Certain instruments can really make a track. In the world of techno and house, certain vintage drum machines and synthesizers from companies like Roland, Linn and Korg have come to almost characterize entire genres. While most producers would like to add one of these old-school beasts to their production set up, the thought of throwing down a few thousand dollars on a TR808 or TR909 that’s 30 years old can be quite prohibitive. Luckily, there are a handful of small instrument companies out there who make it their mission to bring these machines back to life.
One of the most sought after and legendary instruments that is the lifeblood of Acid, as well as a lot of Chicago house, is the Roland TB303. An original unit will run you about $2000 and up on eBay, and is notorious for being very difficult to program. Cyclonic Analogic makes an amazing clone of this monophonic synthesizer that can be had for about $700, and adds features that the original lacked, like MIDI control and an arpeggiator.
Roland also became synonymous with house and techno due to its early analog drum machines, most notably the TR808 and TR909. Once again, an original is way out of the price range of your average starving producer, going for anywhere from $3000-$4000. Acidlab makes a very worthy homage to the original 808 with its Miami drum machine. The sound and styling stay true to the original, but adds MIDI, and can be bought for under $1000. Jomox, who has making drum emulators for some time, has high quality clones of the classic Roland drum machines, the Xbase 888 and 999. Both are in the same price range as the Acidlab Miami and have the sounds that made old school Detroit Techno and Chicago House.
Korg decided to keep going with one of their legendary lines of products, the MS series of analog synthesizers, with the MS-20 mini. It still uses patch cables like the originals, and has all kinds of fun knobs to twiddle, but with upgrades that make it more relevant to production in 2013, like USB-MIDI. The price is about the same as the originals, but once again, you’re not relying on a 30 year old piece of gear, but pretty much getting the modern equivalent from the same manufacturer.