Over the past decade, analog drum machines have made a huge resurgence. With electronic music more popular than it ever was and the desire to bring hardware back into the fold, many manufacturers are starting to bring back drum machines that most music producers can actually afford.
Plus, what's not to love about the tactile feeling you get from playing hardware drum machines? Twisting knobs, pushing buttons, and banging out rhythms on velocity-sensitive pads. It makes for a hands-on experience that you can't get from clicking and dragging MIDI notes around in your DAW.
Even beyond those looking for a studio-ready music production tool, drum machines can really elevate a live setup, especially for DJs and electronic music performers who want to add an improvisational element to their rigs.
The beautiful thing about analog units is that they work as standalone instruments, meaning you don't need to use a laptop to trigger samples with MIDI. From budget-friendly beatmakers to top-of-the-line grooveboxes and sequencers, come dive in with us as we explore some of the best drum machines on the market today.
Elektron Analog Rytm MKII - Best Sequencing Capabilities
One of the things that sets the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII apart from all the other drum machines on the list is the high-end onboard sequencer. You'll find the exact same hybrid analog/digital sound engine that can be found in the MKI unit, as well as the 13-step sequencer.
However, while the MKI drum machine used to sport backlit pressure-sensitive rubber pads, the team at Elektron decided to do a bit of spring cleaning and upgrading, replacing them with larger, softer pads. You can really take your finger drumming to an entirely different level, which is a massive leap forward from the MKI.
Just like before, each track or pad can host one of nine 'machines,' each of which serves as a self-contained synth engine tailored to craft specific drum sounds.
You get all of the sonic characteristics of the MKI, a fact that's definitely a positive, including sophisticated high-end, punchy midrange, and ample low-end presence.
With that said, the Rytm MkII has received enhancements in all the right areas, which is why it has taken a spot on our list as one of the best drum machines on the market today. It's a piece of gear that will undoubtedly keep you inspired.
- Heavily-improved hardware components from the MKI
- Quality pads and Digitakt-style sampling capabilities
- One of the best drum machines for electronica
- A bit pricey
Erica Synths Perkons HD-01 - Best Hybrid Drum Machine
The Perkons HD-01 is one of the best drum machines to reach the market in the past decade.
As a four-voice drum machine and rhythm synth, it encompasses the fusion of analog and sound generation. It comes equipped with an impressive set of eight controls for each of its voices, responsive, velocity-sensitive trigger inputs for drum pads, and a versatile multimode filter.
Beyond these standard features, the Perkons HD-01 also boasts a highly adaptable modulation LFO and provides decent memory storage with 64 kits and 64 patterns. If you want to take its capabilities even further, you can use the MIDI I/O for seamless connectivity with other pieces of gear in your studio.
The sequencer features four 16-step pattern lanes, and with each pattern lane, you get four time-multiplication options and four time-division choices, as well as probability settings and per-step ratcheting. Does your track need a bit more groove? Flip on one of the four shuffle algorithms! The sequencing process is so intuitive that you can truly get lost in it.
One thing that sets the Perkons apart from other drum machines on this list is the array of onboard effects to explore. You get an emulated bucket brigade delay, perfect for those dark, atmospheric repeats, as well as an optical compressor to give your beats a bit more glue and punch. At the end of the chain, they’ve included a master drive control for an extra layer of aggression.
It’s truly the ideal choice for any musician or producer who wants to craft their own unique beats and rhythms from the ground up without needing any other piece of hardware or software.
- Versatile combination of analog and digital drum sounds
- Multi-mode filtering capabilities
- Extensive effects section
- The learning curve is quite complex
Roland TR-06 Drumatix - Best Classic Revamp
Roland has manufactured some of the best drum machines in history, many of which have left their mark on music across a wide spectrum of genres. And with four decades of experience in the field, the company knows a thing or two about making devices that shine.
While the TR-808 and 909 drum machines are somewhat household names at this point, the TR-606 Drumatix, in my opinion, doesn't get the love it truly merits. Originally designed to complement the TB-303, the TR-606 became synonymous with acid house.
In recent years, Roland decided to reintroduce it for a new generation of music producers. Now, we have the Roland TR-06 Boutique.
With an ultra-compact design, the TR-06 employs Roland's famous analog Circuit Behavior technology, which faithfully recreates the classic 606 sounds that we all know and love. It also provides the ability to program 32 steps per pattern for tons of flexibility.
As for the memory, you can store up to 128 patterns across eight different songs.
With an upgraded effects engine, you get access to a wide range of sound design possibilities, including distortion, delay, bit crushing, and more. You can even add flams to your snares for a bit more realism or ratchets to your hi-hats, which is key for making trap beats.
The TR-06 drum machine is so much more than a mere copy of the original 606 drum machine. Even though it retains all the vintage characteristics of the classic Roland unit, the development team did a great job of expanding what it is capable of, making it an equally innovative production tool.
- Portable, battery-operated design
- Comes with tons of trigger outputs
- Sound engine is true to the original
- Does not include velocity-sensitive pads
Korg Volca Drum - Surprisingly Deep Multi-Layer Engine
I'll admit that the first time I looked at the Korg Volca Drum, I highly underestimated its capabilities. Even with its tiny interface and unassuming design, you can pull a lot of creativity from this little machine.
There are a few hardware units in the Volca lineup, including the Korg Volca Beats and the Korg Volca Kick, each of which gives you analog sounds in ultra-portable drum machine formats. The company even put out a Volca Sample unit, which allows you to upload your own samples into the mix for more customized beats.
The Korg Volca Drum just happens to be my favorite, as it has a weirder and wilder palette of percussive instruments than its cousins, all thanks to the digital synthesis design.
Up until the Volca Drum came out, the hardware units in the lineup were quite simple. The thing that stands out about the Volca Drum's design is the in-depth multi-layer synth engine, which is the perfect foundation for designing your own sounds. Plus, you can't beat the fact that it's a lot of fun to play around with.
If you’re an electronic music producer and you're looking for an analog drum machine that doesn't output the same old ‘80s drum samples, the Volca Drum is one of the best drum machines around.
- One-of-a-kind percussion palette
- Surprisingly in-depth sound engine
- Onboard motion sequencer
- Limited real-time performance capabilities
Teenage Engineering PO-32 - Best Budget-Friendly Drum Machine
Though the Teenage Engineering PO-32 Pocket Operator drum machine looks more like a product from the Texas Instruments line than an actual drum machine, it's one of the most uniquely flexible and budget-friendly hardware units on the market.
There are actually multiple iterations of the Pocket Operator drum machine, each of which has its own character and style. For example, we have the PO-24 Office, which uses noise-based percussion, the PO-12 Rhythm, which is basically an ‘80s-style drum machine, and the PO-32 Tonic, which uses sounds from the Sonic Charge Microtonic, a software drum synth that hit the market over ten years ago.
Even with its portable size, it creates an entire song with 64 onboard patterns and pattern-chaining functionality. The best part is that you can take multiple Pocket Operators and sync them to each other or other pieces of gear to create an ensemble of drum machines and samplers.
The one downside is that the hardware itself can be a bit finicky, though if you're up for a little experimentation, the PO-32 is tons of fun to use and might just be the best analog drum machine for those who are on a budget.
- Very portable design
- Can be synced up with other Pocket Operators
- The interface is a bit finicky
Roland TR-8s - Best for Live Performance Sequencing
Roland has done a bang-up job at maintaining its leading position in the drum machine industry, and its latest TR-8S represents a highly contemporary approach.
This reimagined digital drum sequencer boasts a vast array of drum sounds, including the renowned classic 808 and 909 kits that have long been associated with Roland's legacy.
One of the things I love so much about the Roland TR-8s drum machine compared to its predecessors is how customizable it feels. You can load up your own custom samples into the device and integrate them into the sequencer in a pinch.
Both analog and user-uploaded samples can then be adjusted and fine-tuned using the wide range of onboard parameters, including the Delay and Master FX sections.
However, the most appealing aspect of the TR-8s is how tactile and hands-on the interface feels. It might be one of the best modern drum machines for live performances. The one downside is that you’ll only find a single drum pad, so you have to be someone that enjoys tweaking knobs.
Overall, if you’re in search of a mid-priced drum machine with seemingly endless capabilities, the Roland TR-8s delivers an exceptional level of flexibility, incorporating all the features you could want from a drum machine today.
- Hands-on sequencing capabilities are great for live performances
- Single track and master effects
- Multiple onboard trigger sources and outputs
- Did not stay true to the real-time song writing system from the original 808
Behringer RD-8 - Best 808 Emulation
Behringer has really stepped it up over the past few years. As a long-time guitarist, I used to see Behringer as “that off-brand company that manufactures cheap, knockoff guitar pedals.” However, the more and more I saw people using their gear, the more and more I thought they maybe had something to offer.
It actually wasn’t until I saw what they did with the emulation of the original Roland TR-808 that I truly began paying attention.
Shuffling through forums and trying to get inside information, it doesn’t seem as if Roland has plans to release a fully analog version of the original 808 again. However, with the rising popularity of secondhand analog drum machines, some company needed to step in and get to work. That company was Behringer.
While purists will be the first to note that there are a few design differences between the Behringer RD-8 and the original 808, the fact is that this copycat drum machine excels where it matters most.
The analog-style sound engine provides a warm, robust, and gooey character that we all know and love. Each of the elements, including the kick, rim snares, and toms, is remarkably close in sound to the original. In a blind test, I would say 95% of people would have a hard time differentiating.
You’ll likely notice a slight variation in the pitch and tonality of the cowbell, cymbals, and hats, though it’s definitely not a bad thing.
One thing I was quite surprised by was how solid the hardware is. Some producers who prioritize portability might consider it somewhat unwieldy, though when you consider the fact that the original unit is pretty weighty, Behringer did an authentic job.
In fact, it’s this same weightiness that’s completely absent in the TR-8s or Roland’s other Boutique drum machine units.
The sequencing updates are nice, including the introduction of solo and mute features, note repeat functionality, kick-tuning capabilities, and track selection buttons instead of the OG dial. While I can certainly welcome some of the other new features, like the flams, fills, and probability steps, I feel like Behringer needs a bit more work to get these up to snuff with other competing units.
Overall, when I first played around with the Behringer RD-8, I’ll admit that I approached it with absolute skepticism. However, I can’t deny how well they’ve done at recreating the workflow and sound quality of the original 808. With all of that at such a low price point, it’s a steal.
It's also worth noting that if you're into making house music, you should also check out the Behringer RD-9, which emulates the sounds from the TR-909.
- Convincing recreation of the original 808
- Tons of performance effects
- Individual outputs for each of the drum sounds
- Can be operationally confusing for some
Roland Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine - Best Portable Drum Machine
I was pretty stoked when Roland put out the Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine, as I feel like the market for portable yet quality drum machines wasn’t quite filled out.
It’s clear that the developers at Roland designed this drum machine with mobility in mind, as it features a lightweight and compact build, making it an excellent choice for musicians on the move.
Even with its small size, It incorporates a 32-step sequencer, making it easy to create intricate rhythmic patterns.
If you’re a fan of the analog sound, you’ll be happy to know that the Roland Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine also boasts the timeless sounds of the Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-606, and TR-303. The sonic possibilities are endless.
It also comes equipped with onboard MIDI capabilities and a potent FX engine, offering more than enough versatility for any music producer. It’s also worth noting that the thing that makes it so portable is the fact that it includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, providing up to 4.5 hours of uninterrupted operation, wherever in the world you are.
All in all, the Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine is the ideal companion for any on-the-go musical endeavors.
- Ultra-portable form factor
- Onboard sounds are great
- Tons of sequencing possibilities
- Endless menu-diving for many operations
Elektron Digitakt Drum Machine - Best Drum Machine for Sampling
When it comes to sample-based drum machines, the Elektron Digitakt undoubtedly reigns supreme. You get many capabilities to explore on the distinctive interface, thanks to the eight-voice sample player.
The unit combines top-notch drum machine functions with robust sampling capabilities, offering a groove box-like experience for those who want to program intricate drum patterns and rhythms. Plus, with a plethora of sample processing options, the creative possibilities are near endless.
Of course, with such an extensive feature set, it's important to note that the Digitakt has a learning curve. In a small review like this, it’s a bit challenging to summarize, and I think you’re best exploring it for yourself to find out how the workflow feels to you.
However, if you’re someone who’s dedicated to fully exploring the limitless possibilities of high-end drum machines, this is an absolutely remarkable unit that offers a wealth of creative potential.
I will say that the actual sampling process you get with the Digitakt is very seamless. You can sample without interrupting the step sequencer, which I love for workflow’s sake. The Digitakt's sound engine is undeniably solid, despite the unfair stereotype that most musicians feel when they hear something is 'digital.'
Plus, with the overdrive and bit reduction functions, you can add that extra bit of character and weight to the onboard sounds for a more ‘analog’ feel. For those who want to venture into more esoteric sampling, the looping and sample manipulation capabilities are out of this world.
- Very powerful and flexible sampling engine
- Swift workflow
- In-depth sampling capabilities
- Does not have a direct SD or USB port for sample transfers
IK Multimedia UNO Drum - Most Versatile Portable Drum Machine
Fans of IK Multimedia's UNO Synth, or IK Multimedia in general, might enjoy what the companion UNO Drum has to offer. You’ll find many of the same design elements as the UNO Synth, including the weight, dimensions, front panel, and rotary controls.
With just four dials on this drum machine, you can manage a wide range of parameters situated at the top left of the unit. The UNO Drum comes equipped with a 16-step sequencer below 12 touch-sensitive drum pads and offers 12 drum components scattered across 100 preset kits, meaning you can create up to 100 distinct patterns.
One of the standout attributes of the UNO Drum is its combination of extensive sound manipulation possibilities and analog sounds. It’s super easy to shape, blend, stretch, and modify almost every sound in here, from the analog sounds to the PCM ones.
In essence, you could spend hours crafting unique, highly customized kits, and if IK Multimedia takes care of this drum machine like they do with all of their other software, we can probably expect more sounds with a software update in the future.
Regardless, even as it is right now, the UNO Drum is a lightweight and compact IK hardware unit that performs beautifully and looks good to match.
Even some of the larger drum machines can’t stand up to its functionality.
- Compact design
- Tons of quality stock sounds
- Relatively affordable for how feature-rich it is
- Sequencing capabilities are pretty basic
Arturia Drumbrute Impact - Best Drum Machine for Beginners
Unless you have thousands of dollars to blow, getting your hand on a vintage drum machine can be pretty difficult. Luckily, in recent years, we've seen the emergence of VST instruments that effectively replicate older hardware synths and drum machines, delivering sound quality that’s pretty darn close to their hardware counterparts.
Arturia became famous for its V Collection, which is essentially a bundle of VST synths that emulate some of the most iconic hardware synthesizers of all time, including the Prophet, Moog, Juno-60, and more.
The Arturia DrumBrute Impact takes the same approach but in hardware form. It’s the company’s second hardware drum machine and one of the best options for beginners.
DrumBrute captures the look and sound of classic drum machines as an analog drum synthesizer, though while it remains faithful to its vintage roots, it also boasts superior modern audio specs.
For example, you don’t get a crazy high noise floor like you do with some of its classic counterparts.
You’ll find ten true analog sounds, a 64-step pattern step sequencer, onboard effects, and excellent connectivity, all wrapped up in a user-friendly interface.
The vibe that DrumBrute delivers is distinctly 80s, and as you flip through the sound patches on this thing, you’ll find that many of them are reminiscent of what iconic groups like The Human League and Depeche Mode might have used in their heydays.
You get twelve physical channels for various drum sounds, including a kick, two snares, two toms, a cymbal, a cowbell, a closed and open hi-hat, and an FM drive. If I were to have to critique anything about this unit, it would be that the snare drums can sometimes sound a bit lackluster.
You also don’t get as many sounds as you would with other digital drum machines, so if you’re into having a massive palette to choose from, you might look elsewhere.
However, in terms of performance, the DrumBrute Impact goes beyond basic beat-making. There are endless ways to customize and tweak your grooves to your liking, especially with the wide variety of features like Song mode, Pattern Looper, Randomness, Swing, and Step Repeat.
I love that they’ve included a metronome and mute/solo buttons for selected channels.
Overall, the Arturia DrumBrute Impact drum machine is one of the most intuitive drum machines on the market today, and the sequencer is great for stringing together different patterns. I’d highly recommend it to anyone stepping foot in the world of drum machines for the very first time.
- Very intuitive design
- Tons of great sequencing capabilities
- Durable hardware
- Does not come with many sounds
Elektron Model:Samples - Best Design
Rather than taking the role of a typical drum machine, Elektron's Model:Samples leans more towards being a groove box. Even with that said, it's still pretty darn cool and deserves a spot on our list.
It comes equipped with 16 sequencing keys, 16 knobs, 15 buttons, and six pads, all wrapped up in a gorgeous, sci-fi-style control surface with a small digital display. The design is quite minimalist, which I love, and with such intuitive operation, you can cook up beats in no time.
All in all, I like to think of Model:Samples as a quality step-sequencer that also happens to dabble in sample playback. You can chain up to 64 patterns in real time, and each project can hold up to 96 patterns. In total, the M:S drive gives you space for up to 96 projects, and each project can play with up to 64MB of samples.
Even though it's straightforward in its sample functionality and design, it offers a boatload of fun with its sequencer capabilities. Even if all it did was act as a sequencer, I’d still probably want it.
It's a really solid buy for newcomers, though it's just as much of a hit with experienced producers who want instant gratification.
- Top-of-the-line step sequencer
- Beautiful interface with plenty of controls
- Priced really well
- Limited editing capabilities
Final Thoughts - The Best Drum Machines
There you have it, the best drum machines on the market today, whether for music production, live performance, or a hybrid of the two.
The drum machine has been an integral component for beatmakers for years now, and to this day, there's nothing that can replace the tactile feel of having a hardware machine at your fingertips. Whether you're a complete beginner or an experienced producer, there's a drum machine out there for you.