Drums have been around for thousands of years. Once upon a time, their main purpose was communication between tribes. It didn’t take long for humans to realize that drums were a great way to entertain the masses and, when teamed with other instruments, could make beautiful music.
Over the centuries, drums have evolved into one of the coolest instruments and the drummer of any band is usually the most admired of musicians. Today, you don’t need to have a full drum kit to produce those thumping sounds. Drum machines are compact, electronic devices that can reproduce the beating of drums in a more portable, easy to use the device. The best drum machines will invoke your inner drummer and help you produce some amazing tunes in the comfort of your home.
The Best Drum Machine
The Akai Professional XR20 Beat Production Station Drum Machine will awaken the musician in you. You can produce your own sounds or recreate the classics with over 700 sounds. Turn your bedroom into a concert hall or take your show on the road and perform live. This drum machine runs on electricity and battery power, so you’re free to take your music with you anywhere. If you love making music, you will also like some of the best electronic drum kits from our list, so check them out.
Over 700 sounds produced by Chronic Music
99 Preset patterns and 99 User patterns
Bright, glowing, backlit pads
Microphone input and Headphone output
- BrandAkai Professional
- Weight3.85 pounds
Fresh sound library for making hip-hop, R&B & more
Runs on wall or battery power for easy portability
Limited memory storage
For true drumming enthusiasts who just want a simple to use drum machine, this IK Multimedia UNO Drum machine will have you producing exceptionally good tunes with lots of beat. Play fantastic sounding drum elements using 6 analog voices and over 50 different digital samples to play all the music you love. You can even create your own unique tunes and really impress your family and friends. This product also makes an amazing gift for audiophiles in your life.
6 analog voices, up to 12 PCM voices
Save up to 100 Kit and 100 pattern presets
12 multi-touch, double-velocity pads
64-Step sequencer, 8 parameters per step
USB and 2.5mm MIDI, audio in and out
- BrandIK Multimedia
- Weight1.1 pounds
12 Killer sounding drum elements
Battery or USB powered for total portability
Easy to use and perform
Additional software may be required
The Alesis SR-16 Studio-Grade Drum Machine is a favorite among songwriters, performers, and other music lovers. It features 233 professional sounds with drum beats that resonate naturally. It has built-in digital effects and 12 velocity-sensitive pads to ignite your creative spark. This drum machine is easy to use and has seamless MIDI connectivity. Whether you just want to play music to relax or you’re getting ready to perform, this drum machine will help you get started.
233 Professional sounds
Built-in digital effects
Seamless MIDI Connectivity
Professional drum machine
12 velocity sensitive pads
- Weight2.5 pounds
Easy to use
Exclusive Alesis Dynamic Articulation
User manual does not explain how to alter sounds
This Korg Drum machine is an absolute powerhouse of sound and lots of hands-on features that can help you create all manner of pumping drum sounds. Create your music the way you want it to be heard with dedicated effects that you can add along the way before you finish with master effects. This drum machine is easy to use, right out of the box so you can get started as soon as you possibly can. If you are also interested in guitar equipment, be sure to check out our guide to the best guitar amplifiers for beginners.
Pattern chaining strings patterns together to create full songs
Original value indicator
16 velocity-sensitive multi-LED pads
PCM engine delivers up to 24 voices of polyphony
25 groove types
Runs on battery and mains power
- Weight3.53 pounds
Easy sound selection and tweaking
Ergonomically placed array of analog-style knobs
Users may experience some glitches
The ARTURIA drum machine SPARK LE SPARKLE is a powerful machine that creates amazing beats with a touch-sensitive XY pad and 8 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads. This drum machine features seamless integration as a stand-alone unit or a plugin. You can easily import or export audio samples and tap into a host of professional effects. Powered by USB, compact and well built, you’ll be making beautiful music in no time. For more quality products for musicians, be sure to check out our selection of the best MIDI keyboard controllers.
8 velocity and pressure sensitive pads
3 user assignable encoders
Touch sensitive XY pad
User mappable MIDI controller mode.
High precision rotary encoders
- Weight2.2 pounds
Easy to use
Compact and well built
USB cord is too short
Go old school with this Analog Arturia DrumBrute Drum Machine. It has 10 drum sounds and 64 step pattern sequencing. This particular model has improved sound that produces classic sounds with a nice, sharp edge. When you play music on this drum machine, you won’t notice time ticking away because it’s so addictively fun. Our guide to the best headphone amplifiers features more great products you may like, so check them out.
Analog Drum Machine with 10 Drum Sounds
64-step Pattern Sequencing
Disttion Effect & Song Mode
Built-in distortion circuit
Impressive sequencing and performance capabilities
- ModelDrumBrute Impact
- Weight4.06 pounds
Classic sounds with a sharp edge
Instant pattern takeover
Some sounds have a limited range
For an affordable drum machine with loads of features, look no further than the BOSS Dr. Rhythm, Drum Machine. This drum machine is ideal for those who just want to wile away an afternoon jamming or practicing for your next performance. It produces realistic drum, percussion, and bass sounds that will bring the house down and as it’s loaded with features, this compact drum machine will give you hours of fun and entertainment. Be sure to check out our guide to the best condenser microphones for more awesome products like this.
Affordable drum machine for jamming or practice
Programmable rhythm progressions
Total Sound Control with Sound Shape function
100 preset styles & 100 user styles
Footswitch input for easy live control
Runs on AC or battery power
- Weight2 pounds
Realistic drum, percussion and bass sounds
Total sound control with Sound Shape function
Complicated to use
When sound and functionality are important to you, this Native Instruments Maschine Studio is the king of drum machines. It offers unprecedented physical control and visual feedback with two hi-resolution color screens. There are dedicated edit buttons and ultra-precise jog-wheel, as well as 24 pro-quality effects to help you create the best beats on the block. To enhance your experience while playing and listening to the music, pick your favorite pair of open back headphones.
Unprecedented physical control and visual feedback
Two hi-resolution color screens
Highly-sensitive, multi-color pads
24 pro-quality effects
Dedicated edit buttons and ultra-precise jog-wheel
Sampler, arranger, mixer, effects, and more
- BrandNative Instruments
- Weight8.36 pounds
Loaded with a vast 8 GB sound library
Includes MASCHINE 2 software
External MIDI instrument handling is barely adequate
If you want a drum machine that offers a wide range of features you can’t overlook this Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 Drum Controller. It has an integrated hardware and software system that includes a variety of features and 25 GB KOMPLETE 11 SELECT library for you to work with. This is a fun way to quickly enter the world of great music where you can create and perform to the beat of your own drums. To protect your ears while performing, be sure to pick your favorite pair of earplugs for concerts from our list.
Hands-on, optimized layout
16 ultra-responsive pads
Two high-res color screens
Smart Strip for New Ways to Play
8 Touch Sensitive Knobs
- BrandNative Instruments
- ModelMaschine Mk3
- Weight4.85 pounds
Fast, intuitive, and fun way to create and perform tracks and beats
Includes MASCHINE 2.0 software and sound library
Audio interface does not have phantom power
It’s always convenient when you can purchase electronic devices in bundles and this Korg Volca Beats Analogue Drum Machine paired with the Korg Volca Mix is an exceptional value. You can create real analog sounds with thick sounds that go well with the sharpness of many other instruments. This is a small, but powerful drum machine combo that will have your family thinking you’re a musical professional. Our guide to the best Bluetooth receivers features some great devices you will like.
Creates real analog sounds
Electribe-style 16-step sequencer with eight memory patches
Stutter function generates repeated triggers
Six editable analogue parts
Built-in speaker and optional battery power
- Weight2.15 pounds
Small but powerful drum machine
Manual is difficult to follow
Drum Machines Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection Of Drum Machines
Brand – When we looked at drum machines, we considered brand names from manufacturers that have a long and proven track record of producing good quality musical instruments and devices. When it comes to music, sound is everything and you can’t just leave this to chance. If a professional wouldn’t consider using a particular brand, then you should consider why.
Price – When it comes to drum machines, price doesn’t necessarily dictate quality. Even so, we chose our drum machines in a variety of prices. What works for one musician, may not work for another so look at what you can do with the drum machine you are looking at buying. While the high-end drum machines are sure to work well, some of the moderate or lower priced ones may be able to perform just as well. Check out the manufacturer’s specifications so you don’t end up paying for features you may not need.
Reviews – The customer experience is a great indication of what a drum machine is capable of. We checked the reviews of all of the drum machines in our selection to ensure the positives outweighed the negatives. Drum machines are certain to set you back a pretty penny or two so you want to be sure you are getting your money’s worth. Check the not so positive reviews as well to see if there is an aspect of the drum machine that you aren’t prepared to deal with.
Features To Look For In Drum Machines
Size – Most drum machines are quite small and compact. This makes them easy to transport around from room to room, or to your gigs, if you’re taking your show on the road. Of course, there are drum machines that are quite large but you’ll usually find these used by industry professionals in some very high-profile gigs. Don’t assume bigger is better unless you know what you’re doing and are confident you will be using the added features that come with the larger models.
Ease Of Use – It takes time to learn how to play the beats on a drum machine but it can be a lot of fun in the process. Professionals won’t have any issues, regardless of how complicated the set up is, but beginners will appreciate a drum machine that is easy to use. Look for a drum machine that you can turn on and start playing almost immediately. If it’s too complicated right from the start, you may be discouraged to continue and end up with a very expensive and large paper weight.
Analogue Or Digital – Deciding between an analogue or digital drum machine comes down to personal choice. Analogue drum machines are often more fun to play around with because the hardware is cool. These also add more character and feel to the sounds it can produce. Many sound studio professionals actually prefer the analogue models.
When it comes to digital drum machines, these are capable of producing a wider range of sounds. You also get more in terms of pattern and preset storage so you can create some exciting tracks and completely personalize your music-making.
Memory – The memory or storage capabilities of your drum machine will depend on what you plan on using your machine for. Even so, you definitely want a decent amount of memory or storage. If you just plan on jamming in your room, you won’t need a lot of memory but if you want to upload and save various patterns and your completed works, then you should opt for a decent memory. Also, check the specifications to see if you can upgrade your storage and whether this can be done by adding more internally or if you can connect external storage.
Mixing Capabilities – Most drum machines, especially digital ones, allow you to upload, record and store a variety of different patterns but you also want to be able to mix them and layer them using editing and mixing tools. In the case of digital drum machines, you can save endless tracks on USB or other external memory devices.
Effects And Sound Quality–Almost every drum machine will have some special effects built-in, but as you work on your playing and improve, you’ll want to add more effects and give more depth and rhythm to your music. Sound quality is also of the utmost importance. After all, music is all about auditory perception and there is nothing worse than sitting through distorted tunes. Although your drum machine may have a limited number of effects and sounds, check to make sure you can upgrade your machine or upload more data that you can use.
Ability To Expand – As you get into your own personal groove with your drum machine, you’ll want to keep experimenting with new sounds. Some excellent accessories you may want to purchase to expand your drum machine to create more sounds are pedals, effects processors, filters and more. Check the specifications to ensure the drum machine you want to buy will be compatible with these upgrades and expansions.
Pressure Sensitive Pads–When playing music on your drum machine, you want to be able to tap the beats pretty quickly. To do this efficiently and produce smooth tunes, you need to be able to tap the pads quite effortlessly. Pressure sensitive pads are easy to tap so your fingers can virtually fly over the console. With the best drum machines, you should be able to tap the beats in quickly, while recording the patterns and instantly storing your samples.
Dual Power Supply – Jamming with your drum machine at home is one thing, but there may be times when you want to take your performance on the road. Look for a drum machine with a dual power supply. Most can be powered by AC or a battery, while others can also be powered via USB. A dual power supply gives you more freedom and flexibility so you can play your tunes almost anywhere.
Accessories –With so many manufacturers competing for your business, you can choose a drum machine with some useful accessories. A protective case is a must if you plan on taking your drum machine with you, particularly if it will be stashed in your car with other equipment. A headphone set is also a worthwhile accessory as it will enable you to work with your drum machine and not drive the rest of your household insane.
Drum Machine FAQ
Q: What is a drum machine?
A: A drum machine is an electronic piece of hardware that is used to replicate drums and other percussion instruments. They come in a variety of sizes and styles with their main purpose being for use in producing and playing electronic music. However, as the technology surrounding drum machines advances, it is possible to play almost any genre of music you put your mind to playing.
Q: What are the most important sounds you can produce from a drum machine?
A: Depending on the drum machine you have, you may be able to produce a wide variety of different sounds from your drum machine. However, even the most basic drum machine should have a few sounds in addition to classic drums and they are; cymbals, kicks, bass and snares. Electronic music calls for more experimentation so you’ll want more drum styles. Check the specifications depending on the type of music you want to play.
Q: Is it difficult to load samples in a drum machine?
A: Most drum machines will come with software that includes a certain number of samples already installed. You may also have a collection of your own beats and samples that you’d like to add to your new drum machine. Your drum machine should enable you to download additional music files and samples so you keep expanding your personal music and beat collection.
Q: Who uses drum machines?
A: Anyone can use a drum machine and with the smaller, less expensive models, they are now within the reach of almost everyone who likes to play music. Drum machines are popular with songwriters, DJ’s and musicians in general. Their popularity mainly lies with their portability and versatility. The more skilled the user, the more different sounds and patterns can be produced.
Regardless of which drum machine you choose for yourself, the best part begins when you start playing the beats. This is a great machine for a budding musician and anyone who just likes to spend an afternoon tinkering with an instrument. Serious musicians will also find a drum machine useful for a variety of applications. All seriousness aside, banging out beats on a drum machine can provide you with hours of fun and entertainment for your family and friends. You’ll be able to release your musical creativity and any built-up tension as well.