11 BEST Drum Machines In 2020: Top Buying Guide & Reviews
Arturia DrumBrute Impact
Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
Teenage Engineering PO-12
Table of Contents
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Setting up a studio is an exciting event for any musician. It offers more options to make music. Even if you do not have the expertise in playing an instrument, there are plenty of alternatives that you can use to continue to produce music.
A great example of this is the use of drum machines. With this gadget, it is easier to add necessary drum beats to your songs even if you do not have a drum kit. It is also a great addition to smaller studios as it is a tabletop gadget and is a lot more compact than a full acoustic drum kit.
There are many good choices out there when it comes to drum machines. They are, after all, cheaper than getting a full acoustic or electronic kit. However, just like everyone else, you probably need some help deciding which one is the best.
This article will go through some of the best options depending on the purpose you would like to use it for, your budget, and whether or not it is beginner-friendly. Let us get started!
Top 3 Best Drum Machines
Before we go through more specific criteria, first, let us go through our top three. These drum machines are the best out of all the ones on this list. With top-quality features, these are well-liked by professional and amateur music producers.
Compare BEST Drum Machines
✔Analog drum machine with 10 sounds
✔64-step pattern sequencing
✔6-voice setup that can support up to 16 sounds per beat
✔Includes both low-pass and high-pass filters
✔Produces 16 different drum sounds, such as drums, percussions, hi-hats, cowbells and more
✔Powerful analog drum sounds
✔Real analog sounds
✔Highly flexible sound engine with sampling capabilities
✔Live-friendly 8-voice sequencer drum machine
✔Performance drum machine
✔128 Patterns and 8 variations
✔128 drum kits
✔Large backlit pads
✔Digital percussion synth with a 6-part by a 2-layer structure
✔Newly developed DSP engine
✔Offers tweakable drum synth with 16 preset sounds that can be swapped out with VST data transfer
✔6 FM based machines
✔Assignable LFO and velocity modulation per track
11 BEST Drum Machines
1. Arturia DrumBrute Impact
If you are looking for an affordable drum machine that sounds amazing, the Arturia DrumBrute Impact is the right one for you. It may not have an abundance of fancy features, but this kit has everything you will need in a drum machine.
The size of this drum machine is small. It can fit on any tabletop and is easy to transport around if you ever need to bring it to gigs or live shows. Despite its size, the DrumBrute Impact packs a huge punch in terms of quality.
The Arturia DrumBrute Impact (not to be confused with the Arturia DrumBrute) has a good sound synthesis section, with over 10 different adjustable instruments. It has all the sounds of a full drum kit, including a wildcard FM drum.
The sound synthesis is pretty straightforward, allowing you to store up to sixty-four patterns in four banks. It also allows for live sequencing, with an easy way to hook it up to a drum kit as well as a polyrhythm.
One problem that people see with this drum machine is that it is not the best when it comes to versatility. You cannot sequence or automate the FM drum. However, for its affordable price range, minor downsides, such as this, are to be expected.
Its best feature is probably the color and distortion effects, which allows you to fiddle with the preinstalled sounds, creating even more unique variations.
- Analog drum machine with 10 sounds
- 64-step pattern sequencing
- Distortion/Color effect
- Song mode
2. Dave Smith Instruments Tempest
This drum machine has been getting quite a lot of attention based on the fact that it is made by two of the most famous electronic instruments creators: David Smith and Roger Linn.
The combination of metal and wood design makes the drum a beautiful addition to any studio setup or on stage. It is also compact and lightweight, so it is easy to pack up and move around during gigs or live shows.
Despite being marketed as a simple instrument, the Tempest is actually a hybrid between a drum machine and a synth that is made for both studio and stage use. It has over 450 sounds including analog and digital drum kits as well as other noises and effects. These effects include distortion and compression as well as roll and reverse functions that you can tamper with on the go.
It takes some time to get used to it, but once you get the hang of it, you will find that it has a pretty simple set up. This includes sliders that are easier to use than the usual wheels or dials when it comes to browsing through your preset sounds.
The sound quality of the Tempest is simply sublime. However, many users are a bit disappointed with the lack of storage space. The Tempest does not have an SD card slot or a USB port for keeping a bigger part of your custom samples. The machine is also on the expensive side and is known to have some OS-related bugs.
According to creators David Smith and Roger Linn, the machine is not finished yet and people should expect more updates and fixes soon.
- 6-voice setup that can support up to 16 sounds per beat
- 2 DCO plus 2 digital oscillators are included (2 sample-based/wave-shape based oscillator and sub-oscillators)
- Includes both low-pass and high-pass filters
- Has 5 envelopes, 2 LFOs, VCA with a feedback loop and robust modulation options
- Includes headphones and aux input
- Is a hybrid digital/analog-type synth
- Comes with onboard distortion and compression effects
- Includes 2 expression pedals
- Has 16 sequencer triggers
3. Teenage Engineering PO-12
If you are looking for something cheap but amazing, you should check out Teenage Engineering’s PO-12. This drum machine (yes, it is, in fact, a drum machine), despite being cheap and pocket-sized, can pitch quite a punch.
Do not let its size fool you. The PO-12 has 16 different drum sounds, 16 different drum effects, built-in speakers, an LED screen, and features that allow you to create a whole song on-the-go.
The PO-12 does not seem much with its cryptic symbols that can only be deciphered through the use of manuals and generally small interface. However, the sound quality of this drum machine can rival the quality of others that are four times its price. If you are not too excited about the way this drum machine looks, there are cases sold for Pocket Operators in the market.
The PO-12 can handle 60BPM up to a whopping 240 BPM and has a surprisingly long battery life that can last up to two years. The parameter lock feature and synth functions are incredible considering how cheap this thing is. Additionally, you can connect it to phones, laptops, and even other electronic instruments, although some users claim that there are some distortion issues when the PO-12 is connected to too many instruments.
Some of the programmed sounds can seem a bit distorted at first, however, users have found that it can easily be solved with a few tweaks.
- Produces 16 different drum sounds, such as drums, percussions, hi-hats, cowbells and more
- Offers 16 built-in effects including distortion, delay, stutter, and vibrato
- Has a 16-step sequencer and multiplier that allows you to create a whole song on-the-go
- Allows you to fine-tune effects around the speed of 60BPM to 240 BPM in real-time
- Has a jam-sync function that you can use to connect with other Pocket Operators
- Includes parameter locks
- Has a built-in speaker
- Comes with a folding stand
Best Drum Machine Sampler
If you are looking for a drum machine that you can use to record custom samples or edit them, then these are the top drum machines for you. These machines are not just great when it comes to the drum sounds but are also perfect for any musician who is looking to record personalized pieces and wants to use custom samples for their music.
4. Korg Volca Beats
The Korg Volca Beats is one of the more famous drum machines in the market, and for good reason. The number of features and sound quality of this small, compact analog drum machine has rivaled those that are priced much higher.
This drum machine is pretty straightforward and easy to use. It also has Korg-brand durability, so you are confident that it will last for years. If you plan on getting this drum machine, make sure to get your own AC adapter as it does not come with the package. It also only has one audio output which is likely a result of the lowered price.
According to users, the Korg Volca Beats has limited space, but this is often the case with analog drum machines.
- Powerful analog drum sounds
- Real analog sounds
- 6 customizable analog parts
- Maximum effect from minimal parameters
- PCM sound engine
- Electribe-style 16-step loop sequencer with 8 memory patches
- Includes several useful functions such as stutter, Active Step and Step Jump that are easy to use
- MIDI In for note entry
- Sync In and Out features
- External sync features and DAW control
- Built-in speaker and optional battery power
5. Elektron Digitakt Drum Machine
Coming from Elektron, a company known for producing quality electronic instruments, Digitakt gained lots of traction at the moment of its release. Small and compact, this drum machine is not just perfect for the small studio, but it is also easy to travel around with should you decide to use it for live shows.
Digitakt is made with live-sampling in mind, hence the amount of real-time effects and sampling features included in this drum machine. It also has plenty of effects, drum kits, and sounds to play around with, which actually has an exceptionally clean sound quality.
One problem some users find with this machine is, aside from its slightly steep price, the lack of a direct USB or SD card port. This means you will need to process your samples using a computer and with the right software, which is a bit of a hassle to some. There are also some reported problems with the workflow of this drum machine.
- Highly flexible sound engine with sampling capabilities
- Live-friendly 8-voice sequencer drum machine
- Dedicated tracks for external MIDI control
- Durable backlit buttons and hi-res encoders
- Ultra-crisp OLED screen
- Overbridge enabled
Best Drum Machines for Live Performance
If you are looking for a drum machine to take to live performances, you probably prefer one with synth features. This section brings you just that as well as ones that are compact and durable so you can travel with them as much as you want without worrying about them breaking down.
6. Roland TR-8S
If you have been in the drumming scene for a while, you probably recognize the brand Roland. This drum machine from Roland may seem pricey, but it is a combination of all the fantastic features from Roland drum machines.
As expected, it is a sturdy unit with an incredible sound quality that is made with live performances in mind. With lots of features to use for composing on-the-go and a huge library of preset sounds and effects, this drum machine has amazing sampling features. If you are worried about sample storage space, then you will be pleased to know that it comes with an SD card slot.
Users have commented about its easy customizability, so if you are the type who likes to fiddle with their instruments, then you might find the TR-8S a delight to have around.
True to Roland’s quality, this drum machine is durable and looks fantastic with its sleek and modern look.
- Performance drum machine
- 128 Patterns and 8 variations
- 128 drum kits
- 11 instrument parts per kit and sound
- 300 pre-installed sounds
- Recordable sound automation
- Lots of effects such as reverb, delay, master effects, sidechain and scatter
- Includes 2 main outs, 6 outs, 2 external Ins, a headphone input, USB audio, MIDI In and Out and a Trigger Out
- Authentic TRS drums sampled sounds and effects for design kits
- Lots of preset samples
- Has an SD card slot for expandable external storage
- Has a master effects knob and customizable control knobs for each channel
Best Mid-Range Drum Kit
If you are alright about shelling out a little bit more for your next kit, then the next suggestions are the best mid-range kits of all time. Some of the drums here are preferred by professionals, such as Phil Collins and Taylor Hawkins, so you can be sure that they are of top-quality. Let’s start!
7. Elektron Analog Rytm MkII
When it comes to drum machines, Elektron is a pretty big name. This latest product from their company is ideal for both beginners and advanced users.
With sampling features that can be used on-the-go, there is no doubt that the Rytm MkII is made with live performances in mind. As expected from Elektron, the machine is not only durable but has quite a lot of high-quality sounds and drum kits for you to play around with.
In addition, the high-definition OLED, large backlit pads, and increased function buttons allow you to do just that with ease. The dedicated controls that are meant to provide you with instant access to its many functions make sampling a breeze.
It has an impressive 64-step sequencer for improved workflow. Unfortunately, changes in tempo cannot be applied to a single pattern, so you will need to increase or decrease the tempo of an entire sample. The patterns cannot be renamed and the memory isn’t expandable via external storage, which is a disappointment considering that this box has a pretty steep price tag. However, you can still free up storage by connecting it to your computer via the Overbridge software that comes with it.
- High-definition OLED
- Large backlit pads
- High-precision, high-resolution encoders
- Lots of dedicated controls for instant access to functions
- Expression input and CV input for external control
- 64-step sequencer
- Comes with Overbridge software
- Sampling capability with balanced inputs
- Durable premium cast aluminum enclosure
Best Budget Drum Machines
If you are a beginner who is looking for a cheap drum machine to try out or are simply on a budget, this section is specifically for you. I will be going through some cheap drum machines that are considered beasts when it comes to their functions. Who says you cannot make music on a good quality drum machine even on a budget?
8. Korg Volca Drum Machine
If you are looking for a more affordable option than an Elektron without compromising the quality of your sounds, Korg Volca Drum Machine is definitely up your alley. This kit can be a bit too overwhelming if you are just a beginner. However, this is a great kit to check out if you aim to use it for professional music production and live shows. It is not only affordable but has great sound quality.
The Volca comes with an optional battery and built-in speaker, so it is ideal for use in studios or live shows. One problem users find lacking in this machine is the lack of audio output. There seems to be only one. Still, some effects like the WaveGuide resonator make the kit top-class. The WaveGuide resonator drastically improves sound depth.
Some features make the kit fun to have, such as the ability to adjust the waveform trigger, its wavefolder depth and overdrive level, choke functions, and many more.
Despite having only one audio output, the Volca is known to be better than its predecessors. This machine has an LCD screen to help you with visualizing your creation process. It can be synced with other Volca and Electribe units as well as your DAW.
- Digital percussion synth with a 6-part by a 2-layer structure
- Newly developed DSP engine
- 5 oscillator types
- Waveform trigger, wavefolder depth, and overdrive level is adjustable
- WaveGuide resonator improves the depth of sound
- 16-step sequencer with parameter automation
- Choke functions to help you with grouping
- Features a custom LCD screen
- Synchronizable with other Volca and Electribe units
- Can be synced with your DAW
9. Teenage Engineering PO-32
Similar to the infamous PO-12, the looks of the PO-32 is not its best feature. However, the PO-32 has a surprisingly good sound quality, with lots of effects and drum synth sounds that you can use to create your samples in real-time.
This pocket-sized machine has built-in speakers and a battery case, which makes it perfect for traveling. It also comes with a small microphone, so you can record and edit its sonic palette and even an LCD screen to make navigating easier for you.
Despite the “naked-look” of the PO-32, it is extremely flexible, with plenty of ways for you to connect your device to a computer and customize the preinstalled sounds. It also has cross-platform abilities, which give you even more drum kits and sound effects that you can use while sampling.
To many users, the workflow seems to be a bit confusing and the symbols on the buttons are so small that they can appear cryptic. Because of this, you may need some time to get used to the PO-32 and go through its manuals. Still, this is a small setback compared to everything you can do with such a small and affordable drum machine.
Additionally, if you want even more options when it comes to kits, effects, and customization features, you can always download the Microtonic plug-in. However, this almost doubles the price of the device.
- Offers tweakable drum synth with 16 preset sounds that can be swapped out with VST data transfer
- Supports Microtonic VST/AU transfer via microphone or a line-in jack
- Repeat selected sounds and create full songs with onboard 64-pattern chaining
- Can work as a standalone using built-in Knowles speaker
- Syncs with multiple pocket operators and even devices like computers, volca or SyncKontrol
Best Professional Drum Sets
In this section, we will be talking about the top luxury brands that every drummer dreams to have. These drums surpass the $1000 mark and are known to provide unrivaled sound quality and durability. If you want to spoil yourself a bit, then you should check these out!
10. Elektron Model: Cycles
Despite being known to create drum machines that are meant for professional use with complicated workflows and effects, the Model: Cycles from Elektron is created with beginners in mind.
The workflow of this device is simple and easy to play around with. If you are a beginner, you will surely find it fun and motivating to continue learning the ins and outs of this drum machine.
Despite being labeled “entry-level”, the specs and features of this drum machine are superb. Some of its features rival professional machines with much higher prices.
The Elektron-brand sequencer ensures that this machine is of the highest quality with plenty of depth and character. It has quite a huge variety of effects and FM synth sounds for you to play around with and with fairly large storage space. You can save a lot of samples to use later.
The one problem that users encounter with this machine is that there is no arpeggiator. Still, at such an affordable price, I feel like this is something that could be looked over.
It is also important to note that this drum machine has no battery power, so it stays plugged in the studio and can’t be used while traveling to make on-the-go samples.
However, this machine is simple, neat, and durable with awesome sequencing tools that are perfect for beginners who want something that will last them for years.
- 6 FM based machines
- Assignable LFO and velocity modulation per track
- Storage space for up to 60k presets
- Elektron sequencer with up to 64 steps
- Unique length and scale settings per track
- Parameter locks, micro timing, trig conditions and assignable retrig
- Grid recording of notes and parameters
- Master, delay, and reverb send effects
- 6 velocity-sensitive pads
- USB audio 2.0
- Includes a headphone jack, 2 impedance audio out jacks and a hi-speed USB 2.0 Micro B port
- Includes a pixel LCD screen
11. Roland TR-08
Here’s a sturdy machine that is great for beginners due to it’s simple and straightforward workflow.
This drum machine is compact and easy to pack, so you can give it a nifty place in your studio (and prop it up on the cool boutique deck it comes with) or bring it with you during live shows. Additionally, you can make samples and play around with its great compendium of interesting sound effects on-the-go since the TR-08 has a built-in battery case.
The connection is also fairly easy with USB ports, although additional outputs can only be added this way as well.
While the sound editing is not very detailed, it is still fairly simple and easy to get used to especially if you are a beginner. The TR-08 is also highly customizable with front panels that can be programmed separately. For easy navigation, it also has an LED screen that you can refer to.
Being made by Roland, it has their stamp of quality and durability, so this unit will surely last you for a very long time.
- A compact version of the TR-808 drum machine
- Includes Step and Tap write modes
- Comes with a Boutique Dock
- Dedicated trigger output for track select and external instrument control
- Controls for tone, level, tuning, and decay
- Can add a compressor, gain, tune and pan effects for certain instruments
- Battery or USB power
- Built-in speaker
- 16-step sequencer with 16 sub-steps
This concludes our top 11 best drum machines that you can buy in 2020. I hope I was able to give you a few options to choose from for picking your next drum machine!