A drum machine is an electronic rhythm creating device. This machine brings to production and live performance the ease of not requiring live drums and a drummer. This is one machine that is loved by solo performers and producers world over.
There are different types of drum machines offering different features. They come with in-built patterns, some allow pattern creating, others not only create samples but also accept samples created externally. Which drum machine should you choose? Which drum machine will be the most ideal for you?
These are some of the questions that most people who want to purchase a drum machine will be asking. The fact that there are so many different options available makes it even more difficult to make a choice.
However, in this review, we will help you make the right choice. We will achieve this by showing you 10 of some of the best drum machines available in the market and then discussing some important factors to consider.
Now let’s get to it.
Top 10 Best Drum Machines Reviews
1 Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine
This drum machine from Arturia is a response to the yearnings of lovers of the analog sound. Arturia manufactured the DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine in the mold of the classics. It however went further to build upon this classic design, adding modern improvements that makes this machine a major force in the music world.
Is it that good?
Let’s take a look at what it has to offer. Firstly, it offers 17 analog percussion and drum instruments – the real deal. Its audio specs are superior especially with its really low noise floor. According to Arturia, it offers organic, integral sound creation.
Let’s try to break down its features step by step. Firstly, its intuitive sequencer affords you the opportunity to be very creative, easily creating exciting beats. You can either create from scratch or create a new beat from an existing one using its in-depth editing features. It is very user friendly.
That’s not all…
For the performer there are limitless options. Firstly, its impressive 64 step and 64 pattern sequencing capabilities are impressive. What’s also very impressive is its really effective and efficient performance controls. Any solo performer will tell you that the effectiveness of the controls of a drum machine is a critical contributor to the success or failure of a live performance.
Finally, the Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine puts classic analog drum sounds in your hands. It then goes further to give you the tools to play around with these sounds, creating just about any style or pattern you can think of. It’s time to get the beat pumping with this classic drum machine.
Our Rating: (3.9 / 5)
2 Alesis SR18 | High-Definition Multi-Sampled Electronic Drum Machine
Alesis designed this electronic drum machine for the next generation sound enthusiast. The SR18 High-Definition Multi-Sampled Electronic Drum Machine builds on the successes of the SR16. This now offers more drum and percussion sounds, including extended composing, editing and performance capabilities.
What’s all the rave about?
The Alesis SR18 High-Definition Multi-Sampled Electronic Drum Machine comes packed with about 500 drum sounds which include modern percussion and electronic drum sounds. It also offers 50 bass sounds that can really get the beat pumping. With up to 200 patterns which include 100 preset patterns and 100 user patterns available, you can only be limited by your creativity.
More so, this machine offers a lot of options. You can hook it up to your midi keyboard and control the drum machine’s bass sounds from the keyboard. You can also sync it with your system so other devices and samplers are timed to it. It gives you total control over different aspects of its operations.
The solo performer will love this drum machine. Aside its amazing sample creation and editing capabilities, it offers diverse connection options. You can plug in your guitar or any other instrument into the instrument input to play along with the beat.
To help you sculpt your sound to your taste, it also comes with an effects engine. The included effects are reverb, EQ and compression. The Alesis SR18 High-Definition Multi-Sampled Electronic Drum Machine is waiting to be explored. The possibilities it promises are immense.
Our Rating: (3.9 / 5)
3 Elektron Machinedrum
As far as quality of sound goes, few drum machines can compete with the Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW MKII+. Yes, it’s been around for a while but it’s still holding its own really well. This machine was made for music makers for whom sound and feel is everything.
Creating patterns is easy with the pattern mode. In this mode, you can create chainable patterns of up to 64 steps. You can also arrange these patterns into a complete song track in the song mode. All these starts with the 16 sequencer tracks.
It gets better…
You can shape your sequences with a couple of easily accessed parameters. These parameters include muting, velocity-accents, swing and slide which create a smooth switch between parameters of different values rather than a sharp one. All these can be easily accessed via the function button.
This is a great machine not just because of the great sounds it delivers. It is particularly great because it puts all these power within easy control of the user. Whether synthetic sounds or your own sampled sounds, you have total control over it all.
Finally, if you want to enjoy a drum machine with a great sound engine and immense functionality, check out the Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW MKII+.
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
4 Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
When great minds come together, great things are born. This is the story of the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest, an analog drum machine made for the best, by the best. This was a highly anticipated machine when it first made its entrance.
What’s the story?
When two of the best electronic instrument designers in the industry got together to create a drum machine, the world of music stood still waiting for the outcome. Known as the dream team, instrument designers Dave Smith and Roger Linn set out to create something unique and amazing. The result was the Tempest.
So what about it?
Firstly, combining Dave Smith’s analog expertise and Roger Linn’s sequencer/digital expertise, the Tempest offers a powerful sound generator and an operating system that is highly innovative and performance oriented. It offers the user amazing controls over every aspect of its operations.
With this machine, you can very easily record your drum beat all in real time. You can switch to a different drum beat and can record it with the lit pads via step programming. Additionally, you can also go ahead to switch to yet another drum beat and can also record keyboard parts.
You have some great control options that will allow you edit and sculpt any of the sounds to your liking. This includes tweaking your drum mix and analog effects. When you are done, arrange your beats as you play and record this live performance as a song.
Interestingly, you do not have to stop at all to get any of these and more done. This is really convenient for the live performer. More so, it comes loaded with a huge bank of samples to spur your creativity.
This surely is a very sophisticated drum machine for the real professional.
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
5 Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine
Wanna take your beat on the road with you? Consider this Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine. It was built for portability and mobile performance.
Let’s take a look at it.
Firstly, this machine offers awesome classic sounds with 10 drum parts consisting of four analog and six PCM based parts. With its highly intuitive controls, editing and customizing loops is very easy with fantastic results.
Let your creativity rip with the 16-step sequencer and store your beats on any of the eight available memory banks. You can either create beats by playing them in real time on the touch panel or you can enter the notes and monitor the notes’ value in the measure. With the parameters offered by this machine, you can easily sculpt your desired drum sound.
The Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine offers good connectivity options. Its Sync In and Out function makes it possible to sync a number of instruments like the Korg Monotribe and others of the Volca Series via word clock.
This is a compactly designed drum machine that you can easily take with you anywhere. It has built-in speakers that will allow you hear what you are creating without needing headphones. It also has an option for battery power, which makes it perfect for mobile fun.
Finally, enjoy the fullness of analog kick, snare, toms, open and closed hi-hat sounds and the beauty of the PCM powered crash, agogo, claves, and clap sounds. The best of two worlds.
Our Rating: (4.4 / 5)
6 Akai Professional MPC Renaissance
Do you need a drum machine that will work at the same level as your computer’s processing power? The Akai Professional MPC Renaissance supports this and more. It harnesses your computer’s processing power to deliver exciting beat creation capabilities.
Unlike most other drum machines, this is a combination of hardware and software. Create your beats with the user friendly controls and the MPC software brings it all to life on your computer. The MPC software works with your PC or Mac to shatter the boundaries of what you can achieve with this machine.
There’s a lot more…
This is way more than just a drum machine. With its vintage mode plus audio interface, you can access past MPCs. These include MPC3000, SP1200 Ring, MPC60 and many more. This is like MPC on steroids.
Firstly, you can use this as your DAW. Awesome right? You can also choose to use it on your existing DAW as a VST, Au or RTAS plugin.
It supports up to 128-tracks of sequencing and includes a sound library of over 9GB. In addition to this its 7GB bank offers 300 instruments which cover practically every sound you will need today for music production. As if this was not enough, it also adds three great MPC expansions – The 809 which delivers the best of analog drums, The Noise for old school sounds and The Wub for electronic music.
Since all these run off your computer’s RAM and processing power, you can do as much as your system can handle. To borrow the manufacturer’s words – this Akai Professional MPC Renaissance gives you the power to produce.
Our Rating: (3.5 / 5)
7 Korg ELECTRIBE Synth Based Production Station
Korg describes this as “A complete tool for the creation and performance of any genre of electronic music”. It was designed to offer compact and efficient workflow, as different functions can be activated without having to stop the creation process.
Let’s peel off the layers.
Firstly, it features 16 multi-LED pads that are velocity sensitive. This is where all the beat creation magic begins. You have the option of creating your beats step by step or by playing in real time. It’s all about your preference.
Your sound options are easy to select and editing these sounds to suit your taste is also a breeze. Well laid out controls help speed things up. When you are done creating, you can add some nice effects from the included on-board effects to further enhance your creation.
Still more layers to peel off.
The machine has the capacity to store up to 250 patterns. You can also import your patterns into Ableton Live to complete the music creation there. Finally, the Korg ELECTRIBE Synth Based Production Station opens up to you possibilities by giving you the tools that make music creation easy and fun.
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
8 Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK2 Groove Production Studio
If you are just taking your first step into the world of drum machines, the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK2 Groove Production Studio may offer a good starting point. The Maschine Mikro is a more compact and a more affordable version of Native Instrument’s Maschine.
But hey! It’s not a weaker or inferior version. Firstly, the Maschine Mikro comes loaded with the full Maschine software capabilities. It also adds all the content that was included in the Maschine. The only difference is that it comes in a smaller body that can easily fit into smaller setups.
Wait! There’s more…
Native Instrument also adds the full version of its software synth which includes thousands of amazing sounds. For its compact size, it still offers the user immense control over every aspect of its operations. From the step by step sequencing to the editing and the finalizing of your creation.
You can also load the Maschine software into your DAW as a plugin. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You can even use the Maschine Mikro as a controller for some of your DAW’s transport functions. This the real definition of small but mighty.
Finally, the Maschine Mikro offers a seamless interaction between the hardware and software. With the massive supply of top quality NI sounds and the easy to understand control interface and operations, even new users will be creating impressive beats in no time.
Our Rating: (3.8 / 5)
9 Akai Professional MPC Touch | Music Production Station
Akai brings this music production station that is both catchy to the eyes and also efficient to use. If you love your equipment attracting a lot of attention, then you will surely love this with its flashing lights and 7 inch display screen. This is the Akai Professional MPC Touch.
What about it?
Firstly, it does really look great. Take in the 16 velocity sensitive pads that are backlit with RGB lights and the 7 inch color display and you can begin to appreciate its beauty. This unit combines the smooth workflow and the classic feel of traditional MPC machines with a modern touch to deliver an outstanding machine.
Of course it runs on the power of your computer through the MPC software. It also comes with the following: The 809, The Bank, The Vault, EDM & Future House, Essential Instruments, AIR Instruments and MPC Essentials. All these combine to deliver more than 20,000 pro-level sounds.
Creating, editing and finalizing your beats has never been easier. With the 7 inch multi-touch screen, you can draw your midi events, pinch or expand wave forms, split your samples and a lot more all with your fingers. This gives you tactile control over the functions of this machine.
Get this, you can also use it as an audio interface. It has a 2in/2out connection and a 24-bit/44.1 kHz resolution which is quite sufficient for most small studios. Finally, you can take control of your music production with the Akai Professional MPC Touch.
Our Rating: (3.6 / 5)
10 Boss DR-880 Dr. Rhythm Drum Machine
Boss joins the fray with what they fondly call Dr. Rhythm. The Boss DR-880 is touted to have the equivalent of a doctorate in rhythm so the minimum you can expect from it is at the doctorate level. So let’s examine this claim.
Firstly, this baby is loaded with about 440 drum and percussion sounds to get you going. It is also loaded with 40 bass sounds for those complimenting low end grooves. To further sculpt the sound of your bass to your liking, it adds some COSM bass amplifier models.
That’s not all…
For your beat creation, it features 20 velocity sensitive pads which make the process easy. It also has 500 preset and 500 user patterns, which provides more than enough space to accommodate your patterns. This includes fill, ghost notes, chords and more.
The creation process is particularly made easy with the EZ Compose feature while the assignable pedal inputs adds more performance options. Talking of performance, you can connect your guitar or bass directly to this machine. The COSM amplifier models will help mold the sound of your guitar or bass to your taste.
Finally, to finalize your production, use any of the included independent effect inserts. These include EQ, compression and total sound control. Be the Boss over your beats with Dr. Rhythm – the DR-880.
Our Rating: (3.7 / 5)
Best Drum Machine Buying Guide
A drum machine can make a significant difference in your live performances or in your music production sessions in the studio. It may even add some spice to your day to day life by offering some fun as you create beats just for the fun of it.
Whether you are looking at getting a drum machine for professional reasons or simply for recreational ones, you will need to take some time to consider what to get. This is especially true given the amount of options that are available to you.
We’ve already looked at 10 of some of the best drum machines available in the market today. In addition, we will now go some steps further to explain how you can choose which is best for you. The best way to know what’s best for you is by knowing exactly which features in a drum machine will be useful to you and which won’t.
Therefore, we will be looking at a few specifications as a guide.
Here we go.
Analog or Digital
Firstly, you may want to determine if you want an analog drum machine or a digital one. What’s the difference? To put it very simply, an analog drum machine synthesizes its sounds using its own hardware while a digital drum machine will use your computer’s hardware.
To put it in better perspective, if you need a more realistic sound, go for a digital drum machine. They will also offer more flexibility and integration with your system.
If you are however looking for that authentic drum machine sound, you may want to look towards the analog setup.
While this may not be too much of an issue, you may want to consider it too. If you want a device that you can carry along with you easily, you will likely be more concerned about its size than someone who needs the machine for his/her studio.
Therefore, determine your use and space available to you and then choose a size that will fit in perfectly.
This is basically where a lot of the action takes place. Most pads are velocity sensitive to allow you create dynamic variations of your beat. Therefore, ensure this is so.
You may also want to look at the size of the pads. Remember you will need to use them. If they are too small for convenient use, then you may find yourself having issues with them. As a result, look for something that will be easy to sequence on.
Programming, Editing Features and Controls
These are at the heart of your drum machine. These will determine how much freedom you will have to create and how easy this process will be. Therefore, look for drum machines with intuitive and easy to use controls.
The more editing features a drum machine offers, the more creative the user can get. Be sure to take a really close look at these specifications.
The memory available to you will be very important if you are a live performer. To ensure smooth performances, look for drum machines with enough user pattern support and song mode for putting these patterns together.
If you have your own samples that you are hoping to upload to your new drum machine do not take this for granted. Not all drum machines support this so ensure the one you choose supports sample uploads.
These help add some color and spice to your production. As a result, before committing to any one, look at the effects it has on-board.
Some drum machines can work on their own while some need a computer to be able to work. This is an important factor to look at. As a result, be sure you know if the drum machine you are going for is a standalone machine or requires a computer.
Finally, these days, drum machines can offer a lot of extra features. Some double as audio interfaces while some include some really interesting features. Though these are not your main focus, looking at them will not be a bad idea.
We have looked at 10 great drum machines and we also have looked at some important points to note when making a purchase. Hopefully, these points have helped you understand what you need in a drum machine. As a result, this should make the process of choosing easier.
Finally, it’s time to pick a winner from the 10 drum machines we reviewed above. They were all great products with their strengths and weakness. After considering numerous factors, we shortlisted three drum machines.
These are the Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine, the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest and the Akai Professional MPC Renaissance.
While the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest offers a lot of great value, its price point is on the very high side. The same goes for the Renaissance from Akai. Considering the best value for price and functionality, our winner is the Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine.