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It's always difficult to find some good drum sounds for your productions, and Hip Hop producers often look towards vinyl or drum kits for those sounds. However, what's often overlooked is old drum machines because they all have some great sounds that can easily be manipulated to match our sound. The Alesis SR-16 drum machine is one of those pieces of gear that is definitely something that producers should be looking at, but it's not just about the sounds...
The first time I saw the SR-16 was in 1994 at a store and I was blown away at how great it sounded. What I've always liked about it was that the drums were clean sounding because they were recorded straight from actual live drummers and weren't overly processed. The most that Alesis did was add digital reverb to some of the drums, but the majority of the 233 drum sounds on the SR-16 were in dry form.
The drum sounds weren't the only great thing about it though, it was also how this drum machine functioned. It was really easy right out of the box to start programming drums, even if you had never done so in your life. You could program a simple pattern or add in fills and change-ups with just the press of a button.
Lots Of Features
The SR-16 had 50 preset patterns and had built-in rhythmic variations that allowed you to make complete arrangements and even save your patterns and songs! So in a way, it was sort of like today's modern controllers that do the same thing, except this was all done inside this little drum machine with a simple screen.
There were 12 pads that were right at the front of the machine and each one was a different type of drum hit, plus it had a "fill" button where you could easily add in fills while your loop was playing. You could even switch quickly between patterns without missing a step.
You can obviously still use this drum machine in your studio today since it has MIDI In/Out ports, so it can be hooked up to a keyboard, controller, or just your computer with ease. Even though the drums were mainly dry, the SR-16 has built-in digital effects that you can use, but I think it's a great machine to use if you want to grab some dry drums and destroy them in your current setup.
Drums For Days
What I noticed over the years is that not only is this drum machine used in a lot of studios to sample from, it's also used to replace drummers. We all know that a real drummer completely owns a machine, but if you need something quick for your recording, this is the piece to do the job.
The reason for this is because of the way the Alesis SR-16 was designed internally. The way you could program drum patterns and easily switch them up and drop in fills with the press of a button made this a really fun machine for lots of producers and bands.
- Audio Outputs: 4 (2 stereo pairs)
- Pads: 12 velocity sensitive (w/Dynamic Articulation)
- Sample/DAC Bit Resolution: 16/18
- Sounds: 233
- Sounds Accessible via Pads: 12
- Sounds Accessible via MIDI: 120
- Polyphony: 16 voice
- Panning: 7-position user programmable
- Velocity Response: 8 loudness levels via pads, 127 via MIDI
- Timing Resolution: 96 ppq
- Time Signature Range: 1-128 beats per pattern
- Tempo Range: 20-255 bpm
- Notes/Patterns/Songs: 12,000/400 (200 user, 200 preset)/100
- Kits: 50 user, 50 preset
- MIDI Program Change Response: Kit
- Sync: MIDI Clock/Song Position Pointer
- Footswitch Jacks/Functions: 2; start/stop, count/A/B/fill
- Other Features: Sound stacking, step editing, stereo samples with reverb and ambience
- Dynamic Articulation: Modulates tone
I'm not sure how many people still use it since computers are everywhere, but the good news is that if you're looking to buy one, you will most likely be able to find one on Craigslist or Kijiji for about $50. eBay would probably run you more (plus shipping) so remember that.
Even for $50 used, this machine is a steal. As far as I'm concerned, a Hip Hop producer can never have enough drums, no matter what! Plus, it would be fun to have this machine and give you something to mess around with in the studio.
Beware though, there's the older, original version, but there's also the newer version that Alesis released in the early 2000's. The newer model has more memory than the older one, plus they've added in a headphone jack, which the old version did not have. So if you're looking to buy one used (or even new), ask about what version it is and what features are included.
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Alesis SR-16 In Action
For more information about the Alesis SR-16, visit the Alesis website.