Drum Machines

My son has an Alesis SR-16 he isn’t satisfied with. He’s looking for something with more drum sounds. Does anybody have a recommendation?

Also, I figure we could use a drum machine thread. So, bring it on with whatever experiences you’ve had.


Aww man! The SR-16 is a classic. I wanted one of those bad back in the early '90s. It does have that reverby '90s drum sound though.

I have a Zoom RT-223. It’s like a more modern SR-16 with more sounds and a bassline synth. A lot of its sounds are demoed here if he’s interested:

Every sound in there is from the RT223. You can also turn the reverb off so it sounds less '90s.

A modern one I thought looked pretty cool was the Korg Electribe Sampler. You can load it with whatever samples you want, and it has some effects/filters/etc.

A lot depends on what kind of music he wants to make but the nice thing about a sampler is he can load whatever sounds he wants.


In the band I used to play (many years ago), we used a Roland R-5 - it was really good! I haven’t checked the market lately, but I wonder whether there isn’t an updated version of this available nowadays. In any case, you might be able to find these on the used markets!?

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My drum machine has been my laptop ever since Garage Band (and then Logic) came out.

I imagine there are drum machine things and sounds that only certain outboard drum machines can do… but for ease of use, composing, arranging - I don’t think there’s a better way.
And Logic (maybe GB as well?) has such a vast library of good sounds.


The R-8 is considered one of the best drum machines of all time, and the R-5 (its little brother) was pretty sweet too :slight_smile:

Around that time we had a TR-505, aka the worst of the Roland TR-x0x line. Which is why I wanted an SR-16.


Yeah this is definitely a good way to go. There are great drum VSTi’s and samples that will work in any DAW. Cakewalk comes with a free one similar to the one in GarageBand.

I like an external one because it is tactile and fun to play with but really a DAW builtin is even better in some ways. Definitely more convenient to control within the DAW, no messing with MIDI interfaces and cables and so on.


I had a Zoom once upon a time, and I remember the pages of notes where I had to organize what loop was on what patch, and then pre-arrange it on the paper, and then finally try and organize it all into one track… granted, this was 2003 or 4…

But when Garage Band came out and gave me memory, file names, a keyboard interface, and decent samples, I was very done with that drum machine.


I didn’t know that… cool :sunglasses:


Yep. Drum machines have the worst UIs. For any real composing, you are way better off doing it all in a track in the DAW, at which point the drum machine is just an external sample box that you control exactly like you would the one internal to the DAW.

Even way back around '90 I was doing all the drum programming on my Mac with Master Tracks and sending it via MIDI to the 505.

But they are fun to play with :slight_smile:


Can’t argue with the power of DAWs but as someone who spends the working week in front of a computer, I’m pretty tempted to add a hardware drum machine to my collection at some point.

Personally I’m on the lookout for an original Electribe drum synth. I very briefly had one years back and have always regretted selling it, it was very fun!


@howard You were the one that turned me on to the SR-16. That was how he ended up with his. What made you decide to get rid of yours and get the Zoom RT-233? It sounds like it’s much more versatile but, maybe, not as easy to use?

@Gio This would be my first choice. The computer he used in college is in pretty bad shape and he’s trying to avoid dropping the cash on a new one. Perhaps, now’s the time.

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I never owned an SR-16, I always wanted one, like for years. I did almost buy one around Christmas. They are great for what they are, there’s a reason Alesis is still making them.

Has he tried all the drum kits on it? It’s got quite a few (like 200) drum sounds.

edit: if he doesn’t absolutely want a physical drum machine then the software route is definitely the way to go. If you’re getting a new computer anyway that’s what I would do. You can always get more drum sounds if the many you can get with GarageBand/Logic are not enough for him. It’s not hard to find quality free samples of all the classic drum machines.

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Oh, I thought I had seen one on a picture of your board. I guess it was the Zoom.

Honestly, I don’t know how deep he’s gotten. I’m just trying to get ahead of this and find out what’s out there.

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Kinda crazy that the Alesis SR-16 still made the list for The 5 Best Cheap Drum Machines for Beginners 2020.

It’s been in production for literally like 30 years now.

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I have an electribe, it is good fun, midi wise totally useless. But great for drum tracks as it is visual and very easy to lay out your track. The sound options are good, very versatile, it will let you shape any kind of sound. And if you patch it you can turn it into the sampler versions as well (same hardware, different firmware)