Unfortunately for us analog enthusiasts, the Best Drum Machines are slowly becoming a rarity. It is disappointing in general that we have to say “real drum machine” to open this article because we remember the days when we would make simple twofold beats on our MPC 1000 in our studio room at the university. In our opinion, however, these pieces of music are still alive.
Although VST software, MIDI keyboards, and Digital Audio Workstations have taken the market by storm (rightfully the technology and music equipment that are fully operational nowadays), there are still some solid drum machines on the market. Let’s have a look at them.
List of the best drum machines
Korg Volca Beats
Here is a handy little machine to watch. If you were looking for a model that was very analogous in all respects, here is one of the top hits at the moment. With Korg’s drum machine you have a user-friendly sequencer, analog-sounding drums (hot and thick), active step and step jump function, a MIDI IN for kicks and a small but sturdy battery-powered construction. We recommend to grab the Korg Volca Beats if you have a smaller, more affordable (falls a little over a hundred dollars, double check to ensure) drum machine that provides you with some classic analog sounds. Overall, this is one for the Best drum machines that you can buy right now.
Elektron Analog Rytm MkII
At the heart of the Rytm MkII, you’ll find the same excellent eight-note analog/digital sound engine as in the MKI, coupled with the familiar 13-track sequencer. Each track is selected by pressing the track button and corresponding pad. The most noticeable difference on the MKII’s front panel is that the old pressure-sensitive backlit rubber pads have been replaced with larger, softer versions, so you can finally drum with your fingers on the Rytm (a huge improvement over the MKI).
As before, each pad/track can contain one of nine “machines,” which are stand-alone synth engines designed specifically to create a particular type of drum sound. The MKII sounds just like the MKI, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s plenty of low-end extension, punch in the mids and a round, stylish high end. The Rytm has improved in every way: it is one of the very best drum machines and will continue to inspire you for years to come.
The TR-08 is part of Roland’s ‘Boutique’ range of digitally reconstructed vintage hardware, and it would be easy to emphasize its ‘authentic’ aspects, but it’s much more of a 21st-century machine than the original TR-808, in a lot of different ways than its DSP-driven sound engine. Although the programming system is broadly the same as the original, you can now add sub-step beats, create random patterns, and bring in some swing – all useful features.
Compression can be applied individually to the Kick and Snare, while Tuning and Decay are available for some sounds (with the ability to select a long decay version of the Kick for the Miami bass lovers out there). This is a pretty sounding and affordable (compared to the original) digital resurrection of a classic beatbox, though we would have liked to see a few more editing options and multiple analog outputs.
Arturia DrumBrute Impact
Like its bigger brother DrumBrute, the Impact pairs its sequencer with a fully analog drum synthesis engine and highly flexible pattern saving/song mode capabilities. Visually, the Impact looks quite similar to its predecessor, housed in a solid, navy blue chassis familiar from the rest of Arturia’s “Brute” series.
Although there are fewer different instruments – 10 instead of the DrumBrute’s 17 – the Impact is not simply a slimmed-down version of the larger machine. Much of the sound engine has been overhauled here, and the DrumBrute’s Parker and Steiner filters have been traded in for a solid distortion effect. The pressure- and velocity-sensitive pads are a bonus, and the sequencer Roller and Beat Repeat tools are a couple of handy options to spice up fills and turnarounds.
The generous amount of 64 pattern slots means there’s plenty of room to store and recall grooves, and Song Mode means they can be easily pasted together into full arrangements. Although the Impact lacks some sonic flexibility and is not all-round perfect, it is an inspiring and enticing drum machine at a very good price.
Now we are talking a bit more old school here. It is considered one for the Best drum machines ever. This thing is absolutely pretty vintage (not quite SP 1200 but it’s up the re), considering it has special pads for certain drum sounds (this brings me back to the days when I would play with my father’s Alesis SR16 in the early ’90s). Some other highlights of Alesis’ jewel are stock sounds of drum sets, electronic drums and one-shot hits, some reverb, EQ and compression for your effects needs, as well as the ability to connect plug-in instruments or MIDI controllers.
It is powered by AC or batteries so that it can also be traveled very easily. The Alesis SR18 is a bit cheaper than the aforementioned MPC Studio, so if you want to save some money and want a simpler, old-fashioned drum machine, be sure to check it out. Overall, this is one for the Best drum machines to buy right now.
Roland Aira TR-8
Roland’s TR-8 is highly appreciated by users in the music world. You get a modern version of their classic TR-808 and TR-909 machines (when it comes to the overall sound feeling). It also gives the user a 16-step sequencer, A and B pattern variations, 16 sets of 11 instrument types, an LED display, reverberation and delay effects, rec/play modes and more. Since the 808’s are so popular (still, even this year) in most (but not limited to) hip hop music, this might be what you’re looking for. With the Roland Aira TR-8, you also get some USB and MIDI compatibility as an advantage in case you are looking for some digital pieces in your workflow. Overall, this is one for the Best drum machines right now.
Elektron Digitakt Drum Machine
With an all-digital architecture, Digitakt features 16 channels, divided into eight audio – that is, sampling – channels and eight MIDI channels. Samples can either be loaded via the internal memory or sampled from Digitakt’s audio inputs. The process of sampling is fast and fluid, and can be done without pausing the sequencer. Although “digital” is often mistakenly seen as synonymous with cheaper or less “full” sounds, the Digitakt sound source certainly has plenty of power.
The bit reduction and overdrive are particularly good at adding extra body and grit to sounds, and the sample manipulation and looping tools mean that Digitakt can take things into esoteric territory. It may seem like a modest sampler, but with great sequencing and a decent amount of connectivity options, the Digitakt can easily become the centerpiece of your studio or live rig.
This is Korg’s second appearance in our article. The Electribe is very popular among users in the world of music equipment. It is priced around the middle layer and offers 16 nice quality drum pads, a button for adjusting oscillation, filtering, modulation, AMP/EG and insert FX and a built-in step sequencer. You also have support for polyphonic playback (best for complex chord progressions), a “motion sequence” function (record button and button operations), and some decent FX aboard.
The synth engine is quite advanced and that is what the price brings up, for a reason: it has 409 oscillator waveforms with analog modeling and PCM. You can become super creative with the waveforms, ranging from simple combinations to more complex (dual, unison, sync, ring and cross modulation). The Korg Electribe is just a new twist on drum machines, but it is more known for the adaptation and implementation of the synthesis style. Overall, this is one for the Best drum machines right now.
IK Multimedia UNO Drum
UNO Drum, IK Multimedia’s first foray into the world of analog gear, is a hybrid analog/sample playback machine with an impressive sounding synth engine in a lightweight plastic case. As a result, it feels a bit on the fragile side, which raises the question of whether or not it can withstand the typical blows that heavier devices endure.
However, the six analog kick, snare clap and hi-hat sounds are authentically warm and rich sounding, and are combined with a choice of 54 PCM sounds from IK’s SampleTank sample library. There are 100 preset kits to explore, an extremely versatile and powerful sequencer with a memory of 100 patterns, and some fun gadgets like the Stutter and Roll buttons to polish your patterns, making the UNO Drum a fun piece of kit to play.
Elektron Model: Samples
Although Elektron’s offering is more of a groovebox than a drum machine, the six-track instrument is still very much worthy of inclusion in our list. Model:Samples’ control panel has 16 buttons, 15 keys, six pads, a display and 16 sequencing keys. Its minimal design and controls will have you making beats in no time and getting hooked on hardware if you don’t already have it.
It wouldn’t be wrong to think of the Model:Samples as a super cool sequencer that also happens to play some samples. Each project can hold up to 96 patterns and up to 64 patterns can be strung together in real time. The M:S drive can hold up to 96 projects and up to 64 MB of samples are available for each project.
A drum machine is an electronic device for creating rhythms. It brings the production and live performances to the convenience of not needing live drums or a drummer. It is a machine that is loved by solo artists and producers around the world. There are different types of drum machines with different functions. They come with built-in patterns, some allow patterns, others do not only make samples, but also accept externally made samples.
In this article, we have mentioned some of the Best Drum Machines and also looked at some important points to note when making a purchase. Hopefully, these points helped you understand what you need in a drum machine. This should make the selection process easier.