Drum patterns are the foundational element in so many styles of music we listen to every day. We’ve selected some of the best budget drum machines for creating basic rhythms, no matter what you’re trying to create.
Traditionally, programmable drum machines were always rather expensive. It was only when instruments like the Roland TR-606 and the Korg KPR-77 were launched in the early 1980s that these instruments became more accessible to musicians.
Choosing the best budget drum machines
For the purpose of simplicity, we’ve looked specifically at vintage-style drum machines with onboard sequencing capabilities. Although we looked at a wide range of products for this list, we decided on those that are exclusively drum machines.
If you’re looking for more extensive capabilities like sampling or pattern synthesis, please check out our posts on grooveboxes.
Korg Volca Beats
It’s been around almost a decade, but the Korg Volca Beats is still one of the best entry points into the world of drum machines currently available. It’s often referred to as the “budget 808″, due to its somewhat similar sound palette.
However, despite the rather toyish feel of the interface, the Volca Beats still offers its own unique edge, especially when you use the Stutter, Active Step, and Step Jump functions. Luckily, 808 sounds aren’t going out of style anytime soon, so neither will the Volca Beats.
Korg Volca Beats
There’s no denying Behringer excels at vintage-style gear on a budget, and the RD-6 is a perfect example of this. Based on the famous Roland TR-606, the RD-6 captures the magic of the classic without leaving out important features like individual voice-outs.
There’s also a definite nod to the Acid House movement that made the 606 famous. With the Tone and Distortion knobs, you can really add some edge to your sound. Overall, an amazing instrument for the price.
Arturia Drumbrute Impact
In classic Arturia style, the Drumbrute Impact offers features that are out of reach for most drum machines. For starters, the ability to add not only accents but tonal colouration per step allows for more subtle expression and detail than you’d expect in a budget drum machine.
Having a Song Mode is useful from a sequencing perspective, especially for live performance, and distortion can be added to individual voices or over the main outputs. Yes, it’s analogue, but there is also an FM voice which adds an interesting element.
Arturia DrumBrute Impact
Another classic reborn, the RD-9 brings us the world-famous TR-909 techno drum machine at a price you probably won’t regret later. All the fun of programming the original 909 has been preserved, and you have a few new bells and whistles at your fingertips too.
The dual-mode filter and wave designer puts the RD-9 on a new level as an instrument, as you aren’t stuck with the stock 909 sound parameters (even though they sound amazing). It’s also got great connective capabilities for linking with other gear, which is useful.
The TR-6S is one of the most complete instruments you’ll find in this size and price range. Drawing from Roland’s epic legacy of drum machine design, you get all the classic sounds in a single modern device with stacks of creative power.
Because of the features, there are many ways to approach the TR-6S. Whether you’re taking the old-school purist approach or using your own sample library, the level of expressive control in the sequencer and effects allows real control over the production of your drums.
Roland TR-6S Rhythm Performer
What are some of your favourite drum machines? Please let us know in the comments below!
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- Korg Volca Beats: Korg
- Behringer RD-6: Behringer
- Arturia Drumbrute Impact: Arturia
- Behringer RD-9: Behringer
- Roland TR-6S: Roland TR-6S