The 8 best new drum machines or samplers of 2022, according to your votes

Erica Synths Perkons
(Image credit: Future)

If there’s one thing you can bet your house on, it is that any given year will produce a slew of hardware drum machines and samplers to accompany all those brand-new, shiny hardware synths

Over the years we’ve seen those distinctions between synthesizers and drum machines and/or samplers blurred to the point where we are featuring multiple instruments in multiple poll categories.

Take the Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field for example. This portable all-in-one machine has scored well in both this category and the ‘best new synth’ category and is more evolutionary than revolutionary. So to is the Akai MPC Key-61, a one-stop solution for producers, making workstations cool again. We could easily add Elektron’s Syntakt and the Korg Drumlogue to the list too with their hybrid sound engines and penchant for more melodic utterances.

We guess we’re saying that this category could be called ‘the best new hardware all-in-one dawless production stations of 2022 as voted for by you'. But let's be honest, you're here for the beats. Either way, here are the results.

1. Erica Synths Perkons HD-01

We first got to see a glimpse of Erica Synths’ four-voice percussion synth at last year’s Superbooth and it promised to be quite the beast. Named after an ancient Baltic god of thunder, each of the Perkons’ four voices features a digital oscillator that is switchable between three modes, while the end of the signal chain adds filtering and drive to proceedings.

On the sequencing side of things, Perkons comes laden with four tracks for independently programming each voice, each equipped with probability, multipliers and dividers, ratchets and play direction controls. All the elements that we have come to expect from what sounds like a fun and performative sequencer.

Unfortunately, a shortage in key parts has had a major effect on the drum machine coming to market, with the knock-on effect of these delays meaning we won’t be seeing Perkons until March 2023. The good news is that it’ll probably have a chance to feature in next year’s poll once we all get to have a proper go on one.

Read more about the Erica Synths Perkons HD-01.

2. Elektron Syntakt

Hot on the heels of the Digitone and Digitakt in Elektron’s mid-size music box lineup is Syntakt, but while first impressions that this was just going to be a combination of the two, sort of like when Korg brought out the Electribe EM-1, Syntakt has proved to be more a little more than just a synth/drum machine mashup

Syntakt’s architecture is based around eight digital and four analogue tracks that can turn their hand to producing percussive and melodic tones courtesy of a total of 35 sound engines, or ‘machines’ as Elektron prefers to call them.

Syntakt is the sum of multiple parts, not just the Digitone and Digitakt, but also taking elements from Rytm and Model:Cycles and retaining all the sequencing tricks that we’ve all come to love about Elektron products.

Read more about the Elektron Syntakt.

3. Polyend Play

As the name suggests, Play has been designed for fun and inspiration. This sample-based groovebox takes more of a sandbox approach than your average sequencer-based instrument. Polyend users will be familiar with the sequencer on Play as it takes its cues from previous products such as Tracker and Medusa, but throws some new tricks into the mix too.

The freedom with which you can sequence samples from the micro-SD card is staggering and gives you plenty of scope to make those samples your own. While the unit itself isn’t capable of sampling, there are more than enough tools in Play to inspire originality. 

What it lacks in features that are found in its closest rivals is more than made up for with its unique workflow and flexible sequencing. And while it might not have a cult following like Tracker, it still has the feel of an instrument with longevity.

Read the full Polyend Play review.

4. Korg Drumlogue

Korg’s ‘logue family took a left turn down drum machine alley with the announcement of Drumlogue back in early 2021. After the announcement, we didn’t hear about it anything until this Autumn when our appetite was whetted by the official unveiling of yet another hybrid machine with synth-like tendencies – a first for Korg.

Drumlogue contains new analogue circuitry from Korg engineer Junichi Ikeuchi, whose previous projects include the ARP 2600 M, MS-20 Mini and ARP Odyssey. There are four analogue voices alongside seven digital parts, six of which are sample-based and one of which uses Korg’s Multi-Engine. 

The sample-based parts can play both the built-in PCM tones and your own samples, which can simply be dragged and dropped from a computer over USB. It’s a formidable and gnarly-sounding beast but we can’t help but feel that it's a touch on the small side for all that sonic power.

Read more on the Korg Drumlogue.

5. Akai MPC Key 61

The logical next step in the MPC series landed in 2022 in all its 61-key glory. Out of all the instruments in this year’s poll, the MPC Key 61 is perhaps the most complete, with sampling, and beat production still at its heart. 

With the addition of a semi-weighted keybed, this new MPC is choc full of brand new synth content, courtesy of Air Music Technology. Most notable is Fabric, which can spew forth the most modern of sounds and deliver synths, pads, basses, and leads, even guitars. With additions such as the OPx-4, four-operator FM synth and some more traditional strings and piano instruments, there’s more than enough to cater for producers of all kinds.

Read the full Akai MPC Key 61 review.

6. Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field

Teenage Engineering beguiled us, once again, with the return of the OP-1. This had the feeling more of an update than a completely new machine and given the portably-inclined ‘Field’ moniker. Cue the Swedish firm’s halcyon view of sonic creators taking to the great outdoors to capture new sounds and get together for synth jams in a nearby forest.

For those who prefer to stay indoors to create music, the OP-1 Field still has plenty of newness to warrant an update with improvements to battery life, sample time, connectivity and Dimension synth engine being the headliners. Although, on release, it was touted that no fewer than 100 improvements had been made on the original.

Read the full Teenage Engineering OP-1 Field review.

7. Roland Aira T-8

Roland’s answer to the Korg Volca’s arrived this year in the form of three new compact instruments in the Aira range. The trio consisted of the J-6 Chord Synth, the E-4 Vocal Tweaker and this, the T-8 Beat Machine. No guesses for which renowned drum machine this little beat-maker is based on.

Unlike the Volcas, these Aira boxes are still powered by DSP, as is the whole Aira range, much to the chagrin of many a traditionalist and aficionado. Although, as Roland has proved time and time again, this is by no means to the detriment of sound quality.

The T-8 is far from a scaled-down 808, though, as it has more tricks up its sleeve mixing up the ‘TR' heritage with flavours from the 909 and 606. There’s also the added bonus of a bass section which is based on, you've guessed it, the TB-303.

Read the full Aira Compact Synth Series review.

8. 1010music Nanobox Razzmatazz

After delighting us with the Firebox and Lemondrop we were pleased to hear that California-based 1010music had further expanded its Nanobox range with the joyously-named Razzmatazz.

At its heart, Razzmatazz is an FM percussion synth that combines samples to create each sound. Each tone can be then sculpted by two filters, two envelopes, a resonator, a snap generator and three additional effects.

The bright Fuschia box is rammed with 120 preset kits and sequences, while sample content can be either transferred via micro-SD or even sampled via the mini TRS input, with up to 30 seconds of sample time.

Much like the Perkons, we’ve not had a chance to check one out for review as yet, so you may well see this one pop up next year here on MusicRadar – roll on 2023!

Read more about the 1010music Razzmatazz.

Simon Arblaster
Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.

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