Thursday, October 21, 2010

Linn Electronics, Inc. LinnDrum, Keyboard 1982

Linn Electronics, Inc. LinnDrum advertisement from page 13 of Keyboard Magazine April 1982.

My obsession with Oberheim and 'The System' family of products is getting a little too intense even for me, so I thought I would throw out this introductory LinnDrum ad to try and get my mind off of Oberheim for a bit.

I mentioned this ad in my previous Oberheim DMX blog post, when I mentioned that I was more drawn to this ad's stark black & white simplicity in comparison to that DMX ad's off-balanced design. And what simplicity it is. I've included as much of the scanned page as possible in order to show just how much white space there actually was. It also gives you an idea of just how small that black and white photo image of the LinnDrum is.

This ad only seems to have ran once, which makes sense if a reader actually took the time to read to the bottom of the page where it says, "Coming next month...". This was obviously the pre-introductory ad to turn Keyboard readers' appetites up a notch before the real advertisement came out in the next issue of Keyboard.

That "Coming next month..." bit is a great little piece of reference info, providing us with the exact month of the release of the LinnDrum. And that list price of $2995 is also a nice reference nugget.

Directly below that date information is LinnDrum's not-so-secret weapon - "...from the inventors of the digital drum machine". To me, that would have given the company *a lot* of cred back in 1982.

But most interesting to me is the spattering of text that Linn decided to bold throughout the main body of the ad-copy. From a historical perspective, I think those pieces of highlighted text really provide us with a look back at what technical developments Linn was focusing on since the release of their first drum machine, the LM-1. And I would guess most of those tech developments would have been driven by what the competition was doing. In particular, how Linn seemed to be playing a bit of catch-up with the competition- the Oberheim DMX drum machine, released a year or two earlier.

In fact, this competition was still in play years later, and was quite apparent in music shop demo rooms, on stage, and in the studio. Heck, even the opening sentence for the DMX section of the book "Electronic Drums", by Frank Vilardi with Steve Tarshis (1985) mentions it.

That opening line simply states:
"The DMX shares with the LinnDrum the position of most popular drum computer."
Doesn't get any clearer than that. :o)

So, I decided to take a closer look at that bold text from the ad. From the ad-copy:
  • "Studio quality digital recordings of real drums - crash and ride cymbals, bass, snare...":

    The LinnDrum's predecessor, the LM-1, didn't have crash and ride cymbals. So, when the DMX came out with both of these sounds, the LinnDrum had to include them to stay competitive. According to other LinnDrum advertising literature, the LinnDrum apparently had "exclusive circuitry [to] permit long sustain time and extended high frequency response" needed for sounds like the crash and ride.

  • "...three toms..."

    According to the ad literature, the LM-1 had two toms, so the LinnDrum's three was a definite improvement. In comparison, the DMX apparently had one single tom sample but at six separate pitches (separated into Tom 1 and Tom 2). Confusing or what? I'll have to dig deeper into this one at some point.
  • "Stereo mixer with volume and pan sliders..."

    Panning was available right on the front panel of the machine for each instrument. Nice and convenient. And quite unique from what I can gather. And as far as I know, the DMX didn't offer panning at all.
  • "Drums may be externally triggered by drum synthesizer, pads or any audio source"

    Again, I don't think the LM-1 had this feature. But the DMX offered trigger and control voltage inputs. Looks like Linn was definitely playing catch-up.
  • "Drum sounds are user-changable"

    I've never opened up a LinnDrum, but apparently you can swap the chips out really easily just by opening up the face of the machine. The chips on the DMX, on the other hand, are a little bit harder to change. They are located on cards that have to be removed in order to swap out chips.
So, those bolded words really do tell us a lot about what features were real selling points at the time, and how Linn was positioning the machine against the competition.

Trying to decide which one of these machines to purchase in 1982 would have been a tough choice for me. The sheer beauty of Oberheim's family of products is hard to resist. But I'm also a sucker for knobs, dials, switches and sliders. And the LinnDrum has plenty. If I had to make a choice on just what I know right now, I think I would have leaned more towards purchasing the LinnDrum.

But, I'll have to do a bit of sound auditioning before making any final conclusions on that one. So, the next question is... do I "go big" and check eBay, or stay on the cheap and look for samples?

*checks wallet*

Samples it is... :o)


Unknown said...

I had to check the date. Twice. With that layout and the Lynn font, it looks more like 1962 than 1982.

Ahhhh...white space.

Carlinhos said...

Recently I bought a Linndrum on ebay in perfect conditions (functionally and cosmetic) and It sounds great. Now I will buy eproms with sounds of DMX , LM1 and SCI Drumtraks. So, I recommed the Linndrum (only I miss the MIDI).

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