I guess this is supposed to be the top-end model of Hillwood’s drum machine lineup, which also includes the smaller HR-2, and it does have three times the amount of preset rhythms, plus a couple of extra sounds and an interesting variation switch… But strangely it doesn’t have the really useful ‘cancel’ buttons of its smaller brother. Now, if this had been available on the HR-30, it could easily have competed with some of the most famous and succesful drum machines of the era, such as the Korg Mini Pops 120, but instead we’re left with a design full of promise that doesn’t fully deliver…
Nevertheless, the ‘super variation’ switch and the big amount of presets makes it a fun and useful drum box. Plus there’s a really original ‘guiro’ sound (that ‘scraping on the ribbed belly of the wooden-fish-looking-thing with a stick’ sound) that I haven’t heard in any other drum machines from the era.
The 3 position variation switch works like this: “A” mode does nothing, the regular rhythm play continuously; “B” and “C” mode insert a small variation, most of the time a short tom roll, every 4 or 8 bar. It’s cool, but unfortunately the same tom roll is repeated over and over again in about 50% of all the presets, and the others aren’t that different either. There are more fill variations in the Mini Pops 120, but what I do appreciate about the HR-30 is that the tom fill don’t stop the basic rhythm: bass drum, snare and cymbal continue on throughout the ‘variation’, which is useful for me.
Hillwood came really close to a classic with this one…
Technical Info / Service Notes
No issues with my unit when I received it, apart from the usual dirty pots.
I’m planning to modify my HR-30 for multiple outputs in the future; once it’s done I’ll update this section.
|Manufacturer||Hillwood corp. (Japan)
|Date||Mid/late seventies (appears in a 1977 catalog)
|List price||63,000 yen|
|Sounds||10 (BD, SD, Cy, low conga, high conga, claves, bongos, high-hat, guiro, maracas)|
|Presets||30 (rock 1-10, bass and snare 1-2, foxtrot 1-2, march, tango, habanera, swing 1-3, shuffle, waltz, jazz waltz, slow rock, bossa nova, samba, mambo, cha-cha, beguine, rhumba)|
|Controls||- Balance control
- Three position 'variation' switch adds tom rolls every 4 or 8 bars
|Outputs||2 (high, low impedance)
|Footswitch||Start / Stop|
|Related models||The Hillwood HR-2 Super Variation|