Prepare for a few controversial decisions as we run down our list of the best drum machines of all time.

8 – E-mu SP-12

Released: 1985
Original RRP: $2,745 (around £2,250)
Current price: £500-1000

A drum machine/sampler combo that succeeded E-mu’s Drumulator and was the short-lived precursor to the far more successful SP-1200, the SP-12 (it stands for ‘Sampling Percussion’ at 12 bits) combined both a classic drum machine with 24 built-in samples alongside a basic sampler offering a further eight user sounds stored in a hefty 1.2 seconds worth of memory.

The key feature that still makes the SP-12 a desirable addition to the studio is its beautifully warm, rounded lo-fi sound, yielded by its 27.5 kHz sampling engine – making it useful for downtempo, chillwave, trip-hop and deeper house productions (as well, of course, as hip hop).

More important than this was the historical precedent it set: the SP-12 was originally developed as the Drumulator II, clearly bridging the gap between traditional drum machines and the samplers which would soon knock them off their perch.

Although not around long enough to generate a huge user base, its younger and similar-sounding brother, the SP-1200, can claim fans and users among a host of electronic music luminaries from Daft Punk and the Prodigy to Todd Terry, the Beastie Boys and the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA.


Author David Felton
1st August, 2012

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