Prepare for a few controversial decisions as we run down our list of the best drum machines of all time.
7 – Elektron Machinedrum SPS 1 MKII
Original RRP: €1,350 (around £850)
Current price: £400-£800
In some ways Elektron’s Machinedrum – the second product from the then fledgling Swedish firm started by two graduates in Gothenburg – reinvigorated the market for forward-thinking drum machines that had languished since their 1980s heyday.
The ‘rhythm synth’ was marketed as ‘the most sophisticated drum machine ever built’ at its 2001 launch – and with good reason. Not only did it offer highly tweakable sample-playback, but more importantly an impressive four types of drum synthesis, namely ‘TRX’ synthesis, based on the classic Roland drum machines; FM synthesis; modelled analogue synthesis; and ‘PI’ physical modelling of real drums and percussion.
Programming was taken care of by way of a powerful TR-style sequencer, featuring up to 15 levels of intensity on each of the 32 steps alongside solid MIDI support (with an impressive 384 MIDI-controllable parameters) opening the machine up to a host of rhythm-mangling naughtiness.
Sound-wise the Machinedrum delivered the goods: it could at the same time be both punchy and deep, and subtle and refined. And though it excelled at creating original – and often left-field – sounds, it was also an accomplished emulator of the much-loved classics.
Though it never quite captured the magic of the Roland boxes that it paid homage to, the box not only thrust Elektron into the hardware mainstream, it also garnered a loyal community of fans who discovered the joy of hands-on beat-building all over again.
A true modern classic.