The Korg Electribe ER-1 – A Modern Classic?

In the latest episode of Sense Music & Media‘s Modern Classics series, host Martin Stimming reviews one of the most notable drum machines of the last few decades, the Korg Electribe ER-1 Groovebox.

The ER-1 is a strange little box, because it doesn’t have the kick of classic Roland drum machines, and it’s analog modeled voices don’t sound especially authentic. But it can make a huge variety of very electronic percussion sounds, giving it a unique sound, and the Electribe sequencer is capable and easy to use.

Check out the video and share your thoughts on the Korg ER-1 in the comments!

Video Summary

“This was Stimming’s first drum machine, so holds a special nostalgic place in his heart, it’s frenzied interface and manipulability can seem almost archaic at times, you can really go crazy with as is so wonderfully displayed by Stimming in this video.

Under the hood of this rectangular silver and red box is an analogue modelling synth, built around four analogue modeled instruments and four PCM samples, a 64-step sequencer and adjustable oscillator, envelope, modulations and a built in delay. Nowadays these things are retailing on the used market at around 200-300 euros and at this entry level price are more than worth the investment.”

15 thoughts on “The Korg Electribe ER-1 – A Modern Classic?

  1. Still have mine and use it. I grew up with beat boxes and have a small collection I still use.
    Keep them all synced together, hit play and just start tweaking knobs lol, all submixed in the same mixer so use it like a hardware version of ACID, always good sonic fun.

    1. Come on now that is a bit of an overstatement

      It was good and fun to use and at the time much more affordable than any other drum machine or groovebox

      It was better than an MC303 which was about the same time or a bit earlier maybe

      To compare it to modern gear like Elektrons, TR-8S or Deluge is just laughable

  2. When I bought my ER-1 back in the day,I thought ” maybe this is a mistake”! But I’m sure glad I stuck it out and worked with the machine instead of fighting it and trying to turn it into something it wasn’t. This “classic” machine was worth all the effort. I absolutely “love” my ER-1!!!!

    1. When it first came out my reaction was the same which is why I didn’t buy one until years later after purchasing the MX I subsequently obtained all the Electribes which I still use.

  3. I had one for around 20 years (bought it used after getting an MC303) and sold it a few years ago for 125 USD on craigslist. If you have 10 other drum machines already and want to make relatively similar sounds and you can find one for ~100 euro, go for it, but PLEASE, do not pay 300 euro for this box! Getting something like a Model Samples or Model Cycles for the same price is by far a better investment, or if you can swing a little more, go for the Erica Synths LXR-02, which is basically the ER-1 on steroids, but better sounding.

    There’s also an ipad app that Korg makes of the ER-1 which you can get the same experience more or less (probably better if you hook up a Beatstep to it).

  4. great drum machine. and top sound engine i use to love mine. but it was mk1 the later mk2 updated the buttons and hardware there was issue of memory problems in mk1

  5. Ive got a ER-1 mk2, but there were a few patterns from the og that made me want to get both! It’s a bucket list Gas purchase if I do, but hey, why not? I love the ER-1 because of the audio ins. You can put in other drum machines, synths, samplers, effects into it, and have it slice in & out as often as you want in a 4/4 pattern. Not to mention how you can craft your kicks, toms, & snares with the various VA oscillators. North too many drum machines UNDER the Digitakt’s price range gives you that. Having both would be very powerful, but if this is your only drum machine then you really only need to pair it up to another rackmount drum module or drum machine so you can trigger acoustic drum hits. (Non electro sounds are the ER’s weakness).

    Pair it up with a EA-1 and you can make instant acid house, breaks, techno, etc. Pair it up to a ES-1 and you can keep the beats in sync as you let the ES trigger in samples, of anything you can think of. If you pair it with a EM-1 or EMX, you have more effects & patches at your fingertips. Probably all that’s missing is some cheap reverb/compression/pitch shifting pedals and you can really make those insane electro kits go bonkers.

    Get one!

  6. This was my first drum machine. I used it for years and have to say I’m glad I got rid of it. It’s alright, but has a cheap VA sound that you can’t seem to shake with all the tweaking in the world. The tone stands out like a sore thumb. Don’t get me wrong, VAs have a time and place (my Nord lead 2 is one of the best imo). It’s been my experience that most people just now getting into synthesis, which seems like a majority of the community anymore, have yet developed an ear for it. Everything sounds ‘incredible’ or ‘insane’ to them (just watch a the YouTube reviews). No offense to them, but just like with guitar or any other instrument, it takes years to develop an ear for good tone. It can be especially tricky with synthesis since there a few rules to follow that parallel other instruments. It is, in fact, an instrument of almost infinite freedom. I remember the first time I heard a boss metal zone pedal, I thought it was perfect. Now that I’ve been working in the pro audio industry for 25 years and training my ears, I would never purchase one of those for anything other than a joke. Just my 2 cents.

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