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best drum machines

Best Drum Machines Of 2024: The Ultimate Guide For Beat Makers

audiosorcerer
|
February 27, 2024 
|
Last Updated on February 27, 2024

Hey beat makers! Ever dreamt of creating killer rhythms that pump up your music? Look no further, because this guide is about to be your best friend. We'll break down the best drum machines of 2024, from budget-friendly options to feature-packed beasts. So, get ready to find the perfect machine to take your beats to a new level!

Included in this guide:

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
AKAI Professional MPC One+ Drum Machine

AKAI Professional MPC One+ Drum Machine

  • 8 banks, more than 2GB of samples
  • 8-track sequencer
  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads
4.6
Check Price
Runner-up
Roland TR-6S Compact Drum Machine

Roland TR-6S Compact Drum Machine

  • FM synthesis, 86 ACB tones, 300 samples
  • 6-track sequencing (128 patterns)
  • 16 pads and 6 faders
4.7
Check Price
Top Pick
Novation Circuit Tracks Groovebox

Novation Circuit Tracks Groovebox

  • 2 digital synths (128 patches), 64 percussion samples
  • 8-pattern sequencer (256 chained)
  • 32 velocity-sensitive pads
4.5
Check Price
Top Pick
Alesis SR-16 Drum Machine

Alesis SR-16 Drum Machine

  • 233 drum sound, 50 user kits, 50 presets
  • 16 polyphony voices
  • 12 velocity-sensitive pads
4.5
Check Price
Lowest Price
Korg Volca Drum Physical Modeling Drum Synthesizer

Korg Volca Drum Physical Modeling Drum Synthesizer

  • 16 preset slots (10 factory-loaded)
  • 6 polyphone notes
  • 16 multi-touch pads
4.6
Check Price

Related Article: Panning Drums: How To Create The Perfect Space In A Mix


The Top 5 Best Drum Machines

AKAI put a lot of focus on usability and premium feel while designing the Music Production Center (MPC) One+ standalone sample/sequencer. The result was a feature-rich machine with Bluetooth support, 16GB internal storage, a multi-core processor, CV/gate outs, and a 7” full-color multi-gesture touchscreen—all wrapped up in a hot-red chassis.

The connectivity, in particular, will come in handy when you try to access any of the plug-ins on the AKAI platform. On the older MPC model, you had no choice but to use an Ethernet cable—not on the WiFi-enabled One+ drum machine, though.

Pros
  • Wide-range connections and integrations (Splice, Ableton Link, WiFi, and Bluetooth) help create a streamlined workflow
  • Simply touching Q-link knobs shifts the screen to the relevant parameter
  • Runs with AKAI’s instrument plug-ins and the AIR FX processors for more versatility and editing capabilities
Cons
  • Heavy chassis (4.7 lbs.) can kneecap portability a bit
  • Shift commands can be hard to read, and you might need to put labels or learn them by heart

Roland’s digital TR-6S drum machine and audio interface runs on an Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) engine modeled after the circuitry in the iconic TR-X0X beatboxes—from the TR-606 and all the way to the TR-909. It even carries a hint of the vintage CR-78 CompuRhythm and the TR-727.

The pads don’t take up much space on the top panel. Neither does the screen, which is fairly small but also perfectly legible. Instead, the TR-6S has the layout of a mixer, with dedicated channels and sliding faders for each of the six drum parts (bass, snare, low tom, clap, and closed/open hi-hat). Labels aside, you could load any instrument to those channels.

Pros
  • Delivers almost all the sequencing and effect options of the TR-8S in a much more compact and lightweight (1.56 lbs) chassis
  • Compatible with the TR-Editor intuitive graphic interface for deeper FM editing
  • Ni-MH batteries can give you around 5.5 hours of continuous use
Cons
  • No velocity-sensitive pads, and the value knob feels slightly wobbly
  • Can be noisy when USB-powered

The Circuit Tracks Groovebox is a highly portable, battery-powered, standalone machine with two onboard synths (running on Nova-series engines), four independent sample-based drum tracks, and two MIDI tracks all on a 4x8 matrix. To make room for the matrix, Novation opted for a screenless design. But that’s not a major flaw since the pads are accessible and not fiddly.

Unlike the original Novation Circuit model, the new Circuit Tracks has a large onboard memory to hold 64 active projects per pack. The Groovebox can only hold one pack (a full memory state of presets, projects, and sequences) at a time, though. The workaround is to use a micro SD slot for storing 30+ packs.

Pros
  • Updated design features large, all-square controls without sacrificing the small footprint (1.7 lbs)
  • Dedicated MIDI tracks can help process audio or drive external devices (using the MIDI Thru and Out) to incorporate the machine in a full jamming setup
  • Ample FX options (eight reverb types, 16 delay presets, filters, side chain, and compressor)
Cons
  • Internal battery life isn’t impressive (4 hours only)

Alesis upgraded the sound engine on their SR-16 programmable drum machine from 16 bits to 24 bits to curb the noise. However, the machine still retains the same stripped-back panel layout, with a huge volume knob, split-view display, and rubbery pads. That said, these pads only give you access to a small part of the available sounds and only eight loudness levels. The 127 velocity responses are accessible via MIDI.

Pros
  • Huge volume knob mimics the feel of scratching a turntable
  • Supports A/B variations and a couple of fills for each pattern
  • Two-function footswitch compatibility (starting/stopping and count/A/B/fill controls)
Cons
  • Pads aren’t super smooth
  • Dim display that’s a little hard to read

The Volca Drum box runs on a six-part DSP engine, where each part is dual-layered. Users start with a basic waveform trigger (sine wave, sawtooth wave, HPF noise, etc.) that they can then fold, overdrive, and distort. Both layers can be edited simultaneously (to thicken the sound up) or individually to control the output as needed. The result is an engine that sounds so unlike conventional drum machines.

Pros
  • Physical modeling Waveguard adds rich resonance 
  • Randomize functions provinces tons of inspiration by varying the step, slice, and accent of a selected part
  • Compact (0.75 lbs) and battery-powered (around 10 hours)
Cons
  • Only has one ⅛” out-put (no MIDI Out)

Related Article: The 7 Best MIDI Controllers Of 2024 To Create Music With


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I sync a drum machine to my DAW?

A few models support wireless connectivity options (WiFi or Bluetooth). But even without those features, drum machines can easily be integrated into your setup with USB or MIDI ports. You might need to change the timing settings on your DAW, though.

Can drum machines be used as standalone devices?

Yes, many models can run just fine without a DAW. They have their own controls, pre-loaded sounds, and maybe even built-in batteries. However, it would be hard to call them truly “self-contained” when most models don’t have built-in speakers.

What are the types of drum machine engines?

Drum machine engines can be analog (or virtual analog), FM synthesizers, or sample-based. Many manufacturers will mix and match operation modes to make their engines more versatile. Most will also allow you to load up your own samples via SD card or USB.

Are screenless machines better?

Some musicians and producers find that screenless designs make the pads more accessible and the interface less distracting. Others steer away from screenless machines, believing they’re harder to control. Ultimately, it all depends on whether you think a display (touch or otherwise) will benefit your workflow.

What genres are drum machines best for?

Drum machines are very closely associated with hip-hop and electronic music. After all, vintage X0X models like the TR-909 and TR-808 have had a huge impact on these genres. However, you can still use drum machines to add flare to indie, pop, and R&B tracks.

Product Recap

With a sizable touch display, wireless connectivity options, and a powerful sampler, it’s easy to see why the MPC One+ is a premium pick. The TR-6S might not look as cool and edgy, but its ACB engine still does a fantastic job of simulating analog originals—imperfections and all. But of all the machines we reviewed, Volca Drum proved to be the most unexpected in its dual-layered structure, unique sounds, and affordable price point.

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