Gearank High Notes
- March 2019: Equal Highest Rated Drum Machine
The Elektron Digitakt is a standalone sample based drum sequencer.
With the analog user in mind, Elektron have developed a product that is more than just a watered down version of their flagship Octatrack.
Its form factor is influenced by Scandinavian industrial design that blends a durable, monolithic form with depth of utility.
An array of input and output options makes the Digitakt capable of being the centerpiece of your live or studio rig.
Other features enable the user to layer up to 8 stereo audio sequences and a maximum of 128 patterns.
- 64MB sample memory and over 1GB of onboard storage
- 8 stereo audio tracks
- MIDI sequencer with +3 note offset
- Support for one-shot samples and sample chains
- Onboard delay and reverb effect sends
- USB 2.0 connectivity with Overbridge support
- Dedicated MIDI In, Out, and Thru ports
Right out of the box, people generally praise the Digitakt's build quality, with several reviews citing it being "built like a tank". Users also note that the learning curve compared to other Elektron products is a bit more forgiving given the specific functionality of the Digitakt as a Sampling Drum Machine
While the learning curve is said to be among the simplest in Elektron's product line, it is still generally steep. Some reviewers appear to have taken a longer time learning their workflow. Other users note that 8 audio tracks and only a stereo pair output when using the unit alone feels limiting and would have loved to have more. Additional outputs are currently only available via a connection to a computer and DAW with the Overbridge software.
Once you get around the learning curve and master your workflow, the Digitakt becomes an intuitive music creation tool. Its build quality and sturdiness make it roadworthy.
Things to Consider When Buying a Drum Machine
The drum machines listed here range from under $100 to as high as $2000. Mid-range units are priced below $800, and anything above $1000 can be considered premium. More expensive does not always mean better as we have chosen the best across a broad price bracket so take into consideration what you can afford to have and whether you are looking to upgrade down the line. If you are interested in a specific product outside of your budget, it is best to save and invest in that model rather than purchase one from a lower price bracket and expect the same level of features and quality.
Features and Flexibility
As a musician, the last thing you want is to get hung up on learning how to use the product or exploring its features rather than using it as a creative tool. Each of the products presented offer different levels of value depending on your level of familiarity with using devices of the sort. As you go up the price ladder, you will be presented with more features that may or may not be to your benefit. For example, some devices offer the capability to record your own samples and increase your musical palette which may not be useful right away if you prefer factory preset sounds. The type of music you want to create should also be considered as certain drum machines are better suited to producing other genres but feel free to experiment and have fun with your eventual choice.
Intuitive Controls and Responsiveness
We all have different levels of control tolerance, some want it as simple as possible, while others want in-depth customization. We have recommended drum machines that cater to a wide audience from the beginner to the professional. It may be difficult to get over the steep learning curve of complex machines. Too simple and you may be left feeling creatively stifled. Both scenarios have to be taken into consideration as they are both equally frustrating depending on your skill level. The responsiveness of the controls is also an important factor to consider as those with velocity sensitive pads are recommended if you are after realism and dynamics especially during live performances.
Reliability and Portability
Musical tools are an investment and long term reliability is usually proportional to the price of the product. Price usually dictates the quality of the materials and construction used so if you are looking for a roadworthy piece of kit, consider increasing your budget. Portability depends on the complexity and materials used as well. Cheaper products tend to use materials like plastic to keep weight down but also at the cost of durability. There are compact options at the premium range but fitting functionality into smaller and more durable enclosure sizes tend to bump the price up a bit. Regardless of the product do consider additional shopping for protective cases if you plan on gigging/touring with your gear.