When referring to a drum machine, some people may compare it with drummers. Though, it is completely different tools. Drum machines are box-shaped instruments with numerous buttons just like a keyboard. These buttons add some effects to the music, create new patterns and, in general, make the music more diverse. Usually, these instruments are used by DJs and producers for creating sounds.
They can go with a pattern library and custom kits allowing the users to install auxiliary kits if needed. Moreover, the instruments are ordinarily equipped with pressure-sensitive pads to change the intensity of sound. Most modern machines have a battery pack, case, and headphone jack to use outside.
During the last several years, machine drums have changed a lot. Now you can create your favorite beats at once and you don’t need special gear for that. The drums are already equipped with all the necessary hardware. Keep on reading this article to get acquainted with the modern models and find the best drum machine for your needs.
Drum Machine Reviews
The Korg drum machine provides powerful grooves and monolithic analog sound of drums and sequencer. The one important advantage that stands out the Korg from the competitors is maximum effects with minimum controlled parameters.
The Korg model has a PCM generator for making the instrument possibilities much wider and providing powerful analog beat sounds. The device has a set of functions for a more detailed pattern performing. The Stutter function generates repeated triggers that make the pattern sound much multifarious. The Active step is used for creating bass lines by adding and deleting certain steps. The Step jump allows proceeding to the chosen pattern followed by its numerous repeating.
The Volca beats comprise analog drums with step sequencer, so you have an ability to create a drum pattern on the base on the most quality sounds. Volca Beats is a deliberately chosen set of samples manually-controlled for quick and intuitive creating of the beats you need.
With the Korg, you can easily synchronize all the data with your PC or sound recording programs due to SYNC and MIDI IN inputs. The instrument has average dimensions (14 x 6 x 2.8 inches) and light weight (2.15 pounds). Together with built-in speakers and battery operation, this model turns out to be portable and easy carrying.
- The instrument suits well for home-made studios as well as working for a big audience.
- The keys are difficult to get used to because a keypad is small.
- The sequencer functions are quite limited.
If you have an intention to find the best drum machine, you’d better look at the Roland model because this instrument deserves being among the top machines. This model gathers all the top features from the Roland, including modern production techniques and perfect sounding.
The Roland drum machine provides a wide range of samples. It’s up to you to decide whether to choose the one from the numerous library the manufacturer offers or upload your own ones using the SD card slot. You can easily change the sound at once due to hand-on control. Mix and layer the samples to create your own style.
The TR-8S has a unique memory capacity that is stored up to 128 patterns, each with 8 variations. The machine allows using up to three variations of patterns individually or chaining them together in a certain sequence. Each pattern can have its own tempo and effects.
Just like other Roland products, this model has 8 separate analog outputs, so each drum sound can be worked separately through external effects and sent into individual channels. The device is equipped with a high-resolution 24bit/96kHz digital-to-analog converters, as a result, the sound is quite dimensional and spacious.
Among all the features the TR-8S has, a multi-channel audio & MIDI interface should be mentioned. This function makes it possible to transfer MIDI & high-resolution audio to your PC with a simple USB cable. The product has medium dimensions (10.4 x 16.1 x 2.4 inches) and weighs 8.16 pounds.
- Good sound quality.
- Multiple kits are included in the package.
- No warranty for the buyers out of the USA.
The Roland pad has all the chances to be included into the list of the best drum machines. Its internal memory capacity (4GB) allows storing up to 720 minutes of audio. So, you don’t need any external memory devices. With the help of built-in USB ports, you can import the necessary files directly from the USB flash memory.
The SPD-SX consists of 9 sensitive rubber pads, 2 independent real-time control knobs as well as 4 dedicated effect buttons. A set of these functions gives more possibilities for sound changing as a lot of audio effects can be implemented.
Each pad has LEDs illuminating to show the pad’s status. They help see which pad is active at a certain moment. Moreover, they change the illumination strength depending on the audio-level activity.
The Roland beat machine also has three multi-effects units: one master and two kit ones. The master effect unit allows performing like a DJ using the purposeful front-panel controls. The product is of average dimensions (13.6 x 14.4 x 3.8 inches) and light enough comparing to other Roland models (just 5.9 pounds).
- It is a versatile device due to a wide range of available programs.
- The machine is quite easy to operate.
- It doesn’t have a sound generator engine, all the samples should be imported.
- Too many keystrokes to perform a simple action. for example, you need to push 5 keys to delete one sample.
When talking about the Alesis drum machine, a huge number of professional sounds should be mentioned. It is famous for its 233 realistic and natural drum sounds that are precisely collected. So that the final work seems authentic. Besides, the Alesis has a set of 50 patterns that were recorded by professional studio drummers, not just programmed by a machine.
The SR-16 is designed with a full MIDI implementation, as well as footswitch input making the control process simpler. Besides, the MIDI system makes it possible to use the machine with keyboards, computers, and electronic drum kits. Moreover, it has flexible programming and editing features and velocity-sensitive pad buttons, so you can fully control the process of sound creating.
The described rhythm machine has small dimensions if compare it with other models presented on the market (9.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches). What is more, it weighs just 2.5 pounds that makes the system very portable. However, it may turn out to be fragile because of its lightweight.
- The system is very customizable. You can set all the parameters according to your taste.
- The manual is hard to understand.
- The display doesn’t have a powerful backlit, so it’s rather hard to read under bad light conditions.
- Save and Delete buttons are very close to each other and there is no Undo button.
The Akai drum machine is famous for its 7GB+ sound library including 2 wide packs (classic MPC3000 and two MPC Expansion ones). The device is compatible with PC and Mac as it includes MPC software. So, the process of audio recording and real-time warping becomes simple and fast as 4 touch-sensitive knobs make it possible to control the MPC.
Besides, the MPC drum machine is capable of working with up to 128 tracks. So, you can make a variety of samples with different variations. You can easily make tracks without even looking at the laptop or PC screen as the machine has an LCD screen showing the necessary data.
The Akai is USB-powered, so it is necessary to have access to the main power for working on it. Moreover, it has a rather small dimensions (10.1 x 11.2 x 1.6 inches) and weight (2.6 pounds). All these facts make the system portable enough to carry it in a laptop bag. Despite its portability, the Akai is firm enough as its body is made up of brushed aluminum.
- Quality drum sound of high power and volume.
- The machine comes with 1.9 MPC software that should be upgraded to 2.0 for an additional price.
- The instruction doesn’t give enough information, additional videos should be watched online.
- The customer support doesn’t reply to the questions very swiftly.
This unique beat maker machine allows hand-free control over the sound making process as it is made in a pedal format. Once you link up to the BeatBuddy, you get access to 10 drum sets and more than 200 beat patterns of 24 genres with an SD card that is included in the package. It will be more than enough to arrange almost all the songs of any genre. Moreover, you can connect the instrument to your PC and upload your personal patterns created in any sequencers via special free software. More than 3 million songs in the online library are offered.
The BeatBuddy has an LCD display as well as a visual metronome to take more control over your sounding. The moving line on the display shows which beat is played (3/4 beats have three lines and 4/4 have four ones correspondingly). The instrument has stereo input and output, so it is compatible with any sound system, even the headphones.
The machine weighs only 1.15 pounds and has small dimensions – 5 x 3.5 x 2.5 inches. So, you can enjoy the beats literally everywhere.
- The instrument is very easy to use due to an understandable visual interface.
- Cheap price with that is not at the expense of quality.
- The beats are similar to each other, so the number of original ones is much smaller than the manufacturer claims.
- The song style and tempo should be entered before every song playing. It takes much time and prevents continuous music playing.
The Korg analog drum machine is a bass groovebox that can compete with acoustic drummers in sound power and intensity. That will be an ideal buying if you are working in styles like Acid, House, and others because it has three analog oscillators for thick and huge basses.
The Korg Volca Bass has a specially elaborated filter providing a clear heavy sound. Each sound pattern can be programmed on the generator with 16 control buttons and save in the instrument memory. The capacity will be enough to hold up to 8 patterns like that.
Synchronization with other devices becomes easy with 1/8 inch mini jack. This way you can link up the Korg to your PC and edit the sound more properly. Besides, the instrument is equipped with a MIDI IN port, so you can connect your MIDI keyboard as well and use the Volca Bass as a sound module.
The bass machine has average dimensions (7.4 x 4.3 х 1.6 inches) and light weight (just 2.3 pounds). Together with battery operation and built-in speakers, the instrument is found to be portable enough to be carried out everywhere. Moreover, the manufacturer provides a special case to protect the device from dust and physical damage.
- The machine sound is similar to its expensive competitors.
- Works perfectly when playing by itself as well as in combination with other Volcas.
- The instrument has no keys, a MIDI keyboard should be connected for proper functioning.
- Little stalk knobs that are not handy in use at all especially if your hands are bigger than average.
The Teenage pocket machine that works professionally as both a synthesizer and a 16-step pattern sequencer. It can deal with such drum sounds as cymbals, hi-hat, cowbell, and much more. The system allows chaining up to 16 patterns together enhancing them with 16 effects.
The PO-12 is equipped with LCD and built-in speaker, so you don’t need any external devices to work with the beats. Every sound can be performed on the operator itself.
Also, Teenage Engineering offers a considerably wide tempo range. You can achieve a tempo up to 240 bpm.
One more feature that makes this machine worth your attention is parameter locks. This characteristic gives the ability to save certain sound parameters for each sequencer step. So, you can create truthfully unique sounds.
Despite its portable design, pocket size, and weight (just 7 x 3.5 x 0.2 inches and 0.2 pounds), the rhythm machine is capable of creating impressive sounds and working with other devices thanks to 3.5mm input/output jack. So, this model can be considered an ideal one for making beats on the go.
- The buttons are solid and sturdy enough.
- The sound is much louder than it can be expected of the instrument of such a price and dimensions.
- The PO-12 can be turned off only by taking away the batteries.
- A protective case should be bought if you are planning to take it out of the house very often.
The Best Drum Machine: How to Choose?
In order to make your own beat, a drum machine is required. However, take into consideration that they are not cheap. So it’s better to get acquainted with the basic parameters and features this instrument has in order to find the one for your needs and budget. The market is full of offers of different sizes, memory capacity, design, and so on.
Nowadays, the drum machine pads are not as bulky as they were years before. However, they are still of different sizes and the product dimensions can significantly vary. If we are talking about small instruments, it doesn’t mean they will be of poorer quality and sound. In most cases, people prefer small machines over big ones just because of the lack of free space for its installation. Moreover, small models are much portable and easy to carry. Although, the big machine drums are handy to use due to the extra space they have. All while, smaller representatives may cause awkwardness for people with big arms.
Digital and Analog: Which One to Choose?
The digital/analog question is actual for machine drums, especially when talking about percussions. If you pursuit realism in your patterns, then it’s better to think about the digital model as the analog one is not as good at recreating real-world sounds. So, while deciding which system is better, make up your mind depending on the sound genre you would like to play.
Change of the Sound
A lot of beat pads don’t have an option to upload your sound. If your budget is limited, you can choose a model with a single set. In case you are planning to invest in your hobby or even a career, I advise you to choose a sampling model. It provides a possibility to upload your favorite beats and even alter them. With the instrument of such a type, you will have limitless options to choose from. However, I guess you understand that the more features it offers, the bigger price it has. So, if you don’t feel the need for these features, it’s better to stop on a cheaper variant with built-in sounds.
Pattern memory is one of the key features the machine drums can have. If you are a live performer, you need your instrument to be as autonomous as possible. It means the ability to store a large number of patterns. If you mainly use your beat pads in the studio, then the question of memory capacity is not actual for you. Moreover, if you have a MIDI slot, you can create the patterns in software and use it for your machine triggering.
Usually, machines drums are quite portable no matter which one you choose. All of them can be carried out and usually have a protective case in a package.
The Way the Drum Machine Is Used
Almost all the modern machine drums are initiative. A step-sequencer is used for rhythms creating. With rubber pads, you can choose which one of the 16th note grid sounds from each instrument. You don’t need any tutorial for drum machine pad using. Just occupy the necessary position and start pressing the buttons to create your sound.
Hi everyone! I’m Thomas Moody, also known as Guitarzan.
All my life, the guitar has always been my real love. I played as a featured guitarist in several bands over the years.
My extensive experience of teaching lessons and blogging taught me to write useful texts. I tried to keep as many notes about musical instruments as possible. So stay tuned—new articles are coming.