FK8: Maestro Rhythm King MRK-4
Maestro Rhythm King MRK-4
I waited a long time to get my hands on one of these as they rarely come up for auction here in the UK. There is very little information to be had on it that I can find; I certainly couldn’t find any demonstrations of it on-line. Well, I finally got hold of one and in cracking condition too, though perhaps not the best looking drum machine around.
- Swing March
- March Polka
- Swing Waltz
- Bosa Nova
- Latin Rock
- Rock 1
- Rock 2
- Rock 3
After receiving it I unpacked it, plugged it in and tried out all the rhythm patterns. The first thing that struck me was that — like the MRK-1 and 2 models — it was identical to the rhythm unit found in some top-of-the-range Lowrey home organs. This time it featured in the top-of-the-range Lowrey TGS Symphonic Holiday and TGO Orchestral Holiday models from around 1975. Same sounds, same rhythms and same intro/fill feature.
On opening it up, I was quite surprised to find lots of inductor coils or “Tuned Tanks” as they are sometimes referred to. The previous models didn’t use them to produce the sounds and other manufactures, like Roland, used them in their early models then moved away from them in later models. Maestro seemed to be doing things back to front. This is not a bad thing, in fact I like the sound these tanks make. This is how the Roland TR-77 and Korg/Keio/Univox/ Mini-pops machines produce their sounds. Even the Clave and Rimshot in the CR-78 use them. It also means that it sounds quite different to the MRK-1 & 2 models.
- Bass Drum
- Snare Drum
As with the previous models, there are two cymbal sounds described as Cymbal and Brush. They sound quite different however, being more refined and having more of a sizzle to them. They are produced using the traditional noise generator, but the sound is then filtered through one or more inductors. The decay time of the cymbals vary depending on the rhythm selected, and can have different decay times on different beats within the same rhythm. The snare uses a mixture of filtered noise and two of the tone generators, and has a nice punch to it. Again, quite different from the MRK-1 and 2 models.
Inside the Rhythm King
Maestro decided to do away with the manual sound trigger buttons on this model, so sampling requires opening it up and doing the usual Forgotten Keys trickery! Incidentally, these old machines have unprotected mains voltage inside so I strongly discourage anyone from opening them up. Even when unplugged, the power capacitors can still be charged and give you a nasty shock or worse. As with the MRK-1 and 2, the best way I found was to play the patterns slowly and short to positive or ground (depending on how the sound is triggered) all the trigger points other than the one I wanted. The good news is that the signal/noise ratio is much improved over the MRK-1 & 2 models and sounds a lot cleaner.
The Kontakt Instrument
Key features include 10 multi-sampled sounds and 16 re-created rhythms (combinable) plus two intro/fill-ins. A Setup tab with volume, pan, tune and mute for each instrument, randomisation controls and customisable note and output routing. Plus, two bonus sounds from the Maestro Rhythm ‘N Sound G2 kindly provided to me by Todd Watson.
Details of the Kontakt Instrument and how to purchase it are here. Please contact me if you have any questions.
FK8: Maestro Rhythm King MRK-4 Kontakt Instrument