Best drum machines 2024: for every application and budget

Hardware drum machines have made something of a comeback over the past few years, due to a wider resurgence in the popularity of electronic music production hardware, and because falling prices have made buying a cheap drum machine almost as budget-friendly an option as purchasing a software plugin. 

As is the case with hardware synths and MIDI controllers, people love the tactile experience of using a hardware drum machine: playing pads, pushing buttons and twisting dials can provide a satisfyingly hands-on feel that software just can’t replicate. 

Drum machines are sought after by producers and musicians looking to bolster their live performance set-up, bring a touch of analogue warmth to computer-based mixes and capture the inimitable feeling of playing, sequencing and tweaking electronic rhythms on the fly. 

Each of the best drum machines in this guide will function as a standalone instrument, so you won’t need to hook these up to a laptop to begin beatmaking. We’ve tried to cover all the bases here, from budget beat boxes that deliver reliable, bread-and-butter sounds to fully-fledged grooveboxes that can integrate melodies, samples and effects with their drum patterns.

We’ve opted not to include larger music production workstations in this roundup, such as the Akai MPC Live II, Native Instruments Maschine, Polyend Tracker and Roland Verselab MV-1. Although they’re great for beat-making, these machines are more like hardware DAWs aimed at producing complete tracks. We’re also not going to cover drum machines that lie closer to the synth end of the production spectrum, like Moog’s DFAM and Soma Laboratory’s Pulsar-23. 

If you’d like to learn more about what to look for when buying a drum machine, head down to the buying advice section of this guide, where you can find out more about the main features that you should consider when buying a drum machine. If you’re looking to hear more about our best drum machine picks, just keep on reading. 

Si Truss
Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.

Best drum machines: Quick menu

Want to cut to the chase and find out exactly what we believe are the best drum machines on the market right now? Below, you’ll find a round-up of our top choices. You can jump to a more detailed review of every pick and our handy price comparison tool will help you find the best deals.

The best drum machines in 2023

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Best for portability

Best drum machines: Teenage Engineering PO-32

(Image credit: Future)
The best drum machine if you have a small budget

Specifications

Sounds: Synthesis
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Sync in/audio in
Analogue outputs: 3.5mm stereo
MIDI I/O: No
Built-in speaker: Yes
Power: Batteries (2xAAA)
Dimensions: 60 x 30 x 120mm

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-portable
+
Great value for money
+
Combine it with other Pocket Operators

Reasons to avoid

-
Not much connectivity

Looking more like barebones calculators than drum machines, Teenage Engineering's Pocket Operators are fun and surprisingly flexible sound makers that can be had for a low price. There are three drum/percussion products in the range: the PO-12 rhythm; the PO-24 office, which deals in noise percussion; and the PO-32 tonic. Other models like the PO-33 K.O! and PO-133 Street Fighter include sampling so you can add your own custom beats.

This last model is the pick of the bunch as it enables you to import sounds from Sonic Charge's MicroTonic drum synth plugin, allowing users to completely alter and overwrite its sonic palette. 

You can create a whole full song with the onboard 64 patterns and pattern chaining, and also sync the Pocket Operators with each other and to other gear. While they can be slightly fiddly to use, these machines are great fun, sound great and come at a very affordable price.

Read our full Teenage Engineering PO-32 review

Best sounds on a budget

Best drum machine: Korg Volca Drum

(Image credit: Future)
The best drum machine if you want plenty of creative depth

Specifications

Sounds: Digital
Effects: No
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Sync in and out
Analogue outputs: 3.5mm stereo headphones jack
MIDI I/O: MIDI In
Built-in speaker: Yes
Power: Battery or optional AC adapter

Reasons to buy

+
Deep multilayer drum engine for a low price
+
Ace Wave Guide resonator effect
+
Unique percussive palette

Reasons to avoid

-
Single audio output is a tad restrictive

While the other Volca beatmakers, Volca Beats and Kick, both condensed analogue drum synths into the range’s compact hardware format (and the company's Volca Sample lets you add your own beats), the Drum uses digital synthesis to create a percussive palette that’s broader, and weirder, than its predecessors.

Rather than use PCM samples, as many digital drum machines do, the Volca Drum’s sound engine uses a system of virtual analogue oscillators, modulators and resonators to create its percussive sounds. The sound engine has six parts, each of which is identical, and each part has two identical layers. 

For designing sounds, this multi-layer engine is considerably deeper and more interesting than anything we’ve seen on a Volca beatmaker before, but above all else, it’s just nice to play with a drum machine that goes beyond aping the same old ’80s drum boxes. For dance music producers, this is a must-try.

Read our full Korg Volca Drum review

Best high-end option

Best drum machines: Elektron Analog Rytm MkII

(Image credit: Elektron)
The best drum machine if you want an all-singing, all-dancing option

Specifications

Sounds: Analogue and samples
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 12
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB, 2 1/4-inch audio in, 2 1/4-inch ext in, 2 1/4-inch CV/Expression inputs
Analogue outputs: 8 1/4-inch track outputs, 2 1/4-inch mix outputs, 1/4-inch headphones
MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru with DIN Sync out
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains
Dimensions: 385 x 225 x 82mm
Weight: 2.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Great, very playable sounds
+
Loads of outputs and CV connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
A tad pricey
-
Might be too complex for some

At the heart of the Rytm MkII you’ll find the same excellent eight-voice analogue/digital sound engine as found on the MKI, mated to the familiar 13-track sequencer. Each track is selected by pressing the track button and corresponding pad. The most obvious difference on the MKII’s front panel is that the old backlit pressure-sensitive rubber pads have been replaced by larger, softer versions so you can finally enjoy finger drumming on the Rytm (a huge improvement over the MKI). 

As before, each pad/track can contain one of nine ‘machines’, which are self-contained synth engines dedicated to making a particular type of drum sound. The MKII sounds just like the MKI, which is no bad thing. There’s plenty of low-end extension, punch in the mids and rounded, classy high end. The Rytm has been improved in all the right places: it's one of the very best drum machines and will keep you inspired for years. 

Read our full Elektron Analog Rytm MkII review 

Best for 808 sounds

Best drum machines: Behringer RD-8

(Image credit: Benringer)

4. Behringer RD-8

The closest you'll get to an authentic 808 without shelling out huge secondhand prices

Specifications

Sounds: 12 Analogue
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16 pads
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB
Analogue outputs: 11 plus headphone (plus input)
MIDI I/O: MIDI In, Out/Thru jacks
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains
Dimensions: 77 x 498 x 265 mm
Weight: 3.0kg

Reasons to buy

+
The closest thing you'll find to an original 808
+
Recent updates are welcome

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be too chunky for some

Roland has made it clear it has no intention of relaunching an analogue 808 so that leaves Behringer to give it a go with the RD-8. This does differ from the design of the 808, but where it matters, it’s bang on. The analogue sound engine is meaty and warm, and the kick, toms, rim and snares sound near enough indistinguishable from the original. There are slight differences in the tone and pitch of the cymbals, hats and cowbell, but we wouldn’t say they necessarily sound worse. 

The RD-8 hardware is chunky too, which could be seen as impractical, but it lends it an authentic feeling of heft that’s missing from Roland’s Boutiques or, to an extent, the TR-8S. Its size leaves room for full jack outputs for every one of the 11 tracks, plus – one of our favourite features – a return input allowing for an external effects loop.

Updates to the sequencing side of things are generally pretty solid. Some changes are no-brainers, such as adding track selector buttons instead of the original’s dial, tuning for the kick, note repeat and introducing mute and solo features. Other areas, such as the revamped song system, probability steps, fills and flams, are welcome but aren’t quite as well implemented as on some rival drum machines.

Any slight misgivings aside, when taking into account sound, feel and workflow, this is the closest thing you’ll find to an original 808 on the market right now, which is remarkable given the price. That authenticity does come at a cost in some ways though – sonically, this is certainly one of the less versatile drum machines in our test.

Best for usability

Best drum machines: Novation Circuit Tracks

(Image credit: Novation)
Excellent update to one of the best value hardware instruments on the market

Specifications

Sounds: 2 x polyphonic digital synth and sample-based
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 32 plus 28 buttons
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB, Left/right outputs, plus headphone plus audio ins
MIDI I/O: MIDI In, Out, Thru
Built-in speaker: No
Power: USB and rechargeable battery
Dimensions: 240 x 210 x 30mm
Weight: 0.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
The new MIDI tracks are an excellent addition
+
Hardware is now lighter, more portable and better-equipped
+
MicroSD card makes it far easier to swap out sounds

Reasons to avoid

-
4hr battery life is fairly short

Back in 2015 when Novation released the original Circuit, we were immediately impressed. For a battery-powered instrument priced at just £250, this digital groovebox was remarkably well-equipped, boasting two independent polysynths, a four-track sampled drum machine, send effects and a nifty step-sequencing workflow. It’s a credit to Novation that, even given this strong starting point, Circuit has only improved since through a steady stream of firmware updates.

Now Novation has released Circuit Tracks, that despite the new name – which is intended to differentiate it from the underrated Circuit Mono Station and Circuit Rhythm – is a straight sequel to that original groovebox. 

For the most part, the functionality of the original Circuit is carried over, meaning the synths and sampling capabilities are broadly similar to those on the original. The most significant additions are to the hardware. Tracks now features a built-in rechargeable battery and draws power using its USB input, while the onboard speaker has been removed. Extra connectivity includes a pair of audio input jacks and you get full-sized MIDI ports. 

Add some sequencer improvements, extra presets, a new MicroSD card and deeper features like a synth editor and probability sequencing and Circuit Tracks has plenty to offer music makers at all levels. Whether as a convenient and portable tool to sequence a live setup, a portable synth and drum sketchpad or an all-round studio workhorse, Circuit Tracks has a lot going for it.

Read the full Novation Circuit Tracks review

Best all-analogue drum machine

Best drum machines: Arturia DrumBrute Impact

(Image credit: Arturia)
The best drum machine for compact all-analogue beat making

Specifications

Sounds: Analogue
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 8
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Internal/MIDI/Clock sync
Analogue outputs: Master output and individual outputs for kick, snare, hats and FM sound
MIDI I/O: USB MIDI
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains
Dimensions: 342 x 243 x 57mm
Weight: 1.84kg

Reasons to buy

+
Quality drum sounds and a killer sequencer
+
Great analogue distortion
+
Useful Color parameter

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most versatile-sounding

Like its bigger DrumBrute sibling, the Impact couples its sequencer with an all-analogue drum synthesis engine and very flexible pattern saving/song mode capabilities. Visually, the Impact looks pretty similar to its predecessor, housed in a solid, navy blue chassis familiar from the rest of Arturia’s ‘Brute range. 

Although there are fewer different instruments – 10 instead of the DrumBrute’s 17 – the Impact is not simply a cutdown version of the larger machine. Much of the sound engine has been overhauled here, and the DrumBrute’s Parker and Steiner filter has been switched out for a beefy distortion effect. The pressure and velocity-sensitive pads are a bonus, and the sequencer Roller and Beat Repeat tools are a couple of handy options for spicing up fills and turnarounds. 

The ample crop of 64 pattern slots means there are plenty of space to save and recall grooves, and the Song mode means these can easily be stitched together into full arrangements. While the Impact lacks a little sonic flexibility and isn’t all-round perfect, it is an inspiring and enticing drum machine at a very good price.

Read our full Arturia DrumBrute Impact review

More options...

So those are our top picks, but there are many more great options to choose from that offer something a little different in terms of features and performance. Below you'll find a few more of our top-rated drum machines. 

Best drum machine: Korg Volca Beats

(Image credit: Future)
Cracking budget analogue drum sounds

Specifications

Sounds: Synthesis and samples
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: Multitouch trigger pad
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Sync in and out
Analogue outputs: 3.5mm stereo
MIDI I/O: In
Built-in speaker: Yes
Power: Batteries (6xAA) or mains
Dimensions: 115 x 193 x 45mm
Weight: 0.37kg

Reasons to buy

+
Great portability
+
Lightweight yet sturdy
+
Quality sounds for little outlay

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited connectivity options

Taking sonic inspiration (we suspect) from Roland's classic TR-808, the Volca Beats has an analogue and PCM sound engine but offers digital control, meaning that knob tweaks and note info can be recorded into the built-in sequencer. Volca Beats has six analogue sounds (kicks, snare, hi-hats, and toms) and four PCM sounds (claves, agogo, clap, and crash cymbal). 

The kick can be clicky or deep, the hats cut nicely, and the snare has a woody tone that can be further bolstered by layering a PCM clap or increasing the amount of 'snap'. As with the other Volcas, connectivity options are somewhat limited, but ultimately, the Volca Beats is about fun, and that's what you'll have when you use it. If you want quality analogue drum sounds on a budget, look no further.

Read our full Korg Volca Beats review

Best drum machines: IK Multimedia UNO Drum

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)
All-analogue beats for less

Specifications

Sounds: Analogue synthesis and samples
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 12 Touch Pads, 16 Buttons
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Micro USB, 3.5mm audio in
Analogue outputs: 1 x 3.5mm main outputs
MIDI I/O: 2 x 2.5mm mini-jack to DIN cables (IN/OUT)
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Batteries (4xAA) or mains
Dimensions: 256 x 150 x 49mm
Weight: 0.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Good value
+
Portable and easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly below-par build quality
-
Buttons not as responsive as pads

Representing IK Multimedia’s first foray into the world of analogue gear, UNO Drum is a hybrid analogue / sample playback machine with an impressive-sounding synth engine housed in a lightweight plastic casing. This makes it feel a little on the fragile side, raising the query of whether or not it could withstand the typical battering that more substantial devices are built to deal with.

That said, its six true analogue kick, snare clap and hi-hat sounds are authentically warm and rich-sounding, and are partnered with a choice of 54 PCM sounds lifted from IK’s SampleTank sample library. There’s 100 preset kits to explore, an extremely versatile and powerful sequencer with a 100-pattern memory, and some nice touches like the Stutter and Roll buttons to polish up your patterns, making the UNO Drum a fun piece of kit to play.

Read our full IK Multimedia UNO Drum review

Best drum machines: Elektron Model:Cycles

(Image credit: Elektron)
Elektron charm and power on a budget

Specifications

Sounds: FM based groovebox
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 6 plus 12 synth controls
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB
Analogue outputs: 2 plus headphone
MIDI I/O: 3.5mm MIDI In, Out/Thru jacks
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains and battery
Dimensions: 270 × 180 × 39mm
Weight: 0.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Parameter and Conditional Locks
+
Intuitive, hands-on workflow
+
Well-priced

Reasons to avoid

-
No individual outputs

Elektron’s Model series made its debut with 2019’s Model:Samples - a sample-powered groovebox based around the engine from the brand’s Digitakt sampler. The Swedish firm has expanded the range with a second instrument, this time based around the sound engine of the Digitakt’s sibling instrument Digitone.

As with Digitone, Model:Cycles is based around a polyphonic FM (frequency modulation) synth engine paired with a 64-step sequencer. Unlike Model:Samples, which could be described as essentially the same as Digitakt with a few features removed, Model:Cycles isn’t simply a trimmed-down version of the Digitone. Despite using the same underlying four-operator engine, the way sound editing is presented means that the two are noticeably different in use.

The real highlight here is the sequencer. Each track has its own 64-step sequencer lane, the length and rate of which can be set individually. Elektron’s Parameter Locks feature allows for full per-step automation of all front-panel controls. This can even be used to change Machines mid-sequence, meaning a single track can be used to sequence multiple sounds. 

Best of all is the inclusion of the Chance Parameter and Conditional Locks. These allow for deep control over the probability and conditions that dictate whether a hit will play on any sequencer step. It’s a wonderfully handy tool for adding variety and interest to otherwise static grooves and, with a dedicated front panel control, it’s at its most useable and intuitive here.

Read our full Elektron Model:Cycles review

Best drum machines: Roland TR-6S

(Image credit: Roland)
Could well be the most versatile budget beat maker going

Specifications

Sounds: XOX kits, FM, samples
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 8 plus 8 variation
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB
Left/right outputs: 2 plus headphone
MIDI I/O: MIDI In, Out
Built-in speaker: No
Power: USB and battery
Dimensions: 224 x 132 x 60.1mm
Weight: 0.705kg

Reasons to buy

+
Offers the full TR-8S sequencing and effects workflow but in miniature
+
Can send individual tracks out as audio via USB

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls can be a little fiddly

Best thought of as a more compact and affordable version of the TR-8S, the TR-6S Rhythm Performer is a six-track drum machine that can run on batteries. As well as the 808, 909, 707 and 606 kits that come included, there’s also an FM engine in here, and you can import your own samples via SD card. As such, there’s plenty of scope for creating hybrid kits.

The traditional TR step sequencer is included, but there’s also real-time recording and various other enhancements. You’ll find built-in effects, and the TR-6S can be used as a USB audio/MIDI interface.

While there are arguably more unique-sounding and characterful budget drum machines out there – Korg’s Volca Drum and Elektron’s Model:Cycles spring to mind – we can’t think of anything that offers this sort of versatility and flexibility this side of the $/£400 mark. As a first drum machine or a portable, convenient source of staple drum sounds, the TR-6S is very hard to beat.

Read the full Roland TR-6S review

Best drum machines: Roland TR-08

(Image credit: Future)
The next best thing to a ‘proper’ 808?

Specifications

Sounds: ACB modelling
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: Trigger out, Mix in, USB (audio and MIDI)
Analogue outputs: 3.5mm stereo, 3.5mm headphones
MIDI I/O: In and Out
Built-in speaker: Yes
Power: Batteries (4xAA) or mains
Dimensions: 357 x 179 x 92mm
Weight: 0.36kg

Reasons to buy

+
A classic sound and 21st century features
+
Convenient and affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
No multiple analogue outputs
-
More editing options would be nice

Part of Roland’s ‘Boutique’ range of digitally reimagined legacy hardware, it would be easy to focus on the ‘authenticity’ aspects of the TR-08, but it is much more of a 21st century machine than the original TR-808 in quite a few ways beyond its DSP-driven sound engine. Although the programming system follows broadly similar lines to the original, you now have the ability to add sub-step beats, create random patterns and dial in some swing - all useful features. 

Compression can be applied individually to the Kick and Snare, whilst Tuning and Decay is available for some sounds (with the ability to select a long decay version of the Kick for those Miami bass lovers out there). This is a decent-sounding and affordable (relative to the original) digital resurrection of a classic beatbox, though we'd still like to have seen a few more editing options and multiple analogue outs.

Read our full Roland TR-08 review

Korg Drumlogue

(Image credit: Future)
A flexible, powerful drum machine that offers a lot for the price

Specifications

Sounds: Analogue/Digital
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB, Sync in/out, audio in
Analogue outputs: 6 plus headphones
MIDI I/O: MIDI In/Out, USB MIDI
Built-in speaker: No
Power: AC adapter (DC9V)
Dimensions: 317 × 189 × 73 mm
Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Hybrid instrument gives you access to both analogue and digital synthesis 
+
Plenty of room for customization with user samples and open-source synth/effect SDK
+
Flexible sequencer with parameter automation and per-step randomization

Reasons to avoid

-
Diminutive size means that many features only accessible via menu-diving

Released in late 2022, Korg’s Drumlogue joins the brand’s Minilogue and Monologue synths as another powerful yet affordable member of the Korg product family. Billed as a hybrid drum machine, the Drumlogue fuses analogue drum synthesis with digital oscillators and sample playback, making the instrument a suitable option for those looking to explore a variety of sonic flavours and production techniques.

A brief scan of the Drumlogue’s preset library reveals the machine as a stylistically versatile instrument capable of lending its hand to all manner of genres and sounds, from thumping, industrial techno to precise and glitchy IDM. Laying behind this versatility is the drum machine’s variegated approach to sound creation, which utilizes four highly tweakable analogue synth engines (bass, snare, low and high toms) and a digital synth module that handles open and closed hats, rim shots, and claps. 

These work in tandem with the Multi-Engine, a multimode synth module that’s based on VPM (variable phase modulation) and noise generation, and can even host user-made sound generators devised using the Drumlogue’s open-source SDK. Alongside these methods of sound creation, the Drumlogue can handle user-loaded samples that can be layered on top of its synth engines. 

Sounds produced by the Drumlogue can be manipulated and processed through a range of digital effects, with delay and reverb sends joined by a master effects section that hosts a filter, compressor, saturation and three-band EQ. Enterprising users can augment this selection with custom-designed effects created using the open-source SDK. 

Connectivity abounds in the Drumlogue, outfitted as it is with six individual and routable outputs and a headphone output for good measure. These sit alongside an audio input, analogue sync input and output, MIDI in/out and two USB ports, meaning the drum machine will play nice with any and all external gear you may want to pair it with.

All in all, there’s plenty of good things to say about the Drumlogue, and we’d recommend it to any aspiring beatmaker searching for a mid-range drum machine that stands a cut above budget beat-boxes in terms of functionality and versatility without coming close to breaking four figures in price. 

Read our full Korg Drumlogue review

Best drum machines: Roland TR-8S

(Image credit: Future)
Combine Roland drum machine sounds with your own samples

Specifications

Sounds: ACB modelling and sampling
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB (MIDI and audio), trigger out
Analogue outputs: 1/4-inch Mix outputs, 1/4-inch headphones
MIDI I/O: In and Out
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains
Dimensions: 409 x 263 x 58mm
Weight: 2.1kg

Reasons to buy

+
Sampling features add to the flexibility
+
Great emulations of multiple machines
+
Decent sequencer

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't feel as 'immediate' as the TR-8

Part of the AIRA product family, Roland’s original TR-8 was built entirely around their Analogue Circuit Behaviour (ACB) tech, which emulates the circuitry of the original hardware units on a component-by-component basis. That same technology is still at the heart of the TR-8S, providing models of the 808, 909, 707, 727 and 606. This time around, though, these emulated instruments are joined by sample tracks. 

Any of the TR-8S’s 11 instrument tracks can be assigned to either an emulation or a sample, meaning that, alongside the expected pure emulation kits, this drum machine comes equipped with plenty of interesting hybrid kits, with lots of scope for mixing and matching the two sound sources. Those core ACB tracks once again offer high-quality, largely convincing recreations of the original boxes they’re based on. 

On the whole, the TR-8S is excellent. It builds on the potential of the original in all the right ways: it's a machine that’s far more flexible but still intuitive and, most importantly, a lot of fun to use.

Read our full Roland TR-8S review

Best drum machines: Elektron Digitakt Drum Machine

(Image credit: Future)
Compact and rugged digital sampling? It’s yours!

Specifications

Sounds: Digital synthesis and samples
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 16
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: USB, 2 1/4-inch audio in
Analogue outputs: 2 1/4-inch main outputs, 1/4-inch headphones
MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru with DIN Sync out
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Mains
Dimensions: 215 x 176 x 63mm
Weight: 1.45kg

Reasons to buy

+
Flexible and powerful sound engine
+
Deep sequencing capabilities

Reasons to avoid

-
No direct USB or SD sample transfer
-
Occasionally unintuitive workflow

Offering a completely digital architecture, Digitakt features 16 channels divided into eight audio – ie, sampling – channels and eight MIDI channels. Samples can either be loaded via the internal memory or sampled from Digitakt’s audio inputs. 

The process of sampling is fast and fluid, and can be done without the need to pause the sequencer. While ‘digital’ is often, unfairly, seen as synonymous with cheaper or less ‘full’ sounds, there’s certainly plenty of heft to Digitakt’s sound engine. The bit reduction and overdrive are particularly good at adding extra body and grit to sounds, and the sample manipulation and looping tools mean Digitakt can take things into esoteric territory. 

It might look like a humble sampler, but with great sequencing and a decent amount of connectivity, the Digitakt could easily become the centrepiece of your studio or live rig.

Read our full Elektron Digitakt review

Best drum machines: Jomox Alpha Base Drum Machine

(Image credit: Jomox)

15. JoMox Alpha Base Drum Machine

Top-end choice for both modern and classic sounds

Specifications

Sounds: Analogue / PCM hybrid
Effects: Yes
Pads/buttons: 11
Sequencer: Yes
Connectivity: DIN sync out 2x integrated in the Midi Out or Midi Thru jacks, stereo inputs, USB, SD card slot
Analogue outputs: 8 individual balanced outputs, stereo mix balanced, headphones
MIDI I/O: In Out Thru
Built-in speaker: No
Power: Batteries, Mains
Dimensions: 410 x 240 x 80mm
Weight: 3.3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of analogue outputs
+
Ace classic and modern sounds
+
Versatile sequencer

Reasons to avoid

-
Learning curve can be a little steep

JoMox’s flagship drum machine, the Alpha Base marks a complete redesign from the ground up over the company’s previous XBASE 09, 999 and 888 models. Based on a true analogue architecture, the Alpha Base sports a total of eleven instruments, two of which (kick drum and membrane) are true analogue, eight are sample-based with analogue processing and one of which is a 4-operator FM synth. 

With a huge sound mated to a comprehensive sequencer, and offering features like sampling inputs, an SD card slot for sample transfer and 8 balanced individual outputs, the Alpha Base is a worthy choice for professional beatmakers.

Best drum machines: Buying advice

Overhead image of Novation Circuit Tracks

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best drum machine for you

Price is always going to be a significant factor when you choose a drum machine, but it should not be the only consideration. The sound you are after should also be a top priority as this can vary enormously between models, from proper analogue synth circuitry to generate drum tones, through a more flexible combination of both analogue synthesis and digital samples, to totally customisable models that let you load in your own samples by means of an SD card or similar. You also need to decide whether you need portability or are happy with a heavier, more static model that will stay in your studio. 

Other factors worth considering include…

  • Audio outputs: you might need to process individual drum sounds through a mixing desk or multi-channel audio interface, so consider how many outputs your drum machine has. Ideally you'll need a separate output for each sound which can be sent to its own channel and treated with its own effects. If a unit only has a single stereo output, you can get by but you’ll need to use a work around, perhaps making multiple passes with individual sounds running in solo, transferring each sound, one by one to a DAW.
  • Performance workflow: if you want to use a drum machine to perform with on stage, you'll want it to have a user-friendly interface and easy performance workflow. You won't want to be fiddling with too much menu diving and you'll also require decent-sized pads to navigate to and perform with, rather than fiddly buttons. Chaining individual patterns together into full tunes is a must if you want to program your machine to handle complete song duties while you play over the top, or even to create different patterns while playing live.
  • MIDI / Sync: our focus here is on standalone machines, but any degree of connectivity is going to be useful at some point – you will want to integrate your beats with other hardware and/or your DAW – so ensure your chosen machine has MIDI at least, and the ability to sync to an external clock source.

How we choose products

Drum machine on studio desking being tested

(Image credit: Future)

Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides. 

When choosing what we believe to be the best drum machines available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best drum machines on the market right now.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.


With contributions from