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If you’re a music enthusiast and are looking forward to creating some amazing beats, then the right tool to invest in is a drum machine. A drum machine is musical hardware engineered to imitate the percussive and drum sounds by allowing musicians to create, mix, and program beats, even without the presence of an actual drummer.
Looking back at the emergence of drum machines, the first name that comes to mind is Sly and The Family Stone. They made drum machines popular in mainstream music with their album ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’. Now modern musicians use drum machines to produce beats across different genres and styles – from psychedelic folk to rock.
An excellent drum machine is identified by its compelling engine that enables the player to tweak constraints and sculpt some amazing beats. To help you find a great drum machine, we’ve compiled the 5 best drum machines available on the market keeping in mind the budget and features. Read on!
1. Korg VOLCA BEATS
Overview of Features
Known for its unforgettable classic sounds, the Korg Volca Beats rhythm machine comes with 6 analog and 4 PCM-based drum parts. This 16-step sequencer offers those 6 editable analogs in just one knob. Besides, the 4 PCMs provide speed control for the changes in the pitch.
Moreover, this drum machine is equipped with 8 memory patches along with the ‘Sync In and Out’ function, which enables clock sync of various instruments from the Volca Series. Inspired by an Electribe, which is an antique collection of synthesizers, rhythm machines, and drum machines, Korg Volca Beats can store up to 16 beats quite easily.
What We Like About Korg VOLCA BEATS
What stands out about Korg Volca Beats is its impeccable sound production. With its ‘MIDI In’, you can produce great beats, and you can edit/sequence up to 100 sounds. Moreover, you can even use vocals, spoken words, ambient sounds, and glitches while producing music/beats. Apart from these, this drum machine is quite compact, operates on batteries, and has in-built speakers, so you can carry it along for live shows as well.
What We Like Don’t Like About Korg VOLCA BEATS
This drum machine has a set of limitations. It lacks a full-featured sampler and is good at producing certain musical genres only.
| 6 analog and 4 PCM-based drum parts
Edit/sequence up to 100 sounds
| Lacks full-featured sampler
Good at making certain genres only
2. Roland Aira TR-8 Rhythm Performer
Overview of Features
If you want to experience the legendary sound of the TR-808 and TR-909, then Roland Aira TR-8 is the one. This rhythm drum machine comes with genre-defining sounds and classic effects, with an unprecedented live pattern and some intuitive performance controls.
Recreated to imitate the details and nuances of the classic 808 and 909 kits, this drum machine has also enhanced these classic instruments to produce something much better than the original one. Being completely customizable, this drum machine allows you to switch between programming and performance modes. Also, its lighted knobs and RGB buttons make it suitable for live performance giving it a striking look.
What We Like About Roland Aira TR-8
Roland Aira TR-8’s biggest draw is its pattern creation, which is unique as it uses an advanced version of the TR-REC method. It is because of this method that you can easily edit, program, and play simultaneously. Besides, TR-8 works smoothly with other products of the Aira series and you can even connect your computer via the USB. Offering great flexibility, Roland TR-8 is an impeccable modern drum machine.
What We Like Don’t Like About Roland Aira TR-8
Roland Aira TR-8 can’t record parameter changes and even lacks track solo as well as undo functions.
| Lighted knobs and RGB buttons
Imitates classic TR-808 and TR-909 sounds
Uses TR-REC method
RGB buttons and lighted knobs
| Unable to record parameters
Lacks track solo and undo functions
3. Behringer RHYTHM DESIGNER RD-8
Overview of Features
Behringer RHYTHM DESIGNER RD-8 is a classic analog drum machine, which includes 16 drum sounds, a wave designer, a 64 step sequencer, and a dual-mode filter. All this together is responsible for the creation of some classic drum sounds, making you the master in creating beats.
Featuring live recording, editing, and playback of Analog Filter cutoff via automation alongside 11 independent analog outputs, this drum machine provides enhanced playability. It also has Pattern Mode, which arranges sounds patterns into full songs and even sets the number of repeats per song.
What We Like About Behringer RD-8
Some of the best aspects of this drum machine are the robust encoder for editing parameters, sync options (including USB, MIDI, Clock, and Internal), and 16 step buttons with LED lighting to create patterns easily. Moreover, the 64-step sequencer gives you enough storage, so you can create and store as many songs as you want. Not to mention, Behringer RD-8 is truly a beat-making monster owing to its fresh and modern approach to the classic drum machine.
What We Like Don’t Like About Behringer RD-8
On the downside, its users have reported its stiff knobs and the lack of preset patterns in memory. Plus, it comes with a hefty price tag.
| Includes 16 drum sounds, wave designer, 64 step sequencer, and dual-mode filter
11 independent analog outputs
16 step buttons with LED lighting
| Stiff knobs
Lacks preset pattern in memory
4. Alesis SR-16
Overview of Features
The most popular choice of songwriters and musicians, the Alesis SR-16, is a classic electronic drum machine. Built to suit live performances, this drum machine is powerful, as it’s equipped with 4 audio outputs and 12 pads. Most musicians refer to Alesis SR-16 as a versatile drum machine because of its 233 realistic, natural sounds and an incredible digital reverb, which enables great editing and customization of songs. Lastly, it requires AC voltage to function.
What We Like About Alesis SR-16
One of the exclusive features of Alesis SR-16 is Dynamic Articulation. This attribute enables the drum sound to alter its tonal quality every time you play it harder to get a realistic performance. Moreover, it has 50 preset patterns and some of them are recorded by professional drummers. Lastly, its 8 loudness levels, 12 velocity-sensitive pads, step-editing, stereo samples with reverb and ambiance will help you create music in no time.
What We Like Don’t Like About Alesis SR-16
The Alesis SR-16 lacks ¾ time-preset feature. Also, it isn’t portable, as it doesn’t run on batteries.
| Dynamic Articulation
Includes 4 audio outputs and 12 pads
233 realistic, natural sounds and digital reverb
50 preset patterns
| Lacks Dolby vision
Doesn’t have Freeview Play
Screen corner appear darker
5. Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
Overview of Features
With original Linn Drum and 9000 Linn drum sounds, Dave Smith Instruments ‘Tempest’ is a high-quality analog drum machine and is regarded as one of the best instruments to be used in creating a song. Its 16 pressure-sensitive pad enables musicians to create music out of this world.
Further, it also has 6 analog voices alongside 2 analog and digital voice oscillators. In each voice, there are 5 envelope sections with 2 LFOs. It also includes a high pass filter and 16-lit pads, which allows you to play 32 drum sounds through 2 banks. On the whole, the Tempest allows you to do sound programming for real using its pads arranged in a 2×8 grid.
What We Like About Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
The Tempest is more than just a sequencer, as it gives you access to 6 synthesizer voices. Undoubtedly, the Tempest is also an excellent synthesizer. Besides, its pads are highly responsive, so the percussion sounds produced are exceptional. Apart from this, the drum machine can combine analog and digital drum sounds quite better than other drum hardware. Above all, with the Tempest, you can easily create, enhance, and edit drum sounds covering all genres and styles.
What We Like Don’t Like About Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
If you’re a beginner, then the Tempest isn’t a suitable drum machine for you. Also, new samples can’t be loaded in it and it’s quite expensive as well.
| 16 pressure-sensitive pad
2 analog and digital voice oscillators
Suitable for programming
6 synthesizer voices
| Unsuitable for beginner
Can’t load new samples
Well, if we’ve to suggest the best drum machine, then we would pick the Korg Volca Beats for you. This analog rhythm machine is capable of producing impeccable beats and sounds that are suitable for live performances. This makes it one of the top-rated choices of professional musicians.
Besides, you can always go for the other listed drum machines if it suits your expectations and budget.