EKO ComputeRhythm

The most valuable drum machine

Estimated value: £5,000+

Most classic drum machines are cheap. It might not seem like it if you’re saving up for, say, an 808, a 909 or a LinnDrum, but drum machine prices are yet to explode as much as they might be expected to in future. These are definitive classics which were produced for just a few years each and changed the course of musical history as we know it, but they’re still within reach of a lot of musicians.

Surprisingly, the most sought-after drum machine – and the one which commands the highest prices when it does occasionally come up for sale – isn’t an iconic model used on countless classic tracks. You probably wouldn’t recognise its sounds on a record. In fact, chances are you haven’t even heard of it. What is it? The EKO ComputeRhythm, a huge beast of a machine first produced in 1972 and available in a variety of revisions over the course of the decade.

So why is the EKO so valuable? Does it sound amazing? No – it’s a pretty basic analogue drum machine with a sound vaguely similar to the Roland CR-78. It uses an archaic six-row push-button matrix for programming beats (a revolutionary feature at the time), while punch cards allow patterns to be loaded by the user.

Its desirability is driven by two crucial factors. Firstly, it’s rare. Seriously rare. Reportedly fewer than 20 were sold, which means that if you want one you’re going to have to bide your time until one comes up for sale. Secondly, despite such small numbers being produced, the ComputeRhythm still managed to appear on records by two icons of electronic music: Jean-Michel Jarre and Manual Göttsching. So even if you are lucky enough to find one up for sale, you’ll then have to fight it out with other drum machine collectors and Jarre fanboys to get your hands on it.

Needless to say, with so few sold, the EKO very rarely comes up for sale. One seller recently advertised one on eBay for $10,000, turning down an offer of $7,000 before making a deal outside eBay. You’re going to need somewhere in the region of £5,000 to get your hands on one.

Author Greg Scarth
30th September, 2013

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