The 4 Best Drum Machines For Metal – Reviews 2023

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Photo by Scott Schiller / CC BY

So why get a drum machine for metal? Well, sometimes you can’t find a good enough drummer or you simply need a practical way of writing drum patterns when creating a song.

A drum machine is a great solution for anyone in need of a small yet versatile device capable of delivering high-quality drum samples. Having one on your desk beside your keyboard makes tracking beats so much easier than having to record live drums. Although many recording programs nowadays include built-in drum samples, most of them sound artificial. Forget about clicking around with your mouse and start tapping around on a drum machine.

Drum machines are especially useful for metal musicians. Finding a good drummer that can play all those fast paced fills, blast beats, and still keep up with the ridiculous tempo is a challenge. By simply using a drum machine, you can forget about that and start recording your songs all by yourself.

Here are our reviews of the best drum machines for metal on the market:

Alesis SR16 Drum Machine

A true classic when it comes to drum machines, the Alesis SR-16 earned its reputation by having a wide variety of different drum presets as well as a practical and ergonomic interface. Used by the famous British industrial metal band Godflesh, it will most definitely suit a number of different needs.

The Alesis SR-16 boasts an amazing selection of 233 different samples, all of which are realistic drum sounds, sampled in a way to provide maximum authenticity.

Besides programming your own drum patterns, you can always choose from a list of 50 pre- programmed ones, played by top musicians in a professional studio, allowing you to start recording or performing in no time.

Besides the intuitive user interface, the SR-16 offers MIDI implementation, as well as a footswitch input, in order to minimize the effort needed for operating on stage.

With a simple press of the fill button, the software adds different rhythmic variations to the previously set beat. As dynamic articulation is included, the dynamics of the button pressing is transferred to the sound, giving maximum control as if you were playing on a real kit.

Truly an amazing drum machine, the SR-16 by Alesis offers not only amazing samples and ergonomics but an authentic feel as well.

Alesis SR-16 Video Manual - Part 1 of 2

Singular Sound BeatBuddy Drum Machine

As the first drum machine pedal, the BeatBuddy is certainly a unique experience. Oriented towards musicians that need a quick beat on the stage, it offers high-quality samples in a convenient package.

The great thing about this drum machine is that you practically don’t have to use your hands to operate it. As you set up this pedal before your gig, simply plug it in and you’re ready to go. All of the previously loaded beats and samples can easily be modified by a simple tap of your foot. Insert fills, add accents, drum breaks, or transitions without breaking a sweat and having to shift your focus from other instruments.

With 10 realistic drum set sounds and 200 songs (see full specs), it will cover almost any genre you might want to use it for. It that ain’t enough, you can always make your own presets on your computer and simply load them onto the pedal in no time.

Although the form factor of this drum machine differs from the rest of the mentioned, we are sure that there are musicians looking for something like this, without even knowing it existed! While unorthodox, it remains one of the best drum machines for metal period.

Taylor 114E Electro-Acoustic (Walnut) - Review & Demo

Akai Professional XR20 Drum Machine

Akai, with their Professional XR20 drum machine, shows that you really can pack an astonishing amount of different samples and sounds in a portable and ergonomic device.
Shooting for portability, although in a different form than the previously mentioned BeatBuddy, this drum machine offers a lot in a small package capable of running on batteries!

You can rest assured that you won’t run out of different samples, as the XR20 comes preloaded with 700 sounds, produced by Chronic Music (see full specs). Making your own patterns is made easy as the user- friendly interface combines 12 large rubberized buttons as well as a hefty LCD screen providing you with all the important information.

The rubberized pads even light up to the beat, making it even easier to modify them and stay on track at any time. You can even plug in a microphone, headphones, or any output you may need, making it very versatile and capable of fitting in any setup imaginable.

As far as the sample quality and realism go, the XR20 doesn’t disappoint. Besides a wide variety of realistic drum sounds, there are also synth and bass sounds, so it can do a bit more than just plain old drum beats. Definitely a drum machine worth checking out if you value user-friendly interfaces and maximum portability!

Akai XR20 : First Impression

Akai Professional MPD26 Drum Machine

As drum machines are nowadays used mostly for EDM music, it’s sometimes hard to find an adequate one for more heavy genres like metal. However, there are still good options, the Professional MPD26 by Akai being one of them.

Tap away any beat imaginable on the 16 pressure and velocity sensitive pads. The great thing about this kind of pads is that you can truly enforce the realism of the drum track by adding dynamics when recording, just as a real drummer does. Akai also decided to add their MPC Swing algorythm in orded to turn the perfectly aligned sequences into more “human feeling ones,” adding to the natural sound and feel of the beat.

Any parameters are quickly adjusted via the 4 sliders or 4 pots or 4 switches, so managing the sound or the intensity of the added effects can be done in no time and on the fly.

This model does a solid job, whether you decide to use it as a standalone device, or combined with a recording software pack.

Akai MPD26 Part 1 Review

Conclusion – What Makes the Best Drum Machine for Metal?

As we’ve covered a couple of great choices when it comes to drum machines, there are a couple of things to consider when buying one.

For metal, it’s important for the drum machine to provide natural sounding samples. Dynamics control can have a huge impact on the sound, giving it that slight note of imperfection.

If, on the other hand, you seek a more robotic drum sound, look for models which provide a good amount of built-in modulation effects.

The best drum machines for metal can, at the same time, mimic a real drummer to the slightest details and spit out the most distorted and modulated beats. In the end, it’s up to you to utilize the device to its maximum potential. Good luck!

Written and Reviewed By

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

  • Marko is the senior editor and writer on Ultimate Guitar, the No. 1 guitar spot on the web, since early 2013. His work was also featured on a variety of other notable gear spots such as Guitar Fella, Consordini, and, of course, Song Simian. His musical journey began at a very young age, and he finally opted to pick up an instrument in his early teenage years. A fan of King Crimson. A travel enthusiast.

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