Although arguably a house variant from Detroit, techno music reached Amsterdam in the late 1980s, and it was the producers and DJs from Rotterdam in the early 1990s who evolved it, mixing it with industrial into a harder house variant which is today known as "gabber".
The specific sound of Rotterdam was also created as a reaction to the house scene of Amsterdam which was seen as "snobby and pretentious". Though techno tracks from Frankfurt's Marc Acardipane were quite similar to the Rotterdam style, it was the popularity of this music in the Netherlands which made Rotterdam the cradle of gabber. The essence of the gabber sound is a distorted bass drum sample, overdriven to the point where it becomes clipped into a distorted square wave and makes a recognizably melodic tone.
Often the Roland Alpha Juno or the kick from a Roland TR-909 was used to create this sound. Gabber tracks typically include samples and synthesised melodies with the typical tempo ranging from 150 to 190 bpm. Violence, drugs and profanity are common themes in gabber, perceptible through its samples and lyrics, often screamed, pitch shifted or distorted.
Gabber was popular in many countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. In the late 1990s, it became less popular than the emerging gabber-influenced hardstyle[clarification needed]. After surviving underground for a number of years, in 2002 the style reappeared in the Netherlands in a new form, mainstream hardcore. The sound became more commercial, dark and industrial.
The style is derived from the acid house and techno house styles from the late 1980s. It was formally established by DJ and producer Paul Elstak upon founding the record label Rotterdam Records in 1992. Many within the core scene claim that the original gabber style was diluted by 1995, mainly because of a mainstream variant called happy hardcore and, for hardcore fans, because of commercialization which resulted in a younger crowd being attracted to the scene. The commercial organization ID&T helped to make the music popular by organizing parties (most notable are the Thunderdome parties) and selling merchandise. The name "gabber" was used less frequently to describe this music style, especially due to the stigma created in the mid 1990s, but made a resurgence in the mid 2010s.
Gabber is an Amsterdam Bargoens slang (derived from Hebrew chaver) that means "mate", "buddy", "pal" or "friend". The music got its name from an article in which Amsterdam DJ K.C. the Funkaholic was asked how he felt about the harder Rotterdam house music scene. He's supposed to have answered "They're just a bunch of gabbers having fun". DJ Paul Elstak from Rotterdam read this article and on the first Euromasters record (released through Rotterdam Records in 1992), he engraved in the vinyl "Gabber zijn is geen schande!" translating as "It's not a disgrace to be a gabber!". The word gained popularity in the Rotterdam house scene and people started to call themselves 'gabbers'.
During the early 1990s, gabber gained a following in neo-fascist rave scenes of the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the American Midwest. However, most gabber fans do not belong to the aforementioned groups,  and many producers have released tracks that vocally speak out against nazism and fascism. In addition, many prominent gabber DJs and producers are not white; examples include The Viper, The Darkraver, Gizmo, Bass-D, Nexes, Loftgroover, Dark Twins, Bass Technician, MC Raw (of Rotterdam Terror Corps) and HMS.
In the mid-1990s, artists like Gabber Piet and Hakkuhbar started to appear in the scene, making tracks that satirise the gabber subculture, such as the stereotype of gabbers being bald, the use of drugs, wearing Aussie and Cavello clothing, dance moves associated with the subculture, and other aspects.
These parodies even extended to television as well with Ruben van der Meer, the face of Hakkuhbar, appearing on the children's program Erwassus in 1997 in an episode titled "De Nieuwe aussie van de Gabber" ("The Gabber's New Aussie"), a modern retelling of the classic fairytale "The Emperor's New Clothes". Erwassus had another gabber parody episode titled "De gabbervanger van Mokum" ("The Gabber Catcher of Amsterdam"), which parodied "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" fairytale.
Because of such, happy hardcore started to diminish the gabber name by calling their tracks "Gabber". They received ridicule, causing the popular music festival Thunderdome to put Gabber Piet on Thunderdome's Hall of Shame. Gabber Piet was the final nail on Gabber's coffin when more artists started to appear such as Gabber Wijffie and Mosselman. 
Gabber is characterized by its bass drum sound. Essentially, it comes from taking a normal synthesized bass drum and over-driving it heavily. The approximately sinusoidal sample starts to clip into a square wave with a falling pitch. This results in a number of effects: the frequency spectrum spreads out, thus achieving a louder, more aggressive sound. It also changes the amplitude envelope of the sound by increasing the sustain. Due to the distortion, the drum also develops a melodic tone. It is not uncommon for the bass drum pattern to change pitch throughout the song to follow the bass line.
The second frequently used component of (early) gabber tracks is the "hoover", a patch of the Roland Alpha Juno synthesizer. A hoover is typically a distorted, grainy, sweeping sound which, when played in a low register, can create a dark and brooding bass line. Alternatively, when played at higher pitches, the hoover becomes an aggressive, shrieking lead. Faster gabber tracks often apply extremely fast hoover-patterns.