Amidst renewed conversation about what drum machines should be – see heated comments – it’s enlightening to revisit the drum machine as marketed in 1982. This vintage Linn Electronics LM-1 “Drum Computer” ad captures a moment in the birth of the modern drum machine. Some of what’s desirable then remains desirable today. Others – “Real Drum Sounds” – are amusingly far less novel, looking back from far deeper into the digital age.

Real time programming, mixing functions, and friendly design, though, remain important – and you can thank designer Roger Linn and his LM-1 for the profound influence they’ve had on drum machine design. In fact, quite a bit of the personality of the LM-1’s front panel and programming approach remain in the imminent Dave Smith – Roger Linn collaboration, the Tempest.

What I find interesting is that the economy of the LM-1’s front panel could still offer something to someone making a new drum machine, whether it’s your humble Pd or Max for Live patch, an iPad/tablet app, or DIY hardware.

Looping back on another impassioned discussion from last week, it’s worth noting Roger’s background: in 1978, as he began the LM-1 design, he was – and is – a guitarist. It took a guitarist to help create the modern sampling and drum programming revolution. (Well, you wouldn’t have expected a drummer to do it, would you?)

  • Does an article about Linn mean the new all-digital Roger Linn drum machine is dropping soon? ? ; )

  • Peter Kirn

    Ha – you'd have to ask Roger that, not me, but maybe this will encourage him. 😉

  • synthetic

    Of course the ad was in the context where the TR-808 was the most realistic drum machine you could get. This was the first sampled drum machine. So it was "real drums" for the time. 

  • The release of Tempest has been postponed till end of summer-early autumn. Guess they are still working on allot of tweaks on it. 🙁

  • quantize

    Personally I think the LM-1 deserves a place right up next to the 808 and 909…being featured in so many important albums of the era…Human League's 'Dare' and Shelley's 'Homosapien'. Martin Rushent really popularized the sound of the LM-1 in the way he used it.

    Hey it was even used in Toto Coelo's 'I Eat Cannibals'…a watermark in songwriting (insert irony)

  • Brian Tuley

    I don't know if it was this model, or the next generation from Linn, but I remember writing for a free demo cassette of the chip sounds available –  sometime around 1983.  I wish I had that cassette tape now.  It would be fun to Recycle that collection drum sounds into my existing samples library.  

  • Kim

    I think that the Electribe Mx is a modern classic. I cant afford anything by roger right now but maybe someday.
    @peter This isn't really a drum machine related question but are there any Vsti's that do the job of the old ASR-10? Also an article on the state of pitch-shifting and morphing would be great.

    I also would like anyone's opinion here on Symbolic sounds Kyma if you have worked with it and specifically how good is the morphing and pitch-shifting capabilities? I noticed they have released the Pacarana and would I be better with the old Capybara or is the Pacarana as good?
    Thanks for any answers.

  • Legs Mechanical

    Everytime I see an LM-1 (which has only been in pictures, sadly) I think about the liner notes to Peter Gabriel's Security: "LM-1 Programming by Peter Gabriel" (or something to that effect).  Something about that always makes me smile for some reason that goes beyond the fact that the LM-1 sounds awesome on those early Gabriel albums.

  • Radiophobic

    Kim: I can't speak from first hand knowledge, but from what I understand the Pacarana is just an update on the Capybara. Its a bit more expensive for the base model, but you get a lot more than what you could have gotten with a fully upgraded Capybara. I don't think it will sound any different because its a dsp processor; the update just gives you more dsp to work with. 

  • Kim

    @Radiophobic Thanks! This is one of those purchase decisions that I just cant do on my own so I really appreciate the input. I trust the opinions at Createdigitalmusic over those elsewhere on the web + Less Trolls here.

  • @Pete– what a nice surprise! Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
    It looks so large by today's standards. I remember designing the chassis very deep because the circuit boards weren't yet done and I didn't know how big they'd be. I recall musicians in the 80s telling how much they appreciated the large top surface area for cutting cocaine. 🙂
    A few specs: 27 kHz sampling rate, 8 bit resolution, around 30k bytes total sound memory, 1.8 mHz CPU, 4k program ROM and 4k data RAM!
    By the way, I accidentally stumbled upon quantizing (which I called Timing Correct) because I initially limited sequence resolution to 1/16 notes in order to save memory. Then when I wrote the real-time beat programming software I was surprised to find that my notes were moving onto 1/16 notes, fixing my timing errors. It's not a bug, it's a feature! Then I figured I'd delay the alternate 1/16 notes a little and voila: swing! 
    Thanks again, Pete, for this and for creating my favorite morning newspaper. 

  • shim

    everytime i see/hear this box i think of prince.
    the early prince that is; the dirty, nasty funking monster.
    sigh. good times.

  • mediawest

    gabriels shock the monkey, all LM1….
    this was the first of the genre machines, before the roland stuff, before oberheim the LM1 was the first……..

  • quantize

    Wow, the creator speaks! Awesome!

  • Amazing to hear stories of 80's artists cutting cocaine in the studio! I love the samples of this machine, to this day.