Monday, May 26, 2014

Linn Electronics Inc. LinnSequencer "Imagine the possibilities." ad, Keyboard 1985

Linn Electronics LinnSequencer "Imagine the possibilities" colour advertisement from page 67 in the December 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

This LinnSequencer advertisement was the second last Linn Electronics ad to appear in Keyboard - running in the December 1985 and January 1986 issues.  If you recall from last week it was then replaced by the company's final ad for the LinnDrum Midistudio (see right) that ran for two months before Linn closed up shop.  :(

The actual design of the two ads are quite similar, with the same black background, the left-side pull-in callout box (yellow of the Midistudio, aqua for the LinnSequencer) and bottom white branding bar with the Linn logo to the far right.

The similarities in design don't end with the ads themselves either. For one thing, the two units share a new rack mount design that is quite a departure from Linn's earlier desktop designs. They also share the same beige colouring and control-type buttons.

When I first became aware of the LinnSequencer, I thought it was simply the sequencer guts of Linn's earlier Linn9000 drum machine/sequencer. I've never had access to either units, so could never confirm this. But others online have thought the same thing including "subsonicdigital" who in April 2011 had this to say in response to a Gearslutz post on the LinnSequencer:
"It is the brain of the famous Linn 9000, going back way before the MPC was invented. Apparently, only the MPC 3000 (maybe the 4000) has similar feel."
More evidence can be found right on the front panel of the two machines. Many of the same sequencer buttons and controls (including some of the characteristic layout) can be found on both the Linn 9000 and LinnSequencer. And, well, it just makes sense that Roger Linn would take the renowned sequencer out of the Linn drum machines and sell its on its own.I just wished there was promo information from the time period that would spell it out.

Unlike the LinnDrum Midistudio, the LinnSequencer must have made it into production since there are many good photos of the machine floating around the Web as well as a few up for auction on eBay every now and then (including right now). For some really good shots of the front and back, I'd checkout this November 2010 auction post on MATRIXSYNTH.

The mid-80s was an interesting time for hardware sequencers as two factors started coming into play. First, MIDI had begun to make major in-roads since its launch three or four years earlier. And second, home computers were dropping in price, including the new crazy-affordable Atari 520/1040STs. And with those home computers came software sequencers. Those Atari computers even came with built-in MIDI interfaces. Sweet.

Although I couldn't find an original price for the LinnSequencer online, it turns out that this advertisement appeared in the same January 1986 "Midimania" issue of Keyboard Magazine that also included a great little chart comparing all the software and hardware sequencers of the time period. Jackpot.

Looking at the chart, computer software sequencers were outnumbering hardware sequencers at least three to one. And compared to other hardware sequencers around at the time, the LinnSequencer was definitely on the more expensive side listing out at $1,250. The only hardware sequencer priced higher was Yamaha's beast of a sequencer QX1 at $2,795. A few others floated just under the LinnSequencer's list price including the Roland MSQ-700 at $1,195 and Roland MC500 at $1,095. The rest of the hardware sequencers ran somewhere in the range of $400-750. These prices could have made the LinnSequencer a tough sell.

And believe it or not - it seems you can still buy of these babies. Forat, who still sells many updated Linn products including the LinnSequencer, has a page with some great technical and operational information.

Definitely check that Forat page out.

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