Elka – The Sidekick 32 – Vintage Drumcomputer

ELKA Sidekick 32

Elka The Sidekick 32

Among all the crap i gathered from ebay during the years this vintage Drumcomputer was one of the better articles. It’s from 1982 and quite unconventional. The Sidekick offers 16 Preset Rhythms, each in 2 variations selectable by a cute, red flip switch. Hmmm, i assume this is where the ’32’ in the name comes from! There is also a pushbutton labeled BREAK – at the moment you press it, a wild BREAK variation of the rhythm is played – as long as you hold it! Funny.

A slider labeled ‘Balance’ blends between 100% cymbals (with a very mellow BD in the background, well thought out!) or the tonal sounds without cymbals.

There are 9 instruments: Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Rimshot, Conga, Low Bongo, Hi Bongo, Cowbell, Brush, open and closed Hihat. The tonal instrumente are all on one PCB (410CST1017). Their trimpots set the tuning in a quite narrow range. The levels are fixed with resistors. All sounds are generated by 2-3 opAmps (per voice) getting an external pulse to swing on a defined frequency.

Sidekick 32 – Instruments board

The Conga/Bongo/Snare are tuned to half tones which makes it not easier for using it in musical context – they are clearly defined and clean but also missing a bit of character. No noise component like the congas of the CR8000, no pitch envelope like the snare of the TR606. The bassdrum is the technically the same – no big surprises. The cowbell as well offers nothing to freak out – it’s like the conga/bongos with another mellow higher second tone. Which i liked most was the the rimshot – apart from the cymbals which can be variated in noise spectrum. You might ask why i like it although the sounds seem to be a bit lame? – i dont know, all the parts playing together gives another picture of the machine.

Special features

Cymbalfilter

The individual sounds are quite ordinary. What makes the sidekick special are the preset rhythms which are programmed really brilliant.

The second cool thing is, the timbre of the noise for the cymbals changes in 3 flavours dependent on the selected rhythm. Choosing ‘March’ gived the cymbals much more ‘power’ and body than using the latin rhythms where the noise is heavily highpass filtered. One of the settings also makes the decay of the Brush much longer. The whole magic sits on a PCB dipped in epoxy for keeping the secret from curious minds like me. I even invested 10 EUR in some schematics from ebay italy – but this mysterious PCB was not documented. The 10 EUR investment did make sense though as i wanted to midify this machine (midi triggers), including the clock/start stpo for synching the preset rhathms to midi clock..

Midification

Midi Interface

Trigger, Clock, the whole logic is based on 5 V signals and lots of AND/OR gates. This made things quite easy. I used flip switched on the back to select between internal Strt/Stop/Clock and the signals from my custom midi interface (Atmega8).

The voices are triggered by a capacitor pulled to GND from 5V to generate a pulse for the swinging opamp. I simply soldered another capacitor of the same value in parallel for triggering them from my interface. The hihat is opened/closed by a signal input switching between 0V (open) and 5V (closed). As i got problems feeding the relevant transistor with 2 control signals without interefering each other, i added another flipswitch to the backside of the case to select between internal ‘open/closed’ signal and from the midi interface.

Finally there is another control signal coming from the interface for engaging the BREAK by pressing/holding C5.

Dead inhabitant of the Sidekick

Sample Set ELKA SIDEKICK 32

Here are some free WAVs for Download to be used in music productions. It is not allowed to use them on Sample CDs or selling them in any way. The Hihats are available in different noise flavours.

Stereoping Sampleset – Elka TheSidekick 32

Demo

I also got a little demovideo with the ELKA Sidekick 32. At the beginning you hear some of the presets in high audio quality. At 2:55 starts a little demosong using the Sidekick wiover midi, triggering the voices.