Synth Site: Korg: Electribe ER-1: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.4 out of 5
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Jeb Boniakowski a hobbyist user from die ooh ess ahh writes:
I got the ER-1 almost a month ago, so I've had some time to get into it. I go back and forth on it over all. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, but I am also not very into drum machines. I think for a drum machine, it is a great machine.

First of all, it is not a Roland x0x box. It's not trying to be, it never will be, it just happens to have that row of buttons on the bottom. If you by this instead of an x0x or a Jomox, you may be disappointed.

Second of all, it doesn't sound very analog usually. It apparently uses modelling technology, but it's models don't stand up to the models in say, Vaz Modular.

That said, it's a tremendously enjoyable piece of gear. For a lot of people, it makes an awesome toy for $370 or less. It's just plain enjoyable enough to use, without musicallity, that I think a lot of people would just like to have it around to fiddle with. I bring it around on trips and stuff with me. It's so tiny and light, you don't have to worry about and it fits perfectly in my notebook computer case. If only it was battery powered!

As an actual music tool, I sometimes love it and sometimes think it's not so appropriate for me. The interface is so nice and intuitive that it really facilitates creativity, as opposed to standing in it's way. I think Korg made some feature sacrifices in the sake of interface simplicity, but I am starting to see why. Interface is so key in an instrument that it is often more important than having another esoteric feature. It's actually more appropriate to call it a "rhythm synthesizer", as a Korg does, than a drum machine. You can produce some very cool sounds with it (not particularly analogue though) very easily. I especially love the bass sounds. For people who haven't come across one of these yet, lemme tell you the basic idiom of the box: It's got a 16 step/measure sequencer and a pattern can have 4 measures. On each of these steps, you can have sounds from the four "percussion synthesizers" (more later), the audio ins (likewise), and either the clap or crash sample and closed or open HH sample. The samples are pretty straightforward and there is only one for each of those sounds. However, they do respond to the pitch control and they run through the amp section of the perc synthesizer, so a lot of fun is possible with them using the "Motion Sequencing" (more later). All in all, that's a whole lot of polyphony for a drum machine.

The percussion synths are like super simple analog circuits, you have an osc and a pitch modulator of some kind, which can be noise, another wave, random voltage (diff than noise), or a simple decay env. You can adjust the degree of modulation and the "speed" (freq of wave, length of decay time, etc) Knobs like the pitch control are quantized, quite blatantly, so they don't sound like an analog osc's pitch knob at all. They sound really really cool though. From here, each of these goes to the Amp section, which has level, pan, decay time, and a LPF.

The perc synths make some really cool sounds, but not necessarily really cool drum sounds. I haven't been able to get a really satisfying snare sound out of it. I've got slamming kick drums though. Personally, I don't see what a 909's kick has got on this box. you can also just do weird stuff. This part of the machine is really awesome.

The audio ins are a whole nother story. You have two inputs. They go to the audio in pads. From there on out, they function like drums. Instead of a sample, it just plays the audio ins. This goes through the Amp section two, so you can filter it, and adjust decay, pan and level. These are amazing. SO much fun. After you get them set up, you chop up sound like a benihana chef with the step sequencer. It's really fun to just run like a wowing filtered sound into one and a slowly sweeping pitch into the other and then chop them up in your beats. It sounds awesome. I also like to play a guitar riff at the tempo of the beat, loop it in the sample, send it back through the er-1 and have like a super tremolo. This also gives you a host of other options. With a computer or sampler handy, this feature takes on a wealth of possibilities.

The other really neat trick is the motion sequencing. Motion sequencing allows you to record the tweaking of one knob for each part as a part of your sequence. I can't say enough good about this feature. A lot of people have said stuff like, "there's only one per part! That sucks!" First of all, there's like 10 parts. Second of all, what x0x box had *any* motion sequencing? With a real sequencer you could do this on almost any box but as I said before, it's all about interface. With the ER-1, you have a pattern going and your on kick drum, you want to change the pitch over the sequence? You hit motion sequence, record, and then start tweaking. It's that easy. You can sweep the pitch of the high hats, make the bass brighter on accented notes, play basslines with it (I really like to do this with it). It's awesome.

It's also got a couple more gadgets that deserve mention: delay (global only) and ringmod between two perc synths and between one of the perc synths and one of the audio ins. I haven't used the ringmod much. The delay has it's ups and downs. It's global. That's it's down. You can't put delay on just perc synth 2 or anything like that. However, it has two knobs: depth and time. In this special case, motion sequencing can be recorded for both of these. The problem is, it has to be. The delay is really handy when combined with the motion sequencing. Say I have a snare on beats 2 and 4. With motion sequencing, it's really cool to get a really short delay time and keep the level all the way down for the whole pattern except when you get the that snare. Then you crank it for like one beat or a half a beat and then crank it back down. It sounds really cool.

All this comes together to form a really fun tool. It's super easy to use. YOu can be cranking out interesting patterns very quickly. Before I bought it, I played with it for several hours in the store on different days. My ultimate test was about how fast I could get a pattern from my head out into sound and how closely I could get it to match. Getting it out what I currently consider the best of the ER-1's ability is super easy. For me, faster than any other drum machine I've ever used. Matching the sounds in your head is a lot harder because generally, when I think of beats, they include snares. I can't get cool snares from the ER-1. I'm thinking about investigating it's possibilites for triggering my sampler soon. Maybe that will help. On top of this, there's all the other features that I don't always think in terms of, like audio ins. I love the audio ins. I consider the er-1 to be great in that it is a new instrument, and not a reissue or imitation of an old one, all though it takes good ideas from the past (dedicated controls come to mind.) The ER-1 has no menu pages really. It has a few params you can pick through on it's simple LED display, but almost everything is dedicated, even the Write button. That's great. It sounds like nothing else, which I consider good.

Still, despite all of these praises, I've had a very hard time integrating it with my music. I haven't really found a place for it in my music, though I love using it on it's own. THat's why I have reservations about it and don't just say it's great. It's like the first piece of gear I grab when I'm in a fiddling mood. I run it through either a bass or guitar amp, preferably with tubes and the bass sounds crank. I leave it out on my desk all the time. I have it set up so I can patch it into anything or patch anything into it, but it's right next to my DJ mixer so I can scratch over it's beats or run TT output through it.

The problems are as noted by all. Delay is global only. That sucks. No indy outs is an endless annoyance. If it just had that, a lot of the other problems would go away. No way to clear all the stock patterns. Personally I think the shift function should work when the seq is running so that you can clear a part of clear motion while it's running a sequence, which you can't do right now. There's also no way to use a time signature other than 4/4 or 3/4, except of course things where you just set the tempo differently and consider the notes differently, you can't do 5/4 or anything like that though. I don't know why. How hard could that have been to implement? The headphone output is a little on the weak side, but everything seems to be on the weak side when driving my AKG240s. it would be nice to have more motion sequencing available. It would also be nice to have battery power. There is no way to make a cool snare sound.

Summary: a pleasure to use, great interface, cool, new sounds, still a drum box, prone to chica-chaca and weak snares, no indy outs among other things are great annoyance.


Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Monday-Sep-20-1999 at 11:33
oxtragon a hobbyist user from sweden writes:
the er-1 is great for trance and electro type of drumming. come on mr 'hiphop', the er-1 does not even attempt to sound or feel nothing like 'real' drums and cannot be compared to that at all. i´ve also been drumming for most of my life and i love this piece! lack of shuffle and usable snares but is capable of making killer bassdrumkicks. the audio inputs is also great, cuts your straight pads into little pieces! it´s built in sequencer aren´t that great though... still, i´ll give it a four out of five.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Saturday-Sep-18-1999 at 06:10
N. Degler a professional user from USA writes:
From working in the retail/profesional music industry, I have seen a lot of garbage come and go. Each factory rep. tells you *this* is the wave of the future, or some similar bullshit. As far as the electribe R-1, this is one of the few cases that is true. 10 minutes at your local retail store will NOT show the power of this module. Unfortunately, it is way to easy to create generic 'rave' drum lines with it. once you start tweaking the module, you will quickly realize that moving one knob 1/2 a mm. will result in drastic sonic chaos. I cannot recomend this module enough. If you want real drum sounds, buy a sampler. If you want an incredible module which will produce unusual sonic beats, go for the ER-1. People have complained about the 4/4 time problem, but they are simply ignorant. If you understand basic musical time signatures, you can do almost anything with this. USE MORE THAN ONE 'MEASURE', MORONS.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Sep-13-1999 at 03:49
Nick Hladek a hobbyist user from USA writes:
Wow! All I can say is wow! I was weighing the difference among a JoMoX XBase-09, a Novation Drumstation, a Roland DR-202 and this little guy, and he won out! Why? The XBase looks (and probably sounds) really sweet, but it's too expensive and can only play a max of three parts, the Drumstation only has samples and has no sequencer on it, plus it's almost $600, and the DR-202 is the same price as the R, but you don't have easy programming and you can't create sounds on it. So, the bang for the buck is really great for the R, and I'm using it for more synth-pop and experimental stuff, so it doesn't matter if it sounds like a real 909 or can do kicks like the 808. I'm looking forward to driving this bad boy as far as he will go! The shortcomings are easily overlooked. The limitations of the onboard sequencer are surmounted by just plugging an external sequencer into it, and granted the workmanship on the product is not top notch, but I'm careful with my instruments anyway (it will wind up sitting in my dorm room for most of the year anyway until I get good enough to start doing gigs). Did I mention that it sounds great? So, price, (You can pick one of these babies up for $349!) potential for creativity and ease of use makes this an excellent first beat box for me. I'm not saying that it's the be all and end all, but it's really cool.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Aug-11-1999 at 09:13
X-09137 a part-timer user from Too sunny California writes:
Absolutely brilliant machine! Just when I thought Korg stopped making gears that I would be interested in (or, rather, could afford), they come up with this! I just picked my brand new ER-1 up for $350 yesterday, and I'm really happy. (Now if I just had EA-1 and KAOSS, I'd be in heaven)

Sound generation possibilities are really mind-boggling. The machine looks really simple, yet it is capable of so much. The sounds from preset patterns are quite good too. There was this one really awesome sound (hard to really describe it) that I heard from some techno tune, and one of the preset pattern had an exact same sound! From drum sounds to weird noises to even simple arpeggiator-like sounds, this baby can handle it. And from what I could tell, not many of the preset sounds use the ring mod effect, so even more cool sounds are possible, I'd say.

Motion sequence feature is another surprise. Basically, for each part (snare, bass, hi-hat, etc), you can pick one knob (yeah, just one) and twiddle it, and save the knob movement as part of the pattern. The preset patterns use this feature like crazy, and it really adds a LOT to the whole groove. And if you hooked this machine to an external sequencer, you could control ALL of the knobs simultaneously, as they all have their own NPRN control.

I haven't even begun to play with the audio input feature yet, and I'm already so in love with this machine. This is by far the best bang-for-buck machine I have seen.

Lastly, someone below mentioned about changing pitch of the drum sounds when you change tempo. I think he/she was twiddling the delay tempo knob, not the master tempo. The manual says that changing the delay tempo WILL result in the changing pitch of the delayed sound. Changing master tempo during the pattern playback has no effect on the pitch of the sound.

I'd take this machine over MC-303 or 505 or RM1x anyday. Sure, those machines are more all-in-one type dance boxes, but they could never match the sheer personality of this nice little baby. Money well spent!!!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Tuesday-Aug-03-1999 at 16:30
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