Linn LM-1

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Linn LM-1 Drum Computer
Linn LM-1 Drum Computer - digital drum machine - Rev. 2
Linn LM-1 Drum Computer - digital drum machine - Rev. 2
Manufactured by Linn Electronics
Dates 1980-1982
Price US $4,995 - $5,500 - $3,995
Technical specifications
Polyphony polyphonic: Rev. 1: 10 voices, Rev. 2 & 3: 9 voices
Timbrality multitimbral 12 voices
Synthesis type 8 bit Digital Samples / 28 kHz
Memory 100 memory patches
Effects Individual level, pan, tuning for all sounds
Keyboard 12 hard plastic "pads"
External control pre MIDI, external clock oscillator input, tape sync in/out

The Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, manufactured by Linn Electronics Inc., was the first drum machine to use digital samples of acoustic drums and was conceived and designed by Roger Linn.[1] It was also one of the first programmable drum machines.

It was introduced in early 1980 at a list price of US$4,995, climbed to $5,500 when additional features were incorporated, fell to $4,995 as cost-cutting measures were introduced, and later reduced to $3,995 before it was discontinued after the release of its successor, the LinnDrum. Somewhere between 500[2][3] and 725[4] units were built.

It is prized by amateur and professional musicians alike for its rarity as well as its characteristic sounds, which can be heard on the recordings of such famous artists as Prince, Michael Jackson, The Human League, Peter Gabriel, Kraftwerk and countless hits of the 1980s by other artists.


Roger Linn was a professional guitarist in California in 1978 when he began to develop the LM-1 as an accompaniment tool for his home studio. He had experimented with many of the preset rhythm boxes which were popular at the time, but was dissatisfied and "wanted a drum machine that did more than play preset samba patterns and didn't sound like crickets."[5] Having learned how to program in BASIC and assembly language, Linn set to work on a computer program which could play user-programmed rhythm patterns, as well as chain them together to form a song.

According to Linn, the first to suggest the idea of digital samples was Steve Porcaro of Toto. The drum sound samples were created by Roger & Art Wood, a Los Angeles session drummer, who also played drums with Cher, Bette Midler, Tina Turner, Gary Wright, Peter Frampton, James Brown and others, as well as on numerous movies and tv shows..

Linn achieved his sounds by using a chip, built into the machine, which converted the digital samples into analog audio. His first prototype, manufactured at some time during 1979, was a cardboard box which contained the electronic components of the drum machine. Supposedly, Linn brought this prototype to parties and jobs and marketed it to fellow musicians, including Peter Gabriel, the members of Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Wonder, who bought one of the first units ever produced. (Wonder can be seen programming his LM-1 in a 1981 BBC documentary.)

In total, somewhere between 500[2][3] and 725[4] units were built and sold between 1980 and 1983, when the LM-1's successor, the LinnDrum, was released. The first 35 units were assembled in Linn's home, before manufacturing and distribution was taken over by 360 Systems, run by Bob Easton. The first 10 of these 35 units have distinctive features, as described below.


The LM-1 featured twelve 28kHz samples: snare, kick, three toms, hi-hat's, tambourine, congas, claps, cowbell, and rimshot, but no ride or crash.

The LM-1's many features set it apart from other drum machines of its time, most of which could only play a limited selection of preset rhythms (e.g. Roland CompuRhythm CR-78). One of its most prominent features was its programmability. Although the Linn LM-1 was not the first programmable drum machine (the PAiA Programmable Drum Set was released 6 years earlier), it was the first to use digital samples and gained widespread popularity among professionals. The LM-1 also introduced a shuffle feature that enabled users to program swing notes into their rhythms. Although this feature has often been imitated, the Linn shuffle has widely been recognized as the best and most natural-sounding, and is present on every device Linn designed, including the Akai MPC series.

The LM-1 included a built-in 13-channel mixer (one channel for each sound) as well as individual output jacks. This enabled Linn's machine to integrate with existing recording equipment in a way that had previously not been possible for a drum machine. Unlike the later LinnDrum, the LM-1 also had individual tuning pots for each voice, resulting in many famous users expressing their preference for the LM-1 long after the LinnDrum was introduced. Unlike its younger brother, the LM-1 lacked crash and ride cymbal sounds (which producers easily compensated for by having live cymbals overdubbed onto whatever track was being recorded) and the drum sounds could not be triggered by MIDI or trigger inputs. Nevertheless, the LM-1's sounds are very punchy and prominent.

There are notable differences between the various LM-1 revisions. The Rev. 1 LM-1 is recognizable by its engraved buttons and lack of shuffle LEDs. The drum buttons were engraved with a small symbol of the drum it represented (the bass drum button had a small engraving of a bass drum on it). These buttons were later discontinued because they were too expensive to manufacture. Internally it was different as well. It had single chips for the kick, tom, and conga sounds, and double chips for the clap. The Rev. 1 LM-1's did not have the filter on the kick, toms, and congas that Rev. 2 and later machines had. As a result, it didn't sound as nice as the Rev. 2 and later machines, but the toms and congas could be played simultaneously.

In the Rev.1 LM-1s, the first 10 have no serial numbers or pre-printed, adhesive-backed manufacturer's label on the rear panel, have a single molded metal frame for the front, bottom, and rear panels, have higher quality mixer pots, have two knobs for tempo control (coarse and fine; the fine control actually may have been intended for a rotary switch to program the shuffle setting), and are screen printed "Linn and Moffett Electronics" instead of "Linn Electronics" on the lower right front of the chassis beneath the drum buttons (Moffett was an early investor in the Linn drum computer development). There are other minor mechanical differences, too.

The Rev. 2 LM-1 introduced two rows of LEDs to indicate the shuffle and quantize settings, several additional buttons on the front panel to aid in programming, and a shared filter on the toms and congas, as well as the kick drum. There were a handful of Rev. 2 LM-1's with both engraved buttons and shuffle LEDs but these are extremely rare.

Cost-cutting measures were introduced to later Rev. 2's such as removing the engraved buttons and adding the drum names to the front panel, removing the sync input jack and sync output knob from the back of the machine (the current quantize setting became the default sync output rate), removing the low volume stereo outputs, decreasing the size of the play/stop button, and replacing the raised buttons with sealed buttons (flush with the surface) that were impossible to clean. In fact, the LM-1 service notes indicated these buttons had to be replaced if they went bad.

Brochures and Gallery[edit]

Rev. 1 Brochure (1980) - page 1
Rev. 2 Brochure (1981) - page 1
Rev. 2 Brochure (1981) - page 2
Very large image - Rev. 2


Because of the Linn LM-1's versatility, it superseded its intended purpose as an accompaniment tool and became a fully-fledged rhythm section for many synthpop and progressive acts. Along with the Roland TR-808, which was released around the same time, it is widely credited with legitimizing drum machines which, with a few notable exceptions, had previously largely been considered toys by most professional, mainstream musicians.

It was thought for a time that the LM-1 would put every session drummer in Los Angeles out of business, and caused enough of a stir that many leading session drummers (such as Jeff Porcaro of Toto, for example) went out and purchased their own drum machines and offered "programming" services (Porcaro used an LM-1 on George Benson's 1982 hit "Turn Your Love Around").

Herbie Hancock's Mr. Hands album, featuring the track "Textures", was released in September 1980 and is possibly the earliest known commercial release to feature the device. The first song featuring an LM-1 to hit #1 on the UK pop chart was the Human League's "Don't You Want Me", in late 1981. It is also the first LM-1 track to top the US Billboard Hot 100, spending four weeks there in July 1982.

In some ways the most important and lasting of the LM-1's various features is its sounds, which remain powerful and characteristic and a familiar staple of 1980s pop music. Linn acknowledged that his lack of audio engineering know-how may have contributed to his drum machine's unique sound - many of the samples contain playback frequencies above the Nyquist frequency which, although it results in aliasing under normal circumstances, contributes much to the "sizzle" of the LM-1's sound. [1]

Linn introduced the successor to his revolutionary machine in 1982. The LinnDrum often erroneously called the LM-2 (LM-1 stood for Linn/Moffett/1 and Moffett wasn't with the company by the time the LinnDrum came around), contained more sounds (including cymbals), more options for programming sounds (step programming mode), and 5 programmable trigger inputs, but was a step back from the LM-1 in that it removed the ability to tune all of the individual drum sounds (hi-hat, bass, cowbell, tambourine, sidestick, and many other sounds were no longer tunable). It retailed for $2,500 less than the original LM-1 and although it added some additional features, the cost-cutting measures were quite notable. Although the LinnDrum helped make electronic drums more affordable for the common musician, they are still not as revered as the LM-1 and generally can be found on the used market for much less.


Artist Album Songs Year
ABC Lexicon of Love "The Look of Love", Poison Arrow 1982
ABBA "The Day Before You Came", "Givin' a Little Bit More", "Should I Laugh or Cry", "You Owe Me One", "Under Attack" 1981-1982
The Alan Parsons Project Eye in the Sky (album) "Mammagamma" 1982
The Alan Parsons Project Ammonia Avenue "You Don't Believe" 1983
Alphaville "Big in Japan", "Sounds Like A Melody" 1984
Aneka Aneka 1981
Bill Wolfer Wolf 1982
Billy Idol Billy Idol "White Wedding (Part 2)", "Hot in the City" 1982
Blancmange Happy Families, Believe You Me 1982/85
Bob James Hands Down "Macumba", "It's Only Me" 1982
Kurtis Blow
The Cars Heartbeat City 1984
The Chemical Brothers Dig Your Own Hole "It Doesn't Matter" 1997
Chicago Chicago 17 1984
Chromeo Business Casual "Night By Night" (snare only) 2010
David Sanborn Backstreet 1983
Def Leppard Pyromania 1983
D.I.M. & Tai "Lyposuct"
Devo New Traditionalists 1981
Devo Oh, No! It's Devo 1982
Dionne Warwick Heartbreaker Heartbreaker 1982
Don Henley I Can't Stand Still "Dirty Laundry" 1982
Eddie Murphy Eddie Murphy "Boogie in Your Butt", "Enough is Enough" 1982
Laurie Anderson
Elton John The Fox "Nobody Wins" 1981
F.R. David "Words", "Pick Up The Phone" 1982/83
Falco Einzelhaft "Der Kommissar" 1982
Farley Jackmaster Funk
Gay Men "I'm a Man (Who Needs a Man)" 1983
Giorgio Moroder Cat People OST 1982
Giorgio Moroder Metropolis (1984 re-release) "Machines" 1984
George Benson "Turn Your Love Around" 1981
Genesis Genesis "Mama" 1983
Gary Low "You Are a Danger" 1982
Gary Numan Dance "Night Talk", "Boys Like Me", "My Brother's Time" 1981
Gary Numan I, Assassin 1982
Gary Numan Warriors 1983
Gazebo "Masterpiece"
Hall & Oates H2O "Maneater" 1982
Heaven 17 Penthouse and Pavement, The Luxury Gap "Let Me Go" 1981/83
Herbie Hancock Mr. Hands "Textures" 1980
Hooked on Classics Hooked on Classics, Hooked on Classics 2: Can't Stop the Classics, Hooked on Classics 3: Journey Through the Classics 1981-1983
Huey Lewis and the News Sports "Bad is Bad" 1983
The Human League Dare 1981
The Human League Fascination! 1983
The Human League Hysteria 1984
Icehouse Primitive Man "Great Southern Land", "Hey Little Girl", "Glam" 1982
ísland #BestDayEver 2014
Joe Esposito "Lady, Lady, Lady" 1983
John Carpenter "Escape From New York", "Halloween II" 1981
John Farnham "You're the Voice" 1986
John Foxx The Garden 1981
John Mellencamp "Jack and Diane" 1982
Jon & Vangelis Private Collection 1983
Jean Michel Jarre The Concerts in China "Arpegiator" 1981/82
Jean Michel Jarre Zoolook 1984
Jeff Lorber It's a Fact "Tierra Verde" 1982
Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveSounds Until the End of Time 2006
Kenny G Kenny G "The Shuffle" 1982
Lee Ritenour Rit "(Just) Tell Me Pretty Lies", "Countdown (Captain Fingers)", "On The Slow Glide" 1981
Julian Tydelski presents NAILUJ On A Journey "In The City", "Bring Me Up", "Afterhours" 2010
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens
Matthew Friedberger "Holy Ghost Language School/Winter Women"
Men Without Hats Rhythm of Youth "The Safety Dance" 1982
Michael Jackson Thriller "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", "Baby Be Mine", "Thriller" 1982
Mark Knopfler Local Hero "Going Home (Theme from Local Hero)" 1983
Mike Oldfield Five Miles Out 1982
Mtume Juicy Fruit Juicy Fruit 1983
Naked Eyes "Always Something There to Remind Me", "When the Lights Go Out" 1983
Neil Young Trans 1982
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
P. Lion Springtime "Kings of the Night" 1984
Paul Davis Cool Night 1981
Paul McCartney Tug of War "What's That You're Doing?" 1982
Paul McCartney Pipes of Peace "The Other Me" 1983
Peter Gabriel Security "Shock the Monkey" 1982
Prince 1999, Purple Rain, Sign o' the Times, etc. "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious," "Let's Pretend We're Married," "D.M.S.R.," "Automatic," "Something in The Water (Does Not Compute)," "Free," "Lady Cab Driver," "All the Critics Love U in New York," "Let's Go Crazy," "The Beautiful Ones," "Computer Blue," "Darling Nikki," "When Doves Cry," "I Would Die 4 U," "Baby I'm A Star," "Purple Rain," "Sign o' the Times," "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," etc. 1982-Present
Pete Shelley Homosapien, XL1 1981/83
Queen Hot Space Staying Power, Body Language 1982
Reading Rainbow Songs from Reading Rainbow 1984
Ric Ocasek Beatitude 1982
Rod Stewart Tonight I'm Yours "Young Turks", "Tonight I'm Yours" 1981
Roxy Music Avalon 1982
Ryan Paris
Secret Service Cutting Corners "Flash in the Night", "The Dancer", "If i Try", "Rainy Day Memories", "Watching Julietta". 1982
Sheila E. The Glamorous Life 1984
Sipho Mabuse Afrodizzia "Shikisha" 1986
Steve Hackett Cured 1981
Sparks Angst in My Pants "I Predict" 1982
Sparks "Modesty Plays" 1983
Steve Winwood Talking Back to the Night "Valerie", "Talking Back to the Night" 1982
Tight Fit Tight Fit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" 1982
Toto Coelo Man o' War 1982
Tony Banks The Fugitive "By You, Thirty-Three's" 1983
The Emotions "Are You Through With My Heart", "Sincerely" 1984
The Time "777-9311", "Jungle Love" 1982-84
Thompson Twins
Todd Rundgren
Ultravox Quartet "We Came to Dance" 1982
Vangelis State of Independence (with Donna Summer) 1982
Vangelis Blade Runner 1982
Vangelis Antarctica 1983
Vanity Wild Animal 1984
Vanity 6 Vanity 6 "Nasty Girl" 1982
Wang Chung Points on the Curve 1984
Yazoo Upstairs at Eric's "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)" 1982
XTC The Big Express 1984


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