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

4 – Linn Electronics LinnDrum

Launched: 1982
Original RRP: $2,995 (around £1,900)
Current price: £700-1,200

The sleek orange and black LinnDrum was the second machine from Roger Linn’s emerging Linn Electronics, an updated version of the LM-1 but with additional crash and ride cymbals.

Unlike Roland’s TR machines, the LinnDrum used samples of real acoustic drums rendered at 28-35kHz. As such, the LinnDrum was nothing short of revolutionary, offering beat makers real sounds for the first time ever. Linn’s machines found fans among electronic musicians and also among all manner of bands and drummerless line-ups who didn’t want the synthetic sounds of the 808 or 909 but thirsted for genuine thumping kicks and snares instead (and let there be no doubt: this beast really punches).

15 sounds were bundled in all, including tuneable snare, tom and congas, with programming taken care of by way of 56 user patterns (with quantise and accent options).

Although hardly cheap, its unique sound assured success and the list of A-class users reads like a Who’s Who of 80’s hitmakers, including a-Ha, Stevie Wonder, the Human League and, notably, Prince. More recent fans include Kindness, who showcases the LinnDrum alongside a Korg Poly800 and Hohner Pianet in the video for ‘House’.

Author David Felton
1st August, 2012

Comments

  • Good list. Not sure about the 909 in bronze medal position tho ;-0 Learned a few things I didn’t know from this list.

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  • The Roland TR-909 is a real classic. It’s the probably most overused Drum
    Machine in history of electronic Music. In the 90′s, it was hard to get some Techno Music without sounds of this Monster from 1983.

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  • there should definitely have been at least one Akai MPC in there!

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  • @jamnlewis

    Er… MPCs aren’t drum machines.

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  • I own the Elektron Machinedrum and it rocks !

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  • No Sp 1200? Countless, undeniable classics were done on that alone in the Hip Hop world. Solid list though

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  • @Cliff… Mentioned on page 3… “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.”

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  • Lm-1 is missing!!! His many hit records did and does it have ! From prince to Jackson , Genesis, kraftwerk.,,

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  • The 707 is awesome.

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  • seriously guys Plastik man?? you couldn’t put cybotron’s clear or Beastie’s Paul Revere or an awesome use of 808 in a song? LOL

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  • great job by the way David…there are a TON of ultra important drum machines…in terms of the musical landscape….but these are the most well known..

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  • Hi

    Nice to see brand like plaia i did not know,
    But where is the drumtracks from sequential circuits?

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  • NINEHUNDREDANDNINE !

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  • The Oberheim DMX/DX drum machines used 8 bit samples, not 12 bit!

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  • Dennis, you’re right. We’ve phrased that badly. The DMX/DX samples are stored at 8-bit but are processed using a compander algorithm to achieve a resolution roughly equivalent to 12-bit. We’ve edited it to clarify.

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  • I’m surprised that Korg DDD-1 didn’t even get honorable mention. It was a great sounding, affordably priced drum machine, that even had a sampling option.

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  • Can someone please help me name a drum synth I bought in the early 1980’s (it’s driving me mad trying to remember it). It was a pretty tacky pre-MIDI analogue drum machine with four small hand-triggered pads (kick, snare & two toms). It had a couple of brass coloured buttons for cymbals. Several pots for tone or tuning (I think). The only automated thing was the hi-hat. I think it was generally silver & brown. And no, it wasn’t Mattel. Can’t find anything resembling it on the net. Cheers.

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  • Sounds like MPC Electronics’ The Kit to us.

    http://www.troperecordings.de/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/MPC-THE-KIT.jpg

    Is that the one?

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  • Yes! Thanks very much. Weirdly, I’ve just stumbled across it here too: http://www.synthmuseum.com/mpc/mpckit01.html. Phew! 🙂

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  • You did bad research. Sorry to say that. You missed the best one…
    Yamaha RY30 in conjunction with
    RSC3071 DAVE WECKL
    RSC3072 TOMMY ALDRIDGE
    RSC3073 MATT SORUM
    RSC3074 PETER ERSKINE
    “The ARTIST SERIES feature samples of the artist at his
    Yamaha Drum kit with a song and patterns by that artist triggering
    an RY30. Using the patterns done by the artist is literally ´like
    getting Dave Weckl or Tommy Alderidge to play on your tune´.
    The patterns can be freely cut and pasted and altered to the users
    delight.”
    —-Phil Clendeninn, Yamaha product marketing specialist
    http://www.synthzone.com/midi/yamaha/ry30/RY30TIPS.TXT

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  • @first and last and always

    MPCs are drum machines. Not synth drum machines, but sampling drum machines. Still, a drum machine. And I agree at least one should have made it. I’d choose the MPC60 or my all-time fave MPC3000.

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  • I dont know where you guys get those prices,maybe you could tell me,a 909 actually dont go for less than £2 K easy.in 2010 was possible to get a kicked one for around £1100 but not anymore.

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  • Spot on most people have no idea how much these machines were used in their heyday! There was some pretty tasty programming going on I bet most people today upon hearing would think was a real drummer. I’m referring to the DMX and Linn Drum in particular. I have a DMX which was the 80’s electro funk AKA Boogie machine!

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  • “Spastik” sounds more like a 606 to me. But it’s modded and eq’d and not a great example of the sound anyway. I’m frowning atcha.

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  • No space for jomox or vermona? Where is the dynacord addone addrive? Prices are all wrong by about £500

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  • I am shocked no MPC made it on this list.

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  • I think the best drum Machine or workstation ever created is the Yamaha motif brand. We have three in our studio in Los Angeles. Hands down nothing sounds better. http://www.edrcstudio.com

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  • The Univox SR-120 has a hidden “feature.” You can press down multiple beat buttons at once (with some fennes get them to stay), allowing beats to be mixed, or superimposed, in bizarre and fantastic ways!
    Here are the insides, aren’t they beautiful!?
    https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Bi7z6u8qjEw/Tikp5tboypI/AAAAAAABHZc/LAeIqSdnvhM/w958-h719-no/IMGP6373.JPG

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  • I don’t think that the Machinedrum is a classic! Put on MPC, much classier 🙂

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  • The SCI Drumtraks is missing – used by Prince almost as much as the Linndrum 🙂

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  • My DX sounds nothing like on those records.

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  • No Roland R8 or 606 but a PIA???… The knife of Autechre first albums!!!

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  • I am proud to say I still have the HR-16B, TR-909 & TR-808.
    I had to brag. lol
    And I agree with others… the Plastikman track is no way an 808 but a watered down 909. It’s a very annoying track if you ask me. Ack…

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  • As said above, “Spastik” by Plastikman is apparently a TR 606 Drumatix machine, together with a TR 909.
    Bambaata’s “Planet Rock” or Hashim’s “Al Naafyish” would be good examples of pioneering 808 use, though.

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  • Would have loved to see the DDD-7 make the list. Still looking for samples on the net. Really crisp highs and punchy mids.

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  • No LM-1 *instantly* invalidates this list. And no TR-808? Doubly so…

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  • not yet @jamnlewis bc the world hasn’t hear my music yet.

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  • Prince didn’t use DrumTraks. He used exclusively LM-1.

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