Yamaha’s top-of-the-line mid-80s drum machine • Crunchy, punchy 12-bit samples • 24 original kit pieces – thick acoustic and classic electronic sounds • 24 reversed samples, reversed on the original machine • Individual control over kit piece pan and level, plus effects including saturation and compression
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.
The RX5 wasn’t as user-friendly as Roland’s offerings, though; and being a flagship machine, it had a flagship price-tag to match. These considerations have meant that it’s become a bit of an undiscovered classic for many people – there aren’t all that many of them around, and they’re complex to get to grips with. The Rhythmic Robot version solves all that, though, with a nice tidy interface, our usual custom controls for sculpting the sound, and both kits spread out across your MIDI keyboard – plus all the samples in reverse, too. Randomised round-robin samples preserve all the character of the original machine, while hi-hat choke and ‘velocity retrofit’ make for a really expressive playing experience. (Or you can do the robotic 80s thing if you like!)
The sounds are superb: no duds at all that we can see. From driving kicks to crispy snares, metallic cymbals with just a hint of 12-bit fizz to them through to some of the neatest electro-toms we’ve heard since – well, since 1986, the RX5 hits the spot. Plus there’s a genuinely useful complement of percussion sounds: clap (more of a smack, really), cowbell, a very perky tambourine, and even a shaker, to get the groove moving.
The RX5 is a true flagship machine: a thick powerful sound with tons of punch and bags of character. If you want to inject some Eighties in your tracks, or if you just want to tap into that 12-bit sound, this is for you.
dannyhearnmusic (verified owner) –
Sisters of Mercy in plugin form; the toms sound great especially, they remind me of the Simmons sound but a bit trashier/crisper. There are a lot of drum machines to choose from here, but this one is an essential for that industrial sound IMO. I’m not sure if NIN ever used an RX5, but it’s the kind of sound that would sit comfortably in the NIN palette
aqaraza (verified owner) –
The RX5 is another 12 bit voodoo wonder, and it’s fascinating to compare these 12 bit drum kits to each other. There’s a sort of super-clear ferile (sterile x w feral) sound to the kicks here that reminds us why the 80s were so timelessly teen. (I mean seriously trust me, if you could choose any recent era in which to be a teen, the 80s were it). The backwards and flanged sounds are also unique and poignant in how these effects were captured in amber for future generations to wonder at. Great kit!
danielsykes81 (verified owner) –
I’ve owned an RX7 for awhile and I love it, but I don’t really use it that much because it’s kind of a hassle. This for me is a great way to use some of those sounds in a much more convenient format. The samples sound great (believe me, I tried to sample my own and didn’t come close). The built in compressor is super useful and a big time saver for me. My favorite part are the reversed samples. Sure you can reverse your own sounds, but the way the original machine does it, there is a certain sound to it.
My only gripe is that I don’t think they sampled every sound on the machine (at least I know my RX7 has more sounds than this and they are very similar machines). But they do have all of the most important sounds here.
The Professor –
We did sample every sound, honest! The RX5 only has 24 onboard sounds (though it was expandable via cartridge). The RX7 which you used to own did indeed have more – over 100, in fact – but Yamaha ditched the reverse facility from it, so there was no way to reverse sounds… which we have to admit we think is the coolest thing about the ‘5 😀
dstey24 (verified owner) –
This Drum machine is very much like the original. I’m loving the sounds on this.
Viacheslav (verified owner) –
Very authentic, good sound!
Christian (verified owner) –
Sounds Just like the real deal. Love IT!
I love Sisters Of Mercy where this drum-machine was used. Interface is great and simple. You can add some effects to make it bigger and tighter.
I love this drum machine. The tom’s are beautiful, and with the saturation and compressor dialled right up, they just sound massive. Solid kick and snare sounds too, but for me, it’s the tom sounds that are what’s special here.