We recommend ten of the best hardware drum machines available today, from brand new bargains through to money-no object vintage classics.

Roland TR 808 advert from May 1981
Pic: retrosynthads.blogspot.com

Ten Of The Best is a regular series in which we recommend our favourite products at a series of price points. The aim is to shine the light on the options which we believe offer the best value for money no matter your budget.

Whether you’re a full-time music maker or a bedroom hobbyist, chances are your studio is limited to some extent by your budget. Every day we’re asked for advice on choosing gear and, regardless of the price point, it’s usually the budget which defines the question: “What’s the best for under £800?” or “I only have £100 to spend – what should I buy?”

Hardware drum machines have always been difficult to buy. There are so many questions to answer before you even consider specific models. Analogue or digital? New or vintage? Flexible or focused? Hub of the entire studio or a humble sound module which keeps itself to itself?

Drum machines are also an area where spending more money doesn’t necessarily get you a ‘better’ unit, but there’s generally still a strong correlation between price and overall desirability, whether that’s defined in terms of sound, workflow, versatility, classic status or even potential returns on the investment.

Spending more money doesn't necessarily get you a 'better' drum machine, but there's a strong correlation.

Our recent monitor round-up only covered new models, but this time around we’ve also included second-hand gear, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can often get a lot more for your money by looking at vintage models which have depreciated significantly since they were new, or just by hunting for a good used example of a model still in production. Secondly, some of the best drum machines money can buy haven’t been produced for the best part of two decades. We’d be crazy to rule them out.

No matter your budget, these are the places we’d recommend starting your search: our picks of some of the best options around, from the most affordable all the way through to the holy grails of dance music production. Join us as we run through our favourites all the way from £50 through to £3,000.


14th January, 2014

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