Choosing the Best Drum Machines: In-Depth Reviews and Insights

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Last updatedLast updated: May 26, 2024
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Welcome to the dynamic, rhythm-packed universe of drum machines.

These devices, a fundamental cornerstone in the toolkit of any music producer, offer an unmatched level of control, precision, and creativity over your percussion and beats, transforming the way music is made.

Whether you’re an experienced professional or an enthusiastic beginner exploring the sonic landscape, our comprehensive guide is designed to assist you in navigating the vast market of drum machines. Our aim is to ensure you uncover the absolute best drum machines to fit your unique needs. Get ready for a profound exploration into meticulous product comparisons, in-depth reviews, a detailed buying guide, and more, all tailored to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to make your selection.


Roland TR-8SEditor's Choice



  • Pads: 1 x Velocity-sensitive Performance Pad, 16 x TR-REC Buttons
  • Patterns: 128 patterns, 8 variations per pattern
  • Height: 2.31″
  • Width: 16.12″
  • Depth: 10.37″
  • Weight: 4.68 lbs.

With the Roland TR-8S, the legendary TR-808 has been reborn, integrating classic sounds with advanced production capabilities. Its sturdy casing encases a range of percussive synthesizers and top-notch effects, providing endless rhythmic exploration.

Performance-wise, the TR-8S is a game-changer. It boasts advanced sequencing capabilities for effortless pattern creation and manipulation, with sound layering options for combining internal sounds and samples.

In studio settings, the Roland TR-8S excels. Its customization options and integrated audio interface make it a seamless fit for any production setup.

The standout feature of the TR-8S is its hands-on control. Every instrument has its own dedicated fader for real-time sound shaping, and a motion recorder to capture all knob and slider movements.

However, its vast features may be a tad overwhelming for beginners. But with time and practice, it proves to be an invaluable asset in any producer’s arsenal.

Why are we impressed?

  • Layering of internal sounds and samples
  • Dedicated faders for each instrument
  • Advanced sequencing capabilities

What negatives must you be aware of?

  • Steep learning curve for beginners


Elektron Analog Rytm MKIIBest Versatility



  • Pads: 12 x Velocity-sensitive Performance Pads, 16 x Trigger Keypads
  • Patterns: 128 x patterns per project, 16 x songs per project
  • Height: 3.3″
  • Width: 15.2″
  • Depth: 8.8″
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs.

The Elektron Analog Rytm MKII embodies the perfect union of analog warmth and digital precision. Eight drum voices are enclosed in its solid structure, each equipped with dedicated analog circuits and sample playback.

The Rytm MKII’s performance is top-notch. It comes with extensive sound shaping capabilities, with each voice possessing a multimode filter and an assignable LFO, offering a vast palette of sounds.

The Rytm MKII shines in electronic music production. Its analog circuits add depth to drum sounds, while its Overbridge software enables seamless DAW integration.

A distinguishing feature of the Rytm MKII is its performance-oriented design. It features a live-friendly sequencer and a pressure-sensitive pad grid that enhances real-time interactions.

The complexity of its sound engine and workflow may pose a steep learning curve. However, once mastered, the Rytm MKII opens up endless percussive possibilities.

Why did it make our list?

  • Analog warmth and digital control
  • Overbridge software for seamless DAW integration
  • Live-friendly sequencer and pressure-sensitive pad grid

What is not ideal about it?

  • Complex sound engine and workflow


Behringer RD-8Best for Live Performance



  • Pads: 16 x Step Buttons
  • Patterns: 256 (16 songs, 16 patterns each)
  • Height: 3.0″
  • Width: 19.6″
  • Depth: 10.4″
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs.

The Behringer RD-8 offers a compelling blend of classic analog sound and modern sequencing, making it ideal for live performances. Its robust structure houses 16 drum sounds, all customizable via an interface reminiscent of classic drum machines.

In performance terms, the RD-8 excels. Its 64-step sequencer and Wave Designer add a new level of control to your beats, while its integrated analog filter offers additional sonic sculpting.

The RD-8 thrives in live environments. Its wide-ranging connectivity options ensure it integrates seamlessly with your existing setup.

The RD-8’s analog circuits deliver the classic drum sounds cherished by producers and artists alike, setting it apart from many modern, digital-only machines.

However, it lacks some advanced features like sample playback and integrated effects, which might limit its versatility in some settings.

What are its best features?

  • Classic analog sounds with modern control
  • Wide-ranging connectivity
  • Integrated analog filter for sound sculpting

What could be improved?

  • Lacks some advanced features like sample playback and effects


Arturia DrumBrute ImpactBest for Beginners



  • Pads: 8 x Performance Pads, 16 x Sequence Buttons
  • Patterns: 64 patterns, Polyrhythms
  • Height: 3.54″
  • Width: 12.6″
  • Depth: 11.4″
  • Weight: 4 lbs.

The Arturia DrumBrute Impact is an ideal pick for beginners, providing a user-friendly interface coupled with a powerful sound engine. It houses 10 analog sounds, each tweakable via individual knobs, ensuring direct and intuitive control.

The DrumBrute Impact performs admirably, with its integrated sequencer offering step-recording, song mode, and polyrhythmic capabilities, offering an easy yet powerful beat creation process.

The DrumBrute Impact is a great fit for home studios or for those starting their drum machine journey, thanks to its user-friendly interface and robust sound engine.

The color layer function, which adds a second layer of sound to the sequencer, sets the DrumBrute Impact apart. It enhances the rhythm creation process, adding depth to your patterns.

Though it offers a robust set of features, its lack of digital sound shaping tools and sampling capabilities could be seen as a limitation by more experienced producers.

What makes it special?

  • User-friendly interface
  • Color layer function for enhanced rhythm creation
  • Integrated sequencer with diverse capabilities

What cons did we find?

  • Lack of digital sound shaping and sampling capabilities


Korg Volca BeatsBest Budget Option



  • Patterns: 8 user patterns
  • Height: 1.78″
  • Width: 7.61″
  • Depth: 4.54″
  • Weight: .8 lbs.

The Korg Volca Beats is a budget-friendly, portable drum machine known for its powerful analog drum sounds. It includes 10 drum parts, each editable for personalized rhythms.

The performance of the Volca Beats is commendable, especially considering its size and price. It has a built-in 16-step sequencer and six editable analog parts for hands-on experience.

Thanks to its compact design and battery operation, it’s a perfect choice for those on the move. Plus, the built-in speaker allows for instant sound production.

Its compact design and real analog sounds set it apart from other budget drum machines. It also includes MIDI In for sync and control, making it a flexible choice for all setups.

However, the limited sound shaping options and absence of individual outputs might be a letdown for some users.

Why is it special?

  • Affordable and portable
  • Real analog drum sounds
  • MIDI In for sync and control

What are the flaws?

  • Limited sound shaping options
  • Absence of individual outputs


Akai Professional MPC Live IIBest Mobility



  • Pads: 16 x Velocity-sensitive RGB Pads, Full-sized
  • Height: 1.8″
  • Width: 16.2″
  • Depth: 9.6″
  • Weight: 7.45 lbs.

The Akai Professional MPC Live II is a standalone drum machine that offers maximum mobility. It features built-in speakers, battery operation, and a wide range of digital and analog I/O, providing flexibility in all environments.

Performance-wise, the MPC Live II excels with its multitrack sequencing and sampling capabilities. It also offers clip launching and time-stretching for flexible beat production.

The MPC Live II is ideal for producers on the move, thanks to its battery operation, built-in speakers, and robust control options.

Its stand-out feature is its standalone operation. It operates without a computer, meaning you can create beats wherever inspiration strikes.

However, it may be a little advanced for beginners due to its extensive feature set and workflow. Yet, once familiar, it proves to be a versatile production tool.

What are its best features?

  • Standalone operation
  • Built-in speakers and battery operation
  • Multitrack sequencing and sampling capabilities

What could be improved?

  • A bit advanced for beginners

Things to Consider

Purchasing a drum machine can be daunting, especially with the vast array of available options. This guide provides an in-depth understanding of what to look for when choosing the best drum machine for your needs, regardless of your experience level.

Understanding Drum Machines

Before diving into the factors to consider when buying a drum machine, it’s crucial to understand what a drum machine is. In the simplest terms, a drum machine is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums, cymbals, other percussion instruments, or any sort of sound imaginable.

Drum machines can be hardware-based, like the Roland TR-8S or the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII, or they can be software-based, running on your computer or mobile device. This guide focuses on hardware-based drum machines, which offer physical interaction crucial for performance and nuanced sound design.

The Importance of a Drum Machine

In the digital age of music production, drum machines have become a staple in professional studios and home setups alike. They offer flexibility and precision, allowing producers and musicians to create complex rhythms without needing a live drummer.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what a drum machine is and why it’s an essential piece of equipment for music production let’s delve into the various factors to consider when purchasing one.

Performance and Versatility

When we talk about performance in drum machines, we are referring to how well the drum machine can create and modify sounds, sequences, and patterns.

Sound Creation

Consider the variety of sounds the drum machine can produce. Machines like the Roland TR-8S excel in their ability to create a wide array of drum sounds, from punchy kicks to crisp hi-hats. In addition, some machines allow for the layering of internal sounds and samples, providing the ability to craft unique and complex percussion sounds.

Sequencing and Patterning

Sequencing refers to the arrangement of your drum sounds into patterns or beats. Some machines, such as the Behringer RD-8, offer advanced sequencing features like a 64-step sequencer, while others, like the Arturia DrumBrute Impact, offer simpler sequencing capabilities with an easy-to-understand interface.


Versatility pertains to how well a drum machine can handle a variety of genres and styles. For example, the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII excels in versatility with its blend of analog drum sounds and digital sample playback.

Sound Type: Analog vs. Digital

Drum machines are often classified by the type of sound they produce – analog or digital.

Analog Drum Machines

Analog drum machines generate sounds through analog circuits. They offer a warm, natural sound that many producers and musicians find desirable. If you’re looking for a drum machine that provides warm, rich, and full-bodied drum sounds, an analog drum machine like the Behringer RD-8 might be an excellent option.

Digital Drum Machines

Digital drum machines, on the other hand, generate sounds through digital sampling. They offer a wide range of sounds, from realistic acoustic drum samples to synthesized electronic beats. Digital drum machines like the Akai Professional MPC Live II are highly versatile and often offer more advanced features than their analog counterparts.

Ease of Use and Interface

When it comes to drum machines, the user interface plays a crucial role in determining how easy it is to create and modify beats. A well-designed interface can make the process of beat creation intuitive and enjoyable, while a poorly designed interface can make it frustrating and difficult.

For beginners, it’s generally best to choose a drum machine with an intuitive interface that makes it easy to understand and control the machine’s features. A good example of this is the Arturia DrumBrute Impact, which features a well-laid out interface with clear labeling and dedicated controls for each of its features.

More advanced users might prefer a drum machine with a comprehensive and complex interface. Machines like the Akai Professional MPC Live II offer many features and controls, allowing for greater precision and flexibility in creating beats.


Connectivity is another vital factor to consider when choosing a drum machine. The right connectivity options can greatly enhance your music-making experience, allowing you to integrate your drum machine with other equipment in your setup, whether in a live performance or studio environment.

Some of the key connectivity options to look for include:

  • MIDI: MIDI connectivity allows your drum machine to communicate with other MIDI-enabled devices. This can be particularly useful in a studio setup where you might want to sync your drum machine with a digital audio workstation (DAW) or other MIDI hardware.
  • Audio Outputs: Audio output connectivity is essential for connecting your drum machine to an audio interface, mixer, or directly to speakers. Look for drum machines that offer multiple audio outputs for more routing flexibility.
  • USB: A USB connection can be used for various purposes, such as transferring data between your drum machine and a computer or for MIDI communication.

The Behringer RD-8, for example, offers a wide range of connectivity options, including MIDI, multiple audio outputs, and USB, making it a great option for those looking for maximum integration with their existing gear.

Portability and Power Options

If you’re a producer or musician who’s constantly on the move, the portability of your drum machine should be a major consideration. Smaller, more compact models can easily fit into a backpack or gig bag for easy transport.

Also, consider the machine’s power options. Some drum machines, like the Akai Professional MPC Live II and the Korg Volca Beats, can run on batteries, allowing you to create beats wherever inspiration strikes.

Build Quality and Durability

As with any piece of musical equipment, the build quality and durability of a drum machine are important considerations. A well-built drum machine will be able to withstand the rigors of live performances and frequent transport.

Ensure the drum machine you choose is solidly built, with high-quality controls and a robust casing. This extends the machine’s lifespan and contributes to a better, more reliable performance.

Budget and Value for Money

Lastly, your budget is essential in choosing the right drum machine. While it’s true that you often get what you pay for in terms of quality and features, many affordable drum machines offer excellent performance and versatility.

The Korg Volca Beats, for instance, is a compact and affordable drum machine that still delivers a powerful performance, making it a great option for those on a budget.

When determining your budget, consider the value for money that each drum machine offers. This involves comparing the machine’s quality, features, and performance against its price.

Unleashing Your Creativity: Drum Machine Tips

Whether you’re a seasoned beatmaker or just starting your rhythmic journey, understanding how to get the most out of your drum machine can transform your music-making experience. Here are a few tips to help you master your drum machine and elevate your creativity to a whole new level:

1. Understand Your Machine Inside Out

Before diving into complex rhythms and patterns, take some time to truly familiarize yourself with your drum machine. This extends beyond knowing which button triggers which sound. Dive into the manual, watch tutorials, and experiment with every function. The deeper your understanding, the more creatively you can use your machine.

2. Start with Basic Patterns

Try beginning with basic patterns rather than attempting complex rhythms right from the start. The foundational rhythm in most Western music is the 4/4 beat, often with the kick on the first and third beats, and the snare on the second and fourth. Once this basic pattern is down, you can add elements like hi-hats, percussion, or more complex kick and snare patterns.

3. Explore the Swing Function

Many drum machines feature a ‘swing’ function, which can add a bit of groove to your patterns by delaying the second and fourth beat slightly. This can give your beats a more human, less robotic feel. Start with a subtle amount of swing, and increase it as desired.

4. Layer Sounds

Drum machines excel at layering sounds, adding depth and richness to your beats. Try layering different kick or snare sounds, or adding subtle percussion layers. This can add interest and complexity to your beats without making them overly busy.

5. Utilize Automation

Most modern drum machines allow you to automate parameters like pitch, volume, or effect parameters. This can add movement and dynamism to your beats, keeping them interesting over longer periods. Remember, subtlety is often key here. Small, gradual changes can be very effective.

6. Experiment and Have Fun

Perhaps the most important tip is to experiment and have fun. The beauty of a drum machine is in its endless possibilities. Don’t be afraid to try out strange rhythms, weird sound combinations, or unconventional techniques. Sometimes, the most exciting musical ideas come from unexpected places.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a drum machine expert, ready to take your beats to the next level. Remember, the best drum machines are the ones that inspire you to create and explore.



Several drum machines in the market are noted for their realistic sounds. The Roland TR-8S, for example, offers sounds that are near identical to the classic drum machines like the TR-808 and TR-909. The Akai Professional MPC Live II also has a vast sound library that includes a wide range of high-quality, realistic drum sounds.

The best drum machine for hip-hop is arguably the Akai Professional MPC Live II. This machine is revered in hip-hop for its rich history and top-notch sound quality. Its vast sound library, flexible sequencing capabilities, and extensive connectivity make it an ideal choice for hip-hop producers.

The Korg Volca Beats is often considered one of the easiest drum machines to learn. Its intuitive interface and straightforward functionality make it an excellent choice for beginners. Plus, it has a built-in speaker and battery power capabilities, allowing for portability and ease of use anywhere.

Yes, drum machines are worth it for a variety of reasons. They offer consistent timing, a vast array of sounds, and the ability to create complex rhythms that would be difficult or impossible to play by hand. They also allow for great flexibility in the creation process, from laying down basic rhythm tracks to crafting intricate, layered compositions. Whether you’re a professional producer or a hobbyist, a drum machine can be a powerful tool in your music-making arsenal.

Final Thoughts

The Roland TR-8S, Elektron Analog Rytm MKII, and Behringer RD-8 stand out among the best drum machines. Each offers unique features and robust capabilities that cater to various music production needs.

The Roland TR-8S, our Editor’s Choice, excels with its advanced sequencing and layering of internal sounds and samples, offering unparalleled creative freedom. The Elektron Analog Rytm MKII shines with its blend of analog warmth and digital precision. In contrast, the Behringer RD-8‘s blend of classic analog sound and modern sequencing makes it ideal for live performances.

Remember, the best drum machine for you depends on your specific needs and experience level. Consider your production style, budget, and preferred workflow to find your perfect match.

  1. I’ve always been interested in drum machines and this guide is really helpful in understanding their different features and what to look for when buying one. Can’t wait to start creating my own beats!

  2. Great article! I’m really into sound creation and it’s good to know which drum machines offer a wide variety of sounds. I’m curious though, are there any drum machines that allow for live sampling?

    • Thank you for your feedback! I’m glad you found the article helpful. When it comes to drum machines with live sampling capabilities, there are a few options worth considering. One popular choice is the Elektron Digitakt. It not only offers a wide range of built-in sounds but also allows you to sample and manipulate your own sounds in real-time. Another option is the Roland SP-404SX, which is known for its excellent sampling capabilities and intuitive live performance features. Additionally, the Akai MPC series, particularly the MPC Live and MPC X, are renowned for their sampling capabilities and versatility. These are just a few examples, and there are certainly other drum machines out there with live sampling capabilities. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. I love the tips at the end of the article! Layering sounds and experimenting with automation sounds like a lot of fun. Can’t wait to try it out on my new drum machine!

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