Welcome to the 80s!
In 1986, the RX5 was the jewel in the crown of Yamaha's lineup of digital drum machines. It featured a seriously impressive feature set, comprising 24 onboard sounds spread across two kits – one acoustic, one electronic – plus detailed programmability, sample reverse, expansion via cartridge, and individual outputs for most of the kit pieces.
It was a serious, powerful bit of kit with a thick and punchy sound (courtesy of those 12-bit samples) and some nice attention to detail: the sounds could be tailored with basic envelopes, and there were two Accent levels available to allow more humanised programming. The samples were longer and more detailed than on more basic machines of the era – quality issues that set it apart from units like the Casio RZ1
(with its quarter-second samples). The RX5 made its mark on some classic tracks, like Prince's Sign o the Times
, Madonna's La Isla Bonita
, Cameo's Word Up
and a whole load of songs by the Pet Shop Boys. If the 80s is your thing, the RX5 is a bit of an essential.
In many ways this was Yamaha's defining accompaniment to the DX7 synth, with the same style of D-to-A conversion and a similarly unmistakable 80s tone. While the sounds were samples, they were far from naturalistic, tending more towards the über-punchy 'turn it up to eleven' sound that defined a pop generation.