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The Ultimate Guide To The Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW – How It Works, Who Uses One + Where To Buy It!

Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW – A Modern Digital Drum King!

Swedish company Elektron has a long history of manufacturing creative, quirkier synths with a focus on composition and experimentation. The Machinedrum UW is no different. Although sold as a drum synth, it’s capabilities are actually much broader and the additional capacity to hold samples means that endless new combinations of creativity can be had with this unusual and much sought after drum machine. 

Like Elektron’s much loved keyboard synth the Monomachine, the Machinedrum is modelled after a variety of vintage instruments- some of them analogue- but is itself a digital synth, with crisp, clear sounds which have earned it a dedicated community of fans. These include an FM synth for bright, clear percussion sounds, but one of the benefits of the Machinedrum is the fact that it doesn’t only emulate literal kicks, snares, and cymbals; it also has a variety of digital sounds which can be used to make slick electronic beats. Acoustic drum sounds are provided by the PI synth, whereas it’s TRX synth is modelled on the classic Roland TR series of machines, and the E12 synth is a sample playback machine based off old school hip hop favourite the E-MU SP1200, as well as the Simmons drum machines. The Machinedrum works by allowing users to combine sounds from any of these synths with sixteen voice polyphony, and save these combinations as a custom kit, with up to 64 slots available. 

Where Can I Buy A Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW?

The Machinedrum’s MIDI sequencer is one of it’s most important and versatile features. What’s notable are it’s two control machines, designed so users can easily apply the same parametres to all sixteen MIDI tracks if needed, blending together the individual parts in glorious polyphony. These sequencers link the Machinedrum to other synths or gear and can transmit individual notes, chords up to three notes, and MIDI continuous controller data, as well as having aftertouch and pitch bending capabilities. This sequencer offers two modes- pattern mode and song mode- depending on desired composition methods, as well as classic and extended modes, the latter of which is able to assign individual patterns to particular kits. 

The Machinedrum came in two different variations- the earlier Machinedrum SPS and the later Machinedrum SPS UW. This latter iteration came with a much higher price tag- £400 more in the UK- and had two new machines which were divided by ROM and RAM memory. It’s ROM machine is optimized for playing loops for onstage performance, using ROM to permanently record users favourite loops in up to 32 different slots. It’s RAM machine, on the other hand, is dedicated to capturing live samples and using them for playback as opposed to playing internally generated samples. As both share the available memory space, it means that more of one results in less of the other, but this generally doesn’t become too much of a problem. Both machines also have tweakable parameters such as decay, repeat, and even bit rate reduction, allowing users to reduce bit rate as low as 2-bit for sounds which would be inaccessible in other drum synths. The UW also had an external USB MIDI interface and the SPS-1 Turbo MIDI, which Elektron designed to speed up the transfer of samples from computer to Machinedrum and which is automatically recognized by both Windows and iOS. The Machinedrum’s effects include delay, reverb, and even panning, as well as a tremolo feature, and parametric and hi/low/bandpass EQs. 

The Machinedrum’s focus is on creativity and its uniqueness, so it’s not necessarily a synth for every single detail or spec there is to offer. For example, it’ not actually capable of producing triplets, and regardless of the format a sample is uploaded in, everything on the Machinedrum is stored in twelve bit. It’s not necessarily specs or versatility that the Machiendrum’s aficionados are bowled over by- it’s the possibilities you can create with what you’ve got- the interplay between the different drum synths, and the ways of experimenting with textures and sounds. The Machinedrum’s MIDI sequencing capabilities also mean it can be hooked up to other synths, expanding the combinations of sounds, tones, and textures even more, and with sixteen of these in total, each with it’s separate channel, the possibilities are endless.

Like other Elektron products, the Machinedrum is generally a user friendly kit. It has a fast learning curve and doesn’t take years to master like some other synths such as the Yamaha DX7. What it lacks in effects and certain small details it makes up for in usability and outside the box thinking, and the fact it survived on the market for five years in an incredibly fast moving field is testament to how beloved it is by it’s users.

How Much Does A Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW Cost?

Unfortunately, the Machinedrum is one of Elektron’s legacy products and is no longer in production. However, it can be found online on both Ebay and specialist secondhand musical instrument retailer, where on one listing it is found for £752.07. Prices do vary considerably though and Machinedrums have been sold in the past for as little as £450, or as much as £1000 on the other hand. Elektron’s original retail price was £1397. Conveniently, Elektron has it’s own Elektronauts forum where users can compare prices and talk gear, and this may also be a good place to look for a second hand Machinedrum. 

Elektron offered a three year warranty for all of it’s Machinedrums produced after July 2010, so when buying secondhand, finding out the date of original purchase can help in the long run if the Machinedrum ever does need repairs- although these are well built and high quality pieces of kit. 

*prices generally seen on auction sites. If you see them cheaper, you may be on to a bargain.

Who Uses Or Used The Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW?

The Elektron Machinedrum has been used on a wide variety of albums by artists from all genres including electronic duo Autechre, CHVRCHES, The Chemical Brothers, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Despite the fact some of it’s drum machines are based on old school hip hop favourites and electronic beats, the Machinedrum has seamlessly blended into indie pop, rock and alternative as well, showing just how versatile Elektron’s creative and nontraditional design is, making this a fun and experimental drum synth perfect for all genres. 

Alternatives To The Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW?

There are many different alternatives to the Machinedrum whether as hardware or software. These are as follows: Elektron Monomachine, Roland TR-8, Yamaha RX8 Digital Rhythm Programmer, as well as emulators and VST’s that can be used within a DAW. If you’re looking for some analog flavour with an Elektron style sequencer then the Analog Rytm is also an option.

However, when we compare it to the real thing it’s noticeable that the alternatives don’t quite stack up. They are a great option though for people with a lower budget.

Classic Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW Videos, Tutorials & Demos

A playlist of videos showing you how to program an Elektron Machinedrum, how to create some famous patterns as well as watching how to make basic beats, using the LFO’s and the song mode. Some great tips in here so be sure to check them out!

Other Classic Synth or Drum Machine Products?

Famous synths, drum machines and effects include: SH 101, MC 202, TB 303, TR 606, TR 707, TR 808, TR 909, Juno 60RE-201 Space Echo. Behringer Deepmind 12, Behringer K2, Behringer Model D, Korg MS-20, Moog Model D, Moog Grandmother, Nord Modular G1, Oberheim OB-6, Sequential Prophet 6, Yamaha DX7.

Where Can I Find A Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW For Sale?