RRP: from €599
Produced: 2007 – present
The DRM1 almost didn’t make it onto our list. If we’re being pedantic, this isn’t really a fully featured drum machine, but a drum synthesiser. The difference is subtle but very important in terms of the way it works in the music-making process: the DRM1 MKIII has no built-in sequencer. Instead, sounds are triggered via MIDI or gate signals from a sequencer of your choice. As such, it’s a module to be controlled by other gear rather than an all-in one drum programming solution like all the other models featured here.
Despite that minor technicality, the DRM1 justifies inclusion for a simple reason: it sounds really good. This is an all-analogue module which can generate up to eight channels of drums. At first glance the eight channels look pretty much the same, but closer inspection reveals that each one controls a dedicated circuit for a particular type of drum sound. The controls are subtly different in each case, allowing a wide variety of drum hits, percussion sounds and even bass notes to be generated.
The original DRM was a late-80s East German unit with a built-in sequencer, but the format was altered when the name was revived by Touched By Sound in 2000 for the Syncussion DRM1. The design has been tweaked slightly since then, but the latest iteration – now back under the Vermona brand name – retains the same basic formula. There are no presets, no automation and no unnecessary frills, just a bank of single-function knobs for direct hands-on control of every parameter. In terms of its sound, the DRM1 has echoes of late-70s drum machines like the Roland CR-78 but updated with faster envelopes and a more modern sound overall.
There are now so many sequencing options available that it seems foolish not to recommend the DRM1 just because you can’t program beats on the unit itself. Hook it up to anything from a DAW to an iOS app or a dedicated hardware sequencer and you’ll soon realise how versatile its synth architecture can be.
At €599 for the basic MIDI-only model and €679 with the optional trigger inputs, the DRM1 is great value. If you’re feeling flush there are also deluxe models which upgrade the front panel controls to much nicer chrome knobs (€759 and €859 respectively).