Now, this review is about to get pretty musical!
Behind all those glamorous gigs, brimming with emotions, do know that there goes a lot of sweat and tears into creating what you enjoy and headbang to.
But, what is often ignored by most of us is the importance of high-quality musical instruments and equipment.
This is something that only a true performer understands.
In this article, we have listed and reviewed some of the best drum machines that are out there which are definitely going to up the standard of your live performances.
So if you’re on for some soul-stirring, reverberating beats, sit back and read on to know more about how to achieve that very effect!
Best Drum Machines 2018
Alesis SR16 Classic 24-bit Stereo Electronic Drum Machine with Dynamic Articulation – Best Value for Money
The Alesis SR16 is a professional drum machine that includes 12 velocity-sensitive pads with Dynamic Articulation. The high sound quality of this device makes it a great kit for beginners. This feature allows altercations in tonal content that delivers realistic results.
It features 50 presets patterns with 233 realistic drum sounds that are offered both in dry forms or sampled with digital reverbs. This makes for a great live performance or something to build upon.
It also includes sounds stacking and step editing 2 footswitch jacks, stereo main and aux outs combined with a wide range of integrated rhythmic variations (A, B and 2 fill sections).
The machine provides a complete MIDI implementation with the rest of the operative system to achieve a quality outcome. You can easily and swiftly compose your music on it which you can also save given the easy operative features.
However, we noticed that the finger-drumming part failed to deliver the desired result. The machine itself is well-designed, but the material feels cheap.
Though it is a well-programmed device, it will take time and effort to get used to.
- Nice range of features
- Manageable panels and functions
- Quality sound production
- Finger drumming doesn’t work
- Poor quality material
Dave Smith Instruments Tempest – Best for Amateurs and Pros
The Tempest is designed and created by the pioneers in devising musical instruments, David Smith and Roger Linn. It brings together original analog and digital synthesis with a smart and intuitive interface that allows you to play your creations with ease. It consists of 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads with a powerful sequencer.
The 6 analog voices contain 2 separate sets of analog oscillators and digital oscillators with a collection of included samples. The model comes with the analog low-pass filter with audio-rate modulation as well as a high-pass filter for the optimum sound clarity. It works finely for tune sounds and can even double a 6-voice analog synth.
The operating system of this machine with its 90 control panel combine to provide you with a continuous workflow, keeping technical inference at bay. You can quickly toggle and switch between the different functions to record your drum beats using the advantage of step-programming.
You can also use the touch controllers to record a real-time note or beat-wide parameter animation.
- Classic range of features
- Appropriately equipped and designed
- High-quality sound production
- Suitable for beginners and professionals alike
- OLED display and ample finger space on the pad
- Can be very expensive
BOSS DR-01S, Rhythm Partner – Best for Acoustic Performances
The Boss Rhythm Partner is designed primarily for acoustic music performances and offers a bunch of features facilitating several natural and organic percussion sounds.
The system includes an organic groove machine and speaker in a sound system that offers readily available rhythm patterns. These flexible patterns compliment unplugged acoustic instruments and allow you to add or subtract other devices.
It features an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to experiment with simple patterns and variations to build up a wide range of acoustic music style. This device comes with easy buttons that let you adjust its volume and tempo and also include a ‘count-in’ before the accompaniment begins to play.
The machine includes a standard metronome that serves really well for essential music rehearsals and practice and supports four common time signatures.
Although it does have footswitch options like start/stop, tap-tempo and triggering sounds, there aren’t many options for footswitch controls that are generally required in performances.
- Compact and simple to use
- Allows a wide range of acoustic music features
- Suitable for beginners to play on
- Limited specialty
- Not many options for footswitch controls
Singular Sound BeatBuddy The First Guitar Pedal Drum Machine – Best Ease of Use
This device is being deemed by many as the first drum machine in a pedal format, and rightly so. Because it enables an entirely hands-free and interactive device that ensures creative control of the beat.
It is a MIDI-based drum machine that includes over 200 songs in 24 genres which you can control, and 10 drum sets. It is a full-stereo unit with a 24-bit sound and an LCD display.
The visual metronome on the LCD screen makes it easier for you to improve rhythm quality and play new time signatures.
The user interface is quite simple, consisting of a footswitch, 3 volume control knobs, drum set, and tempo and directional keys with an ok/tap-tempo button in the center.
On the side of the device, you can find the left and right outputs, a MIDI sync jack, and a mini headphone port. If you add the external control pedal, you can add accent hits and drum brakes plus work the foot control of tap tempo and hands-free scrolling through songs.
However, it cannot program drums within the pedal and doesn’t work with a guitar amp.
- Very easy to use
- Can store a vast collection of songs and drum sets
- Needs no separate programming
- Nice sound quality
- Doesn’t work with a guitar amp
- Can’t program the drums in the pedal
Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine – Best in Terms of Flexibility
The Korg Volca Beats is known to deliver some classic sounds with 6 analog and 4 PCM-based drum parts. It consists of an electric-tribe style 16 step sequencer with 8 memory patches and the sync in and out feature that allows you to clock-sync several instruments from the Volca series or Korg’s monotribe.
This is a hybrid unit with an analog sound engine with digital control and therefore allows dial alterations and note information to be recorded into the sequencer or accessed over MIDI. The MIDI can be used to access and manage several parameters on the front of the Volca that have a MIDI CC. Like you can control the ‘grain’ or ‘stutter’ on the Beats.
The intuitive user interface on this device allows instant editing and lets you tweak, cut and mix loops on the fly for a standard analog rhythm experience.
Although the sequencer on this device is limited to 16 steps, you can easily add and sync externally to it by using a sound module or sequencing from your DAW. It has an editable step record, and it also allows real-time recording.
- Portable and battery-powered
- Maintains a balance between ease of use, functionality, and playability
- Built-in speakers and optional battery charge facility
- Low sound output
Novation Circuit Group Box – Best Control in Sound
This device is a singular digital unit that features a four-part drum machine, two 6-notes polyphonic synths and a profoundly deep sequencer. The four-part drum machine of the system can store up to 64 drum set samples and one-shots to combine up to 128 synth and drum patterns.
It can save up to 38 sessions; each of which is comprised of 8 patterns per track. It is further divided into pairs which share a sequencer page and a bank of rotaries, with each drum part having four macro controls.
Each of the two synths can select a sound out of a range of 64 that varies from bold leads and modern basses to atmospheric textures and rich pads.
Sound editing is managed by a group of eight rotaries located along the top of the unit. Paired up with either of the synths, these become macro controls that allow you to tweak and shape a very cryptic selection of the designated preset’s parameters.
These controls are smartly arranged and work well for onboard sounds like distortion or saturation, which can be achieved in a harmonious blend.
- Comes with a 2 year limited warranty period
- Quality material and sturdy built
- Low polyphony
- Song quality isn’t strong
Arturia DrumBrute Drum Machine – Best for Pro Users
The Arturia DrumBrute features a wide range of 12 synth tracks and offers a total of 17 drum and percussions sounds. Each of these 12 tracks come with a velocity-sensitive rubber pad and a range of rotary knobs that shape the sonic character and plays the related sound.
It includes two types of kick drum, a unique analog and reverse cymbal with 64 patterns, each consisting of a step across its four memory bank. It also creates a song bank that allows you to chain together a selection of patterns to develop longer arrangements.
The notable feature on this device could be its polyrhythm mode which allows you to set sequence lengths independently for each track. And makes it easy to experiment with unique rhythmic patterns and time signatures.
The only weakness could be that at its price point, the device doesn’t let you record sound parameters on it or automate them from an external source. The device produces full-bodied sound effects, but they tend to incline towards slightly grittier tones.
- Flexible and powerful sequencer
- The varieties of kicks produce good low-end sounds
- Adjustable swing time delivers a greater sense of groove
- Nice polyrhythm mode feature.
- Can’t record or automate sound parameters
- The quality of sound is mediocre
Roland Tabletop Synthesizer TR-8S – Best Customizability
This device delivers the classic Roland sound effects and patterns with upgraded modern and professional sound designs and techniques. It consists of 81 ACB tones and 150 available samples that range from drum sounds and one-shot melodic hits.
This device offers 128 onboard patterns for 11 channels of stereo or mono instrument parts. You get 8 variations for each of these patterns, and each of these variations consists of 16 steps to which you can add ratcheting steps to create subdivisions.
One of the attractive features of the machine is the ‘last step’ option that can be programmed to have a different value for each sound. This makes it easy for you to create polyrhythmic patterns.
You can also add effects on the 11 channels apart from the default delay, reverb and master insert effects. The device features a control dial that can be used to address any effect parameter. This device also lets you automate any parameter on the fly via its motion record option. You can easily step sequence parts or record these parts in real time.
- Provides you a range of sounds and patterns
- Consists of a nice collection of programming features
- Lets you automate parameters on the fly and record in real-time
- Can be expensive
Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 Groove Production Studio – Best for Experimentation
This model from the Native Instruments is an upgraded version of the Maschine 2.0.
It comes with features like an integrated hardware and software system that contains a sampler, arranger, FX, and mixer amongst several other things.
The device features a pro-grade, 96 kHz / 24-bit audio interface with TRS output and input lines, dynamic mic input, stereo headphone output, one footswitch, and MIDI input and output.
One of the main features of this Maschine controller is the 25GB Komplete 11 Select Software Bundle that includes a range of innovative and smart software programs that delivers a fantastic sound effect.
Additionally, the device also includes a smart strip for strumming notes, pitch blending sounds and for performing with FX. It also has touch-sensitive knobs that lets you tweak the parameters.
Overall, this system comes equipped with all the necessary tools that allow you to experiment with live performances. And, it offers a powerful range of capabilities on a small footprint.
However, the only tricky part is to manage the elaborate and numerous steps for working the units.
- Intuitive Interface
- Consists of all the standard tools
- Suitable for live experimentation
- The software isn’t as strong as other DAWs
- Requires multiple steps to work certain units
The quality of a musical instrument can make or break a performance, and we do understand its value to every musician out there.
We hope we were able to provide you with the useful insight into the matter.
Till next time!