With so many new drum machines released every year, some are bound to slip through the cracks. Here are five underrated drum machines that should be on your radar.
The Most Underrated Drum Machines
Nothing quickens the pulse like a good drum machine. The punchy sounds. The immediacy of programming beats on a sequencer. The portability. Sure, it’s easy enough to whack up a rhythm in your DAW but it isn’t nearly as much fun as jamming out with a beatbox, preferably one synced up to a synthesizer or two.
While there are plenty of drum machines on the market for music production (including some that excel at percussion synthesis), there are almost too many out there to keep track of. With so many excellent and inspiring drum boxes on the market, some just don’t get the love that they deserve. Here then are five underrated drum machines that you should consider adding to your arsenal.
Roland Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine
The budget drum machine market is absolutely awash with solid devices, from the Korg Volca line to low-cost entries from Elektron and Arturia. It makes sense, then, that Roland’s own contribution might escape your notice.
Part of Roland’s Aira Compact series, the T-8 Beat Machine is a low-cost drum machine/bass synth hybrid. It features six drum parts with on-the-money digital emulations of sounds from the company’s famous TR-606, TR-808, and TR-909 instruments as well as a bonus TB-303 acid bassline section. Add TR-style step sequencing, performance features, and effects, and you’ve got a fun and powerful little drum machine on your hands.
T-8 Beat Machine isn’t the most fully featured drum machine on the block but it is tons of fun. The price is right as well, making it an underrated drum machine that we can definitely recommend.
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Speaking of Elektron, the Swedish company may be known for its premium instruments like Analog Rytm MKII and Digitakt, but it also offers two drum machines in its Model line that will give you a taste of Elektron power without the sticker shock.
Model:Samples is (as you’d expect) a sample-based drum machine – Elektron calls it a groovebox – with six audio lanes for lining up drums and other percussive sounds. It comes pre-loaded with 300 samples from sample-provider Splice and also allows you to import your own. Elektron is praised for its sequencers and Model:Samples is no exception, with live and step sequencing, motion recording, and parameter locks.
If you’ve been wanting to explore the Elektron ecosystem, this underrated drum machine is a perfect entry point.
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Erica Synths Drum Synthesizer LXR-02
Erica Synths is another company often working on the cutting edge of electronic instruments. Its Perkons HD-01 gets a lot of drum machine attention but don’t forget about Drum Synthesizer LXR-02, which Erica designed in collaboration with Sonic Potions.
A digital drum machine with a focus on sound design, Drum Synthesizer LXR-02 features six drum instruments, each with 30 different tweakable parameters. Given that it’s digital, it can turn out everything from analogue drum machine-style emulations to dirty digital destruction, making it perfect for more leftfield sonic experiments. It has a 64-step sequencer, performance modes, and four assignable outs, indispensable for mixing things down.
While many drum machines are content to offer you the usual x0x sounds, this underrated drum machine delivers something a little more original.
- More from Erica Synths
Novation Circuit Rhythm
Drum machines are all well and good for most genres but when it comes to hip-hop, you’re going to want a machine that samples as well as sequences. If that’s you, Novation has just the thing: Circuit Rhythm.
Resembling the company’s Launchpad X more than a traditional drum machine, Novation Circuit Rhythm has 32 velocity-sensitive RGB pads and 28 buttons for beat-making. Each of the eight sample tracks has a dedicated 32-step sequencer, plus plenty of effects like reverb, delay and compression. You can use the 300 built-in sounds to get started or sample in your own directly from the hardware, with slice and resample parameters also on hand.
Novation Circuit Rhythm is bags of fun. Hip-hop and lo-fi heads, take note of this underrated drum machine.
- More from Novation
How can anything Moog be underrated? You may be familiar with Moog’s DFAM drum machine, the Drummer From Another Mother, but how many of you actually own one? We rest our case.
You don’t often associate Moog with drums and that’s a shame because the DFAM is a unique and gorgeous-sounding instrument. More a percussion synthesizer than a full-on drum machine, it offers a two-oscillator, synthesizer-like sound path tweaked to focus on percussion. The eight-step analogue sequencer keeps everything rhythmic while the additional 24 patch points offer a variety of additional synthesis possibilities.
The Moog DFAM’s sound is very analog so it won’t be for everyone. However, if your style leans towards classic EBM and industrial like Nitzer Ebb or DAF, this underrated drum machine will be just what you’re looking for.
- More from Moog Music
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- Roland Aira Compact T-8 Beat Machine: Roland
- Elektron Model:Samples: Elektron
- Erica Synths Drum Synthesizer LXR-02: Erica Synths
- Novation Circuit Rhythm: Novation
- Moog DFAM: Moog