Monday, May 19, 2014

Linn Electronics Inc. LinnDrum Midistudio "Put a complete studio in your lap." ad, Keyboard 1986

Linn Electronics LinnDrum Midistudio "Put a complete studio in your lap." colour advertisement from page 19 in the February 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Here's a good question...  What does the Akai MPC series of sampler/sequencers and the Atari ST have in common?

In reality - not much. But in my mind - well... quite the opposite.

I've been infatuated with both for the last couple of weeks after a chance encounter landed a MPC 2000xl and an early model Atari 520 ST (in the original boxes - see photo at right ---->)  in my possession.

The MPC was in rough shape, in need of seven or eight new buttons, a new rotary encoder and variation slider (soldering isn't my strong suit), as well as about 10 or 12 screws that had gone missing after years of use/abuse. A quick search online for parts brought up - and I not only ordered the parts I needed, but also got a memory upgrade AND some thick black pads.  Gonna totally hotrod that thing.

So, while I waited for those parts to arrive, I decided to do some research on the Atari to figure out what kind of MIDI software might still be available to play around with. And lets face it, maybe get a blog post or two on the software ads I came across.  :)

As you may have guessed by the title of this blog post, those Atari software ad scans will have to wait because while I was digging through old Keyboard magazines for software ads, I came across this Linn Electronics ad for the almost-totally-unknown LinnDrum Midistudio.

What a great looking machine. You could almost mistake it for one of Akai's new MPC controllers! Like, seriously!

The LinnDrum Midistudio was the last product of Linn Electronics Inc. to be advertised in Keyboard Magazine, appearing in the February and March 1986 issues. And it looks like it was scheduled to appear in the April issue as well since it is referenced on page 140 of the magazine in the advertising index, but when you flip to its referenced position on page 87 of the magazine, it has been replaced by one of Keyboard Magazine's own ads for their "Rock Keyboard" book.

What caused Linn to pull the ad in April? Well, sadly, according to the "Past Products Museum" page on Roger Linn Designs' current Web site, it was around February 1986 that the last of the Linn 9000's were sold and Linn Electronics "closed its doors due to strong competition and the growing pains of a small business". Boooooo. Makes me sad  :(

Wait... what? Linn 9000? That was the last product by Linn Electronics? Not the Midistudio?  Roger Linn's own museum page doesn't even mention the Midistudio.


Turns out that many sources on the Web, such as Vintage Synth Explorer, consider the Linn 9000 to be the last product by Linn Electronics and that machine is also referred to as the "original MPC60". And let's face it - it kinda was. Because it was actually a machine you could buy.
But, according to the few LinnDrum Midistudio sources available on the Web, including an April 2008 post by MusicThing, the actual direct descendent to the MPC60 was the LinnDrum Midistudio - although it apparently never made it into production (see blogger comments below that MusicThing post for a sighting of an actual unit in a music store).

According to the page, the Midistudio was announced at the 1986 NAMM show as the replacement for the Linn9000.  As you can see from the photo,  it included the now-famous 4x4 pad configuration whereas the Linn 9000 had a more traditional drum machine-style long rows of drum pads. The Midistudio also featured that beige colour that became another trademark design feature of the MPC series.That post also includes one of the best photos of both the control unit and the actual rack unit, attached together by a 100ft cord between the two! Hence the the name of the ad: "Put a complete studio in your lap". And your lap could be all the way across the studio.

An "In the Studio" feature from the October 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine titled "What happened to the Linn 9000" (online version by the author available) included a letter from Roger Linn to Linn dealers and service centres that explained the situation the company was in as well as a bit more evidence on the Midistudio/MPC lineage - bolding in the below quote is mine:
"NOTE: Mail addressed to the old Linn address is being forwarded to Roger Linn personally. During the recent NAMM show in Chicago I spoke with Roger Linn and he is now working with Akai. He is working on a new product, which he would not divulge what it would be, my suspicions would lead me to believe this new product to be a spin off of the Midi Studio." has a page on the Midistudio as well, and explains its relation to the Linn 9000. According to the page, "all the 9000 features are retained including dynamic buttons, cue tempo, repeat, interchangeable sounds, 32 tracks per sequence and more." The page also gives us a list price for the Midistudio - $5,990.00.

So, was the Midistudio the direct descendent to the MPC range, that then continued on to evolve into my broken down MPC2000xl and beyond?  I'm gonna say yes, even if it never made it into production. The 4x4 pads, the beige colouring, and the few references I've found online is good enough evidence to me.

And what happened to my MPC2000xl? Well, I managed to fix the buttons,install the RAM and make the pad upgrade - easy stuff. Chickened out on the soldering though.

Will leave that to my favorite local tech. :)

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