The Machinedrum is not something you can easily acquire. It’s hard to find Elektron in your local drum machine shop – not that there are many drum machine shops out there but fortunately all their products can be ordered online – if the price isn’t too steep for you. Anyway, I was eager to try this little beast out so let’s see what it can do.
The Machinedrum is a drum synthesizer with a small sample memory. It has 6 audio outputs and 2 inputs making it a device capable of serious routing and sound designing on stage or in studio. The heart of the machine is the 16 track sequencer which is very easy to use and unlike other devices out there it can in fact be used for live production. You get 64 step patterns out of the box – some are great, some are not – and 130 “machines” that are basically the sounds you can use and edit as you wish.
Look and feel
It’s a brick. I like the simple design and the square buttons although they are quite loud. The body is made of steel but the unit only weighs around 6 pounds. The screen could be bigger in my opinion. When you are performing live you often need to glance on the screen and it can be hard to read. In fact the black/white area around the screen could be used for a bigger screen making it easier to see things. Then again, you can read most of the stuff from the step sequencer and surely you wont be spending time editing sounds on stage. All the buttons and knobs are made of plastic and they react without latency.
Sound selection is done with the big black wheel. You can see which sound is selected on the nearby LED bar. Changing patterns is a piece of cake and I love how the Machinedrum handles that. By selecting a bank from A to H and pressing a number you can change the pattern on the next beat. Recording beats can be done in different ways. The original drum machine method is to select a sound and select when it should be played. The alternate method is live recording with quantize of course. It works like a charm. Effects are handled on the screen and it’s easy to do some weird stuff with it. You can record the effect changes you made to your sound although it is hard to control them with a little knob. I love that the device responds immediately to everything.
The Machinedrum sounds great. Superb quality kits can be achieved in a small amount of time (see video). Audio signals can be routed to any of the 6 outputs. A great thing to mess around is recording external audio and resample them. 2.5 MB of sample memory however raises some questions. Why not include bigger memory or a CF card slot? Because of the lack of storage I’m refusing to call it a sampler. Resampling can be applied to the built in sounds as well opening a whole new world of sounds without limits. The sound is punchy, deep, delicate and very dynamic. Different kits will give you different styles from nu jazz to techno.
The Machinedrum SPS-1 UW will cost you $1790, shipping included. In the package Elektron’s midi interface, a TM-1 is included. It might be a little too high for “just” a drum synthesizer. This device sounds great, it’s easy to use and it’s very compact. You can take it with you in your backpack and you can lay superb beats and patterns down in a minute. If you are looking for a sampler, I suggest you look somewhere else. However, to be honest the Machinedrum is the best drum machine out there. Period.