A Hardware Drum Machine / Groove Box is a self-contained instrument for producing loop-based music. Drum machines is popular among music producers as countless hip-hop, electronica and pop tracks have been created using these. It’s a synthesizer and a sequencer built in one instrument.
Table of Contents
- What is a Drum Machine?
- How Do They Work?
- Hardware Drum Machines: Advantages & Characteristics
- Buying a Drum Machine – Things to Look For
- Best Hardware Drum Machines: Reviews, Prices, Buying Links
- Teenage Engineering PO-12 Rhythm
- Akai MPC Studio Music Production Controller
- Roland TR-8 AIRA Rhythm Performer Drum Machine
- Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine
- Dave Smith Instruments Tempest Drum Machine
- Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine
- Final Thoughts
What is a Drum Machine?
If you were to ask a group of musicians to compose a tune, not everybody would approach it in the same manner. Every musician has his own method…and one of the popular methods is to begin with a catchy rhythmic loop.
This is where the drum machine (also known as a groove-box) can be a handy instrument!
A Groove box can help you to quickly come up with some catchy pattern based loops. You could do the same on a computer as well, but is you want the feel of a real instrument, a standalone drum machine scores. Besides, you don’t need to know how to play the Keyboards/Piano to use this Instrument!
These are portable equipment that lets you easily capture a drum beat (without having to lug around all that equipment). Drum machines are capable of producing a wide range of sounds, you can build your own beats and even add filters, and some models also come with built-in sampler.
These are great songwriting tools as well; just play a rhythm and you can sing, rap or jam along. Drum machine beats nowadays cover genres like modern EDM and industrial rock, besides including retro.
Drum machine can be used in a recording studio or in a live setting – be it a DJ or singer performing live or the music producer working in the studio. These let you seamlessly switch between performing and creator modes.
And despite the popularity of VST software, MIDI keyboards and Digital Audio Workstations, there are still some solid drum machines available in the market.
How Do They Work?
Groove-boxes are self-contained instruments used for producing loop-based electronic music!
To create a music loop, you start with choosing instruments such as drums; you choose beats such as 8 beat or 16 beat (or whatever you like).
You then create a pattern based on the selected beat, and then set the pattern to repeat itself. This way you get a musical loop!
The term Groovebox was originally used by Roland corporation to refer to its MC-303, but now the term has entered general use. Now its referred to an all-in-one-box that has sequencer with drums, and synths, and some nice bass. Checkout the video to see/hear what it sounds like.
Hardware Drum Machines: Advantages & Characteristics
The main advantage of using a drum machine is that you don’t need to know to play the keyboards/Piano!
If you are a singer, or a guitarist, or any other instrumentalist, using this instrument you can easily and quickly create great sounding accompaniments for practice… or for your performances.
Any musician or artist who needs a versatile song-writing tool for sequencing and music production can use a groove-box.
In general, Drum Machines & Groove Boxes have the following characteristics.
- All in One: Combination of sound sources, a synthesizer/sampler, and a sequencer.
- Control Surface: Combination of knobs, sliders and buttons.
- Display Elements: Has LED and/or LCD.
- Pattern-Based: You can rapidly construct and control a pattern-based sequence.
- Multi-timbral: Can simultaneously play multiple instrumental or percussion voices.
Buying a Drum Machine – Things to Look For
Here are some factors to consider when looking for a Drum Machine:
- Features: Depending on your style of music, you will need a machine with th eright set of features – User preset patterns, wide range of sounds, availability of multiple effects, etc.
- Inputs/Outputs: MIDI USB ports are common. You can have many other input and outputs – sampling abilitites (record the instrument that is plugged in), footswitch outputs to control your drum machine (while playing another instrument), you can even connect headphones (lets you practice/play without needing external speakers).
- Design: Do you need one that runs on battery power (great for portability). Does the display has backlighting. Do you want lightweight & compact model.
- Portability: Compared to other equipment, these are anyways more compact. But still, go for light-weight models, makes it easy to move it around (home to studio or venue).
- Sound Palette: What sort of sounds you’re looking for, and how much of it? Some come with few sounds, others have tons of sounds, while others let you upload your own or use MIDI to use the various sounds.
- Digital compatibility: Most recent models can easily be integrated within a computer based recording setup, and can also interact with other digital equipment. However, some vintage models may not, so make sure the product has the features you are looking for.
- Budget – Always listed first in our guides for music production equipment, how much money you’re able to spend will really deter you in a certain drum machine direction. Some go for a grand or more, while others are relatively affordable in the middle price point that will still provide you with those beloved drum machine qualities.
- Overall Sound: Usually, this depends on the price as well; the expensive ones do sound better. For live performances, it makes sense to invest in better ones.
Best Hardware Drum Machines: Reviews, Prices, Buying Links
Take a look at these popular hardware Drum Machines.
Teenage Engineering PO-12 Rhythm
PO-12 is a compact, affordable drum machine. It offers 16 sounds, patterns can be recorded live, Punch-in effects, built-in speaker, No MIDI (because of its size).
Buy on Musiciansfriend
Akai MPC Studio Music Production Controller
AKai MPC drum machine gives you the best of everything – vintage feel as well as modern features, and is one of the most popular products available in the market. Its solid, yet compact, and USB powered. A large LCD screen helps with navigation, 128-track sequencing capabilities, 16 backlit drum pads, 4 touch-sensitive knobs, swing function and more. Renaissance software (Production software) comes bundled along.
Buy on zZounds
Roland TR-8 AIRA Rhythm Performer Drum Machine
Roland’s TR-8 is highly rated by music producers around the world (this is more of a modern version of their classic TR-808 and TR-909 machines). Build beats with 32-step sequencer, features 16-step sequencer, A and B pattern variations, 16 kits of 11 instrument types, LED display, various effects, rec/play modes, Midi in/out, USB and more.
Buy on zZounds
Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine
If its a Korg, you can expect great analog sounds. This Korg’s drum machine does provide several classical analog sounding drums (warm and fat), has a sequencer, active step and step jump function, a MIDI IN for kicks, is battery-powered, is compact yet sturdy. This one is inexpensive and smaller in size.
Buy on zZounds
Dave Smith Instruments Tempest Drum Machine
Dave Smith Instruments is a big name when it comes to top-of-the-line analog music gear. This model is expensive (not for beginners at all) but you get a powerhouse analog drum machine with several advanced features such as recording in real time, tweaking FX without stopping playback and so on. Features 16 pressure and velocity-sensitive drum pads, six analog synthesis voices, advanced operating system built-in (lets you create and edit in real-time), Large display for easy navigation. Several effects. You can tweak analog effects or drum mix, and drumbeat switching.
Buy on zZounds
Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine
A top-selling drum machine (its also been in the market for a long time), this is more of a vintage product. 12 dedicated pads, includes stock sounds of drum sets, electronic drums and one-shot hits, quality effects needs, midi in/out. Powered by AC or batteries. A simple, old-school, inexpensive drum machine.
Buy on zZounds
Great deals on Hardware Groove Boxes here on zZounds…
A Drum Machine/Groove Box is a self-contained musical instrument, which is used commonly for producing loop-based electronic music. You can build pattern based sequences on the fly. You get a combination of sound sources, a synthesizer and a sequencer, all built in one instrument.