Genuinely new drum machines don’t come along very often, but that’s precisely what the Tempest is. It has the analog soul of a classic Dave Smith synthesizer, with the user design of a modern drum machine conceived by Roger Linn, the man who many believe fathered the genre. After fits and starts in this collaboration, most importantly, it’s real – not an early, non-working prototype . A finished version will ship mid-year, with an expected list price of US$2000. (That’s steep, perhaps, for a drum machine in a recession, but it’s a very fair price indeed for one with six analog voices.)

The Tempest will actually be the first of two new drum machines this year, the fruits of the Linn-Smith collaboration. That collaboration started four years ago, as the Dave Smith booth at NAMM teased a concept they called the BoomChik. A non-functional prototype followed a year later, but the project stalled.

Dave Smith called for a reboot, and the result will be not one but two drum machines. One will be released by Dave Smith Instruments, and another by Roger Linn Design. The designers each called the shots on the instrument that will bear their name, but they also worked on the other’s creation – a bit like musicians trading remixes.

Dave and Roger walked CDM through their creation and provided details of the design. The specs, in short:

  • Six analog voices, each with two analog oscillators and two digital oscillators provide deep, rich sound capabilities.
  • Dave’s lowpass filter, a new highpass filter, analog VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) with feedback, five envelopes, two LFOs, various analog modulation routings.
  • In addition to percussion, you can tune sounds and play scales from the pads, or connect a MIDI keyboard and use it as a 6-voice analog keyboard synth.
  • There’s a small display – 256×64 OLED – but onboard controls are designed for real-time music making (a topic Roger covered with me in more detail, along with his philosophy for how to make drum machines instruments).
  • 2×8 pads, each pressure- and velocity-sensing. Roll function, which doubles as “stutter” when a beat is assigned to a pad.
  • Two touch sliders, each with pressure sensitivity, for more real-time control.
  • Pure analog signal path, but without skimping on effects – stereo analog compressor and distortion, beat-synced delay that actually uses note effects, and beat-synced stutter.
  • Real-time swing controls.

The design could be, for many, the best of all possible drum machines. The 2×8 drum pads are eminently practical. The workflow is really Linn-conceived, but with Smith-style control of analog synthesis that will please synth enthusiasts. The layout is clean and Linn-like, but with fit and finish that makes it look at home with other Dave Smith instruments. You get a rich range of analog voices, but coupled with digital oscillators. (Details are forthcoming, but those digital oscillators should provide a range of wavetables for even more sounds.)

In short, it looks like the sound and fun-to-play aspects have been merged into something that I think will have immediate appeal. My prediction is, a lot of folks will be working on how they can set aside two grand.

I’ve spoken extensively to Dave and Roger, and will post that separately, because even if you won’t get one of these, seeing into their minds is a great treat.

  • So, now we see why you were so curious to hear about "drum machine virtuosity" the other day? 😉

    This looks fantastic!

  • Wow amazing it's finally real.  I did not suspect this would be the Linn collaboration.  Too bad the price is so high. If they could have gotten it down to $1500, I would pre-order!  Either way very happy the boomchik is here.  Hmm….what can I sell….  

  • The price is actually pretty good when you consider there's a 6 voice poly evolver in there.

  • Awesome! Let's hope the MPC 60 groove is in there too!

  • w-hoa!

  • Is there info on the amount of sample ram, the sample/bit rate and how to record/transfer samples. Analog is great and I love it, but the USP would be a drum machine with good sample handling and analog filters. I sold my jomox 999 because the handling was so bad i never used the sample option. It Sounded great though.

  • im guessing

    i am guessing that we could use the synth as a tone generator as well?

  • ex-fanboy


    – bows down –

  • Veridical Driver

    Yeah, what are the details on sampling?

  • Jake Noise

    Specs look very impressive (although sadly out of my price range). 

    One thing though, can't say that the 2 by 8 pads appeal, much prefer the 4×4 layout although I can see the appeal if you have a keys background so I guess ymmv

  • OMG!
    Just woke up…saw this! Awake now that's for sure 🙂
    Want? Yes. Hope I can get in Australia.

  • For sampling, looks like you can just load in the flash memory your own samples.  I would assume by USB and a dedicated software with a limited duration per sample.  I really want to see the Linndrum 2 now and how it's evolved.  

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jake: Actually, one layout I'm surprised I haven't seen is 4 x 8 … although then you're getting close to monome territory, I suppose.

    9 x 9 for people who prefer triple meters? 😉

  • Looks like sampling is the hot topic everyone wants to know about. 🙂

    It will be a little disappointing if its only factory samples. But the synthesis aspects of the machine definitely have their own appeal. I'm also curious how useful for sequencing other gear the midi might be.

  • It would be great if you had the ability to route external signals through the stereo compressor, distortion and effects. That would make this machine a no-brainer on my part.

  • Wow, that looks and sounds like an absolutely beautiful bit of gear. Yeah, it's out of my price range as well unfortunately, but it's gorgeous enough that I'm sitting here genuinely contemplating getting a credit card for this. IMHO this seems like almost the perfect antithesis to the Octatrack. OOooohh babeh!

  • wow, finally! hooray! kudos to you both for the video. Though I'm now in the midst of a terrible conundrum – not whether to kiss mad dollarz goodbye, though thats conundrum enough – but whether to do so on the Dave Smith (synthy) machine or the Roger Linn (samply) machine!

    Also, I wasn't so stoked about NAMM this year (already being jaded after one experience, haha) but now – this is more exciting than the OP-1!

  • it looks like an incredible machine.

    a synth / sampler with an on-the-fly o.s. .

    perfect for this generation of overdriven synth based hip-hop

    too bad Linn doesn't know how to sell it.

    that presentation sucked.

    they need to sell it in a way todays market will understand.

    depending on how the sample are handled it could be the best machine to come out in a decade from a hip-hop point of view.

    i hope he can find someone that can get that point across.

  • I have 8 x 2 on my SP-505. 4 x 2,  and 4 x 4 feels more natural on my MPD, other SP's. 

    It is going to be interesting to see how this will stack up against the Octatrak.

    Maybe Roland will enter the fray with a sampling TR box.

  • Actually Steve Jobs said "real artists ship".

  • Bridge

    @mrthraz- I think you are wrong about them not marketing right. Look at the Beat Kangz most people see through the god awful "Hip-Hop" marketing with the Bling and all that. I think people regardless of their personal style or genre really respect these guys and the history and like that they are genuine and dont fake it. My only problem was with their video the vocals were too quiet or the music was too loud or both. I had to keep adjusting my volume.

  • one more… 16 levels in different scales! genius!

  • beta

    looks great, but they have REALLY got to do something to get that price down. $2000 is a lot of coin for this thing. you can't really compare it to a six voice analog synth because the functionality is so different.

    i would love for them to produce a more stripped down version. for example: i could live without the 6 outputs. 2 assignable outs would be plenty. and maybe drop an analog oscilator or even make a version that just has the digital oscilators. i'm sure there would be a way to make a 'tempest jr.' that's more in line with an amateur musicians budget.

  • @Bridge- ohh god, i didn't say act like an ass the way beat kings did.
    is that what you think hip hop culture is all about?
    it wouldn't hurt to have some notable characters like, Pete Rock, the Rza or David Banner show what type of sounds you can get out of a 16-pad synth / sampler.

    maybe have Mr. Invisible do a live set with it.


  • strunkdts

    with any luck this will kick every other company in the ass to give us what we really want. (A new Korg SX would be nice, and Roland have been retarded for years!) Then the price comes down. At the moment these guys are the Kings and can charge accordingly.

  • veg kid

    do you think I could get this as a plug in?        


  • @mrthraz:  I've been making hip hop music for almost 10 years now, I live and breath the culture so there you go.  I originally said "hip Hop" in quotes for a reason as it is just cheesy marketing and not reflective of what hip hop really is to most people who care(Beat Thang).  I kind of like Dave and Rogers earnest demo's.  Kind of like here's how it works, it's up to do something unique with it.  

  • Looks like a decent tool, but not even close to being worth the price tag when there are Beat Thangs and Maschines that cost a lot less and provide seemingly more.

  • mcpepe

    Everybody is talking about the sampling, but I dont see any sampling capabilities in the specificactions…
    Is this machine only synthesis or sampling&synthesis?

  • Random Chance

    What have we come to? It seems like everytime a new instrument comes out, people ask for price drops or scaling the feature set down while still approaching what today's plugins and DAWs can do. I may not be terribly excited by this thing (that is, until it actually ships, they've eliminated all the quirks that necessarily come with the first few versions of the firmware, and we've all heard what kind of sounds it really can produce and how good the workflow really is), but, come on, there's enough cheap and "low"-end stuff around and more's to come. So how can anyone really complain about the price and the feature set? As far as I see it the user interface and features are already stripped down. I'd love more knobs and less menus. When I have the time I'll really have to put the money where my mouth is, construct a drum machine with an immediate user interface and the features/specs of today's components. Hopefully, someone will beat me to it, though. 😉

  • Peter Kirn

    Cost is definitely a symptom of this having analog voices, period. Doing analog architecture is expensive.

    Obviously, there's another way of approaching this, or Roger wouldn't have started with his drum machine product. Naturally, I'll share information when he's ready to make it public.

    I think it's fairly likely that some of the conversations happening here are ones that at one point or another happened around Tempest/LinnDrum II in the last few years. It's always a balancing act.

  • Peter Kirn

    Sampling: sorry, I should have clarified. Think wavetable oscillators, not real sampling. They do a good job I think of talking in the interview about why they didn't go the sample route. Obviously, sampling drum machines are very useful and lovely things, but you have computers as an option for that. I think this is really about synthesis, and analog synthesis, to boot, which has its own appeal.

    Oh, PS, I see the date/timestamps are off on comments here; I'll fix that shortly. Some time zone setting issues conflicting, I think.

  • Em Wilson

    I'm buying one. The only question in my mind is whether I sell The Airbase or the Xbase.

  • boneless

    wow–  there was a "what software would you like to see made into hardware?" poll on synthtopia (i think) and my answer was soniccharge microtonic–  I didn't realize how close I was to getting pretty much exactly that!

  • boneless

    also anybody who has a problem with the 2×8 pad layout, you could always plug in an mpd— then you'd be able to leave the 2×8's on XoX mode, and play the 4×4 pads at the same time!

  • Man if you could assign one voice to key in on the compressor to duck the rest of the mix that would be f'ing amazing.  There's already an analog compressor why not make it able to duck.  You could just do it within the software or  a hardware key in input on the back would also be awesome and work.  Peter, feel free to pass this one on!  

  • heinrichz

    looks great..however at 2k it will have to compete with something like maschine plus komplete7 for plug-ins and you can even still throw in a mac book. as we know and i've already seen, maschine 1.6 will host plug-in instruments and effects ans it all can be automated. While it's nice to have a standalone solution for some, personally i certainly dont long for the days of squinting in small  displays for my midi editing and will prefer a computer based setup with a specialized controller any day..that also for file management and storage or backup.
    As far as the sound, while i love analog i also dare to say that it's somewhat overrated these days and i have no problems settling with well designed and more flexible software instrument such as NI synths or Reaktor instead..

  • xmodz

    When Roger talked about using MIDI delay an effect on the Tempest rather than a digital delay, it got me to thinking…

    Does anyone here know of a small hardware box that is similar to stompbox style MIDI delay effects pedal?

  • xmodz

    Please excuse that terrible sentence at the end of my post. *facepalm*

    That's what happens when you type too quickly and can't edit your post.

  • finalmattasy

    My jaw dropped when I saw this today.  They finally put it out!  
    I'd be down, except I was expecting something that could compete with a 10 year old MPC.
    I'm dying to come across something that can sequence SONGS in a live setting!
    My MPC 2000xl is how old?!  And it's still the best thing I know of for programming filter sweeps and other modulations.
    Even the mpc5000 got stuck with 100,000 max notes… what's the deal?  
    Somebody needs to make a rock solid sequencer with good media (still using zip disks) and more than 300,000 notes per… AND high res ppq.
    I'm surprised that neither this, nor the octatrack can be my new box.  I wonder in amazement as to why my 10 year old grey relic is still my best bet for fluidly sequencing stinking midi.  Am I missing something? What the heck!

  • drumhand

    Looks to be extremely musical, both in sound and playability.  Unfortunately I suspect that the $2k price point puts it way out of the average musicians budget.  By the way in addition to being a great engineer and musician Mr. Linn has excellent taste in beverages as well – note the Lagunitas IPA visible in the one introductory shot.  Good people drink good beer. 

  • Pym

    @Peter The Tempest has a fair amount of samples in it, we got a bunch donated from FXPansion and GoldBaby and will probably have more from the old instruments like the SCI and Linndrum series just for kicks. In addition, like you mentioned, it does have wavetable oscillation and we'll have the Prophet VS waveforms in there as well and some others since wavelets are really small in terms of storage (like a really clean low sine way for sub bass layering). There is very little sample memory since we spent all the money on the analog side of things. Roger will handle the digital and sample side of things in his product

  • "Roger will handle the digital and sample side of things in his product"

    Understatement of the year.

  • I don't see why people think this is too expensive. I think in a lot of ways it's comparable to the prophet 08, which is basically the same price.

    You'll probably be able to get one roughly $1800 street, which is pretty good for what it is.

  • Interesting how the high pass is a separate filter. shame it doesn't have it's own resonance.
    I'm interested to see how dirty this can get with a combination of the feedback and the distortion.

  • x0x0x

    2k for a prophet 08 is also crazy. it's only half the machine of prophet 05

  • Caustic Crush

    I will gladly pay $2140.00 for this instrument. No, I can't easily afford it, and intend to start saving for it because I understand what it can accomplish. Too many people are missing the fact that "sampling" in the synthesis world often refers to a number of different oscillation methods ranging from granular to wavetables, all of which are infinitely more interesting to me than "sampling" a drum sound. With a little creative noodling you can bend a signal into…anything. This instrument is not for the average musician. It is truly unique and looks like a pleasure to play!

  • Max


    *gasp*- bows down –

  • Samuel S

    digging up an older post here, but any news on the Tempest?

    Have trawled the web, but nothing recent is popping up.

    May soon be in the market for a drum synth. The Tempest looks amazing, but I'm curious about whether it will be also be able to load samples (a deal-sealer for me, for sure).

  • Samuel S

    PS i don't want sampling for sampling drum sounds, I want to sample field recordings 😉

  • Samuel S

    ahhh…. so no real-world sampling.

    well I'm still excited anyway : )

  • djYucatec




    Dein Kommentar wartet auf die Überprüfung.

    Slighty more Xpensive? Hey Grand
    pa ,we have a crisi out there ,and we r not rich BH…The price of this
    TOY is way ,way too xpensive specially in the day where software are
    barely free…Even Akai mpc are way cheaper..I suggest you change your
    price strategy,You will have to anyway! Otherwise this product will have
    no Future!!You seems to forget the Future are the kids out there,and
    the kids do not have 2000 dollars just to experiment !!!!

  • djYucatec




    Dein Kommentar wartet auf die Überprüfung.

    Slighty more Xpensive? Hey Grand
    pa ,we have a crisi out there ,and we r not rich BH…The price of this
    TOY is way ,way too xpensive specially in the day where software are
    barely free…Even Akai mpc are way cheaper..I suggest you change your
    price strategy,You will have to anyway! Otherwise this product will have
    no Future!!You seems to forget the Future are the kids out there,and
    the kids do not have 2000 dollars just to experiment !!!!

  • djYucatec




    Dein Kommentar wartet auf die Überprüfung.

    Slighty more Xpensive? Hey Grand
    pa ,we have a crisi out there ,and we r not rich BH…The price of this
    TOY is way ,way too xpensive specially in the day where software are
    barely free…Even Akai mpc are way cheaper..I suggest you change your
    price strategy,You will have to anyway! Otherwise this product will have
    no Future!!You seems to forget the Future are the kids out there,and
    the kids do not have 2000 dollars just to experiment !!!!