We round up some of the best products recently reviewed at MusicTech. It’s time for the best beat makers in hardware and software, to provide your every rhythmic desire. For some free alternatives, check out our top 7 freeware beat makers.
Best: Beats Per Buck – Wave Alchemy Revolution
Contact Wave Alchemy
You want beats? You’ve come to the right place, as Wave Alchemy’s Revolution packs 41,000 of them into Revolution. It’s a Kontakt instrument featuring 14 iconic drum machines including the TR-909, 808, 606, 707, CR-78, LinnDrum, Drumtraks, Drumulator, Oberheim DX and more.
Alongside loading up an entire machine into the 14 drum voices, you can also mix and match sounds. Reviewer Alex Holmes said: “You may wonder if you need more drum-machine samples, but the beauty here lies in how well the analogue depth of the machines has been captured.”
We said: “If you like classic electronic drum sounds, then Revolution is the ultimate instrument.”
Best: Analogue – Arturia DrumBrute
Contact Source Distribution
For just £380, DrumBrute is a full analogue drum machine with 17 percussion instruments, so is not only great value, but is also the only proper out-and-out analogue drum machine in this round up.
“The most important thing, of course, is how the DrumBrute sounds in operation and overall, it sounds warm, snappy and certainly as ‘analogue’ as we hoped,” said reviewer Bill Francis. “While some of the sounds the DrumBrute offers, namely the kicks, won’t suit every genre of electronic music, it is very hard to criticise a fully-analogue drum machine with 17 sounds that costs less than £400.”
We said: “The DrumBrute is a solid unit which provides excellent value for money. It offers a great introduction to the world of drum machines for producers on a budget, but at the same time could be a great addition to a more established electronic musician’s live or studio setup.”
Best: Hardware DAW – Akai MPC Live
People rave about the MPC for beat making and the MPC Live is very much an MPC, albeit one that is all grown up. In fact, the Live takes whole new strides into standalone song production, featuring a whole lot more than just beats.
Martin Delaney was certainly impressed: “The MPC Live brings the whole package – the pads, the display, the sampling, audio tracks and clip launching, elevating it above the competition in terms of what can realistically be achieved with a standalone box. If you want deep hardware sampling, sequencing, and – well, a hardware DAW, which is what it is – the MPC Live is currently the best option.
We said: “The standalone MPC is back.”
Best: Style – Roland Aira TR-8
Roland’s Aira series recaptured those classic sounds of yesteryear, with the TR-8 emulating the legendary TR-808 and 909 perfectly. The TR-8 is a great piece of kit to get hands-on with, combining retro sounds with a modern range of control. and the lights… don’t get us started on how awesome they are!
We said: “Rock-solid build, neat scatter effects and easy to use. The TR-8 is both a great-sounding and great-looking drum machine.”
Best:Analogue Mini – Teenage Engineering PO-32
Price £85 + $99 for the software
Contact Sound Technology
One of the great beat partnerships, PO-32 combines Teenage Engineering’s calculator-style beat making with Sonic Charge’s Microtonic software, from which you can upload samples into the TE unit. This means you can make beats on the move or make them in your studio on your computer, and then combine the results quite brilliantly.
Reviewer Andy Jones said: “You really can get the best of both worlds. PO-32 tonic has (re)opened my eyes to the fantastic world of Microtonic – and the fact that it works so well with the software brings two great beat making worlds together.”
We said: “PO-32 tonic has certainly added a tonic to our beats in both hardware and software. Separately, the hardware and software are superb. Put together, they are unbeatable.”
Best: Filtered Beats – Pioneer Toraiz
Like the Akai MPC Live on p105 of this feature, the Toraiz SP-16 can do a hell of a lot more than beats… but that MPC-like interface has ‘beat creating’ written all over it. There’s a seven-inch touchscreen, step sequencing, onboard effects and sample import from USB storage devices, plus a wonderful extra: an analogue filter from Dave Smith Instruments’ Prophet-6 synthesiser. Martin Delaney loved it.
“The Toraiz will attract confused Octatrack users, frustrated Akai fans and DJs who want to add samples to their set without bringing a computer. It’s one of the most-fun hardware experiences I’ve had in ages, especially when combined with other hardware favourites, and the payoff is immediate. You could take delivery in the morning and gig with it in the evening. There’s hardware sequencing and sampling, and an analogue filter, c’mon… I love it, how could you not?”
We said: “It’s easy to get to grips with and a huge amount of fun, creating patterns and arrangements, and launching samples and loops.”