Top Music Gear Review Site

The Best 10 Drum Machines in the Current Market

16

For the analog lovers, it is sad to watch as real drum machines continue slipping into extinction. It’s a huge disappointment that we have to actually use the word ‘real’ because we can still remember the college days when we would jam to two loop beats on an MPC 1000 in our crammed studio apartments. These instruments are still very alive, though. The drum industry has been packed with the likes of MIDI keyboards, Digital Audio Workstations and VST software and rightfully so, as the technology has crept up into our music equipment. In spite of this, we did find some pretty great drum machines out there. In this era of technology, this list is of course a blend of the more recent new age drum machines and vintage types – those that are still being produced and a number of some used but overpriced eBay models.

How to Decide on a Drum Machine?

  • Portability - Most of them are portable, but we recommend a much slimmer and lighter one in case you travel a lot.

  • Digital Compatibility - Some people would want a machine that can perform both duties, that is, have the ability to make music by itself as a solo machine and have the option of plugging into a device or computer to digitally produce music. Some of these instruments are vintage old school models and wouldn’t decipher the meaning of MIDI, and yet others are very compatible with any device and even come with the option of editing MIDI within the instrument. Well, it pretty much depends on what it is exactly that you’re after.

  • The Sounds Needed - Some of these machines come already packed with a few sounds to start you off. Others have some GBs in sound packs, yet others would require you to upload your own packs or utilize the MIDI. Here we utilize both.

  • Budget - The budget is by far one of the most important factors. The amount of money that you are willing or able to freely spend will enclose you in a particular bracket of drum machines. Most of the high end machines would be bought for about a thousand dollars or thereabout, although we do have a variety that falls below this landing in the middle priced range, but still not compromising on quality. Either way, whichever section that you are in, you can be sure that you are still served.

  • General Machine Sounds - We have made this topic the tail of our list because it is quite subjective. Those of you that are aware of the different sounds that a drum machine produces would identify with this. Some machines would produce a sound that could be described as thick or warm or whatever word that would best suit each individual person for a certain type of output. This is, however, geared mostly towards the older machines like the grittiness and warmth from SP1200. If this isn’t a concern to behold, then please ignore this section.

OUR TOP 10 DRUM MACHINE LIST

Akai Professional MPC Studio

Akai Professional MPC Studio

To kick start our list, we wanted to shed light on a machine that brought the traditional vintage feel while also being up to date by offering us pretty modern specs. You are free to continue scrolling down the list if what you are after is a more vintage machine. We however suggest that you get this model because it is currently the best in our market. The Akai MPC packs many (and I mean many) features that would help convince you. We are however going to mention just a few.

This machine has a really sleek and handsome build, coming with a 1” thin and keeping a low profile weight wise. This would be a very great fit for travelers and people who would want it to snugly fit into their work spaces. It has inherent software for crossing over into the digital option, USB powered, with a big LCD screen that aids with navigation and sequencing capabilities of 128 tracks. The most outstanding feature (for most MPCs too) is its drum pads. The Akai comes with 16 backlit pads, swing function, 4 knobs that are touch sensitive and many more. This machine creates a mash between the old and new, and is still pretty cheap in comparison to the others in the market. Check out the video demo.

Alesis SR18

Alesis SR18

Now we are going to take you back in time and talk a bit old school with this machine. It has been dubbed one of the highest selling machines ever. It isn’t the SP 1200, but is quite up there as far as vintage goes, considering the fact that is possesses pads dedicated to certain specific drum sounds- this takes me way back to the 90’s when I would fool around with my old man’s Alesis SR16.

This machine features some stock sounds for electronic drums, one shot hits and drum sets, EQ, reverb, plug in options for MIDI or other instruments as well as compression for your sound effects. This baby is powered by batteries or AC, making it very convenient and easy to travel with. This instrument is quite cheaper than the first mentioned instrument, so in the event that you want to save some bucks and own a much simpler drum machine with an old school edge to it, look this one up. It has been highly spoken of by Sound on Sounds review.

Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine

Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine

This is one little machine that is quite analog in many ways. The instrument offers you a sequencer that’s very simple to use, an active function for step to step jumping, drums that produce analog sounds (fat and warm), is battery powered, packs the MIDI In and has a small sturdy build.  For additional visualization and information of the the Volca Beats, check out this educative video of the volca beats. We would highly recommend that you pick up this baby if you are on a small budget (goes for just about 100 bucks) and need some analog classic sounds. This Drum machine made the cut on Attack’s top hardware drum machines article.

Akai Professional MPC Touch

Akai Professional MPC Touch

We are back to the Akai brand yet again, and for some good reason. This model is Akai’s most recent machine yet, sitting on the line between digital and analog, with the touch screen that it rocks. Music heads have heavily criticized this machine, but then again, that’s what happens when something new and different is introduced into the market. This MPC introduces a computer that is basically built into your drum machine.

 The screen gives you the freedom to configure the sequences(yes, it comes with a step sequencer),  play around with the velocity and names of tracks, load and edit VSTs and samples, browse freely through various sounds, adjust the RPM and even mess with MIDI notes. This feels like they built in a DAW into the dang thing!

Not to forget that this machine has backlit pads, Q-link and many other buttons that give you many more usability choices. This is definitely the newest toy out there, check it out but be forewarned that it might be a bit more expensive.

Roland Aira TR-8 Rhythm Performer

Roland Aira TR-8 Rhythm Performer

This is a drum machine that has very high ratings in the industry, probably because you are getting a very modern version of the vintage TR-909 and TR-808 as far as the general sound feel goes. You will also get an LED display, delay effects, reverb, play/rec modes, a sequencer (16 step), A & B pattern variations and 16 kits of 11 types of instruments. The 808’s are still very popular in this age, mostly used in the hip hop scene (but not limited), so this might just be what you need. The TR-8 gives you MIDI and USB compatibility for anyone that wants to switch it up by adding some digital jest into their work. It did make the list on best drum machine by Juno.

Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 MKII

Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 MKII

If you have the money to match this machine, then we would advise you get it. It’s quite pricy and has a vintage feel. With this, you have freedom to tweak and shape sounds right on the machine, parameter changing that’s real time, 16 LFOs ,a sequencer that’s built in(64 step), and you also get some very amazing effects, track, all synthesis and global parameter control on it.

Although this is by far one if the oldest types in our list, it still has MIDI in and out of the back. You will have six audio outputs and two inputs for that time when you feel the need to pair it with some other machine or device. This is the sort of thing that is a favorite among a more experienced group that knows exactly what they are after, and have a broad knowledge base on drum machines. If you’re a beginner and want to dive right into the grown up stuff, then go right ahead.

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest

The Dave Smith Company is famous for their top analog music instruments. They have made several appearances on the best synthesizer reviews that we have done. Though it is the most expensive item in this list, we urge you to delay your judgment until you hear the full scoop. It features an amazing OLED display for navigation, 16 velocity sensitive pressure pads and an inbuilt operating system that is very advanced (allows you to arrange, create, manipulate and edit tunes in real time).

You get the step programming, the freedom to tweak the drum mix and analog effects and also switch the drum beat. This machine also has VCA, a pair of FLOs, 5 envelops, a high pass filter and a low pass one that has audio rate modulation making this model a dream. This machine is not for a beginner, and in the event that you do get it, you are going to be the owner of a very quality high end analog drum machine for quite a while. After all, you don’t make the hardware drum machines list by Music Radar if you’re not solid.

Boss DR-880 Dr. Rhythm Drum Machine

Boss DR-880 Dr. Rhythm Drum Machine

The Boss name is considered an old school staple, but they are here with one little gem – The DR–880. The DR in this regard, standing for Dr. Rhythm, and their gritty and analog machines were a favorite for many musicians. For those of you that are more new school, this would be a nice investment if you are looking for something that has the sound and feel of old.

This particular model is going to give you an amazing collection of drum, bass, percussion, waveforms and some intricate programming abilities not to forget a feature known as Grooving Modify which basically gives you the freedom to implement your own grooves into your tracks. This machine has inputs for the bass and guitar players, a quite simplistic LCD screen, 1000 patterns with chord progression and fills, 440  built in solids , a number of MIDI in and out hookups and 20 pads that are velocity sensitive. This machine falls around the mid-range price in comparison to others.

Korg ELECTRIBE Synth Based Production Station

Korg ELECTRIBE Synth Based Production Station

Korg makes a second appearance with a model that makes the middle section as far as price goes. The Electribe offers you 16 amazing drum pads, an oscillation adjusting knob, modulation, filter, built in sequencer, insert FX and AMP/EG.

In addition to all this, you also get support for the polyphonic playback and a function for motion sequence. It has a very advanced synth engine, which is responsible for blowing the price of this baby off the roof. It possesses oscillator waveforms (409), PCM and analog modelling. You have the freedom to play around with its waveforms, which range from the very simple combinations to some pretty complex ones (unison, dual, cross and ring modulation).

This machine is best known for its synth style implementation and customization.

Akai Professional MPC Renaissance

Akai Professional MPC Renaissance

An Akai model has made another appearance here. This one is just too popular to escape a review, though you should not read too much into the position of this machine in the list. We are very big fans of the MPC brands and have even heard from a big number of people who have showered praise on the renaissance as the best drum machine yet in the world. The renaissance is very popular and actually offers a lot of tutorials and support online.

With this package, you get a classic drum layout, a swing, MPC note, transport controls and much more. They have inbuilt software that comes in handy if you want to pair your machine with a digital device. It also has pads on the machine unit. The good people at MPC also incorporated 7GB and 300 instruments, so you do get a lot of sounds that come along with the machine.

The inherent DAW integration, 128 sequencing track that has 8 pads and an LCD screen really helps to make your workflow a bit easier and smooth. It is on the high side in terms of pricing, but be assured of value for your money. This drum machine includes some great software for those who would really find this important, amazing sounds and a whole culture to back it up.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This