What are the greatest music gadgets ever invented? Find out which 10 important pieces of music-making kit changed everything for the better.
As Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Life without music would be a mistake.”
1. Dansette (1952)
Selling one million units in the 50s and 60s, Dansette became a household name in post-war Britain just as the music industry blossomed with first The Shadows and subsequently The Beatles. Made in London, the Dansette was an integrated player, complete with built-in amp and speaker. It set the look for turntables of the era and, more importantly, provided the soundtrack to My Generation, baby.
Original price: 33 Guineas | Used by: The Beatles | Dansette.co.uk
2. Regency TR-1 Transistor (1954)
Built by Texas Instruments and I.D.E.A., this coupled the former’s transistors with the latter’s antenna nous to produce the first widely successful portable radio. Now a design icon, the TR-1 – or, more accurately, its cheaper successors – changed the world by allowing suburban kids to hear the “race” (ie: black) music that became known as rock and roll. Step aside Eddie Izzard: THIS was the first world-famous trannie.
Original price: $50 | Used by: Chuck Berry | Regencytr1.com
3. Fender Stratocaster (1954)
The iconic ‘Strat’ is still the most recognisable electric guitar in the world. Selling in the millions even today, the classic features a solid body, three single-coil pick-ups and a double cutaway design that allows easy access to the higher octaves. Widely mimicked, but rarely bettered, it’s been used by everyone from punks to bluesmen to progressive noodlers such as Mike Oldfield.
Original price: $250 | Used by: Jimi Hendrix | Fender.com
4. Minimoog (1970)
The monophonic Minimoog revolutionised music one note at a time, putting the alien sounds of hitherto room-sized, wallet-busting synths into a more portable and affordable package. Synthesized bloops and squawks began to creep into the repertoire of everyone from Floyd to Zeppelin, then the proto-electro of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. According to no less an authority than Rick Wakeman, the Minimoog “absolutely changed the face of music”.
Original price: $1,495 | Used by: Kraftwerk | Moogmusic.com
5. Linn Sondek LP12 (1972)
The LP12 is the world’s best-known hi-fi turntable. Made in Glasgow, the deck has cult status in audiophile circles, dominated the scene in the 70s and 80s and is used by many an audio reviewer as a reference. The deck has countless after-market modification kits available, but its fundamental design remains unchanged from the 1972 original.
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Original price: £80 | Used by: Rolling Stones | Linn.co.uk
6. Technics SL-1210 (1972)
Originally produced as a hi-fi consumer unit, and put out under a Panasonic offshoot brand, the SL-1210 and its very near cousin the SL-1200 have been synonymous with DJ setups since 1978. Rock solid in its build and reliability, and durable enough to withstand the worst the DMC World DJ Championship can throw at it, these are the original “wheels of steel”.
Original price: £120 | Used by: Every DJ in the history of dance music up to about 2008 | Panasonic.co.uk
7. Sony Walkman TPS-L2 (1979)
A portable cassette player with lightweight headphones, the Walkman kick-started the MTV age. It was high-tech, miniature Japanese engineering at its finest and became an icon. Which is why Sony still clings to the brand to this very day.
Original price: $200 | Used by: Michael Jackson | Sony.com
8. Roland TR-808 (1980)
One of the first cheap drum machines, the 808 was originally built as a studio tool to help create demos, but its “unrealistic”, clonking sound soon found favour with hip-hop artists. Used on more hit records than any other drum machine, it also powered the dance music revolution of the late 80s, along with Roland’s TB-303 “acid machine”.
Original price: $1,195 | Used by: Beastie Boys | Roland.co.uk
9. Korg M1 (1988)
More than just a keyboard, the M1 was a full-on workstation: a MIDI sequencer with a bank of sounds that went on to become the best-selling digital synthesiser of all time. Ahead of its time, the M1 had a 4MB capacity – hey, that was tonnes in ’88 – expansion slots and an LCD display.
Original price: $2,166 | Used by: Pet Shop Boys | Korg.co.uk
10. Apple iPod (2001)
Jobs and Ive’s thin white juke has done as much for music appreciation as any device, putting “1,000 songs in your pocket” at launch. Since then it’s caused the demise of the high-street music shop, replaced albums with playlists and turned Apple into a behemoth. Yet with iOS switching its iPod app to Music and the Classic’s design gathering dust, is the end almost nigh?
Original price: $400 for 5GB model | Used by: Coldplay | Apple.com/uk