Elektron Machinedrum SPS 1 MKII
RRP: £1,250 (street price typically below £900)
Produced: 2001 – 2008 (MKI); 2008 – present (MKII)
The Machinedrum redefined the hardware drum machine for the modern era. Following the emergence of affordable DAWs, software sampling and virtual instruments in the late 90s, you’d have been forgiven for assuming that hardware would become a footnote in electronic music history as we flocked in our droves to the brave new world of cheap, flexible software options.
The Machinedrum was released in 2001, just as software looked to have won the battle for the vast majority of producers. Against all odds, this Swedish-made boutique drum machine emerged as a cult favourite, winning over admirers for its workflow and versatility in the context of a modern studio setup as much for its sonic prowess.
The sound engine is based around Elektron’s now-familiar ‘machine’ concept, each of which is tailored to achieve a specific end result. The main machines in this case are the TRX for Roland-style sounds, EFM for FM synthesis, E12 based on E-mu SP-12 samples and PI for physical modelling of realistic acoustic sounds. It’s an incredibly impressive architecture which makes the Machinedrum capable of a huge range of sounds.
The Machinedrum’s sequencing options are equally vast, based around step and real-time modes, but offering an array of LFOs, effects and filters to make it incredibly flexible. The unit can also be used to sequence external MIDI instruments or process external audio sources. It’s a credit to Elektron’s original design that the MKII model, released in 2008, only refined the formula very slightly, most notably by improving the signal-to-noise ratio and increasing the maximum pattern length.
The more advanced SPS-1 UW+ model offers additional sampling features, but the MKII remains a winner for its pure, refined approach to drum programming. It’s a modern classic for good reason. Keep an eye out for second-hand bargains (we’ve seen them go for less than £500 in mint condition, which is a steal) but even at the current street price of just under £900 the Machinedrum is a great buy.