Review: Electro-Harmonix super Space-Drum

An affordable synth voice for stage and studio
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One of the most interesting Electro-Harmonix products of the late ’70s was the Super Space Drum, an analog drum-synth in a stompbox format. Although it could easily make electronic-tom sounds befitting the disco era, the Super Space Drum was capable of generating a wide enough variety of synth tones that it remains sonically relevant to this day. It even had its own beer coaster-sized trigger pad, suitable for sticks or fingers, which gave the synth dynamic sensitivity.

Electro-Harmonix has reintroduced the Super Space Drum in a more compact format (less than half the size of the original) and with additional features—an output volume knob and a Time control to set the length of the tone (a few milliseconds to about 7 seconds). Moreover, you can power the unit with a 9V battery or the included power supply (the original model had a captive power cable). However, the update replaces the cork-like trigger pad with a nondynamic button: That’s no surprise since the new Super Space Drum is only slightly bigger than the original trigger pad itself, making it more suitable for table-top use.

The reissue of the Super Space Drum is smaller than the original, yet includes a couple of useful enhancements. You can trigger the synth using the white button or with an external source, as well as gate audio through the unit. To achieve dynamic control over the synth, plug an acoustic trigger or clock source into the External Trigger input and use the Sensitivity knob to set the response. I used a homemade piezo, a Eurorack modular synth, and the Electro-Harmonix Clockworks as triggers—everything was plug-and-play.

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The Start and Stop knobs determine the tone of the synth—from kick drum territory to bell tone—and whether the pitch is steady or sweeps up or down: When the Stop control is set lower than Start, the pitch sweeps downward; set Stop above the Start level to get an upward sweep.

The modulation section provides a sawtooth waveform with Depth and Rate controls that can shape the timbre from subtle warbles to complex FM sonorities. The Depth knob is bipolar and center-detented, yielding different timbres when you turn it counter-clockwise (creating a falling sawtooth shape) rather than clockwise (with its rising sawtooth waveform).

And, like the original model, Super Space Drum can be used as a quasi-keyed gate if you plug an audio signal into the Aux In and use either the onboard button or an external source to trigger the audio. When you patch into the Aux In, the internal synth voice is muted and the only controls that work are Volume and Time, the latter shaping the gate length once a trigger is received. Unfortunately, you cannot add modulation to the external audio signal.

Note that the modulation switch lets you quickly change the synth tone between the modulated and unmodulated states—very useful, especially when you’re driving the Super Space Drum from a sequenced trigger source. The only thing I missed is having an expression pedal (or CV) input, like the one provided in the Electro-Harmonix Crash Pad ($117.50) to control the filter sweep.

Yet, with all of these options, the new Super Space Drum is more versatile than the original model and sounds just as good. Far from being a one-trick pony that only says pew-pew-pew, it’s a robust and powerful synth that offers everything from snappy kicks to long modulated sweeps—great for a variety of performance and studio situations. Highly recommended.

STRENGTHS

Small and lightweight. External trigger and audio inputs. Modulation goes into audio range. Powers from battery or AC.

LIMITATIONS

Trigger button doesn’t provide dynamic control over synth sound.

$117.50
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