The Top 5 Drum Machines Reviewed
When you want to bring a performance to life, you want the best drum machine and equipment to make it happen. A drum machine is a device that creates an electronic rhythm. There’s no need for a live drummer when you have the best drum machine to replicate the sound that you want to bring your music together. Solo performers and producers are always on the lookout for a professional drum machine, and it’s for this reason that there are plenty to choose from.
There are some out there with patterns already built-in, and there are others that have the ability to allow you to create your own beat patterns. The pros laud these machines as they can have the chance to be as creative as they like. It’s a hard decision to choose between all the drum machines on the market, and it’s going to help to know the best of the best and their pros and cons.
There are a lot of things to think about when you are choosing the best drum machine out on the market today, and the price is going to be one of the main things you’re looking at. You want a professional machine with the bells and whistles to make your sound pop, so audio output is going to be a consideration, too. If you’re going to buy a drum machine to bring your own sound to the stage, make sure that you choose one that is performance-friendly with the right interface for the job.
Making A Choice
Now that you know that there is a lot to think about, you need to now look at five of the best reviews for drum machines that you can buy to enhance your performance on the stage.
Best Drum Machines
If you are a beginner to the world of the drum machine, then the Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 is going to be a winner for you. It’s an excellent starting point if you want to get into the studio and it’s far more compact and affordable than other options made by Native. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it is in any way inferior to other drum machines out there. There are so many capabilities that come with the Native Instruments Maschine Mk3, and despite its smaller body, it still has a powerful sound.
The one thing that Native has done right here is offer the full version of its software synth. This includes thousands of sounds to work with, and the control is immense. There are editing capabilities and step by step sequencing as well as the finalizing of your creation, too. The features are insane, and you can even put the software onto your DAW as a plugin. When you do this, you have a whole new load of possibilities to work with for your music. The excellent range of sounds and interface that’s easy to control makes operation easy and smooth.
Pros & Cons
- You get 8GB of sampled instruments to try
- Preset patterns are included
- 24 effects that run on a professional level
- Excellent value
- Intuitive interface
- Takes some time to get used to
- You can’t use this as a sampler on its own
- Time-consuming to set up
- Integrated hardware/software system includes sampler, arranger, mixer, FX, and more
- Includes 25 GB KOMPLETE 11 SELECT library featuring 25 pro-quality studio and creative FX
- Pro-grade, 96 kHz / 24-bit audio interface with 2 x 1/4" TRS line outputs, 2 x 1/4" TRS line inputs, 1/4" dynamic mic input, stereo headphone output, 1 x MIDI In, 1 x MIDI out; 1 x Footswitch
- Touch sensitive knobs for parameter tweaking. System requirements: Mac OS X 10.11 or macOS 10.12 (latest update), Intel Core i5, 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended),Windows 7, 8, or 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
- Smart Strip for strumming notes, pitch bending sounds, performing with FX, and more.Crosstalk L/R : -96 dB
2. Alesis SR18
This was a drum machine designed for the next generation enthusiast. The Alesis SR18 is better than the SR16, of course, and while the SR16 was a considerable success for producers and music enthusiasts, the SR18 offers so much more. The drum and percussion options alone are worth more, and there is the chance to build extended composing, too. The performance and editing capabilities are something to rave about, with the opportunity to use around 500 drum sounds.
You’re spoilt for choice here, and these sounds include modern percussion and electronic drum sounds. If you want to get that beat pumping, think about the 50 bass sounds that can work for you. Add to that the 200 patterns – both preset and user patterns – that are available and you only limit yourself with your own creativity.
The options for this particular drum machine are endless, and you can even connect it to your keyboard to control the sound from there. The Alesis SR18 is easily connected to the system, too, so that you can add the sampler and other devices for a smoothly timed beat. The Alesis SR18 also comes with an effects engine so that you can add EQ, compression and reverb effects to your music.
Pros & Cons
- Up to 200 patterns, 100 of which you can do yourself
- 500 drum sounds
- Excellent connectivity options
- Very easy to use – even for beginners
- No USB port to use for connectivity
- Professional and portable drum machine featuring a 32MB sound set with over 500 drum and percussion sounds and 50 bass sounds
- Complete MIDI implementation for use with keyboards, computers, and electronic drum kits. 7-position panner, tap tempo, and Mute/Solo function
- Effects engine includes reverb, EQ, and compression, 12 velocity-sensitive pad buttons with Dynamic Articulation functionality
- Features a pair of assignable ¼" stereo outputs, headphone output, ¼" input, and 2 footswitch inputs. Powered by AC adapter or 6 AA batteries
- Useful cables in the bundle include MIDI, ¼" TRS, and ¼" Right Angle Phone Male, plus bundle includes a mic windscreen and Fibertique cloth
Any music producer or drum enthusiast will love the chance to take this one on the road. Getting your music from gig to gig isn’t always easy, but with the Korg Volca Beats drum machine, you get a machine that was built purely for portability. Its mobile performance is astounding, offering ten drum parts and classic sounds that consist of both analog and PCM based parts. The controls on the Korg Volca Beats are intuitive and you can edit and customize the sound as you need to. All of this pulls together to give you the chance to be as creative as you want to be, sculpting the desired drum sound you want with excellent connectivity at the same time.
The Korg Volca Beats is a drum machine that was designed to be compact and take with you. The speakers are built-in, so you can hear what music you’re creating without the need for headphones. You can power the Korg Volca Beats with batteries, too, which makes it the perfect drum machine for mobile use. There is a big range of sound here, and you can choose this as the drum machine that works for your precise needs.
Pros & Cons
- 8 memory patches and a 16-step sequencer
- Speakers built-in for easy listening
- Battery powered for mobile use
- Easy synchronization to your DAW
- There have been reports about snare quality
- The lack of power source has been an issue
- Real analog sounds created with reference to classic rhythm machines
- Electribe-style 16-step sequencer with eight memory patches
- Stutter function generates repeated triggers that dramatically change the sequence
- Six editable analogue parts with one knob per function for easy editing
- Go-anywhere analogue: play anywhere with the built-in speaker and optional battery power
4. Alesis SR-16
We get so many benefits from the technology used to create drum machines today, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to keep things simple occasionally. In music, simplicity is always the better option, and drum machines like the Alesis SR-16 are the perfect tool for any musician or producer looking to create an exciting new sound. It’s been around for a while, so it’s definitel not a new drum machine on the market. 1990 was the year the Alesis SR-16 was introduced, and it’s one of thebest sellers out there for a good reason. The best feature of the Alesis SR-16 is its design. It’s lightweight and compact and this makes it an excellent choice for those who want something easy to use. The intuitive software and easy interface make it a favorite among users. It may still be in production, but its actual design has not changed; why change it if it doesn’t need to be changed?
Pros & Cons
- Popular option for musicians
- Excellent sound quality
- Compact, light and easy to use
- Intuitive option that responds easily
- Excellent pattern and sound bank
- Very basic functions
- No backlight – may be hard to use in dark conditions
- Not ideal for serious studio work
- A Studio Icon - Legendary classic drum machine for songwriters, live perform-ers and remix engineers
- In Demand Sound - 233 professional sounds included, built-in digital effects for added realism and powered by Alesis exclusive Dynamic Articulation
- Seamless MIDI Connectivity - Complete MIDI support for use with keyboards, computers, DAWs and electronic drum kits
- Connectivity Covered - 4 (stereo pairs) outputs; 2-function footswitch jacks for start/stop and count/A/B/fill
- Production-Ready Features - Sound stacking, step editing, stereo samples with reverb and ambience
Akai Professional has been on a winning streak for some time. Their line of controllers and drum machines look fantastic while also showing off some extra features that will capture your attention. The pads are excellent on the Akai Professional MPD218, with comfortable layout and mappings for use. The pads are not backlit, which makes playing in the dark so much more complicated than with other products.
There is a Note Repeat function that is built-in to this pad, and you can use it in the same way that you can an arpeggiator to build up the bassline to a crescendo. Despite the lack of backlit screen, there is some programming available for the Akai Professional MPD218. You can even enjoy a built-in Swing Functionality that allows you to swing the right note repeat between 6 percentage settings.
This Akai Professional MPD218 comes with Ableton Live Lite software, and you can use Big Bang Drums 2 and Big Bang Cinema Production 2 at the same time.
Pros & Cons
- Very responsive pads at the touch of a finger
- Tons of software built in
- Extra functionality like Note Repeat
- Full Level included
- The price is right
- Not as technical as other models.
- Ultra portable, feature packed and USB powered pad controller with 16 Thick Fat MPC pads for triggering drums, melodic samples, effects and more
- Easily accessible dedicated controls for 3 pad banks provides a total of 48 assignable pads
- 18 fully assignable 360 degree potentiometers accessible via 3 banks for controlling DAW, virtual effect and virtual instrument parameters
- MPC Note Repeat and Full Level controls for immersive expressive performances
- Control your iOS apps and open up a world of pad control capability using the Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)
Drum Machine Basics
Here is an excellent video on YouTube that explains what you need to know about drum machines: