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Drum machine: easiest to use and good sound

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by JimS, Jan 22, 2003.

  1. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    Any recommendations for recording when I compose songs and no real, live drummer is around? Ease of use is most important as I don't have as much free time to pour through manuals like I used to. BTW, I'm a MIDIot.

    Boss DR series, Zoom, other? I think the Akai is the bomb from what I've read but complicated and pricey.

  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Drum machine programming is a little strange and it can get to be a fairly technical topic quickly. If you want a time machine that will do bossa nova, reggae, swing, shuffle, you get the idea all day long then any of them are a piece of cake. You want your drum lines to sound like Jack Dejohnette or Matt Abts ... you have your work cut out for you no matter what ...

    The three that stand out (IMHO) are

    the Alesis SR16 - nice sounds has 4 assignable outputs so if you have flexible recording gear you can get 4 tracks of drum kit to mix with. I haven't actually done that but folks at the Tascam 788 board were talking about using that a while back.

    Boss DR-550 mk II, 660, 770 etc good sounding, very easy to use patterns cheap in the used market (550 mkII)

    Boss DR 5 - same comments as 550, 660, 770 but you also get a 4 track sequencer with bass, keys, *guitar* and *horns*. Takes a little time to get all that working. I actually took a couple of DR5 lessons from a bass teacher who uses one. That shortened the learning curve big time. The good news is that you can turn all that crap off if you need to ignore it and just use the drums.

    Currently I own a 550 mkII ($75 used). I use it as a practice aid and it's cool. I also have the DR-5, I use that more as an instrument. I programm in a rythm and chord changes then blow over the top when working through some ideas. Very cool, $200 used. I also have Sonic Foundry's ACID and a whole bunch of drum samples. I think I'm going to migrate there eventually however the thought process is a bit different and I'm not comfortable with the work style yet.

    I have no experience with anything Zoom. I've heard the Akai and it is the bomb ... so's the budget.

    There is my take on it.
  3. DBasica


    Jan 6, 2003
    I have the Alesis SR16 and the Boss DR-770. Both have usuable sounds, though I always prefer a real drummer. Some of the fills are a bit overdone, and the DR-770 doesn't really have 200 presets (it has 4 variations of 50 presets if I recall correctly). They also don't have many presets for 3 based rhythms.

    But my main gripe with these things is that they are a pain in the *** to program. It is just plain tedious. Is there any software available to let you program these things from your computer (assuming they're connected via MIDI). I know computers well but know next to nothing about MIDI (I'm a MIDIOT!).

    It would also be great to be able to download presets that others have programmed, kind of like the POD downloads.

  4. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Yeah that's a good question. I'm getting more and more midi all the time. Unfortunatley if you work alone for the most part you can't avoid it. Think I might go off on a net search on that one.

    If you are really midi averse you might take a look at ACID.
  5. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    Thanks guys. I want the machine to help keep tight timing. After I lay down the drum machine and bass or guitar for the basic structure of the songs, then I'd have a real drummer come over and lay down his thing over (eventually replacing) the drum/click track.

    I might check out the Adrenalinn, too.
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    [plug mode]
    Do a search on the "For Sale" forum, I've got a really nice Alesis SR16 for sale. It's an old post but it's still for sale.
    [/plug mode]
  7. wallyburger


    Jan 13, 2003
    Detroit MI
    If you are recording on a DAW Fruitloops is great! I use it a lot for flavored "tic tac" tracks. Just create the loop and import it into a track in the mixing software. Real simple to use.
  8. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    I'll check the units at a store like Sam Ash to get a feel for them but I'll definitely keep the used Alesis in mind. Thanks.

    I run my PT on a Mac. I wonder if Fruitloops is PC or Mac. I would have like to use ACID but it's PC based; I don't think they have it for Mac yet.
  9. BassWizard55

    BassWizard55 Guest

    Dec 21, 2002
    Rome, Ga
    does any drum machine have a good sound??

  10. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    depends on how ou use them ... thoughtfully any of the three I mention can kick. But you have to really listen, compress, eq and mix ...

    Think about it ... how often do you really like the sound of the bass you record ... usually it isn't a tone that you'd pick to solo with in my experience.

    It's really about fitting all the pieces together, eh ?
  11. Bob C

    Bob C

    Mar 26, 2000
    Duluth, MN
    From what I gather, the Boss DR 660 has effects; the 550 does not. Correct? Any other differences?

    What are the programming limitations of these machines? Can you program each and every measure, if you desire?

    Do they offer time signatures other than 4/4?
  12. DaveDrummer


    Nov 2, 2002
    770 rules

  13. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    Is the Boss user (idiot, pretend I'm in 3rd grade) friendly?
  14. The Boss and Alesis are all kind of about the same as far are being user friendly, but maybe this editor will help.


    We use a sr16 for band rehersal between drummers and with skill and patience it can be quite cool. And it keeps good time, unlike most drummers!
  15. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I have an SR16 and have not tried the others mentioned in this thread. I can only speak on the SR16. I've used it for amatuer recordings and it sounds adequate. It has a number of usable drum kit patches that you can choose from; includes kits like a jazz set, metal thrash set, funk / R & B sounding set, processed synth drums, processed acoustic drums, etc., you get the picture.

    It's easy to use right out of the box. If you want to get into programing drum grooves and fills, it can get pretty tedious as mentioned in this thread.
  16. do all sr16's have a scratchy volume knob?
  17. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
  18. geez thats strange that ive had that problem, and my friends does the same thing, he bt his new?? could i be doing something wrong?? you just turn it clockwise for higher volume, and visa versa..i ass ume
  19. ufo


    Jun 3, 2003
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    I bought the DR-5 around 1994- it's dated technology but boy it still kicks butt.

    The sounds record really well- the cymbals don't sound like cheezy pie pans. And the programming system is laid out in a guitar neck format- so I picked it up quickly.

    This thing has stood the test of time, I highly recommend it.

    I use it on many of my recordings, including "Josh Pollack's Got the Funk", a funk bass song currently featured on my web site. I also use it for my current 'virtual' band- the Mesopotamian War Elephant- a collabroation over the web of musicians scattered across the globe. Check out these recordings to hear the DR-5...my site is


    good luck!

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