Thursday, May 17, 2012

Linn Electronics Inc. "The best sound. The most features. The original." ad, 1983

Linn Electronics Inc. "The best sound. The most features. The original." advertisement from page 41 in the April 1983 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

I have a confession to make. My new interest in the LinnDrum is more than just a passing fancy. I think I may have found one for sale in my little city and am very excited about the potential opportunity to add it to my expanding 80s drum machine wall. I love sampling drum machines (and drum machines that sample!) - either for use by others in their productions, or directly into Sonar or ReNoise for my own use. And usually that includes going through a big stack of hardware effects. Not gonna lie - the idea of  hunting down all those alternative sound chips for the LinnDrum makes me more than a little giddy. Just sayin'...

Linn Electronics stepped up the "complication factor" for Keyboard readers when they replaced their long-running LinnDrum introductory advertisement with this more copy-heavy ad that ran from April - September 1983.

There is really three different messages going on in the ad-copy - in my opinion, two more than there should be.

First, we have the regular LinnDrum sell-job - promotional introductory ad-copy in black.
Second, "features in red are available only on the LinnDum"
And third, a few bullet items labeled "New!" - apparently both software updates and accessories.

When you dig through it all, I think the one real message Linn is trying to get across is finally listed at the end of the ad-copy: "Shop around and compare, then buy the real one - Linn Drum".

In other words - look at our features and compare us to the competition. That would have been much simpler and more effective. No need for colour coding and bold "New!" labels.

Also, I just have to point out that although most "new" features are in red (ie. available only on the LinnDrum), there is one that is black. This seems to indicate that the one black "new" feature was available on other drum machines before the LinnDrum? If true, I'm not sure you want to be promoting that kind of thing, even in a round-a-bout kind of way. But full points to Linn Electronics for honesty.

Anyways - that 'new' bullet in black text caught my eye for another reason:
  • "New! 98 rhythm patterns - all programmable in real time with adjustable error correction"
That is double the "49 patterns" originally promoted in the introductory advertisement from May 1982:
  • "49 rhythm patterns - all programmable in real time with adjustable error correction"
Because I'm about to hopefully score one, I naturally became curious about what other revisions and updates were added over time to the LinnDrum. With instruments like the Prophet-5 or Arp Oddysey, you can't take two search-steps around the Internet without tripping over specifications on the different versions - increased patch storage, change in internal or external design, etc... everyone and their mother is trying to tell you everything they know.

But I found it extremely difficult to find anything out about changes made to the LinnDrum. According to the Wikipedia page for the LinnDrum, it was manufactured for over four years and sold over 5000 units. Surely the competitive landscape changed enough over time that Linn had to update the thing. But yet, every site I seem to visit has the exact same information.

Using the example above about the change in the number of rhythm patterns available, online references like Vintage Synth Explorer's LinnDrum page seem to always quote the availability of 98 patterns - 56 user patterns and 42 preset patterns that can't be re-recorded). No one ever seems to talk about the 49 patterns that were originally available.

But obviously there must have been updates like the increase in rhythm patterns or the other new feature promoted in this ad (in red) - "New! Digital tempo readout in beats-per-minute, and frames-per-beat".

Even though I'm pouting, I did find some evidence of other updates too - online and offline.

For example - online, I found that's LinnDrum page has a LinnDrum Rev 3.1 update available for a respectable $60 as well as a 3.1 Software Manual for download (scroll down to the bottom) dated early 1984 that states "The following describe additional operating capability undocumented in copies of the owner's manual prior to 2/1/84".

It includes a list of five new features:
  • Single step programming
  • Additional song steps - increased from 99 to 250
  • Additional trigger output rates
  • Ext sync enhancements
  • Song storage formatting  
Offline, I found a reference to LinnDrum updates in the book Electronic Drums by Frank Vilardi and Steve Tarshis published in 1985. It includes a section on "Drum Computers" and includes the LinnDrum (as well as the Linn9000!). It references a recent memory increase:
"Its newly updated memory has a capacity of 5200 events in ninety-eight patterns and forty-nine songs."
Maybe I just wasn't using the right search terms.Or maybe they weren't considered versions? I'm still researching, and will definitely pass on anything I find out. There are a few more Linn ads to go  :)

Before I sign-off - three other features of this ad that caught my eye.

First is that the suggested retail price, found in the introductory ad at $2995 is now gone. And newer references to the price I've found online (and in that Electronic Drums book) has the price at $2495. Obviously the LinnDrum had a price drop somewhere.

Second - Linn Electronics went and changed that final bit of ad-copy again. I first noticed a change between the pre-intro ad and the introductory ad:

Pre-intro ad: "Designed for non-technical musicians"
Intro ad: "Requires no technical knowledge"
And now in this ad: "Simple, musician-oriented operation"

I think we have a winner! Much better.

Third - right at the bottom of the ad is the promo for the free demo record that was also included in the last ad. But this time - it also includes the colour brochure! I included a recording of that sound sheet in my last blog post. And that post also included a link to an eBay auction for the brochure and sound sheet. Check it out if you are interested.

Like I said - I'm still doing my research on this lovely machine. I've just joined the Yahoo LinnDrum group in the hopes of learning more about the machine, and maybe pick up a few tips and tricks to use when*  I get the one I have my eyes on.   (*if)

Yay! Cross fingers!

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