The Top 6 Best Drum Machines Reviewed

Whether you’re a music producer or you’re just so into music that you adore having all the equipment you can get, a drum machine is an awesome piece of equipment that you want to have on your top priority list. Drum machines can make your production work way much easier and more fun. This is especially the case if you’re used to the DAW sequencer

One thing is for sure though. There are dozens if not hundreds of options out there when it comes to drum machines. Of course, not all of them are equal in terms of design, performance, features, and so on. Also, a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean that the drum pad machine is the best among the rest. It’s all about how the equipment is made and what you can do with it.

Is it even easy to use? These are some of the many questions you should ask yourself before picking a particular drum machine model. However, the process of comparing and contrasting can be quite daunting, confusing, and time-consuming. It can even make you abandon the quest altogether. To make your experience easier when choosing the best drum machine for you, here are the top 6 best drum machines reviewed that you may want to consider.

1. Teenage Engineering PO-12

Using the PO-12 is arguably just similar to using a calculator.

No wonder we’ve started with it, the Teenage Engineering PO-12 may not be the cheapest drum machine in the world, but it sure is the best cheap drum machine whose performance you can appreciate. It is actually the cheapest of the six in this drum machines review.

It features a total of 16 sampled, synthesized drum sounds, making it ideal for use with tabletop synth rigs. It also sounds quite realistic, thanks to the 2 real-time parameters each of the 16 sample sounds is equipped with. There are also a total of 16 different effects in the equipment’s effects library, that gives you the ability to alter your drum sounds and create music that is more varied. It also features a total of 16 patterns, each with 16 steps that trigger the adjustable sample sound parameters.

The Teenage PO-12 also allows you to record samples live or program them in step mode. There are 16 buttons in a 4 by 4 grid that allows you to turn individual steps on or off where needed. The design is pretty simple. Best guess, it is made so to provide a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for you to make your music. This drum machine tends to produce sounds that a tad bit more leaning on drum machine sounds from the early eighties.

Positives
  • Cheapest impressive drum machine
  • Great battery life
  • Comes with folding stand

Negatives
  • Lacks headsets
  • Lacks some features of modern drum machines

Overall, the Teenage Engineering PO-12 may not be the best drum machine out there, but it sure is the best you’ll find at this price range. Whether you’re an experienced producer or a beginner in making music, you will most definitely appreciate this drum machine’s price despite its various drawbacks.

2. Alesis SR 16 Stereo Electronic Drum Machine

Next on, we have the SR 16 stereo electronic drum machine from Alesis Instruments. Regardless of this machine’s simplistic design, it is quite powerful and impressive. This AC voltage powered machine features 12 beat pads and 4 audio outputs. The Alesis SR16 is one of the machines you want to get if you’re looking for realistic sounds. This is made possible by the Dynamic Articulation feature it comes with, which allows the tonal change in drum sounds when played harder.

It offers a total of 50 preset patterns from top studio drummers. It comes with a total of 12 pads that are velocity sensitive and offers other impressive features such as step editing, soundtracking, 8 loudness levels, ambiance, reverb, and stereo samples. These allow you to make music that sounds professional without spending much of your time at it.

Positives
  • Realistic and natural drum sounds
  • Ideal for composition and live performance
  • Simplistic design
  • Highly affordable

Negatives
  • Runs on AC
  • Lacks some features like the 3/4 time preset

The Alesis Stereo SR-16 is made for a wide range of users, including songwriters; remix makers, and live performers. It also comes with a total of 233 drum sounds realistic and natural. The digital reverb is awesome, not forgetting its highly versatile design that makes it easy for you to make customer patterns and songs. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, this is a drum pad machine that you will most likely appreciate.

3. Korg Volca Beats Drum Machine

The Korg Volca Beats is quite another product that enthusiasts and professionals in the music world greatly appreciate. It is indeed one of the best cheap drum machines currently on the market. Having a real analog sound engine, this drum machine sounds way much better than most software plug-ins and drum machine apps used around. It is also equipped with a sequencer, not forgetting it can connect easily link to other Volca synths from Korg to provide you with analog sounds that will blow your mind. Surprisingly, most stand-alone drum machines that produce sounds whose quality can be compared to drum machine’s quality, of course, cost much higher.

It is the first machine on this review that comes with quite some commendable pro features for you. The 16-step sequencer is created to allow you to sequence and store music sounds a good 16 beats maximum. It also offers 8 memory patches that allow you to store your adjustable parameters. There is also a stutter that gives you the delay-like features and glitch, which you may want to include in your songs. This drum machine also has arguably the best MIDI pad controller and thus gives some amazing control, great external sync, and easy note entry from your DAW. In addition to its 6 analog drum parts, it is equipped also with 4 Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) drum parts to give you the classic sounds and great audio quality you’re looking for.

What makes it even more unique is that it comes with a high-performance built-in speaker and optional battery features, which make it portable and suitable for performance anywhere. With the Korg Volca, you can cut, slice, mix, and split your sounds easily, to create awesome beats that most drum machines will barely produce. This is also allowed by the user-friendly interface as well as the knobs on the analog parts that allow easy editing of tracks as well as the PMC parts that offer the convenience of speed control and pitch adjustment.

Positives
  • Portable drum machine
  • Battery power option
  • Great for classic music
  • Quite affordable
  • Upgradable

Negatives
  • Lacks some sampler features
  • You can’t add your own sounds
  • Doesn’t work well with some types of music

If you’re looking for a drum machine that will deliver entry level drum machine that is easy to use, affordable, and produces great sound, the Volca is the machine for you. Interestingly, a huge number of experienced producers also use it despite the few down points.

4. Roland TR-09 Boutique Rhythm Composer

Now let’s raise the odds a little bit for those looking for a real performer as far as drum machines are concerned. You see, if you’ve been in the music world for some time and you know about music instrument brands, you must’ve heard about Roland. As a matter of fact, perhaps you even own a Roland instrument. They are one of the top best and most reputable giants in this industry, no doubt about it; and one of their top pieces when it comes to drum machines is the Roland TR-09.

The TR-09 is actually an upgrade, a piece that is way better than its TR-909 predecessor by far. The TR-09, for instance, is made of a metallic top panel that gives it “more substance” and a more professional feel despite having a similar interface to the original classic TR-909. This ultra-compact drum machine comes with a battery power option, which makes it portable and can thus be used from anywhere.

It comes with a range of hands-on control parameters that allow you to adjust tune, decay, level, and much more. The Roland’s TR-09 Boutique also features a classic sequencer that is equipped with enhanced functions that make it possible for you to switch from one mode to another while still playing your tracks. The sequencer is equipped with 16 steps, each with 16 sub-steps for fine-tuning and enhancing your live performances.

Additionally, the TR-09 features a user-friendly design with 4 USB outputs and USB MIDI, which allow you to link to and control external instruments, making it a great drum machine for studio recording. Thanks to the Analog Circuit Behavior Technology (ABC) it is equipped with, you can recreate great analog sounds, edit, and tweak parameters without sweat using this machine.

Positives
  • Improved sound quality from original TR-909
  • Compact for portability
  • Impressive parameter control
  • Great performance

Negatives
  • Fairly costlier

Despite the fact that it is quite costly compared to some of the drum machines here, Roland’s TR-09 is quite the drum machine for professional producers and live performers. Hope you took a look at how awesome it sounds from the video above.

5. Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine

As you may have already guessed from the name, The Arturia DrumBrute is the first fully analogue drum machine on this review, and definitely one of the top best on the market. This drum machine features a total of 12 tracks with 17 drum sounds along with velocity-sensitive rubber pads for each of the 12 tracks. The rubber pads and knobs allow you to play associated track-sounds as well as sonic character shaping.

The other unique thing is that drum pad machine comes with 2 kick engines, a snare, a closed hat, a clap, an open hat2 toms (high and low), cymbals, tambourine, and synth perc sounds. The interface offers 16 rubber buttons that allow you to step-sequence your patterns while the sequencer runs. It also features a memory bank for you to store and recall up to a total of 64 patterns. The Arturia DrumBrute is also equipped with a song bank that offers you the convenience of creating longer arrangements from chained pattern assortments. The product also has 11 different outputs, making it a versatile drum machine that offers a unique sound quality that most competitors won’t hack.

Positives
  • Fully analog drum machine
  • Comes with 2 different kick drums
  • User-friendly interface
  • Multiple sounds and control features

Negatives
  • Fairly high priced

Even though it’s pricing a bit on the higher side, its great design, multiple features and immense versatility can surely justify the price tag. The Aurturia DrumBrute is indeed a drum machine to yearn for.

6. Roland AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer

Last but not least, here is a drum machine that live performers appreciate most, the AIRA TR-8 Rhythm Performer. It may be compact for portability, but it is also built to last. This drum machine not only comes with nice-sounding kick drum sounds, it also provides great sound quality for other instrument sounds. It precisely comes equipped with a total of 16 kits that are made up of eleven different types of instruments.

It’s also equipped with customer dream kits that utilize classic sounds from the original Roland series, the TR-909 and 808, making it quite versatile. There are knobs and buttons for easy adjustment of parameters when producing custom audio. You can control and adjust volume, speed, intensity, and pretty much more. If you’re a lover of techno and electronic dance rhythms, you will surely appreciate this drum machine from Roland.

Its logical design aside, programming and updating the AIRA TR-8 is quite easy. The button and knobs are color-coded for easy operation too.

Positives
  • Logical, impressive design
  • A wide variety of sounds
  • Compact for easy portability
  • Easy to use and control
  • Great audio quality

Negatives
  • Lacks separate outputs for sound processing
  • Pricey

Its price is on the higher side, but is great sound quality and plenty of perks make it a worthy drum machine to consider.

Other Considerable Models

The big brand Yamaha also has quite a number of models that sound great, are affordable, and easy to operate. Some of these include RX -7 RX, 11, and DD55 Yamaha drum machines. The akai drum machine MPD218, which is actually a tiny midi pad controller is also a great pick if you’re looking for something good below $100. However, the mpc drummachine from Akai, which is the better and upgraded version of the MPD218, can suffice if you’re not on a tight budget. Maschine, Cyclone, MFB, Native Instruments, and Vermona are some of the leading brands when it comes to the best drum machines, maybe in the top 15 best or something list.

Final Verdict

All the above products qualify to be in the 2018 best drum machine list for various reasons as you might have noted. For the money, for instance, the PO-12 from Teenage Engineering beats the rest. However, the lack of some features is what betrays it. On the other hand, while the ARIA TR-8 from Roland brings a lot to the table, its high price and the lack of sound processing features bring it down. The best drum machine for you will depend on your budget, how you intend to use it, and versatility, as well as your preferred features. Nonetheless, the Alesis SR16 Stereo tends to have more perks compared to the rest. It is portable, compact, affordable, and ideal for live performances. It is also suitable for all, beginner or professionals in songwriting, music production, and more. Either way, you will barely go wrong regardless of the product you pick from these top 6 best drum machines.

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