In essence, a drum machine is a digital drummer – an electronic device that produces drum and percussion sounds.
Since they’re very convenient and efficient, drum machines are very popular among producers and musicians.
But buying a drum machine is a rather serious investment (in most cases), so you need to be sure you’re getting the right device for you.
To help you make the right decision, we compiled a list of the best drum machines in the market.
We’ll cover their basic features and highlights, so you know which drum machine meets your needs.
Let’s dive in!
1. Teenage Engineering PO-32 – Best affordable drum machine
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly drum machine that won’t let you down, you should take a closer look at Teenage Engineering PO-32.
This portable drum machine offers great value for money.
It comes with drum synth sounds, and since it features a built-in speaker, you can easily copy the set of sounds or send it to friends.
As with all the devices from the PO series, you can manipulate each sound with a pair of parameter knobs.
The PO-32 is very easy to use, which ultimately makes it a great drum machine for beginners, yet it offers portability, quality of sound, and flexibility that experienced producers can benefit from as well.
Finally, this affordable drum machine is actually very fun – and that’s a feature that matters too when it comes to top drum machines.
2. Korg Volca Drum – Best for Creativity
Korg Volca Drum is hands down one of the best drum machines you can find.
And it’s one of the most popular drum machines out there.
Unlike many other drum machines, the Volca Drum’s sound engine uses a system of virtual analog oscillators, modulators, and resonators to create percussive sounds.
The sound engine has six identical parts, each based on two identical layers.
So, unlike other Korg drum machines, Volca Drum is not based on analog drum synths.
That said, Korg Volca Drum is a perfect tool for beat-making – it’s reliable, versatile, and beginner-friendly.
And although it looks vintage, it will provide you with everything that a good modern drum machine has to offer.
3. Roland TR-8S – Best for versatility
If you’re looking for a versatile beatmaker, Roland TR-8S is your guy.
It’s very compact and portable, yet has plenty to offer, including 8 pads, a sequencer, and USB connectivity.
It can send individual tracks out as audio via USB, and thanks to the FM engine, it allows you to import your own samples via SD card.
Therefore, you can easily create hybrid kits with Roland TR-8S.
There’s a wide range of futuristic and editable FM sounds to explore, and the device is generally fun and interesting to use.
All in all, if you’re looking for a versatile drum machine that can run on batteries, you can’t go wrong with the Roland TR-8S.
4. Korg Volca Beats – Best for beginners
If you’re looking for a less expensive drum machine, Korg Volca Beats is at the lower end of the beat makers’ price range.
Affordability is one of the advantages that make Korg Volca Beats a perfect drum machine for beginners.
It’s fun and easy to use, and there are plenty of quality analog drum sounds to play with.
It has six analog sounds (kicks, snare, hi-hats, and toms) and four PCM sounds (claves, agogo, clap, and crash cymbal).
Although it has an analog and PCM sound engine, Volca Beats also offers digital control so you can easily record knob tweaks and note info into the built-in sequencer.
The downside is that it has limited connectivity options.
But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly drum machine for beginners, Korg Volca Beats will surely meet your needs.
5. IK Multimedia UNO Drum – Best for analog drum synths
If you’re looking for a reliable drum machine with analog drum synths and sounds, we recommend the IK Multimedia UNO Drum.
In fact, this is a hybrid analog/sample playback machine with a synth engine that sounds amazing.
This eye-catching drum machine also has 12 touch pads and 16 buttons, and it’s powered by batteries or mains.
Stutter and Roll buttons are especially useful whenever you need to polish up your patterns.
Generally, the IK Multimedia UNO Drum offers great value for money, and you won’t be disappointed with its performance.
With 100 preset kits to explore, it’s very fun and versatile.
And it’s easily portable, so it’s very convenient and practical, and it’s a handy tool for all types of producers and musicians.
6. Behringer RD-8 – Best classic drum machine
Behringer RD-8 is a great choice for anyone looking for a classic drum machine with an authentic feel.
It’s an analog drum machine with16 Drum Sounds, 64 Step Sequencer, Wave Designer, and Dual-Mode Filter
It’s as similar to the original 808 as it could be, yet it has updates and features every modern producer will find useful.
In other words, the Behringer RD-8 offers everything you need for beat-making, whether you’re a professional producer or a beginner.
So, if you’re looking for a full-fledged drum machine that won’t cost you a ton of money, you should definitely consider the Behringer RD-8.
7. Arturia DrumBrute Impact – Best all-analog drum machine
Arturia DrumBrute Impact is an ideal drum machine for all-analog beat-making.
It provides punchy analog sounds, so it’s best for producers and musicians preferring a powerful, raw sound.
In addition, it features pressure and velocity-sensitive pads.
And it allows you to use the exclusive “Color” sound-shapers.
You can boost the harmonic content and add some drive, snap, or crack, and you can automate tonal changes by creating a “Color” sequence.
On top of that, you can use the built-in distortion on the output for some drum-optimized crunch.
As you can see, Arturia DrumBrute has plenty to offer, and it’s an excellent choice for aspiring producers looking for quality drum sounds.
8. Korg Drumlogue – Best hybrid instrument
Korg Drumlogue is another top choice in the world of drum machines.
What makes this popular beatmaker stand out from the crowd is the unique hybrid engine that combines analog and digital engines in a new way.
As the manufacturer claims, Drumlogue offers the raw power and rich sounds of Analog and the flexibility of Digital voices.
And it features amazing sounds and effects that will bring your music-making process to the next level.
Its analog warmth is unmatched, and the adaptability of its digital elements gives the sounds a needed edge.
Moreover, it features customizable effects and intuitive controls, so it’s ideal both for newcomers and seasoned producers.
All things considered, Korg Drumlogue is a flexible drum machine that provides great value.
9. Elektron Mode: Cycles – Best for exploring
Elektron Mode: Cycles is a six-track FM-based groove box ideal for exploring.
You can connect it to other class-compliant devices – from phones, tablets to computers.
The device allows you to use control all to have a parameter to the extreme and back again across every track.
Its powerful sequencer allows you to record every move live or program the sounds and parameters of your composition step by step.
The Chance Parameter and Conditional Locks will allow you to see whether a hit will play on any sequencer step.
And the machine is very light, so you can easily carry it wherever you go.
All of these features will help you have a seamless, hands-on workflow necessary to achieve great results.
10. Novation Circuit Tracks – Best for portability
Our last suggestion for the best drum machines is Novation Circuit Tracks.
Novation Circuit Tracks is defined as an all-in-one studio.
It features two synth tracks, two MIDI tracks, and four drum tracks.
Although it has many similarities with the original Circuit, Novation Circuit Tracks has many useful improvements and additions.
For instance, there are new MIDI tracks, and the MicroSD card allows you to swap sounds without hassle.
The device is now also lighter, which is important for people looking for portable drum machines.
There are also some sequencer improvements, extra presets, and more advanced features like a synth editor and probability sequencing.
All in all, it’s easy to see why the Novation Circuit Tracks is often included in the list of the top drum machines.
Do You Need a Drum Machine?
As you can see, there are many great drum machines for creating beats to choose from.
Some of the drum machines we mentioned today are quite pricey, and others can fit even a limited budget.
But is investing in a drum machine really necessary?
Well, you don’t really need a drum machine… Especially if you’re sequencing drums with a DAW.
However, drum machines are very useful – and they are fun!
Plus, they can be really convenient – many drum machines on our list are rather small and portable.
Drum machines create percussion through synthesis or sampling, and they often feature many sounds and effects you can explore.
Therefore, using a drum machine is a great way to lay down beats from scratch and add more creativity and flexibility to your music-making process.
How to Pick a Drum Machine
A common challenge among beginner producers and beat makers is picking the right drum machine.
Browsing drum machines online might be a bit confusing for novices, but if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll already be halfway there.
One of the things you need to consider when buying a drum machine is size.
Larger drum machines are good for live performances, while smaller drum machines tend to be more convenient as you can fit them anywhere.
And small, lightweight drum machines are great in terms of portability.
So, you should opt for a device that meets your needs.
Digital or analog?
When talking about the difference between digital and analog drum machines, the term digital sample-playback or computer-modeled sounds.
On the other hand, analog drum machines use real hardware circuits for their sounds.
Consequently, analog drum machines produce a more natural, warmer tone.
But the advantage of digital drum machines is the ability to save presets and provide samples.
A third option is to get a hybrid drum machine that combines digital and analog elements.
Some other factors you should consider when purchasing a drum machine include:
- Audio outputs – determine how many outputs your drum machine has to make your beat-making process easier
- MIDI/Sync – although most popular drum machines are standalone, having some kind of connectivity option is always useful
- Performance workflow – this includes a user-friendly interface and decent-sized pads
A drum machine needs to be easy to use – especially if you want to use it on stage – and it’s a good thing if it’s flexible and versatile.
But at the end of the day, it all comes down to your needs, priorities, and personal preferences.
Best Drum Machines – Final Thoughts
Finding the right drum machine is not an easy task, but we hope things seem clearer now.
Our list of the best drum machines includes beginner-friendly devices as well as more expensive drum machines designed for professional purposes.
In any case, you can’t go wrong with any of these options – you just need to know what you’re looking for.
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