The EKO Computerhythm, A Rare Programmable Space Age Drum Machine

In his latest video, synthesist Hainbach (Stefan Goetsch) shares a look at another piece of rare Italian electronic music gear from the The Museo Del Synth Marchigiano, the rare EKO Computerhythm.

The EKO Computerhythm features what is essentially a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface, with 6 rows of 16 pushbuttons, with each row representing a different sound, and each column representing a step of a 16-note pattern.

Here’s what Hainbach has to say about it:

“The Eko Computerhythm from 1972 was so ahead of its time that it found almost more fame as a prop in Italian Sci-Fi movies than as an instrument. In a time when a drum machine was all corny preset rhythms, the Eko featured 16 step programming, time division, mixing, individual outs and a punch card memory. Only 15 are known to exist today and it is frequently rated as one of the rarest and most expensive drum machine.

In this video you will find information on its history, its makers and hear it in all its glory.”

Check out the video and share your thoughts on the EKO Computerhythm in the comments!

20 thoughts on “The EKO Computerhythm, A Rare Programmable Space Age Drum Machine

  1. What a great story and a better one than most tales of vintage toys. Drum machines aren’t my usual area of interest, but that’s a steampunk-like creation that several things emulate today. Raymond Scott was on a similar trail. Its a prehistoric, pre-808.

    This was clearly a very early hardware recognition of the Holy Grid that underlies almost any sequencer. The GUI is on the mark for the job. That Diamond keyboard sounds like a living sci-fi movie from 1958.

    Cool seeing someone with grey hair wearing a DEVO t-shirt, too.

    1. Sadly, I’m not sure I’ve noticed anyone _without_ gray hair wearing a Devo shirt in a long long while. 🙂

      (gray bearded devo lover, here)

  2. There is an even more awesome video about forgotten synthesizers of Marche Region in Italy on his channel. Everyone should check this out!

  3. Thank you for featuring this here, and thanks everybody for the nice comments. The people from the Museo are monitoring the comments to the video on YouTube, so you can ask them questions and they will be answered.

    1. I think this is a good example of how interfaces shape the experience of playing music.

      To some interface is not as important as the sound; I’ve been on a journey since becoming a sound designer to find the way that feels most natural to create sounds.

      On the synth interface side of things SOMA’s synth range engages with the notion of interface and I do not create music in the same way on their instruments as I would on an Arturia CS-80 vst, or my JV-1080; I even play and design differently on the JV-1080 using a polyphonic aftertouch keybed then without!

      These glimpses into interface and design history are pretty cool!

  4. Most old vintage drum machines librarys include Eko samples, but sounds far from interesting. Tank size in dimensions, funny (rare) interface, nothing more. Will not be cloned by any one, for sure. Zero interest.

    1. i mean sure, it doesn’t sound interesting, but it’s a fascinating device and truly important and miraculous in the context of synth history. no need to be such a grouchy rat about it lol. there’s so much value in exploring the history of devices!

  5. Someone once called the laser a solution looking for a problem. Then it began showing its worth over time. Gear like this can look like it came from Rube Goldberg. He was an actual engineer who also published Sunday comics of goofy, complex machines doing simple tasks. It was doodle city. The game “Mouse Trap” is straight from his playbook. The Eko reminds me of that. Mellotrons were a touring nightmare, but you can get them in several useful flavors now. Its evolution, so the history is… cool.

  6. The drum machine featured in the Lee Perry and Shinhead clips is no EKO — the EKO wasn’t the only one to feature a drum roll. Also, it sounds totally different.

    Sounds more like a Maestro Rhythm King to me. Or any other preset rhythm box.

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