Simmons SDS-5 pad set, in an unusual pink color. Courtesy of

A British manufacturer of drum synthesizers in the 1980s.  Simmons pioneered the concept of the electronic drum kit; prior products had consisted mostly of single drum trigger mechanisms which produced noises that only vaguely resembled drum sounds.  Simmons kits consisted of arrays of drum pads which were plugged into a separate rack-mounted "brain" which contained the sound producing circuitry. 

Simmons' iconic product in the decade of the '80s was the SDS-5 kit, introduced in 1982.  A standard configuration consisted of four drum pads approximately 3" (8 cm) thick and roughly the same diameter as a conventional snare drum, plus a larger pad that was intended to be mounted vertically and used as a kick drum.  The "brain" contained seven slots for plug-in modules, which were specific to certain types of desired sounds; Simmons offered modules for snare, tom, kick, cymbal, and hi-hat sounds.  The modules used analog subtractive synthesis methods.  A visually distinctive feature of the kit was that the pads were all hexagonal in shape, and the backs were available in a variety of bright colors.  The Simmons kit became the look of the forward-thinking '80s drummer, and the standard sounds were usable as conventional drum sounds while being distinctly electronic.

The field soon became crowded with competitor products, and Simmons was hard pressed to keep innovating.  Further, drum machines begain to intrude on Simmons' territory, and as the decade went by, producers and drummers began to prefer sampled sounds over the analog sounds of the Simmons kits.  Simmons tried to respond with its own versatile sample-based product, the SDX system, but its high cost (about £8000 in 1988) priced it out of reach of most musicians. 

The original Simmons company ceased doing business in 1989.  Through a variety of legal machinations, the music instrument retail chain Guitar Center owns the rights to the name now, and has offered several drum and percussion synthesizer products under the Simmons name.  These products have nothing to do wtih the original company.

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