Korg Electribe Drum Machines Past & Present

Thanks to their ease of use and affordability, Korg’s striking Electribe series of grooveboxes have played a major role in electronic music production over the years but if you’re a younger producer they might have passed you by. Now in their 4th generation, Korg’s current Electribes consist of two different hardware models: The Electribe (blue model) and Electribe Sampler (metallic red model) plus a variety of Electribe apps for iPad and iPhone.

What was the first Electribe?

The first Electribes were launched between 1999 and 2000. The first four Electribes launched were the EA-1 Analog Modeling Synthesizer, ER-1 Rhythm Synthesizer, ES-1 Rhythm Production Sampler and the EM-1 Music Production Station.

As the names suggest, the ER-1 Rhythm Synthesizer and the ES-1 Rhythm Production Sampler are the two machines focused on beat making and rhythms however the EM-1 was also used by numerous producers as it combined an EA-1 synth with the ER-1 Rhythm Synthesizer plus a sequencer.

Korg Electribes – still going strong

As of 2021, Korg’s Electribe range still has a strong and loyal following. Currently there are two models of Electribe still in production namely the 4th generation Electribe Music Production Station and the Electribe Sampler. Older models of Electribes are still sought after (especially the EMX-1).

What is the Electribe EMX-1?

Launched in 2002, the now discontinued EMX-1 was the follow up the EM-1. The EMX-1 has built up something of a cult following over the years with many producers arguing that it is superior to the latest (4th generation) Electribes.

Which Electribe can import samples?

If you want an Electribe that can import samples then you need the metallic red ESX-1SD Music Production Sampler (4th generation launched in 2014). If you’re willing to work with older, second hand gear then check out the ES-1 Rhythm Production Sampler.

What is the best Electribe for beat making?

When it comes to beat making on an Electribe there are two possible ways of working. You really need to decide if you want to create beats using drum synthesis (as with classic analog drum machines) or if you would rather work with samples.

If you’re looking to make beats via synthesis then opt for the blue (4th generation) Electribe. This Electribe gives you 55 different types of analog modeling oscillator. You can choose from simple waveforms such as Saw, Pulse, Triangle, and Sine, or more complex varieties such as Sync, Ring Mod, Cross Mod, and VPM. Select an oscillator and then turn the knobs to create acid bass lines, classic poly synth sounds, warm pads, kicks, hats or any other synth sounds you desire.

The Electribe also delivers PCM oscillators ideal for creating rhythm and drum sequences, including 257 Drum/Perc sounds, 44 instrument-type sounds (Piano, Organ, Guitar etc) and 52 types of voice and sound-effect sounds.

As well as a comprehensive set of sounds, the Electribe also gives you velocity-sensitive trigger pad, access to 32 insert effects, motion sequencer, arp, chord mode, grooves and much more.

I find the Electribe sound palette is particularly good for making my own take on rough and ready (ie fast to produce) lo-fi house although it’s suitable for other dance music orientated genres too.

If you favor a sample approached to beat making then you should check out the red Electribe Sampler. Launched at the same time as the Electribe, the 4th generation Electribe Sampler is a sample-based production machine that lets you start to construct beats in seconds.

With the Electribe Sampler you can work with the provided samples as well as quickly import, edit and resample your own sounds.

The Electribe Sampler allows you to input up to 64 steps (16 steps x 4) for each part (sound). You can create beats by combining up to 16 of these parts per sequence pattern.

Loading samples into the Electribe Sampler

You can load any sample into the Electribe Sampler via an SD card. There are 499 user sample memories in which you can store your own waveforms. You can connect a record player or instrument such ass a keyboard to the audio in jack and sample from it.

Once you have your sounds inside the Electribe Sampler you can change the start/end point and pitch of your sounds, as well as time-slice them. Attack portions of a phrase (such as a bass line) can be detected and sliced automatically, allowing you to play them back at a desired tempo without significantly changing the sound. Sliced parts can also be assigned to specific steps or parts and triggered individually.

Modulation and effects work in a similar fashion to the Electribe. You can perform live performances by linking various devices with the Electribe Sampler and export sequence data to Ableton Live for further development of your tracks.

What is the Electribe Sampler maximum sampling time?

The maximum sampling time for the Electribe Sampler is 270 seconds. The Electribe Sampler can store a maximum 999 sound samples. Samples can be stored on SD / SDHC card (up to 32 GB).

Does the Electribe Sampler run on batteries?

The Electribe Sampler can run on 6x AA battery or power adapter.

Does the Electribe Sampler have a built-in speaker?

No. The Electribe Sampler has a headphone 3.5 mm stereo mini jack.

Best alternative to the Electribe Sampler?

Since the launch of the 4th generation Electribe Sampler in 2014 the number of rival samplers and grooveboxes on the market from the likes of Roland and Akai has increased dramatically. There’s no denying the fact that using the Electribe Sampler can be frustrating experience at times and some of the more modern samplers certainly surpass it in terms of features and sound quality. Even Korg themselves have had great success with their cheap and cheerful Volca Sample 2nd Generation Digital Sample Sequencer.

If you want to step up a gear from the Electribe Sampler then the Akai MPC One is a powerful beast of a beat making and sampling machine and it’s not that much more expensive than the Electribe Sampler.

Elektron Model: Samples is a 6 track groovebox and sampler with 6 velocity sensitive pads, 64 MB sample memory/1 GB of memory, parameter locks, sample locks, 64 step sequencer, delay and reverb effects and much, much more. As is typical with Swedish developer Elektron, Model:Samples is a deep machine with a learning curve although it is designed from the ground up to be less ‘intimidating’ than Elektron’s other samplers and drum machines.

The Roland MC-101 is a bit cheaper than the Electribe Sampler. This fun, portable groovebox features a ZEN-Core sound generator with up to 128 voices, Integrated USB audio/MIDI interface, 4-Track sequencer with up to 128 steps, 3000 Preset sounds and 80 drum kits, import of user samples and loops via an SD card (up to 12 Minutes in mono, 6 minutes in stereo (@ 44.1 kHz). If you’re willing to shell out considerably more then it’s bigger brother the MC-707 offers more features.

Another possible alternative to consider is the new kid on the block in terms of sampling grooveboxes – the Novation Circuit Rhythm. With the 8 track Circuit Rhythm you can record samples directly into the hardware, then slice, sculpt and resample your sounds.

Red Korg Electribe Sampler vs Blue Korg Electribe?

If you’re looking to recreate the sounds and experience of using a classic hardware drum machine then I would opt for the blue model Electribe over the red model Electribe Sampler. The Electribe Sampler has a number of frustrating quirks and limitations when it comes to working with your own samples whereas its synth based Electribe sibling is more enjoyable when it comes to sound exploration and sculpting your own unique electronic beats in whatever style or genre your sound design talents lean towards.

Does the Electribe run on batteries?

The Electribe can run on 6x AA battery or via the supplied power adapter.

What Electribe Apps for iPad?

Korg iElectribe: Want a portable – and very cheap – Korg Electribe? In 2010, Korg released iElectribe R, a software version of the Electribe R for iPad. Korg’s iElectribe was one of the world’s first dedicated iPad musical instrument applications and is a recreation of Korg’s Electribe R-1. The iElectribe is a faithful recreation of the Electribe R-1’s entire sound engine and step sequencer. The iElectribe comes with 64 preset patterns in various dance music orientated styles (house, techno etc).

The iElectribe features Korg’s Analog Synthesizer Modeling technology; PCM Samples and Virtual Valve Force Tube Modeling (basically a master distortion effect). Other effects include Short Delay, BPM Sync Delay, Grain Shifter, Reverb, Chorus/Flanger, Filter, Talking Modulator and a Decimator effect.

It’s easy to create new beats using the step sequencer and there’s Motion Sequencing which can store all your knob tweaking in a pattern. When you have a finished beat you can bounce a pattern to 16-bit/44.1 kHz stereo WAV format for use in your own projects.

Note that iElectribe is a dedicated iPad app (iOS 5.0 or later) and cannot be used with iPhone and iPod touch.

Korg iElectribe Gorillaz Edition: Korg iElectribe Gorillaz edition is the same app as the original iElectribe but comes with a colorful Gorillaz ‘skin’, 128 Gorillaz Sounds and 64 Gorillaz Grooves (32 patterns recreated from the Gorillaz album The Fall, plus 32 remix patterns created exclusively for the iElectribe Gorillaz Edition).

Korg Electribe Wave – the best Electribe App yet!

Building on the success of the original iElectribe app, Electribe Wave is the most powerful Electribe app to date. Tracks are made up of 8 wavetable synth parts and 8 drum parts in addition to which you get a virtual keyboard, Kaoss pad, Chord pad, 29 types of effects plus motion sequencing, grooves, Ableton Live support, song mode and more.

Korg Electribe Wave has a sound wavetable synth featuring “current” sounds for the creation of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). The wavetable allows you to repeatedly play fragments of short waveforms, and change waveform positions during playback. By manipulating the wavetable and a filter and two modulation units, you can easily create a wide variety of synth sounds. The wavetable comes packed with useful presets so you can be making dance music in seconds!

Electribe Wave features a new keyboard for playing chords and scales even if you have little or no music theory knowledge – bash out your tracks without worrying about ‘wrong’ notes! The sequencer features ‘Groove’ which can be used to breathe life into your rhythm parts, as well as a special keyboard to enable smooth step input for synth parts. Each drum part features its own Groove function which can be used to change the rhythm and feel for each drum and percussion sound. Choose from 25 types of grooves then easily change the rhythm by adjusting the effect for each drum part, or create an organic drum track using the 16-step grid.

A chord pad allows you to play chords with just one finger and you can use the “Fetch” function to automatically extract the chords from the song that you are in the middle of creating and assign those chords to the pad. Usefully, you can also easily assign and save your favorite chords. A built-in arpeggiator allows for easy creation of new phrases.

Taking Korg’s motion sequencing technology into more advanced territory and you can use the built in Kaoss Pad to change the sound to drastically with a single fingertip.

Unlike the original iElectribe app, the Electribe Wave has a song mode so you can create a new track simply by arranging your patterns as well as muting and transposing individual tracks. You can export your finished song as an audio file, or export it to Ableton Live.

Electribe Wave is available for iOS 10.3 or later.

Electribe for iPhone – cheap and easy portable beat making.

If you’re an iPhone user you can install the Korg Electribe for iPhone app. Korg’s boffins have effectively reproduced the sound engine and features of the original Electribe R-1. With the Electribe for iPhone app you can freely synthesize sounds from a single waveform and combine those sounds to make your own original beats. This app features hundreds of ready to use preset patterns covering electro, house, techno, drum’n’bass, dubstep, hip hop, techno etc.

Effects include the ring modulation function of the Electribe R-1 and the cross-modulation function of the MK 2. it also includes a beat flutter function which uses a proprietary randomizer to create fresh rhythms and the motion sequence function that records your knob movements.

When is the next Electribe launched?

Korg’s Electribe Wave app was the last update to the Electribe to be launched and I would expect future Electribes to appear in app form to take advantage of the latest hardware advances in iPads and mobile phones.

Is Electribe available on Android?

At the time of writing there are no Electribe apps for Android phones.

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