Linn LM-1

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Linn LM-1 Drum Computer
Linn LM-1 Drum Computer.jpg
Linn LM-1 Drum Computer Rev. 3
ManufacturerLinn Electronics
PriceUS $4,995 - $5,500 - $3,995
Technical specifications
Polyphonypolyphonic: Rev. 1: 10 voices, Rev. 2 & 3: 9 voices
Timbralitymultitimbral 12 voices
Synthesis type8 bit Digital Samples / 28 kHz
Storage memory100 memory patches
EffectsIndividual level, pan, tuning for all sounds
Keyboard12 hard plastic "pads"
External controlpre-MIDI, external clock oscillator input, tape sync in/out

The Linn LM-1 Drum Computer is a drum machine manufactured by Linn Electronics and released in 1980. It was the first drum machine to use samples of acoustic drums, and one of the first programmable drum machines. It became a staple of 1980s pop music, helping to establish drum machines as credible tools, and appeared on records by artists including the Human League, Gary Numan, Mecano, Icehouse, Michael Jackson, and particularly Prince. The LM-1 was succeeded in 1982 by the LinnDrum.


The LM-1, along with the Oberheim DMX, was one of the first drum machines to use samples (prerecorded sounds).[1] It features twelve 8-bit percussion samples, which can be individually tuned: kick, snare, hi-hat, cabasa, tambourine, two toms, two congas, cowbell, claves, and hand claps.[1] The machine also introduced features such as "timing correct" (quantization) and "shuffle" (swing) and the ability to chain patterns.[2][3]


The LM-1 was designed by American engineer Roger Linn.[1] In 1978, Linn, a guitarist, was dissatisfied with drum machines available at the time, such as the Roland CR-78, and wanted "a drum machine that did more than play preset samba patterns and didn't sound like crickets".[4] He took a voice generator from a Roland drum machine and wrote software to create patterns.[4]

At the suggestion of Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, Linn recorded samples of real drums to a computer chip.[1] By the late 1970s, the technology required to store and play samples had become small and affordable enough to use in his drum machine.[4] As the samples were digital, they would not degrade like those of earlier devices, such as the Chamberlin Rhythmate, which used tape loops.[4] Cymbal sounds were not included, due to the cost of long sound samples.[2] Linn said he could not recall who played the drum hits recorded as samples; possibilities include Porcaro's brother Jeff (also of Toto) and Motown session drummer James Gadson.[5]

Linn introduced the shuffle feature after he discovered that his code would record his playing and play it back in perfect sixteenth notes, effectively correcting his timing. To implement swing beats, he delayed the playback of alternate sixteenth notes.[4]


The LM-1 was announced in 1979, and released in 1980 as the first Linn Electronics product.[2] It retailed for $5,500.[1] Only 525 machines were built; Linn sold them by bringing prototypes to showbusiness parties.[1] Early adopters included Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Wonder. The machine became a staple of 1980s pop music, and appeared on hit records by artists including the Human League, Gary Numan, Michael Jackson, Giorgio Moroder, and particularly Prince.[1][4]

According to The Guardian, the LM-1, along with Oberheim DMX, helped establish drum machines as "credible, powerful instruments" rather than toys.[1] In 1982, it was succeeded by the cheaper and more stable LinnDrum, which was a commercial success.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i McNamee, David (2009-06-22). "Hey, what's that sound: Linn LM-1 Drum Computer and the Oberheim DMX". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  2. ^ a b c "Past Products Museum". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  3. ^ Battino, David; Kelli, Richards (2005). The Art of Digital Music. Backbeat Books. p. 136. ISBN 0-87930-830-3.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The 14 drum machines that shaped modern music". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
  5. ^ McNamee, David (2009-06-22). "Hey, what's that sound: Linn LM-1 Drum Computer and the Oberheim DMX". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-09.

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