Kawai have enjoyed marginal success over the years with a variety of different products.... some of these were highly innovative (the K5 additive synth) whilst others were extremely derivative and unimaginative (the K1 and subsequent Roland D50 and Korg M1 clones).

Their R50 and R50e drum machines fall into the latter category. Released in 1988, both were scaled down versions of the company's previous R100 drum machine and sadly saw Kawai jumping on the budget digital drum machine band-wagon.

The specs were unremarkable even for the time. 24 sounds (12-bit/32kHz sample rate) assignable to 10 pads. There were 50 preset and 50 programmable patterns that could be chained in up to 10 songs. Unlike the R100, however, the pads weren't velocity sensitive (an ACCENT pad was used to program dynamics) but the internal samples could be triggered with velocity over MIDI so all was not lost. There were just stereo outputs. Unusually, however, the R50 and R50e also featured effects but these were limited to delay and flange.... unfortunately no reverb which would have elevated the product's standing in the market.

But despite these compromises, the sounds were surprisingly good. Perhaps they could be considered a bit 'safe' by today's standards but they are decent sounds nonetheless that can work well in a variety of different circumstances. The R50 featured 'acoustic' drum and percussion sounds whereas the R50e drum sounds were more 'electronic' in nature (derived, presumably, from Simmons and the like) as well as gimmicks such as orchestral and brass stabs.

There are two programs - one for the R50 and one for the R50e. The R50e program also includes pitched tympani from C3-C4, a pitched orchestral strike from C#4-C5 and a brass stab (from C#5-C6). The drum sounds are panned for a stereo kit in both programs.

The raw source samples were taken from denhaku.com, a Japanese website dedicated to drum machines.

All sample editing and programming by Hollow Sun.