The 10 Best Drum Machines (2022)

Drum machines come in a lot of styles, shapes, and sizes, so it can be tedious to figure out which one to get, especially if you are not sure exactly what you want from one. This article should help clear things up a bit!

My top recommended drum machine is the Roland TR-8S. The TR-8s is a high-quality drum machine for serious musicians and producers.

My second recommended drum machine is the Alesis SR-16, it’s a basic drum machine that does the job and has certainly stood the test of time!

The Best Drum Machines (2022) – At A Glance

And now onto the full list:

1. Roland TR-8S

Top Pick
Roland's flagship drum machine.
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The Roland TR-8S is the company’s flagship drum machine, succeeding the enormously popular Roland TR-8. It’s mainly an improvement over the TR-8 with a lot of new features, sound effects, and editing capabilities added.

Pros

  • Roland’s ACB drum sounds are included as standard
  • Multichannel USB audio
  • Hands-on sequencing and live arrangement workflow

Cons

  • Some usability is compromised in order to provide more advanced features
  • There isn’t much room to save custom sequences
  • Pricey

This drum machine provides an incredible depth of effects that may be added channel by channel. With the TR-8S, you get more than just drum sounds, you also get synth-type sounds. Thus, this drum machine might be your full live production setup in some electronic music styles, for example!

On the downside, the unit is a bit pricey compared to other devices on the list. Additionally, in order to provide more advanced features, some usability is sacrificed. Also, there isn’t a lot of space to save custom sequences.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors8 analog outputs, MIDI, stereo external inputs, trigger output
Other FeaturesStep Sequencer

The biggest difference between the TR-8 and the TR-8S is that the TR-8S looks very different. Bigger, more modern with extra knobs and buttons. It is also MIDI compatible, which means you may link it to other music equipment to match the tempo or record externally.

2. Alesis SR-16

Budget Pick
One of the best budget-friendly drum machines.
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The Alesis SR-16 is one of the most known drum machines ever produced for studios. From its debut in 1990, this electronic drum machine has evolved in tandem with the electronic music scene. It is a classic, and for a reason.

Pros

  • Decent sounds for live performances
  • Simple and portable drum machine
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Pattern handling is limited
  • No backlit screen
  • The velocity-sensitive pads are small

The sounds that are in the Alesis SR-16 are very impressive, and it has a lot to choose from. This seemingly basic and simplistic drum machine has been used for well over twenty-seven years, and that speaks volumes of how it was used by musicians.

When it comes to drawbacks, the Alesis SR-16’s velocity-sensitive pads are considered quite small. Other than that, the pattern handling is limited as well as the lack of a backlit screen.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors1 x 1/8″ stereo, 2 x 1/4″, 1 x 1/4″ stereo, MIDI In, Out/Thru, 1 x 1/4” headphone jack
Other Features24-bit sound engine for dynamic, step programming

The kick drums, snare, bass, percussion, and all rhythms you can produce with this drum machine in many genres are amazing. With a very simple interface, though frankly not that easy to use, it’s certainly possible to get beautiful loops from this device.

3. Arturia DrumBrute

Excellent Value
High-quality analog drum machine.
View Price at Amazon

The Arturia DrumBrute Impact is an analog drum machine for serious music producers. It has a wonderful sequencer and a great variety of effects, as well as seventeen totally distinct analog percussion instruments.

Pros

  • An affordable analog drum machine
  • Superior user interface
  • The analog filter

Cons

  • Individual outputs are connected through mini-jacks
  • Some parameters need a wider range

It has a lot of connections, MIDI In/Out, and 12 independent outputs, just to name a few, which is fantastic for recording or outputting to a mixing desk for live performance.

One thing to note here is that it has 1/8 inch connectors rather than 1/4 inch, which some might find annoying if you have to use different connectors and/or cables. Additionally, some parameters need a wider range, which is not a huge dealbreaker, but still.

TypeAnalog
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors12 individual outputs, MIDI In/Out, Mix Output, 3,5mm and 1/4” headphone jack
Other FeaturesStep Sequencer, polyrhythm mode, low-pass/high-pass Steiner-Parker output filter

My favorite feature is the “Color” option, which changes the color of each sound, and the FM drum. This means you may change it into a variety of other sounds. Finally, the master bus distortion roughens and harshens the sound, providing that distinctive “brute” sound!

4. Korg VolcaBeats

Budget-friendly
Affordable analog rhythm machine.
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The Korg VolcaBeats is a very versatile and accessible analog rhythm machine. Because it supports recording up to ten instruments, the Korg Volca Beats can be loaded with your own rhythm samples.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Very Affordable

Cons

  • The sequencer steps are limited
  • No USB connection
  • The snare sound is inferior to other similarly-priced drum machines

When creating sequences with the sounds on the Korg Volca Drum Machine, you can easily tweak them with the onboard controls. You can also record those adjustments as well as the stutterer, speed changes, and layer on top of them.

On the negative side, the sequencer steps are rather limited, there is no USB connectivity, and the snare sound is considered inferior when compared to other drum machines with a similar price tag range.

TypeAnalog
SoundsSamples, effects
ConnectorsMIDI In, 1 x 1/8“Headphones, Sync I/O 3.5 mm
Other FeaturesLoop and step sequencer

The Korg VolcaBeats also has built-in speakers with batteries inside, so you can easily take your music with you wherever you go. That’s what makes this a great portable drum machine.

5. IK Multimedia UNO

Portable, easy-to-use
IK Multimedia's flagship drum machine.
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The IK Multimedia UNO Drum Machine is one of the best analog drum synthesizers (synths) with PCM capabilities. It has sixteen pads that trigger analog sounds and 100 drum kits, and 100 patterns built-in as a preset. This is great when building your own kit and storing it inside the drum machine.

Pros

  • Parameter automation
  • Five performance effects
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Low-cost plastic makes it feel cheap
  • Battery life is weaker than some competitors

It has loads of sound-shaping tools such as tune, decay, and snap for every sound as well as compression and global drive effects. You can also layer PCM and analog sounds together with 11-voice polyphony.

Naturally, it does have its drawbacks such as the build material. The plastic construction gives off a somewhat “cheap” vibe, and the battery life is rather weak when compared to other drum machines.

TypeAnalog
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors1/8″ line in, USB Micro B, 2 x 1/8“ MIDI In/Out, 1/8″ headphones/line out
Other Features16-step Sequencer, Real-time step recording with parameter recording

The programming and sequencing options are very easy to engage and there countless ways to manipulate the sounds and create your own beats. I’m talking hours of extreme fun coming up with your own kits.

6. Behringer RD-8

Mid-range
Great drum machine with authentic analog sound.
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The RD-8 is Behringer’s take on the classic TD-808. With their new and improved VA662 integrated circuit, it produces great snappy sound, just as the TD-808. It has a lot of connectivity inputs and outputs, which makes it great for producers and enthusiasts.

Pros

  • Great connectivity options
  • Powerful with a lot of features
  • Good for live performances

Cons

  • Bulky design
  • Not as portable as its direct rivals

What Behringer has accomplished with the RD-8 is bringing the sounds of some of the most iconic drum machines, adding a lot of features, and slapping a very affordable price tag on it. It really does offer a lot for a very competitive price.

Of course, it is not without a few setbacks. This includes the rather bulky design of the drum machine and the not-so-portable nature when compared to some of its rivals.

TypeAnalog
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors11 analog outputs, MIDI In/Out/Thru/USB, 1/4″ analog input, 1/4″ TRS (main/mono) analog output
Other FeaturesStep Sequencer, Wave Designer, Dual-mode Filter

The 64-step sequencer can store up to 256 patterns and 16 songs, and it can create incredibly complex song arrangements. This all leads to a much-improved workflow alongside one of the best step sequencers on the market.

7. Teenage Engineering PO-12

Affordable, Unique Design
Great, cheap drum machine with good sound.
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The Teenage Engineering PO-12 Rhythm machine comes with 16 sounds and patterns, all of which sounds pretty cool. It also has a built-in speaker, and LCD display and is powered via 2 standard AAA batteries.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • The animated display looks great
  • Amazing portability

Cons

  • It’s missing a lot of documentation
  • Steep learning curve
  • The controls aren’t intuitive

If you’re looking for an inexpensive pocket-sized, battery-powered drum machine, the Teenage Engineering PO-12 features a lot of fun sequencing and parameter adjusting capabilities.

Naturally, for affordable entries like this one, there are bound to be a few drawbacks. It is missing a lot of documentation, the learning curve is considered rather steep, and the controls are not intuitive.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, effects
ConnectorsLine input and output – 3.5 mm jack
Other FeaturesStep Sequencer, Integrated clock, and alarm clock

The Engineering PO-12 is one of the best pocket operators out there, and since it’s very affordable, there is no reason not to try it out if you are interested!

8. Boss DR-880

High-quality
Pretty good rhythm machine from a respectable company.
View Price at Amazon

The Boss DR-880 was released in 2004 and is packed with a lot of drum sounds, percussion sounds, as well as bass, sounds all deriving from the famed BOSS’s SRX library.

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Great sounds
  • High-quality device

Cons

  • You cannot load your own samples
  • No memory inside the drum machine

It has many different features built in, such as the “Groove Modify” which applies different triplet and groove feels to your sequence. Another big feature is the “EZ Compose”, which makes the process of programming very simple.

The lack of memory is a somewhat big drawback to this device as well as the fact that you cannot load your own samples on the drum machine.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
ConnectorsMIDI In/Out/USB, 1/4″ Master Out, Digital Out (coaxial), 1/4″ Individual Out A, B
Other FeaturesEZ Compose, Direct Guitar/Bass Input

Many guitarists and bass players used the DR-880 to simply plug their guitar directly into the drum machine and play through the built-in COSM Drive/Amp models and multi-effects.

9. Singular Sound BeatBuddy

Guitar Pedal
A guitar pedal with a built-in drum machine.
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The BeatBuddy is one of the easiest-to-use guitar drum pedals on the market. With a single stomp on the pedal, you can do fills, transitions, and outros.

Pros

  • Great realistic sound
  • A quick change to the tempo
  • Good display

Cons

  • A bit pricey for a pedal
  • Accompanying software is not that great

You can also use the BeatBuddy Manager software to create custom content that you can play on the pedal. The realistic sound produced, quick change of tempo and amazing display are just some of the great features this pedal offers.

For a guitar pedal, this is a somewhat pricey unit. Of course, if you have the budget, it is a great device. Additionally, the accompanying software is not amazing.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, effects
ConnectorsMIDI In/Out, USB Mini-B, 2 x 1/4″ inputs, 2 x 1/4″ outputs, 1 x 1/8″ headphone jack 
Other Features200 Editable song settings, SD Card Slot

It has 200 play-along songs in 21 genres that use recordings of real drummers. What’s also great about the pedal is that it has a headphone jack that you can use for silent practicing.

10. Korg ELECTRIBE2SRD

Great Quality
Sample-based production drum machine.
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The Korg ELECTRIBE2SRD sampler is a sample-based production drum machine that allows you to create beats very quickly. It has 16 velocity-sensitive multi-LED pads, which give you great visual feedback when creating patterns.

Pros

  • Great sampling capabilities
  • You can import waveform and resample
  • High-quality preset samples

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Sequencing is not as good as direct rivals

It has a huge selection of effects to add to the parts and patterns you create.

TypeDigital
SoundsPatterns, tracks, samples, effects
Connectors1/4” TS input, 1/4” TRS output, 1 x USB Micro-B, MIDI In/Out, 1 x 1/8“ headphone jack
Other FeaturesStep Sequencer

You may also select from 25 different groove types that mimic the playing style and rhythmic feel of percussion instruments. The ELECTRIBE2SRD also comes with 409 Analog Modeling/PCM Sounds, 250 Patterns, and much more.

What is a Drum Machine and How Does it Work?

A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument that creates drum sounds. Drum machines can mimic the sound of real drums or create completely new and unique drum sounds. 

Most drum machines have a built-in step sequencer, which allows the user to create drum patterns by pressing buttons or keys in a specific order. The drum patterns are then played back automatically by the machine. 

Drum machines can be either analog or digital. Analog drum machines use analog circuitry to create their sounds, while digital drum machines use digital samples of real drums or other sounds.

What is the Difference Between a Drum Machine and a MIDI Drum Pad?

Drum machines have sound generators that create drum sounds. Drum machines usually have a built-in step sequencer for creating drum patterns. MIDI drum pads do not have sound generators and cannot create drum sounds on their own. 

MIDI drum pads are drum controllers that send MIDI signals to a drum machine or other MIDI devices. MIDI drum pads usually have velocity-sensitive pads that can be used to create drum sounds.

What is the Difference Between Analog and Digital Drum Machines?

Analog drum machines use analog circuitry to create their sounds. Analog drum machines often have a “warm” sound because of the way that they process audio signals. 

Digital drum machines use digital samples of real drums or other sounds. Digital drum machines can often create more realistic drum sounds than analog drum machines. 

When buying a drum machine, you should consider what type of sounds you want to create, how easy the machine is to use, and how much you are willing to spend.

What are the various capabilities of a Drum Machine?

Drum machines can have various capabilities, depending on the model. Some drum machines can record your drum patterns and play them back. Other drum machines have a live mode, which allows you to play your drum patterns in real time. 

Some drum machines also have MIDI capabilities, which allow you to connect the drum machine to other MIDI devices. This can be used to trigger sounds from other devices or to control the sound of the drum machine from another device. 

Headphone connectivity is another important feature to consider when buying a drum machine. This allows you to listen to your drum patterns without disturbing others. USB connectivity is also a useful feature, as it allows you to connect the drum machine to a computer.

What to Look For in a Drum Machine When Buying?

If you want to create realistic drum sounds, you should look for a digital drum machine. If you want more analog sounds, you should look for an analog drum machine. 

Ease of use is important if you are new to using drum machines. Some drum machines have complicated step sequencers that can be difficult to use. Other drum machines have simpler step sequencers that are easier to use.

Naturally, you should consider the portability of the device, the connectivity options, how many sound/samples are on the drum machine, and lastly, the price of the device.

Conclusion

Once you figure out how portable you need your drum machine to be, which type of sounds are you looking for (digital/analog), and how simple or complex you need the step sequencer to be, this list will help you to decide which one is the right one for you. Also, other important things to keep in mind are the connectivity inputs and outputs.

My top drum machine pick is the Roland TR-8S, a high-quality drum machine for serious musicians and producers.

My budget drum machine pick is the Alesis SR-16, an affordable option for those on a budget who are after a good quality device.

Emil Pachkovski is a drummer and filmmaker. He is an audiovisual artist that loves to create and explore the abstract art of music and visuals.

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