EDITOR’S CHOICE: When looking for the best drum machine, there is only one product that exceeds users’ expectations, that is the Alesis SR18. It has a lot of surprising features on-board, more effects and built-in samples. In addition, it’s versatile enough to allow editing and great performance with this drum machine.
Drums are among the widely used musical instruments. But, a traveling musician doesn’t have the luxury of bringing the drum set by himself. Hence, the drum machines are made available.
Drum machine is a single device with functionalities of electronic drums that is trying to achieve the natural sound of acoustic guitar. Hence, whether in practice or live performances, you don’t need a real drum anymore or an experienced drummer.
All you need is a reliable and versatile drum machine.
There are a lot of drum machines available, some of them are coming from great brands on the market, making it hard for us to choose the best.
However, allow me to share with you the seven best drum machines I’ve come up with after intensive research and tests. Here are the drum machines that top the list:
7 Best Drum Machines in 2018
- Best-selling professional drum machine with 12 Dynamic Articulation, velocity-sensitive pads
- Backlit LCD, MIDI I/O, Stereo Main and Aux outputs, drum roll, 1/4" headphone output, 1/4" input jack, 2 footswitch jacks
- 32MB sound set with percussion bank and bass synth including over 500 Drum and percussion sounds and 50 bass sounds
- Built-in Effects- Reverb, EQ and Compression on each pad, preset or editable by the user
- Powered by AC adapter (included) or 6 AA batteries (not included) for maximum portability
You might be looking for a drum machine that is packed with everything you need to play drums and more. Alesis SR18 comes with a lot of mind-blowing features including 500 drum sounds on board, 50 bass sounds, and 200 patterns (100 preset and 100 user patterns). Of course, what makes it more versatile is, you can connect it to your guitar and other instruments to play along.
- Quite easy to use and has more options than other drum machines in this list
- Have effects like reverb, EQ, and compression for unlimited possibilities
- No USB port, limited connectivity
- Electribe-style 16-step sequencer with eight memory patches
- Sync In and Out allows clock sync of multiple instruments from the Volca series
- Stutter for glitch or delay-like effects
- MIDI In for note entry, plus external sync and control from your DAW
- Play anywhere with the built-in speaker and optional battery power
Korg Volca Beats is a medium-sized and lightweight drum machine packed with a wide range of functionalities. It’s ideal for both professional and beginners as it delivers classic drum sounds and versatility. It’s a 16-step sequencer, synthesizer, rhythm machine and can even be connected to external sources or DAW via MIDI In.
- Can be played anytime and anywhere with built-in speakers
- Includes optional battery for extra power on-the-go
- Not versatile and may not good for other music styles
- Doesn’t come with all the important features of a drum machine
- Analog Drum Machine with 17 Drum Sounds
- Steiner-Parker Output Filter
- 64-step Pattern Sequencing
If you are looking for an affordable drum machine that is as good as expensive ones, then, check out Arturia Drum Brute. It’ll treat you with classic drum sounds and is packed with 17 different drum/percussion sounds. It comes with 64-step and pattern sequencing that extends the possibilities, especially on stage performances.
- Provides rapid firmware update, everytime there’s an update
- One of the most versatile machines, especially on creating songs and patterns
- Heavier than other drum machines, but still easy to store and carry
- No recording feature available
- Analog Drum Machine
- The Ultimate Analog Drum Machine Drum Machine
- Analog/digital Hybrid Drum Machine and Synth
Designed by two amazing instrument designers Dave Smith and Rogen Lin, Dave Smith Instruments Tempest is an anticipated drum machine. It is packed with controls and functions that are very easy to operate. You can record, edit, add tweaks, and effects to your drum mix in a breeze, which you can do even during live performances.
- It offers both analog and digital feature, plus a great balance between them
- Pads are very sensitive to pressure and volume, hence, achieving a more controlled dynamics
- This is much more expensive than other drum machines
- Can load your own music samples (hoping for firmware updates)
- EZ Compose feature for quick, hassle-free programming. Four assignable footswitch and expression-pedal inputs. Individual outputs, digital out, USB port
- Guitar/bass input, multi-effects, COSM amp models. 20 velocity-sensitive pads
- 440 drum and percussion sounds, 40 bass sounds with COSM bass-amp models
- 3 independent insert effects (EQ and compression), TSC (Total Sound Control) featuring 3-band EQ
- 500 preset and 500 user patterns; add fills, ghost notes, chord progressions and more
Having a drum machine at hand, as you practice or add more effect to your music is really a very wise. Boss DR-880 includes features like 440 drum/percussion sounds, 40 bass sounds and around 1000 drum kits (500 preset and 500 user kits) that give you versatility. In addition, you can connect it directly to your guitar and add effects like EQ, compression and so on.
- So much sound effects, patterns, and samples on board
- You can connect it directly to any instrument or machine
- You cannot load your own samples
- Pads are just too small for some players
- Full reproduction of the classic TR-808 and TR-909 rhythm machines, based on original design spec sheets and detailed analog circuit analysis of many original TR machines, including Roland's own pristine units
- 16 stunning kits made up of 11 instrument types, including custom dream kits that use both TR-808 and TR-909 sounds
- Large Tempo knob with Tap Tempo button and continuous Fine and Shuffle adjustment knobs
- Control the intensity of the Accent function with a dedicated knob
- Per-step reverb and delay effects with dedicated knobs
Looking for a monster machine that could be a perfect instrument for live performances? Roland Aira TR-8 should be your choice as it’s easy to program, has easy adjustable and easy to familiarize onboard controls that have only 16 kits in 11 different instruments. It’s a compact bundle, solid and very durable, perfect to carry around anywhere.
- You have access to a variety of sounds, including electro and techno beats
- Aside from good looks and arrangement, provides good audio quality
- Might have difficulties trying to process sounds separately
- Multiple analog outputs not available
- Drum Synthesizer/Sampler/Sequencer with Programmable Kits
- 2.5MB Sample Memory
- Backlit Display
When you are looking for a great drum machine with great sounds, there is only one in the market and that is the Elektron Machinedrum SPS. It has immense functionality, which includes pattern mode, song mode, and you can maximize the use of the 16-sequencer track. You will enjoy every single function in this drum machine because they are all accessible in easy to use buttons and controls.
- Got the really fast MIDI interface for quick file transfers
- Real-time recording of loops and sound and delivers realistic sounds
- Doesn’t have a USB port
- The headphone port is at the back, which is inconvenient
How to Choose the Best Drum Machines
Drum machines are now becoming very affordable and the choices are becoming countless. So, it’s really hard to pinpoint a single drum machine in an instant. And, there is not only one great drum machine out there, since it still depends on the need and preferences of the players.
So, to keep your focus on buying the best drum machine that is really very useful to you, you need to check the following. Choosing the best instrument for you doesn’t only depend on the capacity of your pocket or how great the manufacturer is. There are more factors that you also need to consider:
Analog or Digital
You should be able to know whether you prefer an analog or digital drum machine. An analog machine uses its own hardware to synthesize the sound, while digital uses the computer. For a realistic sound, go for digital, but for authentic sound go for an analog drum machine.
While this may not be an issue for most people, but comfortability is still the key to achieving great music and performance. And, thus, it’s still important to consider whether the size of the machine and the pads are just the right size for the players. Is a bigger one good for you or a toned-down size would be perfect with your music and your style?
Since this is where most of the action take place, it should do its part well. Is it velocity and pressure sensitive or can it give dynamic variations to the beat it can produce? Is this comfortable to play with?
Of course, aside from these three, you also need to consider the price and the credibility of the brand. Yet, note that you also need to check extra features like editing, programming, memory, built-in effects, and so on.
Nothing beats a decisive move to check the pros and cons of each prospect product before buying one.
A drum machine is a necessity of every drummer, whether for practice or for touring purposes. Therefore, it’s important that you shouldn’t just jump into buying any drum machines in the market. Assessment of one’s need, budget, and checking one of the best drum machines on the list will help you find the right drum machine for you.