Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine Review

The general idea with regards to drum machines in recent times is that they are out of fashion and that no one relies on hardware anymore as we are currently at an age and time of software. Well, this idea is highly debatable in view of the fact that most of these drum machines have remained relevant due to their unique nature. They usually have an easy-to-use interface and you get value for the price you pay.

The Alesis SR-18 was made to follow the earlier version of the drum machine – Alesis SR-16 – which was invented in the early 90s and is regarded as one of the best and outstanding drum machines to ever be made. Since then, the bar has been raised for the new drum machine to meet up to with regards to technological advancement and development.

Alesis SR-18 - Studio-Grade Standalone Drum...
  • A studio icon - Legendary classic drum machine for songwriters, live performers and remix...
  • In demand sound - 500 professional sounds included, built-in digital effects for added realism...
  • Seamless MIDI connectivity - Complete MIDI support for use with keyboards, computers, DAWs and...

Regardless of the fact that there is still relatively fair demand for second-generation drum machines, one might consider opting for a drum machine with improved and advanced features that meet up to the current standards and need of the users.

Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine Review – Key Features

Taking a first look at the Alesis SR-18, you notice so many similarities between it and its predecessor the Alesis SR-16. The wheel at the top-right close to the display screen, the buttons found at the bottom of the device are notable similarities between the two drum machines. However, there is a ton of improvements on both the hardware and software on the Alesis SR-18 as compared to the SR-16.

First off, there is an LCD monitor at the top centre of the screen. There is also a new ‘Tap/Tempo‘ button and a new set of buttons to toggle between bass, percussion, drum, roll and pattern play. With regards to internal changes and improvements, 16 new voices have been added to the polyphony to bring the total number of voices to 32.

Also, there was an addition of 100 drum kits bringing the number of drum kits on the Alesis SR-18 to 200 as opposed to the 100 drum kits on the SR-16.

Furthermore, the SR-16 had 233 sounds, but, a massive improvement was made on the Alesis SR-18 with the addition of over 250 more sounds to bring the total to about 500 sounds alongside 50 bass sounds. The new Alesis SR-18 also features a new and improved 16/24 DAC bit resolution, which is way better than the 16/18 resolution embedded in the SR-16 models. A mute function is available to be able to mute drum, bass and percussion on the machine.

Connectivity Options

The back of the machine spots all the input and output jacks for connectivity. There is a MIDI-in, and MIDI-out input. The MIDI-Out port also serves as a MIDI-thru port, alongside an instrument input to blend sounds from outside the machine to fit in with the SR-18 sounds.

Also present at the back is the main Left and main Right audio output ports alongside an Aux L/R which can serve the purpose of a single individual output.

There is also a 1/4” stereo headphones jack and a 1/4″ input for an extra instrument (A guitar). A user can easily program/ map a bass or percussion track, run it through the aux channel and connect it to a reverb pedal or synth and have a fun time playing with the functions.

Alesis SR-18 - Studio-Grade Standalone Drum...
  • A studio icon - Legendary classic drum machine for songwriters, live performers and remix...
  • In demand sound - 500 professional sounds included, built-in digital effects for added realism...
  • Seamless MIDI connectivity - Complete MIDI support for use with keyboards, computers, DAWs and...

One feature lacking is the fact that the Alesis SR-18 does not have a USB port for connectivity to a computer or other devices. Considering the fact that it was produced in the late 2000s when using computers to connect to other external devices were in vogue.

It should include a USB port to enhance MIDI communication between a computer and the drum machine and also for firmware updates to the machine. However, this does not totally downplay the other nice features the machine possesses.

Another minor con from the various beautiful features of the Alesis SR-18 is that there is no automatic save function when creating or editing a pattern, drum kit or song track. If you do not save an ongoing task manually and you turn the kit off, all your unsaved tasks are lost automatically.

Users should, therefore, take this into cognisance and ensure they manually save their tasks before turning off the kit to avoid data loss.

Bass & Percussion Effects

The Alesis SR-18 also comes fitted with a 32MB large ROM sound set with bass synth and percussion bank, coupled with inbuilt Alesis effects including reverb, EQs and compression. These effects come alongside two-preset driven processors. One of these processors is joint EQ that also doubles as a compression device. The other processor does the job of a simple reverb.

The joint EQ/ Compression device can be toggled on and off for each drum sound and bass instrument. The other is obtained from the individual send controls on the drum machine.

 

Using the Pads

The sole purpose of a pad is to produce drum sounds, and on the Alesis SR-18, there are 12 buttons for this function. There are two modes in which the pads on the Alesis SR-18 can be used.

  • Pad Play Mode: In this mode, the 12 buttons function like a conventional drum machine, with a different sound obtained from each of the different buttons.
  • Pattern Play Mode: This is not as simple as the pad play mode as it involves the user programming each pad to create and produce a pattern as opposed to just producing a sound.

Another great feature of the Alesis SR-18 kit that has endeared the kit to many users is the fact that the pads used for the drum sounds can also be equally used for producing the notes for bass. For guitar players and other instrumentalists who love to have fun playing alone, this is a great feature to have. The drum sounds and guitar sounds can be programmed to produce sounds at the same time, just with the use of the 12 trigger performance pad buttons.

The sensitivity and response of the pad buttons isn’t great, as you sometimes need to hit it harder for higher sound intensity. The addition of a pad trigger sensitivity adjustment option would have come in handy. But I really do not see it as that much of a big deal personally. The button sensitivity and response are pretty much decent enough.

Sound Output

The sound output from the Alesis SR-18 is one that has received the applause and commendation of many users. It is the feature most of the users are impressed with. This is not because that sound from its predecessor the SR16 is bad, but this was improved on when the Alesis SR-18 drum kit was designed.

Alesis SR-18 - Studio-Grade Standalone Drum...
  • A studio icon - Legendary classic drum machine for songwriters, live performers and remix...
  • In demand sound - 500 professional sounds included, built-in digital effects for added realism...
  • Seamless MIDI connectivity - Complete MIDI support for use with keyboards, computers, DAWs and...

The SR-18 comes fitted with a ton of sounds to choose from. The kick drum, hi-hat, cymbals, toms and snares all have over 60 subdivisions to select from. Also, users of the Alesis SR-18 who previously owned the SR-16 kit will notice that the sound emanating from the SR-18 is much crisper with better force and purity as opposed to the SR16.

There are 22 reverb presets and 14 EQ/Compression presets for sound processing which is not so mind-blowing, but is great enough to get the job done for you. Effects cannot be programmed for each sound on the kit but are programmed to apply to all the drum sounds in a particular drum kit on the machine.

200 drum sets can be stored in the memory bank of the Alesis SR-18, with each set being the amalgamation of percussion, bass and drum sound alongside their programmed effects and mix.

 

Recording with the Alesis SR-18 Drum Machine 

With the way this drum machine is designed, patterns are recorded by either of the following options;

  • MIDI: Connecting an external electronic device, often a keyboard, via MIDI to the drum machine kit.
  • Playing the pads to produce and record multiple patterns on the kit.

As soon as the patterns have been created, they can be linked together in a chain and programmed to create a song track. New users might not find it all that easy to record patterns and program tracks as it can take some getting used to. Once you get a hang of it, however, it becomes pretty easy to work with and create patterns and songs.

Patterns can either be edited from existing or imported presets or created from scratch depending on the preference of the user. However, as stated earlier users must be careful to save each step of the way as they create and record their patterns on the kit as it lacks the auto-save function. To prevent loss of projects and create tasks, they must be saved before the kit is turned off.

Overall, considering the improvements and additions on the Alesis SR-18, it is a pretty decent kit with a great user interface and functionality, very portable and the fact it can run on 6AA batteries is another added perk. You will be getting good value for your money, purchasing this kit.

 

Last update on 2020-07-07 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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