Best Drum Machine for Beginners

The Best Drum Machine for Beginners

So you’re looking for your first drum computer? With so many rhythm boxes out there nowadays, how are you ever going to pick the one that’s right for you? In this article, I’ll show you the best drum machines for beginners.

Analog, Digital, or Hybrid?

First of all, let’s talk about the different kinds of drum machines. Some are more suited for the studio while others are amazing in live situations. Some drum computers have a very specific sound, while others are extremely versatile.

Analog drum computers create sound with analog electronics. They typically don’t use samples, although, sometimes a hi-hat or crash may be sampled, like on the TR909 from Roland.

That said, most analog drum machines nowadays use digital sequencers, and sometimes even have built-in digital effects. Analog machines typically have more hands-on control as you get one knob per function and no menu diving. But sometimes you lack the option to save presets, which makes it less ideal for live performance.

Digital drum computers use purely digital synthesis techniques and samples. They have a lot more sound-shaping options, presets, effects, and sequencing methods. There’s usually some more menu diving on a digital drum computer, but they are excellent for live situations as you’ve got a lot more freedom to change the workflow to your liking.

Hybrid drum computers like Elektron’s Analog Rytm, future the best of both worlds. They combine the sound of analog synthesis, which is typically warm and fat, with the ease of digital sampling, effects, and routing options.

The 8 best drum machines for beginners

Since we’re focusing on Beginners, I’ve left out the more esoteric, and experimental drum machines like the Erica Synths Perkons, or the Jomox Alpha Base, check out my article for intermediate to advanced drumcomputers right here. I’ll make a short list with pros and cons and provide links to YouTube video’s so you can listen to their sound.

1.      Roland TR-8S

Roland TR-8S best drum machine for beginners

The number one on this list goes to Roland with their TR-8S digital drum computer. Roland’s impact on the electronic music scene is undeniable with their famous 808 and 909 drum computers.

This device features other machines like the 606 and 707 as well as digital FM synths. You can also load your samples onto an SD card and even use it as a USB audio and MIDI interface.

Roland TR-8S drum computer for live performance

The Roland TR-8S is built for performance. The colored mixer makes it a breeze to separate the different sounds in a dark club, all knobs are easily accessible, and there’s a ton of FX, an external input, an auto-fill function, a motion recorder, a shuffle, and much more!

Price: $693

Pros

  • The best drum machine for live performance.
  • Easy to learn, quick workflow.
  • Ready to use out of the box.
  • Built-in user interface.
  • Software editor.

Cons

  • Limited editing functionality.
  • Small screen.
  • Not for people who want to create unique drum sounds.

2.      Arturia Drumbrute Impact

Arturia Drumbrute Impact best analog drum machine for beginners

Arturia has been cranking out amazing hardware lately, the Drumbrute Impact is one of them. It’s a compact, fully analog drum machine with built-in distortion and looper function.

Probably the easiest drum machine on the market, with one knob per function. The sound is unique but very specific. If you like the sound it’s a bargain, but if you don’t there’s not much you can do about it.

Price: $300

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Fat analog sound.
  • Built in distortion, and looper, ideal for live situations.

Cons

  • Only 4 individual outputs.
  • Very limited sound options.

3.      Behringer RD-9

Behringer RD9 analog drum machine

Behringer has done it again! They re-created the sound of the drum machine we all crave for. The TR909. It’s a fully analog recreation of the original but without the insane price tag.

The 909 is probably the most sampled drum machine. Techno and House music wouldn’t exist without it. The Behringer RD-9 has added USB Midi, analog filters, waveshapers, probability, note repeats, and autofill. All workflow improvements make it even easier to use on stage.

You could argue that nobody needs one since it’s been sampled by practically everyone, and there are fantastic software plugins like Drumazon that sound almost identical to the original. Yet you now have the opportunity to sample this machine from the source and process it with your own analog studio setup. And nobody can sue you for doing so, since it’s analog. Perfect for sample pack creators.

Price: $375

Pros

  • Very close to the original sound.
  • Added performance futures.
  • Easy to use and affordable.

Cons

  • Very few sound shaping options, just like the original.
  • You’re probably judged by gear snobs for using a Behringer product.

4.      Behringer RD-8

Behringer RD8 Analog Drum Computer

Just like the 909, Behringer has also made an 808 clone. The RD-8 is practically the same as the RD-9 but with that typical 808 sound used in countless disco, hip-hop, and house records. If you like to recreate authentic sounds then this is the perfect drum machine for you.

Price: $370

Pros

  • Very close to the original sound.
  • Added performance futures.
  • Easy to use and affordable.

Cons

  • Very few sound shaping options, just like the original.

5.      Moog DFAM

Moog DFAM future classic rhythm generator

Alright, back to analog. Moog has created another future classic. The DFAM, or, Drummer From Another Mother, is an analog beast with a simple interface. It’s semi-modular which is ideal for Eurorack users. It will even fit inside a Eurorack case.

The sequencer is a bit limited at only 8 steps, but you get a pair of classic Moog oscillators and filters without any menu diving. The sound palette is limited but very unique. With some practice, it’s perfectly usable on stage, and the semi-modular aspect gives it endless sound tweaking options.

Price: $752

Pros

  • Very unique sound.
  • Easy to use.
  • Semi modular.

Cons

  • Quite expensive for what it does.
  • You have to like the sound.

6. Erica Synths LXR 02

Erica Synths LXR 02

Erica Synths, the masters of Techno gear have designed a compact digital drum synth: The LXR 02. Even though it’s a small machine, it packs quite the punch. It’s well designed and the clever interface allows you to get started in a matter of seconds.

It features 6 instruments with an oscillator, transient generator, filter, amplifier, envelope, LFO, distortion, and sample rate reducer per track. There’s a 64-step sequencer with drum mode and memory for 64 drum kits. You can even record parameter changes.

It has overdrive, ring modulation, compression, and delay as master effects and 4 separate outputs.

Price: $622

Pros

  • Compact, easy to use and fun drum synth.
  • Ideal for live and in the studio.

Cons

  • It’s not a sampler so you can’t load your own samples.
  • Perfect for Techno and Electro, maybe less for other genres.

7. Korg Drumlogue

Korg Drumlogue Hybrid Drum Machine

The Korg Drumlogue is an Analog and sample-based drum machine with direct access to all parameters. It has a 64-step sequencer and pattern chaining (song mode) option. There’s a motion recorder like on the Korg Minilogue, accent, and random features.

There are 3 effects: reverb, delay, and master effects with a master output and 4 assignable separate outputs. The clear OLED display makes it easy to read and program. It doesn’t have the most in-depth sound shaping options but this makes it easy to use and perfect for live situations. You can even import your own samples over USB.

Price: $478

Pros

  • Compact, well designed user interface.
  • Very playable in live situations.
  • Import your own samples over USB.

Cons

  • Not as well versed as other drum machines in terms of sound editing and effects.
  • Only 4 separate outputs.

8. Korg Volca Drum & Beats

Korg Volca Drum Digital Drum Computer

The Korg Volca series is probably the most affordable way to get into hardware. The Volca Beats is an analog drum machine and the Volca Drum is its digital counterpart.

There are various controls and there’s even a motion recorder to automate every knob over time, which is pretty cool at this price point.

Korg Volca Beats Analog Drum Machine

Due to its small size, there’s only a headphones output, and the knobs are pretty tiny, but the entire thing runs on 6x AA batteries and it even has a built-in speaker!

Price: Volca Drum:$149, Volca Beats: $160

Pros

  • Most affordable drum computers out there.
  • The motion recorder is cool.

Cons

  • Tiny knobs.
  • Feels like a toy.

9.      Behringer RD-6

Behringer RD6 Drum Computer

Finally, the last drum machine on the list is the Behringer RD-6. The 606 is designed to be used alongside the 303 bassline synthesizer. This pair defined Acid House & Techno. This machine is as simple as it can get. A sequencer and a level control per drum sound. Ideal for beginners.

It’s fully analog and has individual outputs on minijacks. This Behringer version has added a clap which was not present on the original, a very welcome addition. It has sync and trigger outputs on top, ideal for syncing to the TD3 or any Eurorack setup.

There’s also a built-in distortion, which could be useful, but in my personal opinion, there are better distortion options out there.

Price: $151

Pros

  • Most affordable drum machine on the market right now.
  • Easy to use.
  • Individual outputs.

Cons

  • All you can do is change the volume.
  • Distortion isn’t great.

Conclusion

That’s it! The 9 best drum machines for beginners. Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to ask me any questions. Don’t forget to join the Facebook group to learn more about electronic music production with hardware.

If you bought a drum machine with individual outputs, you might have reached the limits of your current audio interface. In this article, I’ll show you my recommended audio interface setup for multitrack recording.

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