Best Drum Machine for Drum and Bass: When Control is Key

Given its speedy rhythm with lots of characteristic breaks, drum and bass music is all about how much control you can afford while playing your drum kit and how diverse the basses can get.

Korg Volca Bass offers you an all-but-endless range of DnB-friendly features at an affordable price, bringing together the best of digital and analog sound, which makes it the best drum machine for drum and bass in my judgment.

In case you miss some of the capabilities it doesn’t have, such as a standard MIDI output, read below for 4 alternatives.

Top Drum Machines for Drum and Bass

  1. Korg Volca Bass Analogue Bass Machine Bundle
  2. Akai Professional Rhythm Wolf | True Analog Drum Machine and Bass Synthesizer
  3. Novation Circuit Groove Box with Sample Import: 2-Part Synth, 4-Part Drum Machine
  4. Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine
  5. Teenage Engineering PO-14 Pocket Operator Sub Bass Synthesizer

In this section, I’m sharing my drum machine reviews of five DnB-oriented beat makers that I find outstanding in this or that respect.

1. Korg Volca Bass: Best Portable Drum Machine

As the name obviously suggests, this little device is all about delivering a full range of bass sounds. Whether you want it thick for a supportive background or aggressive and pronounced, Volca Bass can do it with its three analog oscillators.

The beatmaker is powered by an analog sound engine, which gives you more opportunities for creating highly nuanced sound as compared to digital solutions. Yet, there is some digital processing behind it, ensured in particular by MIDI connectivity and the built-in sequencer. The latter has 16 steps and 8 memory patches but can be expanded using appropriate software. If you are interested in maintaining a constant pitch, Volca Bass makes it easy with a self-tuning option. The controls are both intuitive and highly responsive.

Housed in a well-built compact case of translucent plastic and boasting optional battery power capabilities, this device is highly portable. The power supply is not included in the package. Another compromise is the lack of a MIDI output, which seems to be acceptable given the price.

Korg Volca Bass Analogue Bass Machine Bundle with Power Supply and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth
  • Three analogue oscillators for thick, huge bass line
  • Electribe-style 16-step sequencer with eight memory patches

PROS:
  • The incredibly powerful bass line;
  • Perfect responsiveness and intuitive navigation;
  • Easy to carry around with optional battery power;
  • Decent digital connectivity;
  • Not overly expensive.
CONS:
  • The device lacks some advanced features like a MIDI output;
  • You have to purchase a power supply separately.

2. Akai Professional Rhythm Wolf Analog Drum Machine: Runner-Up

Priced somewhat higher than our top pick, this Akai Professional beat maker combines five analog drum voices with a bass synthesizer function, making it a powerful drum and bass machine.

The analog voice palette includes snare, kick, open/closed hi-hat drums, and accent percussion, of which the kick could definitely be a little louder. The bass synth enables you to select from a variety of waveforms, with an analog filter further aiding the squelch and growl. For those who like extraordinary noises, there’s the customizable Howl tool.

This compact, solid-built device features a 32-step standalone sequencer alongside a set of easy-to-hit, responsive trigger pads, and intuitive control knobs. While reasonably portable, it lacks battery power capability. Finally, some DnB musicians might wish there was an even snappier decay setting.

Akai Professional Rhythm Wolf | True Analog Drum Machine and Bass Synthesizer
  • 5-voice analog drum machine and bass synthesizer that bites back
  • Unleash analog beats with kick, snare, open and closed hi-hat, and variable accent percussion

PROS:
  • Authentic analog drum kit sounds;
  • The drum and bass synth features each have dedicated outputs;
  • Large responsive pads;
  • Ergonomic and intuitive design;
  • Well-buit and portable.
CONS:
  • No battery power options;
  • Longish decay settings.

3. Novation Circuit Groove Box: Best Drum Pad Machine in the Premium Category

A standalone sequencer with plenty of onboard drum, bass, and synth sounds to choose from. This Novation Circuit groove box is designed to inspire your creativity.

An intuitive control layout makes it extremely easy to manage regardless of your experience. The backlit velocity-sensitive trigger pads have a nice-to-the-touch rubbery surface and are hard to miss, reducing potential frustration in beginner users to the minimum.

The drum machine part consists of four voices, and there is a pronounced accent on basses as well as bright leads. Independent delay, pitch, distortion, and filter controls along with a swing function add the potential for customization.

All in all, this highly visual battery-powered device with a built-in speaker and extensive daisy-chaining capability as well as MIDI I/O and USB connectivity is as simple as it is versatile and powerful.

Novation Circuit Groove Box with Sample Import: 2-Part Synth, 4-Part Drum Machine and Sequencer,...
  • 2-part Nova, analog-modeled synthesizer, 4-part drum machine, 6 voice polyphony per synth; Compatibility - macOS 10.12 Sierra , Mac OSX 10.11, Mac OSX 10.10, Windows 10 , Windows 8
  • 4-part drum machine: store up to 64 drums, samples, and one-shots – combine up to 128 steps of synth and drum patterns; save up to 32 sessions, each comprised of up to 8 patterns per track

PROS:
  • Excellent connectivity;
  • Extremely easy to play;
  • Perfect responsiveness;
  • Extensive sound palette.
CONS:
  • On the pricey side.

4. Arturia DrumBrute: Best Drum Machine for Drum and Bass If You Feel Nostalgic

For those who miss the analog drum machines of the days long gone, Arturia DrumBrute can become an inspiring combination of authentic drum sound and audio quality that meets the standards of today.
With a total of 17 100% analog drum and percussion sounds that can be triggered by velocity-sensitive trigger pads and controlled using a number of fine-tuning knobs, the device offers a rich variety.

The nostalgic machine boasts MIDI in and out ports as well as a USB port for contemporary digital connectivity. Its 4 memory banks will store up to 64 patterns, with the kit MIDI Control Center software offering virtually unlimited storage.

All in all, it is not your average drum machine with bass but a high-control sound factory for making the gritty noises you can think of.

Arturia DrumBrute Analog Drum Machine, Black
  • Wide-range of controls allowing for many new and unique sounds Two flavors of kick drum Unique analog Reverse Cymbal 64 patterns with up to 64 steps each Separate accent per drum Step Repeat for creating looping glitch effects Song mode for chaining patterns Swing and randomizer can be global or per instrument Pattern looper for beat repeat functions Steiner Parker output filter with bypass (high pass & low pass) Multiple sync options (Internal, USB, MIDI, Clo
  • With the vast majority of the past few decades' drum machine designs largely being emulations of the great machines that have gone before, Arturia’s introduction of a fully analog hardware drum machine with organic, integral sound creation is a major event

PROS:
  • Low noise level;
  • Good storage capabilities;
  • Extensive adjustment options;
  • Good digital connectivity;
  • Gritty analog sound.
CONS:
  • Not inexpensive;
  • Some players might want bigger trigger pads.

5. Teenage Engineering PO-14: Not Another Drum Machine with Bass Lines

This cheap, calculator-like synthesizer will require a lot of patience on your side, but it also offers intriguing opportunities. It has a number of synthesizer engines packed into it to power its drum, bassline, and melody synthesizers and offers a set of 16 effects such as vibrato, delay, and more.

With 2 adjustable parameter locks, you can maintain the desired sound settings in real-time. Don’t be misled by the piece’s modest appearance because it bears some serious speaker hardware for excellent sound quality. You can sync it with other pocket operators or even third-party gear using its built-in connectivity features.

Sale
Teenage Engineering PO-14 Pocket Operator Sub Bass Synthesizer
  • SMALL BUT LOADED WITH FEATURES - The PO-14 Sub Bass boasts multiple real synthesizer engines including wavetable, FM, subtractive synthesis, and physically modeled strings
  • ENHANCES YOUR BASS SOUNDS - This pocket-sized synthesizer offers 16 punch-in effects including bit crusher, delay, and vibrato.

PROS:
  • One of the cheapest options out there;
  • Broad tweaking potential;
  • Multiple drums and bass synthesizer engines for ultimate control;
  • Connects to similar operators or other gear.
CONS:
  • No MIDI connectivity;
  • Not one of drum machines for beginners.

Common Drum Machine Questions and Answers

Novation Circuit Groove Box with Sample Import: 2-Part Synth, 4-Part Drum Machine and Sequencer

Here’s a small selection of things many people want to know when it comes to choosing the best drum sampler or analog drum machine, included to inform you on the bigger subject.

What is the most popular drum machine?

These surely include the Akai MPD218, the iconic Alesis SR16 (born as long back as in the 90s!), and another member of the Korg Volca family, the Korg Volca Beats drum machine. Roland has made some widely favored models, too, such as TR-8.

What is the easiest drum machine to use?

I can’t recommend the Korg Volca series highly enough when it comes to usability. With its nice and big rubbery trigger pads, excellent responsiveness, and unsophisticated yet powerful controls, the Volca Bass reviewed above is perfect for effortless experimenting with DnB. Highly visual backlit models with a lot of effort put into the layout, such as the Circuit, also featured in my list, can be easy to use as well.

Should I get a drum machine?

You definitely should try one if you feel like you’ve grown out of simply using pre-recorded sounds and want a more authentically responsive instrument where you have lots of control, enhanced by a digital processing potential.

Unleash Your Creativity with a Fully Tweakable Drum Machine

A responsive drum machine that combines high sound quality with wide audio tuning capabilities, such as the Volca Bass by Korg, can bring your drum playing experience to a whole new level.

Control is key to creating compelling drum-and-bass sound, so be sure to choose a device that you can easily navigate in real-time and which gives you a lot of options for creating the characteristic “breaks”. Portability and connectivity are welcome bonuses that depend largely on your budget.

What’s your key criterion for a DnB-friendly drum machine? Please let us know in the Comments section below!

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