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

2 – Oberheim DMX

Launched: 1980
Original RRP: £1,800
Current price: £300-£600

Noting the commercial success of Linn’s sample-based LM-1 a year earlier, Oberheim entered the market in 1980 with its DMX.

Fat is the word for one of the two staple drum machines of hip hop, favoured by artists as diverse as Run DMC, Justice, Dr Dre, the Chemical Brothers and New Order.

Rejecting the traditional analogue approach and embracing sampled recordings of real instruments, the DMX features 24 fully-tuneable drum sounds (originated from 11 individual samples), eight-note polyphony and a range of humanising programming functions, from its much vaunted shuffly swing to – unusually – rolls and flams. Hyper-flexible processing options were made available by way of eight separate outputs.

Whence the fat? The samples are stored in 8-bit digital format but, crucially, processed using a compander algorithm to achieve the equivalent dynamic range of 12-bit and shaped using analogue filters to bestow a punch and airy warmth that, even today, marks the original defining sound set out – and ensures that its kick and snare sounds are still in regular use three decades since inception. A controversial choice ahead of the 909, but we think it’s time the DMX got the credit it deserves.

Author David Felton
1st August, 2012

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