What Are The Best Drum Machines on The Market?
Technological Innovations are always occurring, and it’s common to utilize technology for everything. For example, if you’re in a band and can’t find a good drummer, a drum machine would be an option worth considering. The first commercial drum machine was released in 1959, and they’ve revolutionized the way music is produced. Drum machines allow musicians to create the sound they want quickly; they’re portable, can be used for a variety of genres and can save a lot of money in the long run. That being said, drum machines vary in price, and if you’re considering buying one, it’s worth putting in the research to ensure you get one that best suits your needs. Check out our recommendations below based on performance and budget.
1) Alesis SR16
- 12 velocity sensitive pads
- 20-255BPM tempo range
- 16-voice polyphony
- Sound stacking, step editing, stereo samples with reverb and ambiance
- Four audio outputs (2 stereo pairs)
The Alesis SR16 is an entry-level drum machine that’ll be good for beginners to learn the basics of implementing this technology into their music. Featuring 233 drum and rhythm samples and 50 preset patterns giving you a range of beats to work with. The SR16 is easy-to-use, and it’s affordable at an average $150. Don’t mistake the SR16’s entry-level status for being inadequate; this machine is popular with many live performers and studio recordists. It also has two inputs for foot pedals so if your hands are busy with other things you can control the drum loops with your feet. A couple of things to keep in mind, however, it can’t run off batteries, and you can run out of memory quickly as it only has 50 user presets. Overall, we’d recommend this for practicing, low-key live performances and improving core competencies.
2) Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 MkII
• 16 step sequencer
• Real-time 32 step pattern creation
• 16 kits with 11 instruments types
• Analog circuit behavior technology
• MIDI clock with sync for great timing with external equipment.
The Swedish-made Elektron Machinedrum is a modern, versatile drum synthesizer/sequencer that has a range of high-tech features. Its features enable the ME to perform to a high standard for a variety of purposes, although, it’s more suitable to be used by DJs as the range of sequencing capabilities and preset sounds favor electronic/house music as it enables you to manage and shape customized sounds during live performances. You can also add mode-filters and track effects, if you can imagine a sound in your head, you will be able to create it on this machine. Due to the sampling and sequencing capabilities, it may be too advanced for a beginner, but if you have around $1000 and want a state-of-the-art machine that will be good for years to come, look no further than here.
3) Dave Smith Tempest (DST)
- 16 track sequencer.
- 16 LFOs (Low-frequency oscillation)
- MIDI sequencing
- 6 audio outputs / 2 audio inputs
- Section effects, delay, reverb, EQ, filtering
The DST is a machine for the analog-loving musician that wants modern technologies with vintage design. Costing around $2000, the DST is a little pricey but it’s worth it, you get so much more than a standard drum machine, it’s more of a sound studio. Featuring an advanced operating system to create and edit your music in real time, a massive 16 velocity sensitive pads, six analog synthesis voices, low-pass filter with audio-rate modulation; the DST is a perfect example of getting what you pay for. It’s an excellent piece of equipment that allows you to engineer perfect sounds for all kinds of performances be it live or in the studio. It surpasses everything else in this list easily.
4) Roland Aira TR-8
- 90-panel controls
- Real-time and step recording
- 452 different sounds
- Note FX slide controllers
- VCA with feedback, 2 LFOs, and five envelopes
With a cost in the region of $500, the Roland Aira TR-8 is a modern, digital enabling drum machine that boasts an array of features. You can enter steps manually or record in real-time, connect with USB and it also has a 7-segment/4-character LED display if you ever play in dark-lighting environments. Roland has an impressive history of producing drum machines, and the RT-8 is considered to be an updated version consisting of all their best work from previous models. The sound quality the TR-8 produces is excellent, and Roland themselves describe it as a machine for DJs to produce studio music by day and perform it by night. The machine itself is for more experienced performers as there’s a knob for everything on the dashboard which will take practice to learn. The TR-8 rivals the DST for some of its features and could potentially serve better as a drum machine depending on your usage, but it lacks the cutting-edge synthesizing abilities the DST has. Overall if you prefer digital production to analog and your budget isn’t large the RT-8 is worth looking at.
5) Korg Volca Beats
- Analog drum sounds
- Electribe-style 16-step sequencer with eight memory patches
- Loop sequencer
- PCM sound engine
- Battery powered and built-in speakers
The Japanese-made Korg Volca Beats is an impressive drum machine considering its size. Weighing just 1lb, the KVB offers a range of other useful features such as a built-in sequencer that helps you design your tunes wherever you are, without a computer. You can even sync all Volca equipment wirelessly by using the company’s SyncKontrol iPhone app. Using the KVB is simple, it has six editable analog parts for editing at the turn of a knob, a step-jump functions, MIDI inputs for note entry and can fit in your bag ready to use at any time. However, it may not be suitable for live performances in a large venue, but at a price between $100-$150, it’s an absolute steal.
For more on the Korg Volca Beats, read our review