Tom Oberheim


Exploring the Iconic DMX Drum Machine and Its Lasting Impact 

The DMX drum machine, introduced in 1980, was a groundbreaking and legendary digital percussion instrument that left an indelible mark on the worlds of hip-hop, R&B, and synth-pop music.

As the second commercial digital drum machine to hit the market, the DMX quickly rose to iconic status for its unique sound and significant contributions to the evolution of various genres. Its EEPROM-driven 12-bit samples fueled the late 1980s dance and house music boom, providing the quintessential backing beats for countless tracks.

One of the most notable examples of the DMX's influence was New Order's 1983 single "Blue Monday," which became the best-selling 12-inch single of all time. The song's distinctive synth-pop sound was driven by the DMX's percussive grooves, cementing its place in music history.

While the DMX was relatively uncommon among British bands, a few exceptions, such as Eurythmics' 1983 album "Touch," showcased its ability to deliver captivating club-ready beats that defied convention.

Beyond its impact on synth-pop, the DMX also played a crucial role in propelling Madonna to global stardom. Her first major commercial success, "Holiday," was initially recorded using a Linn Drum but was later re-recorded by producer Reggie Lucas using the DMX. Its punchy snare and tight helped launch Madonna into the mainstream, solidifying the DMX's place in pop music history.

The DMX's electronic disco rhythms reached new heights of popularity in 1983, but its roots can be traced back to 1982 when funk master Rick James utilized it for the R&B group Mary Jane Girls. This early adoption kickstarted a wave of sampling in iconic hip-hop classics by artists like Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, and the Black Eyed Peas.

While Rick James popularized the DMX on the West Coast R&Bscene, East Coast producer Kashif incorporated a new synth-based approach, using the DMX as the core to define a fresh R&B sound with singer Evelyn King throughout the 1980s.

Perhaps most significantly, the DMX played a pivotal role in the early hip-hop revolution, marking the "New School" transition in 1983 that captivated New Yorkers more than the classic era. Its influence on the genre's evolution cannot be overstated, cementing its status as a true icon in music production history.

As a pioneering digital drum machine, the DMX's lasting impact on various genres, from synth-pop and R&B to hip-hop and dance music, solidifies its place as one of the most influential and iconic instruments of the 20th century.

The Iconic Oberheim DMX Drum Machine: A Vintage Legend Revived

The Oberheim DMX drum machine is a true classic in the world of electronic music production. When released, this affordable digital drum machine quickly gained a cult following for its tight, punchy sound that became a defining element of the pioneering hip-hop and electronic genres.

Key Features of the Oberheim DMX

Sonic Architects: The engineers at Oberheim were true sonic architects, meticulously sampling real instrument recordings to achieve an unparalleled level of authenticity in the DMX's drum sounds. From thunderous bass drums to crisp, articulate snares and sizzling hi-hats, the DMX captured the essence of acoustic drums in its digital waveforms.

Memory Maximization: Through a clever approach that involved pitch variations stored in memory, the DMX managed to pack an astounding number of drum samples – more than double that of similar machines at the time. This allowed for a vast palette of percussive tones and textures to work with.

Volume Variation: One standout feature of the DMX was its three distinct volume variation levels, enabling users to tailor the punch and dynamics of the drum sounds to their exact needs, adding a level of realism and expression often lacking in drum machines of the era.

Embraced by Hip-Hop Pioneers and Electronic Acts

The Oberheim DMX's signature sound quickly found its way into the beats and rhythms of early hip-hop pioneers like Run-DMC and Afrika Bambaataa, helping to define the genre's sound. But its influence didn't stop there – iconic electronic acts such as New Order, Depeche Mode, and Daft Punk also incorporated the DMX into their setups, harnessing its unique tones to shape their respective genres.

A Triumphant Return

After facing financial struggles in the late 1980s, Oberheim was acquired by Gibson, and instrument production ceased. However, in a remarkable turn of events, Gibson returned the Oberheim brand to its founder, Tom Oberheim, in 2022, paving the way for a triumphant revival of the company and its legendary products.

Today, vintage Oberheim DMX drum machines are highly sought after by collectors and musicians alike, often commanding prices between £955.48 and £1,988.50  on the secondhand market. Their unmistakable punchy beats continue to inspire and influence new generations of artists, solidifying the DMX's place in music history.

Whether you're a seasoned producer, a vintage gear enthusiast, or simply appreciate the rich tapestry of electronic music history, the Oberheim DMX drum machine is a true icon worth exploring and celebrating.