We don’t need to rehash the importance of drum machines yet again, so let’s cut right to the chase and take a look at ten of the best drum machines right now - in alphabetical order by manufacturer:

 MPC X

Akai Professional MPC X


The MPC is much more than "just" a drum machine, but it is first and foremost a beat-making powerhouse with vast capability. The current iterations of the MPC (models X, Touch and Live) are very impressive, featuring high-resolution touch screens, a plethora of sound editing capabilities, DAW integration and plentiful storage space to house everything one needs to make a beat - or even an entire track. The flagship MPC X (featured) model is even more superlative, with an imposing size and packing so many features that it begs the question: could this be the best MPC ever?



 Miami

Acidlab Miami


Regarded by many as one of the finest TR-808 clones out there, the Acidlab Miami closely follows the iconic 80s analog drum machine but does so using only current components that are carefully chosen to match the classic sound without making compromises. Besides bringing all the original features that the TR-808 is so beloved for, the Acidlab Miami also comes with full MIDI support (something that had to be 'modded in' on the original unit), longer decay time for the kick drum and a price tag that won’t break the bank - like a vintage eight-o-eight would!



 DrumBrute

Arturia DrumBrute


Arturia steps into the analog drum machine arena with the impressive DrumBrute, a unit that presents seventeen unique analog sound generators, twelve voices of polyphony, individual outputs and a layout with a great focus on hands-on control. Its “one-knob per function” approach and accessible sequencer definitely favours live performances and quick improvisations. This Brute becomes even more interesting when we look at the price, which is remarkably friendly for an all-analog machine. Arturia has recently released a spin-off of this machine with the DrumBrute Impact as well, featuring a different sonic palette but in a smaller format with fewer voices and a lower price.



 Tempest

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest


When industry titans Dave Smith and Roger Linn joined forces to create a drum machine, one expected nothing but a brilliantly-made, fine sounding instrument with vast depth, and this is precisely the case with the Tempest. This sultry 6-voice drum machine boasts an architecture with two analog oscillators plus two digital oscillators with per-voice sample-loading capabilities, including over 400 drum sounds, two LFOs per voice, classic Curtis filters, six individual outputs, a flexible routing matrix, two mod strips, realtime recording with parameter changes, onboard effects and a clever layout that can be configured as sequencer, or regular pads for live performance. An endgame machine in all regards!



 Analog Rytm MKII

Elektron Analog Rytm MKII


The first iteration of Elektron’s flagship drum machine Analog Rytm was already an extremely powerful unit, boasting eight voices with multiple analog and sample-based sound generators, multimode filters, onboard effects, individual instrument outputs and an acclaimed sequencer that made the Swedes 'drum-machine famous,' with per-step parameter or sound changes and real time recording capability. Now add to that sample recording capabilities, a more imposing form-factor with an improved LCD and further refinements to the analog circuitry and we have the new Analog Rytm MKII. The first version was quite a hit, and there’s little doubt that the MKII is bound to follow in its predecessor's footsteps.



 Digitakt

Elektron Digitakt


Labeled by its makers as a “8-voice drum computer & sampler”, the Digitakt is strictly speaking a sampler, but its design ultimately favours drumbeat production and it has enjoyed a great deal of success since its initial introduction early in 2017. The Digitakt is quite a crafty machine that not only offers serious sequencing capabilities taken from the bigger Elektron machines (with per-step changes over its eight audio tracks) but it can also easily integrate into larger setups thanks to its eight MIDI tracks, with channel and CC routing. It also comes with onboard effects and can sample up to 30 seconds of audio. Overall, this little beauty presents itself as a great entry point into the Elektron universe.



 Alpha Base

Jomox Alpha Base


The Jomox Alpha Base packs in an immense array of features, combining different sound sources such as analog synthesis, 16-bit/48kHz samples and the brand’s proprietary MBrane drum synthesizer for a total of 11 distinct instruments. It also features varied modulation options, including one LFO per instrument and parameter locks per-step, eight individual outputs, delay and reverb effects and even a small 6-voice FM synthesizer - not to mention a SD card slot for expanding the sample library. Another fine candidate for an endgame drum machine for the ages.



 Tanzbär

MFB Tanzbär


From the veterans synth makers at MFB comes the Tänzbar, an imposing all-analog drum machine with 14 instruments including the usual suspects (kick drum, snare, hi-hats, percussions) but also offering a couple of instruments designed with basslines and melodies in mind. The Tänzbar offers great hands-on control with a one-knob per function layout for instant access of all parameters. It also features live recording with per-step parameter changes and it can also serve as two-track CV sequencer, which makes it an enticing for Eurorackers looking to expand their rhythmic options. Short on money or looking for a smaller machine? Check out the Tänzbar Lite.



 TR-09

Roland TR-09


The Roland Boutique series revived many of the brand’s classic electronic instruments and the drum machines were not to be left out of the party - needless to say that the TR-808 and TR-909 were the first to arrive given how significant they are to contemporary music. Featured here is the TR-09, a machine based on the revered beat-making powerhouse that is the spirit of early techno, and as with its Boutique-series siblings it is presented in a small footprint that takes advantage of Roland’s Analog Circuit Behavior technology to deliver digitally-modelled sounds that are closely matched to the original hardware, but it does so in an affordable and conveniently portable unit that can even run on regular AA batteries. The Boutique series also offers a version of the legendary TR-808 with the TR-08, make sure to check that out as well if it's more your speed.



 TR-8S

Roland TR-8S


Last but not least, the Roland TR-8S closes out our list by bringing together sounds from all the classic TR-series drum machines in a neat modern package. The TR-8S combines Roland’s latest developments in circuit emulation and adds sample loading, onboard effects, per-step automation, multiple outputs, automation recording and total DAW integration, with the TR-8S even being able to take on the role of audio interface to your Mac or PC. This unit also presents a strong focus on live performance, with a high number of features to enable adjustments and variations on the fly.


A few notes:

* Our list is comprised only of drum machines that are currently in production. Would you still rather stay old-school? Check out our round-up of ten of the best vintage drum machines.

* It’s a great time to be alive if you’re a drum machine fanatic, and as you can imagine there are certainly more than just these ten great drum machines out there, so honourable mentions go to the Korg Volca Beats and latest Electribes, Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators PO-32 Tonic and PO-12 Rhythm and also to the Pioneer TORAIZ SP-16.

* Promising drum machine prospects are shaping up just over the horizon: keep an eye out for the Erica Synths “Techno System” modular drum machine, an impressive combo comprised of some of the finest drum-oriented Eurorack modules. It’s also worth following the latest firmware developments for the Elektron machines, which are also bound for a substantial leap with the upcoming release of Overbridge 2.0 to finally fulfill the promises of seamless integration with DAWs and audio interface functionality.

* For more on drum machines and drum synths, visit our Electronic Music Instruments and Electronic Music Production forum.