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

5 – PAiA Programmable Drum Set (model 3750)

Introduced: 1975
Original RRP: $1,195 (£999)
Current price: £300+ (hard to find, and often faulty)

The snappily-named Programmable Drum Set from PAiA Electronics has as good a claim as any to be seen as the forefather of drum machines as we know them today. Not only was it the first standalone rhythm box, it also featured two things that would become essential among the leaders of the crowd: analogue synthesis and, for the first time, programmability.

Of course by today’s standards – even the standards of Roland’s CR-78 that came three years later – the Drum Set was an amateur affair; literally so in fact, as it was sold as a kit with instructions for the buyer to build the machine themselves.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one that works you’ll find a sprightly machine awash with unusually warm sounds. But working models are few and far between; DIY construction doesn’t often lead to longevity.

One little known fact about PAiA is that it was the same company that launched Polyphony magazine, which many years later became the hugely successful Electronic Musician magazine.

Author David Felton
1st August, 2012

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