The elusive perfect drum machine

While this topic originated in my particular needs for a specific kind of drum machine, it has definitely reached escape velocity. Hence it is now a topic to discuss what would be anyone’s perfect drum machine.

Original topic:
I have tested so far:

  • ARMKII: All in all not bad, it is the most feature complete drum machine I’ve owned. Individual outs. But I don’t really like the sound until it’s compressed and distorted to a crisp, and then it’s gimmicky. Don’t care much for samples.

  • Drumbrute Impact: Some nice bread and butter sounds out of the box. Not much more. Cheap. Some individual outs. But very limited sound palette and not all drums are tunable. Mono.

  • Ditigakt: Nice box but as I said earlier I don’t care much for drum samples. No individual outs.

  • Nord Drum 3p: Stunning amount of synthesis possibilities. No individual outs. No sequencer. No module.

So far I’ve preferred Nord approach to drum synthesis. But I need individual outs or at least one assignable individual out to be able to trigger a ducking effect (mostly on the kick).

I’ve resorted to using the Nord Drum with the Digitakt as a sequencer, and using a dedicated MIDI track to trigger a H-Pi Flash (a synth not much larger than a pen cap) to trigger my Pill pedal which is responsible for the ducking effect on non-drums synths that go through it. But it’s a bit cumbersome.

Are there modded Nord Drum 2 modules with individual outs? Have I overlooked a box that could fit the bill of having at least an individual out and a Nord-like drum sound palette?


Tempest, sequencer isnt as good as elektron… but sythesis is very good.


:wink: :nerd_face:


I don’t know what the Nord sound is, having not owned one, but if you are open to modules, programming your own sounds on an antiquated ui, and external sequencing you could take a look at the Kawai XD5.


The Nord Modulars. The NM and G2 both have 4 outs


TR8-S if i were buying a dedicated drum machine that could play the widest variety of kits


A4mk2? (With @darenager and @taro soundpacks.)


Grab yourself a Nord Drum 2 and accept the lack of individual outs. Sequence it externally. It’s a monster. It’s also tiny. And red.

Doooooo eeeeeeeet.


Very interesting suggestion.

A Syntakt could also be an interesting choice. It offers more synthesis possibilities than AR, and IMO sounds good with a bit of work.

A Machinedrum mk2 is kind of out of reach but still my favorite.
If you’re really willing to get yourself the first Elektron machine, check the ads until you have a decent enough price.


for me, with a few more choice machines \ updates syntakt will be very close. its UI is unparalleled imo, kicks are lovely, synths are glorious.


Oh, and an OTO Boum does a lot of good to a drummachine, in my experience.


are you ok with samples that you create yourself?

if so, then a Nord drum module and a drum sampler with multiple outputs.

Thanks for your answers, I’ll try to address each:

  • Dave Smith Tempest: Seems fire, but I’m wary of firmware bugs
  • BMX: I don’t want samples
  • Nord Modulars: It looks super tedious to program
  • TR8-S: Actually not a bad idea
  • A4mk2: Hey! I’ve already got one. And it sounds great as a drum machine. But it’s currently used as my main quad mono synths. Maybe I could get another one (a mk1 would suffice) for drumming purposes.
  • Nord Drum 2: I thought about it: smallest footprint (important for a live setup), and it’s the sound I’ve come to like.
  • Syntakt: I’ve considered it but… no individual out. I still think I’ll give it a try if I sell the Rytm.
  • OTO Boum: yeah it’s nice but isn’t having a drum machine that sounds right ootb even better?
  • Nord drum module: no to sampling

I don’t like sampling. It’s always the same: I spend a weekend every two years listening to samples and building a library, and when I use it I’m frustrated that I can’t modulate it the way I want.


I prefer having a few FX as hands-on tools to fine tune the sounds and adapt them to the place.
Volume level, compressor/distorsion, filters and/or EQ are pretty useful. But you might get the same or even better on a mixer. Might be the right place for these.

You ruled out MD mk2 from your list? I know it’s very expensive, but it has separate outs and ace sounds, as well as internal (and external) resampling, that you can use to mangle the sounds further…
My own favorite.


Yeah MD sounds nice too, but the price is high. I haven’t given it much thought. Are MK1 cool too?

Mk1 only have 32 steps.
Non +Drive can’t save multiple projects.
MD mk2 UW+ are the bee’s knees. But yes, expansive. For a (good) reason (IMO).
If you take your time, you might find one for 1500€ (there was one last month on AudioFanzine, I almost bought it as a spare).

The Perfect drum machine will probably remain elusive to you as it does to most. Still if you’re looking for something compact, v good sounding with individual outs - take a look at the MFB’s Tanzmaus / Tanzbear lite, or 522.

1500€ is still freakishly expensive for a box that might break on a whim and isn’t under warranty anymore.

I’m currently this :pinching_hand: close to getting back ITB. I still want to explore the dawless thing but things have to be compact and easily repleaceable.

For example I’ve replaced a Prophet REV2 with a Micromonsta 2. Sounds the same, does the same, much better price and footprint.

Actually it’s quite fun. And a great learning experience…


Should have said: it looks super tedious to program for me. I’m sure they found their audience!