Yamaha Rx11 Drum Machine

The Yamaha RX11 Digital Rhythm Programmer is considered one of the best drum machines in the world. And this should not be a surprise to anyone who knows what the company can do.

This digital drum machine came out in 1984, three years after Linn introduced the first of this kind, the LM-1. Yamaha came in strong with very advanced machines at the time – the RX11 and the RX15. They featured 12by PCM tones and some nice MIDI features for a price of less than $1000.

This review presents some of the best features of this machine as one of the best music devices from the brand.

Yamaha RX11 Drum Machine Review

Yamaha’s digital drum machines were eagerly awaited, and it’s easy to know why. The Yamaha RX11 digital rhythm programmer is an excellent machine that promises all the best features of a high-end machine. All the RXs come with a useful application of MIDI as a standard. At the time of its release, MIDI for still a new thing for the music world.


The Yamaha RX11 digital rhythm programmer is construed to match the DX line of synthesizers from Yamaha. They are compact both in appearance and operating procedure, which goes all the way to the data entry and Functions feature. Operating these controls may require some learning time, but it all becomes easy once you have learned it. You will find the units to be very simple and easy.

The machine is light, weighing about 3Kg. It features two pieces of molded black plastic to hold the innards in place.

Constructed for quality sound

On the inside, you will find two PCBs. One is attached to the base, while the other is to the panel molding on the front side. It would help if you were very careful when operating the machine since the PCBs are connected using short ribbon cables.

Another important feature to notice on the inside is the IC. In this case, only the 22128 16K EPROM has its own socket with an operating system.

It comes with six Yamaha ROMs, on which drum sounds are stored, with easy operation. These are permanent sounds, and the company has made them in a manner that users cannot change.


Programming the Yamaha’s RX11 digital machine is very easy, thanks to the 16-character LCD. It is not back-illuminated, though, but still useful enough. It will guide you through the programming approach. Also, you will see the control parameters displayed immediately.

The RX11 also features a two-digit LED display that shows the song or pattern.

The instrument has sturdy and firm keys, yet they are very easy and smooth to operate. You can set the Quantize from ¼ to 1/192 according to your preference. Also, it has four levels of Swing that make things more fun.

A good feel

If you use the Step Write mode, the bar will be divided into beats based on the Quantize you have set. And then you use the +1 key to advance the beats.

For those who want to edit the patterns, you can do this by Clearing instruments when you stop the machine. Or you can do it by holding Clear and pressing the right key.

There are more than 255 different patterns from which you can build up to ten songs. And once you have created them, full editing can be done. Add repeats, tempo changes, and many more in the songs as you desire.

You can store up to 2000 ‘events’ on the RX11. This figure may be on the lower side compared to other RXs from the competition. Also, the machine is equipped with a cartridge slot for Yamaha RAM packs.

About the MIDI

You will get a mini-sequencer with the RX11, which is good news for DX synth owners. You can allocate individual drum sounds to note to be transmitted through the MIDI out. Also, one can allocate each instrument to its own MIDI channel to enjoy good music.

It can general the 24 pulse-per-quarter-note MIDI clock signal. Also, you can set this to run from an external clock.

Unfortunately, the machine cannot sync directly to tape, although you can resolve it by applying a sequencer. You can use the instrument outputs to put the songs in different categories.

How does it sound?

Yamaha understands the importance of quality drum sounds for many users, which is what they advised on the RX11. The kick and snare drums sounds are almost like Linn’s, only that they are warmer. The pair of toms, on the other hand, is a bit similar to the Drumulator.

Other sounds are just bright and powerful for good music. You can be sure to love them with a high rating.

Yamaha RX11 Reviews

There are the main people who love the RX11. One reviewer posted on sonicstate.com, saying, “one of the best drum machines of all time. Bass drum 3 kicks like a mule. And the snare lite is the second-best snare sample ever after the DMX…”

“The RX11 is a great electron drum machine. Its samples are fatter than the weather girls. And it sounds AWESOME…”


• 255 different patterns for creating sound songs

• Easy programming

• Excellent sound from the drums

• High-quality machine from Yamaha with good reviews


• Only 2000 ‘events’ compared to the competition

• It can only hold two-three reasonable complex tunes


You use the RX11 Yamaha manual to get the best value from the machine. The brand’s first-ever programmable drum machines were indeed incredible products. They produce good quality sounds from acoustic drums, which makes them highly admirable. Use it to create excellent MIDI sounds too.