then there's never a need to install C-cell batteries.  One significant danger with having the C-cell batteries in the machine is that it can be left on for days by accident, which will flatten the batteries and cause them to leak.

In the Devil Fish the Lithium battery is part of the main Devil Fish modification. For the TR-606, it is a separate modification.

The 32 Bank Memory System is also available with a two channel Dynamic Bank Switching (DBS) system.  This enables one or two externally applied audio or CV signals, via 3.5mm sockets on the left side of the machine, to alter which of the 32 memory banks is selected.  This means that the internal sequencer will play different patterns and one or more individual beats from different patterns in response to these signals. 

Please see the Devil Fish 32 Bank Memory system with DBS manual, which also covers DBS for the TR-606 and TR-808: http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/dfish/DF-32-Bank-Mem-DBS-Manual.pdf


Accent Button

I can install a red pushbutton switch, like that in the memory system and like the Accent button of the Devil Fish, located to the upper right of the volume control, which activates the Accent whenever it is pressed.  

Roland TR-606 drum machine with Real World Interfaces modifications

Individual Outputs

This mod consists of five 3.5 mm mini-sockets on the rear panel one for each volume control:  Kick, Snare, Toms, Cymbal and Hi-Hat.  Each output socket has a signal after the volume control, and plugging a lead into the socket removes this socket's signal from the main mix, which goes via the Volume pot to the Line and Headphone Outputs.

The sockets are not labeled, but each one is just to the left of the volume knob of the signal it handles.


Cymbal & Hi-Hat Audio Input

I install a 3.5mm socket on the rear panel, just to the right of the Hi-Hat volume knob.   This is an audio input which takes over from the internal six square-wave oscillators which are used for the Cymbal and Hi-Hat sounds. 

This is not an audio trigger.  It is a sound source for being filtered, gated, distorted and filtered again when one of these sounds is triggered.  If you put a bright, continuous keyboard sound such as a chord into it, then you get metallic, shimmering fizzy Cymbal and Hi-Hat sounds which are tonally and harmonically related to the chord.  Low input levels result in clear tonality.  Higher levels result in fizz and hiss but the relation to the chord is still audible.

Here are some sound samples.  The main long file is for those with patience.  It gets pretty wild a the end.  The 32 second excerpt dips into some mild-mannered and wild sounds from the long file.  These are presented as SoundCloud pieces, but the compression used by SoundCloud does not allow the full sound quality to be perceived.  I have provided a 44.1kHz stereo WAV files which have no such limitations and  higher-bit-rate MP3 files:

SoundCloud Flash-player and link:

TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods-32-sec-excerpt by Robin Whittle

sounds/TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods-32-sec-excerpt.wav 5.5MB
sounds/TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods-32-sec-excerpt.mp3 1.4MB

SoundCloud Flash-player and link: TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods by Robin Whittle

sounds/TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods.wav 115MB
sounds/TR-606-cymbal-hi-hat-mods-256kbps.mp3 21MB


Snare Modifications: Fixed or Switched

There are two versions of the Snare modifications: a simple version with no switches, and a more complex version with two three-position switches.  I plan to add some sound samples of this mod, and of the Noise Source Level Control (see next section).

The Snare circuit consists of a Twin-T resonator circuit which is made to oscillate with a naturally (exponentially) decaying sine wave, due to the energy it receives from the Trigger pulse.  That pulse is 1ms long and is normally about +5V.  On an accented beat, the voltage can be between +5V and about +14V.  On accented beats, according to the higher voltage of the Trigger pulse, the Twin-T circuit resonates at a greater amplitude initially, and so resonates for longer.

The Trigger pulse also drives a noise gating circuit.  There is an approximately "white" (flat spectrum) noise source inside the machine for the Snare and Tom circuits, based on a noisy reverse-biased transistor emitter-base junction.  The gating circuit has a high-pass filter to make the "snappy" noise pulse from the broad-spectrum internal noise signal. 

The Fixed Snare modification involves three changes:
The Switchable Snare modification involves two three-position toggle-switches which are mounted at the left of the machine.  The left switch controls the noise part of the sound and the right switch controls the resonant sine-tone part.  If the machine has the 32 bank memory system, then these two switches are just to the right of the row of 4 memory switches – adjacent to the Sync socket.  These switches control the above three changes, and a fourth:

  Noise switch
Tone switch
Up
Normal.
Normal.
Centre
Noise pulse contains more mid and low frequencies and so is somewhat louder. Tone has lower frequency.
Down
Noise pulse contains still more mid and low frequencies and so is significantly louder. Tone has lower frequency and is  louder.


The photo below shows the two Snare toggle switches to the lower right, with the five toggle switches and the red pushbutton of the 32 Bank Memory System.

Roland TR-606 drum machine with Real World Interfaces modifications

Here is an audio file demonstrating the Switchable Snare mods and the Noise Source Level Control (as described below).

This recording demonstrates the effects of the Noise Source Level trimpot on the Toms and on the Snare.  It also demonstrates the effects of the three settings of the two Snare switches, in combination with different Accent levels and noise levels. 
sound cloud's compression limits the high frequency detail and dynamics.  I have provided a 44.1kHz stereo WAV file which has no such limitations and a higher-bit-rate MP3:

SoundCloud Flash-player and link:
TR-606-noise-snare-mods by Robin Whittle

sounds/TR-606-noise-snare-mods.wav  79MB
sounds/TR-606-noise-snare-mods-256kbps.mp3 14MB


Noise Source Level Control

The TR-606 has an internal "white" noise source.  A transistor (Q1) has its emitter-base junction  reverse biased so it breaks down, producing a voltage which varies randomly with energy evenly distributed over all frequencies including and well beyond the audio band.  This signal is amplified by IC10B with a gain set by trimpot TM3. 

The noise is used by the Snare circuit, as described above, and by the Toms. 
The two Tom circuits share a single gated noise circuit, with a low-pass filter, to produce a short and only just noticeable burst of rumble.

This modification involves placing the trimpot on the bottom of the circuit board and drilling a hole in the bottom of the case where it can be easily turned with a
small screwdriver.  Clockwise reduces the noise level and anti-clockwise increases it.  See above for audio demonstration.  There is a photo of the accessible trimpot in the Quicksilver 606 section below.

Quicksilver 606 MIDI In, MIDI Out and more . . .

Social Entropy in Texas has a TR-606 equivalent of their TB-303 Quicksilver 303.  This is an installable PCB which replaces the TR-606's 42 pin CPU chip.  It provides new sequencer functions, MIDI In and Out via DIN connectors and MIDI In and Out via a USB socket.

http://www.socialentropy.com/quicksilver/qs606.html

Since I am not planning to make a MIDI interface for the TR-606, the QS-606 is a good way to upgrade the TR-606 to MIDI In and Out, with extra memory and with new sequencer functions. 

However, the usual way of mounting the MIDI In and Out sockets (really small DIN sockets which go to adaptor leads) is not compatible with the individual output sockets.  The standard Quicksilver 606 installation involves a USB socket for upgrading firmware, but there is nowhere to mount the socket and it is normally tucked into the battery compartment.  Batteries are not required to keep the Quicksilver 303s memory data, but this means the machine can't run from batteries.  The USB interface supports MIDI In and Out, but it is inconvenient to use if the socket is mounted in the battery compartment.

Also, the USB socket is not electrically isolated from the Quicksilver 303 and the TR-606.  This can result in ground loop problems (audio noise in the output and/or the introduction of noise into other parts of the whole audio system of which the TR-606 is a part).  Furthermore, the lack of isolation means the USB interface is at risk of damage due to static electricity or excessive voltages, such as those resulting from capacitive coupling from mains plug-pack (wall-wart) power supplies.

The solution to these problems is for me to install the Quicksilver 606, as I do with the Quicksilver 303 for the TB-303 / Devil Fish.  This includes the following changes:

The Quicksilver 606 is not compatible with the 32 Bank Memory system described above.  There is no need for a lithium battery with the QS-606, since the memory chips are removed and the data is stored in flash memory in the QS-303's CPU. However, all the other mods listed above are possible.



This photo shows the MIDI Out 3.5mm socket which drives a short adaptor lead to a 5 pin DIN socket.  MIDI In is via the Sync socket.  The two three-position toggleswitches are for the Switched Snare Mods, as described above.



This photo shows the electrically isolated USB socket.  This is a particularly robust Amphenol MUSB-B551-04 socket, as described here:  ../parts/panel-mount-usb-sockets/ .  The 3.5mm socket is for the Audio In to Cymbal and HiHat, as described above.  Also shown is the Accent Button.



This photo shows the label we affix to QS-606-modified TR-606s.  It also shows the noise level trimpot mod.

Here is a PDF of the documentation we provide with a TR-606 which has the QS-606 system and all the other modifications:

TR-606-mods-QS-606.pdf

We also supply a comb-bound Quicksilver 606 User's Manual.  The QS-606 kit as supplied by socialentropy.com does not include a printed manual.  We include the above PDF file at the start of the comb-bound manual and we supply two-side-printed QS-606 cheatsheets. 



This is a photo I took for a customer in late 2013 before shipping his Quicksilver-modified Devil Fish and TR-606.  This shows one side of the QS-303 cheatsheet and the 3.5mm to 5 pin DIN MIDI Out adaptor leads.  Also shown are some Devil Fish patch sheets and the special lead for the Devil Fish's old headphone socket, which is now Audio Filter FM In and the pre-VCA Filter Out signal.


Prices

Please see:
prices-au/ Prices for Australian customers.
prices-int/ Prices for customers outside Australia.


Other Mods

I was planning a MIDI In and Out system for the TR-606.  However, in December 2012  I decided that other projects have higher priority. 

I do not have any mods for the kick drum or other drums which I can install inside the machine.  Various things could be done, but there is almost nowhere to mount the controls.  The TR-606 has an extra circuit board just behind the front panel compared to the TB-303, so a Devil Fish style front panel cannot be contemplated.

I think the TR-606 kick is a unique and excellent sound better in some ways than the TR-808.  The TR-808 has a single Twin-T resonator which rings, after being excited by the trigger pulse.  In the TR-808, there is a circuit to change the frequency of this Twin-T resonator in a simple manner so the start of the sound is at a higher frequency, before switching to the lower sound.  This gives an initial click or pulse-like nature to the sound.

In the TR-606, there is no such switching.  There are two Twin-T resonators.  They both start in phase, due to the trigger pulse, and then go out of phase since they are at different frequencies.  So there is a solid start to the first cycles of both resonators, with a big positive edge
then they resonate freely and generally won't be in phase after that.

For one customer in 2000, I did very extensive modifications to the TR-606's sound generation circuits.  I explored the possibilities with him, and at each juncture he guided the exploration and approved the final changes.  I did the raw electronics, leaving a bunch of wires with dangling pots and switches.  He mounted these pots and switches in his own way – by installing them in the case of an old CSQ-600 sequencer.  There was a wide variety of knob-shapes and types.  Let's just say it didn't look at all slick and "Made in Japan"!   It sounded great. 

While I could do these modifications to another machine, it would be very time-consuming to do the raw electronics, and still more time-consuming to figure out a good way of mounting all the knobs and switches.  These things need to be permanently wired into the TR-606, so it needs to be joined permanently to a larger box of some kind.  I could replicate these mods in another machine, but the cost, including mounting a separate box, labeling the switches and knobs etc. would be at least AUD$2000.  Due to the variety of the pot values, I wouldn't be able to use the small pots like I use in the Devil Fish mods, so they would be conventional miniature pots with shafts and knobs. I have some audio samples of this work, if you are really interested. 

The modifications included the Individual Output and Cymbal/HH Audio Input mods as noted above, but there were separate outputs for each Tom.  Some of the other mods did not allow the creation of the original sound.  But that's not such a problem since TR-606's are relatively inexpensive, and it is simple to keep a non-modified machine and use its sounds in addition to those of the modified machine.  These extensive mods included:

These modifications lead to a machine with all sorts of unruly behavior in the Tom circuits.  Note that despite the customer's enthusiasm for changes, he was perfectly happy with the Kick circuit in its standard form.


DIY

Please think very carefully before attempting electronic work on your own.  The following information is not for people who are new to electronics.  All the information you need is here, provided you have the required electronic skills.  Please do not ask for further details!  Nonetheless, if you find something here confusing and can suggest an improvement, please let me know.

The switch replacement is rather tricky, because the Omron B3W-4040 tact switches have stems just a little to wide for the TR-606/TB-303 buttons.  Please see ../dfish/303-mods/ for instructions on cutting two slots in the stem so it becomes springy, and will fit nicely into the TB-303 and TR-606 buttons.

The B3W-4050 switches are available from Farnell / Newark.  Please see the Devil Fish page for further information.  If you would like to purchase kits of 25 Omron switches cut and ready to install, please see: ../dfish/#tact_switch_kits .

Someone has documented the individual output mod at Hyperreal, but I do not recommend this approach. ( http://machines.hyperreal.org/manufacturers/Roland/TR-606/mods/roland.TR-606.indiv-outs  ).  My approach involves 3.5 mm switch sockets, which take the signal after the resistor which is driven by the wiper of the volume pots.  For instance this is after R57, R102, R108, R109 and R149 as shown in the schematic at: http://machines.hyperreal.org/manufacturers/Roland/TR-606/schematics/roland.TR-606.schem-6.gif .  This way, the mixing bus consists of a wire running along the connectors themselves, rather than the need for a separate wire from each connector to bring the signal back to the PCB for mixing when nothing is plugged into the socket.  So you have a common ground wire running to all sockets, a common mix wire, and then each socket has a wire coming from the resistor on the PCB.  All you need to do is isolate the ends of those resistors from the mixing line.  This involves a bit of thought, but it is obvious once you have the board in front of you.  Just use a sharp knife to cut the copper tracks.

I mount the sockets between and to the left of the relevant volume control, with the socket for the Cymbal / Hi-Hat input mod to the right of the Hi-Hat volume knob.  The centre of the holes should be about 8mm above the lower edge of the outside of the case.

The Cymbal / Hi-Hat input mod is straightforward.  There are three wires to the socket.  Ground, the signal to the socket (its "normally closed" switch contact) and the signal from it (the tip of the plug drives this, if a plug is inserted).  When you plug a signal into it, the internal noise source is disconnected and your external signal drives the Cymbal and Hi-Hat circuits.  You only need to cut the circuit board track at one point.  Looking at the bottom right of the schematic (URL above), you need to isolate the mixing point of the six square-wave oscillators (that which is common to R227, R228, R229, R230, R231, R232 and R210) from the track which leads to C92 and C96.  It is quite obvious when you look at the PCB.

There are some other mods, like making the trigger outputs be driven from the Accent and Cymbal rather than the Toms.  This is obvious when you look at the schematic.

My Snare mods are as follows:  Add a 0.1uF cap across C52, replace R107 with a 470 ohm and replace R110 with a 33k.  This lowers the pitch of the Twin-T oscillator a little and boosts its mix level relative to the noise component.

If you are interested in weirdo snare sounds, perhaps you might like to boost the level of the snare white noise source, or provide an external input in its place so you can plug whatever you like into it.  To boost the noise generator, put a resistor across R117 (say a 2.2k or a 1k) and then adjust TM3 to give a much higher level.  With the TR-808, this can create really loud snare noise sounds and big rumbles in the Toms.  At high enough levels, the noise breaks through even when no drum circuit is triggered.

The Accent switch is straightforward.  Connect the normally open contacts of a quality switch such as a C&K 8125 SHZBE across the emitter and collector of Q10.

If you need tiny toggle-switches, I highly recommend the C&K Tiny Toggle range, such as the T101 SHZQE solder tail, thread mounting single pole changeover switch, the double pole T201 of the special three position changeover T211, which I use in the Devil Fish.  http://www.ckcorp.com/ .  Distributors and global parts searches are available from http://www.electronet.com/ .  Some useful electronics distributors include: http://www.farnell.com/http://www.digikey.com/ and http://www.mouser.com/ .


The TR-808 and other machines

The TR-808 is an excellent drum machine.  I am now doing revised versions of the Sound Mods and 4 Level Accent mods which I have been doing since the early 1980s.   Please see:  ../tr-808 .

I don't have any sound mods for TR-909, TR-707, TR-727, TR-505 or MC-303, though I can install multiple banks of memory in all these machines.  As with the TR-909, this memory (say 8 or 16 banks)  is controlled by two push-button switches and a 15mm high 7 segment LED display.  It is not possible to do the dynamic switching of banks with the MC-303, TR-909 or TR-707 which I can do with the TB-303, TR-606 and TR-808.