Prepare for a few controversial decisions as we run down our list of the best drum machines of all time.
6 – Roland CR-78
Original RRP: $1,195 (around £650)
Current price: £300-£700
Trumping pretty much every other drum machine on the list in terms of sonic irritation, Roland’s ‘CompuRhythm’ CR-78 – best described as a rhythm machine rather than a drum machine – still remains a much loved, and used, collectible beat box.
The CR played a pivotal role in the history of Roland’s drum machines, marking for the first time the ability to program and store original drum patterns (before this, Roland drum machines only offered preset beats). As such it paved the way for the many further developments from both Roland as well as Linn, Oberheim et al. You can also hear the genesis of some of the now-classic 808 tones in the 78.
Featuring 34 in-build preset rhythms, from rock and disco to the embarrassingly cheesy swing and tango, and with 14 unique analogue drum tones, including kick, snare, congas – even guiro – its original purpose was to accompany the electric organ (which explains that rather lovely wood veneer cabinet). Its ability to store original programs though, as well as its unique abilities to mute sounds and introduce fills, found it a far larger audience among both songwriters and producers.
Although not one of Roland’s ‘big’ boxes, the quirky ‘CompuRhythm’ and its unmistakable sounds still graced the records of a slew of ’70s and ’80s pop classics, including Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ and Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’.
In the world of dance music, users have included Underworld, BT, and Fatboy Slim.
The last words goes to an enthusiastic John Foxx who said of it: “The CR78 is a marvellous, accidental confection – a non-dancing Japanese programmer’s mathematical reconstruction of western dance patterns… Serious recording engineers despised it. But they were wrong.”