Hardware Drum Machines

In this DAW-dominated age it may feel like reverting to hardware is only for the wealthy or misguided – after all, isn’t digital hardware just a computer with dedicated knobs and buttons, running some specialist software? That may be correct in many respects, but in terms of programming beats, the hands-on appeal of a hardware interface can have a lot going for it, even if it’s just triggering samples.

The classic example of this is the Roland x0x system, which is now being used on the company’s latest AIRA TR-8 box, among countless others. The x0x sequencer is simple: it’s basically just a bunch of buttons (usually 16) with lights. Select a sound, press the relevant button to trigger the sound at that particular beat step… and that’s it. For whatever reason, it’s a process which makes things quick, fun and much different to using a mouse. Korg’s Volca Beats uses a similar system and, like their Electribe units of yore, allows you to record your parameter knob twiddling as well. It’s a surprisingly inspiring way to generate new ideas which you might not think of when using a DAW or other controllers.

In fact, you don’t have to pay silly money to grab a hardware drum machine (although if you’ve got the cash to spare we’d definitely recommend exploring the higher reaches of our recent guide to some of the best hardware units on the market). Older digital units can be bought for under £50, and even if they don’t have the cachet or sonic character of a DMX or LinnDrum they can be great for adding extra flavour.

Author Bruce Aisher
21st May, 2014

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