4 of the best new drum machines and grooveboxes in 2023

(Image credit: Roland)

As we continue crowning MusicRadar's Gear of the Year, today we turn our attention to drum machines and grooveboxes, spotlighting four beat-focused rhythm generators that tinkled our collective hi-hats in 2023. 

1. Roland SH-4d

Roland SH-4d

(Image credit: Roland)

Roland has released a lot of new hardware in recent years that trades on the brand’s heritage. This year’s SH-4d stands out against this backdrop though; while its look and many of the onboard sounds are inspired by Roland’s back catalogue, it puts more emphasis on innovation than anything else Roland has released recently. 

This sequencer-focused synth-drum machine hybrid combines Roland’s quality analogue emulations with several genuinely unique synthesis modes and a deceptively complex, multi-layered drum synth. The real innovation lies in the fact that nothing about the SH-4d feels beholden to the workflow of instruments that have gone before.

2. Polyend Tracker Mini

Polyend Tracker Mini – also resembles a video game

(Image credit: Polyend)

Polish brand Polyend released reworked versions of its Tracker and Play in 2023. Tracker Mini takes the retro-inspired format of its predecessor and places it into a handheld format, enhanced with a rechargeable battery and onboard mic. The Mini format really suits Tracker, the user experience is enjoyably gamified, feeling like a modernised Amiga–Gameboy hybrid. 

3. Polyend Play+

Polyend Play Plus

(Image credit: Polyend)

More recently, Play+ keeps the same format as the original Play groovebox – one of our highlights of 2022 – but adds a more powerful processor. In a touch we like, users of the original can send their units to be upgraded to ‘+’ status (albeit at almost half the price of a new one).

4. Korg Drumlogue

Korg Drumlogue

(Image credit: Future)

Over the past few post-Covid years, the length of time between products being announced and actually hitting the market has, at times, dragged out. 

Korg’s long-awaited hybrid drum machine, Drumlogue, first teased at the (digital) 2021 NAMM show, took a full two years to finally land on our test bench. Perhaps due to this weight of expectation, we were slightly underwhelmed by the final product – it was held back by a few clunky workflow implementations. 

Firmware updates, however, addressed a few of our complaints as well as expanding the potential of the Sinevibes-powered synth that comes loaded into its customisable user engine. All things considered, it’s a great tool for combining rich analogue beats and glitchy digital rhythms.

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.

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