8 Best Drum Machines [2021 Reviews]
“You only get better by playing” – Buddy Rich
Calling all passionate drummers! We know you’re lurking, trying to look for the best options for drum machines. Well, guess what? We have got you covered and here, we have brought you an all-inclusive buying guide for the same! Your search for the best drum machine ends here. So, let’s check out what information we’ve got for you:
There are so many constraints to look for when you’re investing in something like a drum machine. Starting from the budget, there is so much to look for, like size, portability, sound quality, size of pads, and many more factors. So, before going for the detailed drum machine reviews, let’s have a look at all the important factors to consider when you’re buying a drum machine:
Type - We can sum them up in two major types – Analog and Digital. So, just as we differentiate analog watches from the digital ones, the same can be applied to drum machines also. The analog machines use their hardware to give you the required sound. On the other hand, a digital drum machine will use a computer system to function. So, choose according to your suitability.
Controls - When it comes to controls, functions, and programs, the choice should be different for beginners as well as professionals. Beginners must look for drum machines that have lesser and simpler controls. On the other hand, if you want to get more creative with your drum playing, go for more editing features and programs. The latter is suitable for professional players.
Audio Output - Of course, the sound quality of your drum machine matters the most. Though most drum sticks have similar sounds but you can still consider different options before choosing the best option! For the drummers looking forward to processing each drum hit separately, a drum machine with multiple outputs is the best option. This way, you can channelize each sound differently. Also, if you’re buying a drum machine for performing on stage, the best pro-level audio output should be something to look for.
Size and Portability - Another major factor to take care of is the size and portability of your drum machine. Now, here as well, you need to consider the usage of your drum stick. If you’re a beginner and buying one for practice, you can invest in a larger drum machine that can be permanently installed and placed in your studio or room. However, if you’re a performer, invest in a small-sized drum machine that is easily portable and travel-friendly.
Pads - Pads are the most important part of a drum machine because this is basically where all the magic happens. So, when you’re buying a drum machine, look for pads that are of the right size. In other words, you need to be comfortable playing on your drum machine. If the pads are too small, you might face difficulties practicing and playing right! Also, look for pads that are high-quality and velocity-sensitive. Some options have buttons in place of pads. So, you can see if that is something you’re looking for.
Functionality - Another major feature to look for is the functionality of your drum machine. Look whether it is a standalone machine or only runs when connected to a computer. The former is usually the case of an analog drum machine and the latter is that of a digital one. Choose according to your requirements whether you need a standalone machine or a plugged one.
Budget - Last but not least, the budget is the biggest constraint! Needless to say, finding an option that suits your budget will be the best bet – however, don’t overlook the above-mentioned factors and try to balance it all within your budget. There are possibilities of finding the best option in every budget range.
So, with all these factors in mind, buying a suitable drum machine gets easier. Now, let’s have a look at the top drum machine reviews:
1. Alesis SR – 16
This is said to be one of the most favored drum machines of all times – used by songwriters, bands, live performers, and even remix engineers. It is quite easy to use and comes packed with a load of features and effects. With built-in beats, this drum machine is amazing for songwriting as well as practicing. You can easily expect professional sound quality from this machine and has been used by drummers for recording and live performances. So, with good audio output and easy controls, this machine is a great investment for professional musicians.
- Legendary drum machine for all types of musicians
- Comes with 233 pro sounds, built-in digital effects
- Seamless MIDI Connectivity
- Connectivity to 4 outputs
- Ideal for professionals with production-ready features
- Standalone machine
- Comes with 12 velocity pads, 50 presets, and 233 sounds
- Features like step editing, sound stacking, stereo samples, etc.
- Easy to learn and use
- Weak on jazz and blues rhythms
- Lack of essential instructions or commands
- Poor display screen
2. Korg Drum Machine
This pretty machine is another hit for musicians of all genres in electric music. With the Korg drum machine, you can string patterns together to create some amazing music and write full songs with its help. This machine is ideal for recording. So, it is safe to say that it is the best bet for professional musicians. With one-level undo feature, recording sessions get better and faster. The major features include synth engine, step sequencer, groove function, and many more. It comes with great sound quality, bass, and virtual synths. You can also sequence multiple MIDI instruments with this machine.
- Comes with tools used for creation and recording
- 400+ bonus patterns
- Analog modeling
- Suitable for every music genre
- Availability of 16 parts for every pattern
- Very versatile
- Portable drum machine
- Great pattern chaining
- Fun playback controls
- Not sufficient battery life
- Weak sample memory
- Backlights might not be suitable for every user
- Suitable only for normal use
3. Native Instruments Maschine MK3 Drum Controller
For musicians looking for a simple yet high-performing, this one is an amazing choice. All types of musicians can use this machine to write drum tracks, practice, and even record. There are tons of sounds and touch-sensitive pads on this machine. Not being a standalone machine, this one needs to be plugged with a PC or laptop and is used in conjunction with some software.
With a very steep learning curve, this machine is the best for musicians who are constantly experimenting with their music.
- Comes with 2 high-resolution color screens
- Four-dimensional push encoder
- Dedicated function buttons
- A huge variety of sounds and effects
- Amazing audio interface for better recording, playing, and performing
- Aesthetic design
- Can be used while plugged-in as well as standalone
- Good audio interface
- Trouble playing while plugged in
- Trouble with serial number registration
- Lack of customer support
‘The only drum machine that sounds human and is easy to use’ – is apparently the tagline the manufacturer wants everyone to focus on if they’re considering BeatBuddy. This is a smaller variation of a drum machine – in a pedal format. It has preloaded 200 songs in 24 genres of music, and 10 ultra-realistic drum set sounds and more content available online. With amazing sound quality, this is an award-winning drum machine. It is the best drum machine for beginners as well!
- Informational display
- Live, hands-free beat controls
- MIDI sync
- Visual Metronome
- The sound is natural because it’s non-quantized
- No need to program
- A great variety of genres, styles, drum sets, & songs
- Additional content
- Compatible with any sound system
- Handy design
- Picking new beats is a hassle
- Not good intros and outros
- Noisy and crash beats
5. Teenage Engineering PO-12 Pocket Drum Machine
This is a pocket operator drum machine with a variety of drum sounds and effects. A small and portable thing but you can easily create a whole song using this one. If you’re a musician who is always on-the-go, this is a perfect pick. In fact, this is the best drum machine option for kids trying to learn. The best thing about this little one is the physical quality it flaunts with sturdy and high-performing buttons.
- Built-in speaker along with a headphone jack
- A selection of 16 drum sounds and 16 effects
- 16 patterns and 16 pattern chaining also available
- Digital machine
- Easy and fun to operate
- Handy and portable
- Exceptional hardware quality
- Great for beginners
- Makes a great gift for musicians
- Very small
- Can be a bit hard on fingers
- Short battery life
6. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK3 Drum Controller
Another option from the house of Native Instruments, this is yet another gorgeous drum machine. It is a powerful device with a variety of options of samples, drum sets, one-shots, loops, patterns, presets, songs, and more. This drum machine offers four different ways of inputting sound – pad mode, keyboard mode, chord mode, and step mode. The players can use these modes as per their suitability and experience.
- Best features for in-studio or on-the-go playing
- Can be used as a standalone device or plugged in with a computer
- Good visual feedback and controls
- Highly functional buttons
- Responsive pads
- Easy and smooth mode switch
- Full versions of effect styles like Monark, Massive, and Reaktor Prism
- Easy, fast, and fun to build up new tracks
- Focused visual feedback
- Easy access with dedicated buttons
- Easy sound swapping
- Compatible with Windows 10, macOS 10.12 or macOS 10.13 and Intel Core i5 or an equivalent CPU
- Only works fine with the Maschine software
- Trouble updating firmware
- No octave changes in MIDI mode
7. Akai Professional XR20
More of a high-end option for professionals, the Akai Professional XR20 comes with 12 trigger pads and about 700 sounds produced by Chronic Music. You can create amazing music using this drum machine, for recordings or during live performances. The machine also has 99 preset patterns and about 99 user patterns too.
The display is clear through a lit screen. This machine is loaded with the sounds and effects of professional-grade drum kit!
- The pads are aesthetically backlit with LCDs
- Fresh sound library for all genres of music
- Option to plug in a mic
- The amazing quality of backlit pads
- Sample set especially for hip-hop and R&B
- Great fit and finish
- Ideal for professionals
- Suitable for rappers and hip-hoppers
- Response issues
8. IK Multimedia UNO Drum Portable Analog/PCM Drum Machine
This is a portable option on our list and is suitable for all kinds of musicians. The drum machine is a big hit with 6 analog voices, 12 PCM voices, 100 drum kits, and 100 presets. The machine has 12 very velocity-sensitive pads. It is powered by battery or USB.
- An easier option for learning, suitable for beginners
- Comes with all the top programs and controls
- Save kits for tuning
- On-the-go, portable option
- Groove functions
- Set it and forget it – fast and easy operation
- Quick and smooth functioning
- Slim and handy design
- Fully programmable
- May experience hissing sounds after firmware update
- Pads are too sensitive
- No master-filter
With this, our list of the best drum machines comes to an end! All these options have been gathered to make this exhaustive list. We picked these options based on customer reviews about these machines.
So, which one are you picking for yourself? Tell us about your choice! Create music – go bonkers!