Find of the Week: Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-1

A decade before starting Roland, Ikutaro Kakehashi ran Ace Electronic Industries Inc. In 1965, Ace introduced the first commercialized drum machine to have a transistor, the Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-1.

Right now, there's a pristine FR-1 for sale on Reverb via Audiorama, a shop based in Paris that specializes in vintage electronic gear.

Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-1
Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-1. Photo by Audiorama.

Patented by Kakehashi as the "Automatic Rhythm Performance Device" drum machine, the fully analog, transistorized FR-1 was far superior to the mechanical disc systems and tube technology of the era.

The Rhythm Ace FR-1 popularized the use of drum machines by finding its way into popular music, starting in the late 1960s. It features 16 preset patterns with classic rhythms like Mambo and Cha-Cha. And it is very easy to use: Just select a rhythm, set the volume, set the tempo, and hit start.

The FR-1 was also one of the first drum machines to encourage experimentation, as it's possible to combine the rhythms by pressing multiple rhythm buttons. In addition, there are individual mute buttons for the cymbals, bass drum, claves, and cowbell.

Users can tweak this rhythm machine beyond its intended use by offering rhythm select-ability, foreshadowing future electronic instruments developed by Kakehashi after he founded Roland, like the TR-77, CR-78, and the TR-808, just to name a few.

Click here to go the FR-1 listing or check out more of Audiorama's rare gems.

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