Second-hand value: £250-350
Produced: 1984 – 1987
In the sub-£350 range you probably won’t quite be able to stretch to a killer analogue machine loaded with features. You won’t pick up one of the holy grails of dance music production. But you can still get your hands on a genuine classic: a unit which has appeared on countless dance tracks over the years, which has its own distinctive sound and a workflow which continues to inspire house and techno producers to this day.
Roland’s ever-popular TR-707 is our pick at this price point. On paper its specifications are relatively humble: as Roland’s first all-digital drum machine it features a versatile implementation of the x0x step sequencing approach and it’s relatively flexible for syncing with other drum machines thanks to its MIDI and DIN SYNC connections, but its main weakness is the fact that you’re limited to the built-in sounds. Some of those samples (the kick, clap, rimshot and hats) are pretty good in a slightly harsh, plasticky way, but others (the snare) leave a lot to be desired.
But those sounds formed the basis of countless electronic classics. Most notably, the 707 was one of the definitive machines in early Chicago house and acid. Just check out Mr Fingers’ ‘Washing Machine’ or Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body’:
The 707 is sometimes considered the poor man’s 909, a tag which flatters it a little. It’s got a similar colour scheme and there are obvious similarities between some of the sounds, but the 707’s hardly likely to knock the 909 off its pedestal as a holy grail for house and techno producers. Without any pitch or decay controls, your options are much more limited. It’s a very basic spec, but it just works.
But the 707 isn’t about having the ultimate sound palette. It’s not even about having the most versatile sequencer, the most adjustable parameters or the best MIDI spec. It definitely won’t beat its rivals on many of those counts. Instead, the 707’s appeal lies in the way all of its features come together so well, making it a budget choice but one which is still thoroughly desirable and genuinely useable. There’s a reason you’ll still find it in the studios and live setups of countless producers.
The 707 works exceptionally well as the centrepiece of a hardware-based workflow. Hook it up to the sequencer or clock input of something like an SH-101 or Arturia MicroBrute and you’ve immediately got the basis of an all-hardware production setup. Sync the drums with a bassline or chord progression, bang out a couple of quick variations on a pattern, then see how far you can push its sounds. Before you know it half an hour’s passed and chances are you’ve got an idea for a track or even a live recording ready to be edited into a final arrangement.
It’s about as simple as hardware gets, but it’s such an inspiring, intuitive way to make dance music that it’s totally unsurprising how ubiquitous this budget drum machine remains. Prices have risen dramatically over the last couple of years, but the simplicity of the 707 has won over a loyal cult following, making it a budget classic.
Wow no Tempest !
Great Great Post ! Thanks
Roc – the Tempest’s in there!
SP1200 > SP12
thanks for this. i was looking at the tanzbar but i didnt know how cool the machinedrum was. another one to check out.
do a feature like this on analog synths! 😉
no oberheim dmx? no dynacord ADD-one?
Jomox xbase 888 is killer once you change the sounds in it
@KV the 1200 has no ROM sounds so it’s definitely a sampler and not a drum machine. I agree it’s better than the Sp12. Both incredible though.
Attack, please do a Ten Of The Best on samplers. MPCs, SP1200 etc. Keep up the great work!
id replace the 606 with the 808, but then again I haven’t owned either of them :p
IMHO, the video featuring the Machinedrum does not make it justice.
Some thing like the link below or any demo video from Mr Dataline can provide a deeper idea if its capabilities, just my 2cents…
707 is boys noize go to drum machine. He’s got a super modified one and an orignal
707 clap isn’t so bad imo!
Casio RZ-1 is truly horrible. Worst $25 I ever spent.
Any MPC should of been on there.
Repeat until fade: an MPC is a sampler, not a drum machine; an MPC is a sampler, not a drum machine; an MPC is a sampler, not a drum machine…
korg volca toy
no oberheim dx/dmx
no sequential drumtrak
no sequential tom
no simmons :-O
no dynacord add one
no pearl syncussion
really poor list made by roland fanboy
Too true on the Volca, didnt think as first look but when you get on one its fun as hell!
@Gertie i love lots of the drum machines you mention but i suppose this feature is meant to represent the ideal proportion between money, fun and sound you can get nowadays, and, let’s face it, the best part of roland tr series can match this.
I’d add jomox 999 here as well as linndrum
you are a douche for missing mpc
@won… MPC is a sampler, not a drum machine. Doubled-douched.
“MPC is a sampler”
What do think a SP12 is? It plays samples……
Bull. If the SP is mentioned here, then the MPC series should have been represented…
Tr 808 is the best
What the hell??? Why isn’t the Linn LM-1 on here? And if you’re gonna add the DRM1, you guys might’ve well put the SDS-V on this list.
Guys complaining about drum machines not being mentioned…..
MAKE Your own LIST.
Hi guys! Which make of drum machines do you recommend me?
where is the Analog Rytm?????
Why an SP12 and not a SP1200?? Why a Tempest and not a LM1??? Best hardware drum machines in what sense? Poor columnists here…
Wow I like these reviews. I’ve been using drum machines for about 7 years now, and I’m thinking of switching over to a simpler version of one, well at least simpler to use (not simple in functionality). Anyone ever used the BeatBuddy (their site is http://www.mybeatbuddy.com )? It looks pretty cool, but I am not sure if I should get it. I’m really thinking of getting it, can anyone tell me if it’s worth making the switch??
Best drum machine ever: The one that has the sound you want.
RZ-1 is *horrible*. It is so bad, I actually bought one new in like ’83 and played with it for like 2 weeks… it’s timing was sloppy, sounds were dull and I ended up taking it back and getting a TR-505… which was no great DM either, but at least had a snappy kick.
Zoom RT-234? It’s cheap and incredibly flexible.
I agree with dagan,
I have the orginal Zoom RT-123.
The button layout is very intuitive – unlike anything else in this review.
The RZ-1 is actually really useful, just not as a main instrument. I find it is best used being run by another box to cut sounds in as accents and fill. As a main or only piece, it’s really going to let a lot of folks down, it’s all about the faders and the outputs, one per instrument, give you all manner of processing options to takes it’s admittedly cheesy sound to a level far beyond it’s capabilities.
Now for the “why not this…” part, Electribes, personally I would replace the Volca with them, but that’s me.
Where is the Sonic Potions LXR???
Amazing drum machine for the price.
lol how the hell you put aSP12 and no MPC. this is bullshit preference based article
nice to see the Tanzbar and MDS-1 in there…
but I NEVER see a list like this include any of the Zoom RT-series, which had a kind of sequencing that has yet to be re-created in any other machine.
Their “Groove Play” mode allowed you to play multiple patterns (of arbitrary length/meter) simultaneously… with velocity and time-alignment control by pads… somewhat a hardware pre-cursor to Ableton clip launching…
Don,t forget the sounds u hear r fatten up with a analogue filter (white box on top) a Niio Iotine ?. Only whant to say the sounds r more thin without the filter.
I mean the dsi ?
I think they missed the awesome Anolog Rytm by Elektron. This thing is a real killer.
I don’t think the Analog Rytm had been released when this article was written had it? Same with the Roland tr-8 which probably would have made the list too if it had been available at the time
For me Elektron Analog Rytm far ahead!