As our beat-making special issue, in which we focus on computer-beat production, is out now We’ve decided to roundup the best hardware beat makers in the world right now! (‘Hype’, you say? Us?)
Best Classic Beats – Aira TR-8
After that intro, you might not be surprised to hear that we love a bit of hype and with AIRA, we’ve never known such levels of the stuff. The first products of the AIRA range were the TB-3 bassline (based on the classic TB-303) and this, the TR-8 (based on the TR-808) drum machine. In a way, the AIRA hype overshadowed the resulting products – both were particularly accurate reimaginings of the originals and a lot more besides.
The TR-8 does the 808 and 909 like no other, with pumping, ducking, jittering beats and easy programming and sound sculpting (not to mention the fantastic lights). Sounding pretty much identical to the originals and packed full of extra features, we still rate the unit as being right up there with the best beat makers there are.
As reviewer Andy Jones said: “TR-8 is a great-sounding and great-looking drum machine that might help a new generation of producers get off their sofas and start making – and more importantly performing – beats again. Could it even start another dance-music revolution?”
Price £389 street
Contact 01792 702701
Best Groovebox Beats – Novation Circuit
The groovebox concept was all over music production like a rash during the late-90s and noughties, but it’s taken a re-imagining of the format to put it to the fore once more. Novation’s Circuit works because there has been a shift away from computer-only music making (Circuit doesn’t require one at all) and also because it has a relatively open format that allows it to interface with a computer (if you must) and a bunch of modular gear (which you should).
And you will want just that, as making music with Circuit is almost too easy. Andy Jones said: “Circuit blends Groovebox features with a modern grid composition with bags of future potential. Great fun, and you will be making music with it in under three minutes – if not, we’ll do it for you.”
Contact 01494 462246
Best Live Beats – Ableton Push 2
Of course, Push 2 is not just a beat maker – Ableton designed it pretty much as an instrument in its own right – but for beat production, there’s little that comes close when you combine it with Live’s instruments and plug-ins.
There are so many additional features for intricate edits and variations that your beat making will never be the same. Okay, it’s for Live users, but once you’ve been introduced to its speedy workflow, you might just be tempted to make the Live leap to fully enjoy both hardware and software.
As reviewer Martin Delaney said: “Push 2 has many things going for it: the Ableton brand, the ironing out of some of my biggest niggles from the original and an out-of-the-box functionality that nobody else can really match,” and he concluded: “spend some time playing with it and you’ll learn that this one is hard to resist
Contact via website
Best MPC Beats – Akai MPC Touch
Some people – mainly hip-hop producers – absolutely swear by the ‘MPC way’ of beat creation and those people will not be disappointed by Akai’s recent MPC Touch. But this beat maker also updates the concept and adds to it, with an incredible touch screen, a huge sound library and an easy way of integrating with your DAW or simply acting standalone to create beats, or tunes – you name it, Touch helps.
As well as being blown away by the screen (“lovely, and big enough for editing”), reviewer Martin Delaney said: “Forget history, these are the glory days –
this is a great machine for any music producer. There’s nothing in Touch that forces you to go hip hop – it will work for anything, even bro-country!”
Contact via website
Best Mobile Beats – Teenage Engineering PO-20 Series
We’ve already given our provisional conclusions out to newsletter subscribers but suffice to say, these are the most amount of beat fun you can have for such a small outlay.
Of the three new models – Arcade, Robot and Office – the latter one is the surprise package and is particularly groovy for beat work. It doesn’t fortunately just focus on office noises (they make up its core sounds) and many of the beats you make with it will slot right in with many genres, and they are also dead easy to produce.
Arcade and Robot also offer notes and beats and TE maintains a good run, which was started by its 10 series. Our full, in-depth review is next month!
Price €75 each including postage
Contact via website
Best Integrated Beats – Native Instruments Maschine Studio
Native Instruments has shown us what true hardware and software integration means with its Komplete Kontrol keyboards. Before these, however, it paved the way for beat integration with Maschine Studio. Combining hardware control and programming, plus software and a huge library, Maschine is the ultimate combination.
As we said in our review, “Whether you are performing on stage or composing elsewhere, Maschine Studio offers a true hardware experience plus all the advantages that software brings. Native Instruments has well and truly ushered in a new era of hardware control and composition.”
Contact 0207 9207500