I recently bought an ER-1 drum machine/synth on Ebay for $160 and Im quite happy with it. Its no 808 or 909, but for 5% of the price its really a no brainer and I can understand why many consider it a "future classic".
That being said, I must admit I'm not a huge fan of its sound. Its great for wonky bleeps and zaps, and for boomy 808 style bass, but otherwise its a bit too plastic and electro sounding for me. It also lacks individual outs.
What really shines though, is its sequencer. This is a classic xox style sequencer but with far more capability. Its got 16 backlit pads for sequencing and 11 pads for sounds, all which can be tweaked with the expected controls; level, pitch, pan, decay, low boost/saturation and solo/mute. Its swing sounds great, as does the accent function. You can sequence up to 4 bars or 64 steps in real time while its playing and it can store 256 patterns which can be triggered on the fly.
So, I got to thinking, why not combine the best of both worlds, this awesome sequencer and all the sound selection and control of my DAW. While trying to make this happen I quickly encountered my first obstacle -the sound selection pads transmit MIDI but all of the knobs transmit NPRN which live 8 is not compatible with (live 9 is I think?).
Luckily I'm not the first to try this, and a solution wasn't hard to find. After reading through some tutorials, and more so the comments under them, I found the solution was to download two free programs: Midiox, a virtual MIDI patch bay and LoopB1, a translator to convert the NPRN to MIDI. With both installed and some minor tweaks, I now have a really great drum sequencer mapped to Live's Impulse.
I have all 11 pads mapped to 2 grouped impulses. I was happy to see that 8 of the knobs are assignable and as you select each sound, they are given a new 'page' of unique CC's which can be mapped however you like to each of the corresponding Impulse slots. I have mapped only 4: level, decay, pan and pitch. I'll likely find uses for the remaining 4 over time.
I immediately loaded up some Goldbaby 909 samples for fun and started programming a beat. Everything works incredibly well. This sequencer combined with a Maschine is now 90% of my workflow while writing, and its very refreshing to get away from the screen and mouse.
Anyhow, thought I'd share for any ER-1 owners out there, and for anyone in the market for a drum sequencer. These are cheap and plentiful, and will likely increase in value over time as there has been a renewed interest in drum machines lately. Maybe something to do with the Volcas?
I'd love to hear from any fellow ER-1 owners about what you use them for. I expect some are collecting dust