Alesis SR 16 Review – The Classic Electronic Drum Machine

Last Updated on December 28, 2021 by Danny

Here’s our Alesis SR 16 drum machine review, which was first released in 1990. This is one of the best selling drum machines ever produced.

sr 16 review

This drum machine has been in production for about 30 years! Now try to think of things that have been in production for three decades. Not that many, right?

The Alesis SR16 has remained in production for so long because musicians have always loved it. It is perfect for anyone who loves vintage sounds and needs a compact device. The simplicity of the machine is also another reason why it’s one of the best drum machines

That’s enough for an intro. Let’s get on with reviewing a machine that came out when Hold On by Wilson Phillips was on top of the Billboard 100!

Alesis SR 16 Drum Machine Review

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Alesis SR 16 is a legendary drum machine from the twentieth century that remains extremely popular. From songwriters to live performers, it has been used by a wide variety of artists and music producers.

The sound quality is quite remarkable, considering its age. With a 24-bit sound engine that comes with 233 different sounds, it is an ideal tool for high-fidelity grooves. The sounds are also realistic as they are all actual samples, not artificially generated, giving you natural drum sounds. You also get 50 preset patterns to use, along with space for 50 user patterns. Do you keep in mind that while the sound is suitable for general use, it is nowhere near the standards needed for modern studio work!

You interact with the drum machine using 12 velocity sensitive pads that come with dynamic articulation. These pads allow you to express yourself extensively. The only issue with the thing is that the included screen is not backlit, so you cannot use it in dark areas. The connectivity is not excellent, but it does support complete MIDI implementation and has four audio outputs.

While it lacks many modern features, this plays to its advantage. The lack of many sophisticated features makes it so much easier to learn!

The footprint of the Alesis SR 16 drum machine is relatively small, making it quite easy to carry it around. You will also not need a Brobdingnagian desk to use; it will comfortably fit even on a small table. The only thing diminishing its portability is that it cannot run off a battery and need to be connected to a wall socket at all times. Another issue is that the power cable is quite flimsy; it can easily break. Even the exterior plastic is quite fragile.

Overall, it is a compact vintage drum machine that is still relevant due to its ease of use, low cost, and sound quality. 


  • Extremely popular 
  • Lightweight and compact 
  • Acceptable sound quality 
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Great value for money
  • dynamic articulation feature


  • Basic functionalities
  • It does not have a backlight screen, making it unsuitable for work in dark areas
  • Not that good for studio work
  • Limited connectivity 

AlesisSR 16 Features and their performance


alesis sr16 drum machine

The Alesis SR16 has a classic design that is seriously appreciated by musicians worldwide. Its old design means that the machine is incredibly simple; there are none of the crazy features you might find in modern machines.

You can get into grasp with this drum machine much sooner than you might think, i.e., the learning curve doesn’t exist! These intuitive controls and the overall simplicity of the machine are what have allowed the Alesis SR 16 drum machine to remain popular till now.

The old design also allows it to be compact and lightweight as the electronics inside are pretty simple and unsophisticated. The only drawback with the design is the included non-backlit screen, which can make it very hard to see the screen in dark areas like a concert setting.


Well, this is the exact same hardware you would have gotten if you had purchased the Alesis SR 16 drum machine three decades ago. The plastic exterior shell is pretty weak, so even a single drop can lead to a crack and other issues.

It has not been updated since and still has the same vintage look. The design is typical of the 1990s drum machines and might give nostalgia for some users. If you want compact and super portable drum hardware, you cannot go wrong with this.

Touch-Sensitive Buttons

Even though the board is relatively tiny at 9.25×6.5 inches, it still manages to comfortably fit plenty of buttons in it. While it does have many of the standard menu navigation and setting buttons, what is impressive is that most of the surface is covered with its 12 velocity sensitive pads. While the drum pads could have been bigger, they are not uncomfortable small.

These drum pads have eight different velocity response levels and dynamic articulation; this feature enables excellent control over the dynamics. You can play with the tonal control extensively. You can even assign a different sound to each velocity level if you want to!

Connectivity Options

While the Alesis SR 16 drum machine does not have all the modern connectivity options, it does have all the essential ones. You have Left, Right, Aux, and headphones out in the back along with MIDI ins and MIDI outs.

The MIDI support allows you to connect it to electronic drum kits and other MIDI input devices.

There are even a couple of footswitch inputs. While it isn’t extensive, these connectivity options will be sufficient for the average user.

Sound quality with the 24-bit sound engine for dynamic, high-fidelity grooves

Thirty years is a long time for any digital device, so the Alesis SR 16 drum machine does show its age!

That said, the sound quality is still pretty good and usable in most circumstances. The one thing that it really has going for it is that all the audio samples in the machine have been recorded live in a studio, so there is none of the computer-generated nonsense you find in newer drum machines. So you will always get natural drum sounds. 

The 24-bit sound engine is perfect if you want to use it for any live performances or if you are just grooving in your free time. The lack of sound quality wouldn’t be noticeable in such circumstances, and you can have loads of fun with it.

However, the old sound engine does become an issue during studio work. Not only is the sound quality not that great, but it is also minded achingly hard to mix with these samples. Even using MIDI is not easy, as you will have to tweak a whole lot before the sounds sound like you want them to.

Hundreds of inbuilt Quality Sounds

This drum machine comes with exactly 233 high-quality inbuilt sounds. This includes many natural drums sounds, percussion instruments, and even some completely alien sounds. Most of the sounds are just incredible, but there are a few bad-quality samples. Just a few, though.

There are also 50 preset patterns made by professionals to use; if these don’t please you, the Alesis SR 16 has space for you to store 50 of your own custom patterns. The tempo range is also quite wide, at 20-255 bpm.

You can also alter the sound using digital effects like digital reverb, A & B variations, or fill groups. This opens up possibilities. It is very easy to program these too!

While none of these might seem exceptional by modern standards, you gotta remember that this machine is around 30 years old!

Why is the Alesis SR 16 drum machine still used by many musicians to this day?

The Alesis SR 16 drum machine is still used by many musicians to this day because it is extremely easy to learn and use. It is also very compact and portable. Even though the sound quality and general functionality aren’t as excellent as modern drum machines, the previously mentioned advantages have ensured that Alesis SR 16 remains one of the most popular drum machines ever.


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So this is our complete Alesis sr 16 review. There are plenty of reasons as to why the Alesis SR 16 drum machine has remained in production for so long. Intuitive to use, natural drum sounds, 12 velocity-sensitive pads, compact design, nostalgic feeling, and a great price are just some of them. 

While it has a few problems like lack of a backlit screen and an outdated sound engine, the positives are too much to ignore.

It is ideal for people who need a drum machine for live performances or practice and jamming sessions. If you are on a budget, there are not many drum machines that can beat this classic drum machine! It is a solid investment into electronic percussion!

How does Alesis SR16 compare with SR18?

The Alesis SR18 drum machine is kind of the successor for the Alesis SR 16, even though Alesis SR 16’s production never really stopped. The SR 18 has the same design concepts and principles as the SR 16 but comes with a lot more features and options.

While the hardware might look quite similar, a few updates have been made. The most notable update would be the LCD screen, which is backlit in the SR 18, allowing you to use it in dark settings. 

On the software and electronic side, updates have been much more significant. You get a much faster processor, a larger memory, more sounds samples, and such. The sound quality has also been improved a little. 

So, is the newer Alesis SR 18 drum machine worth the extra few bucks over the Alesis SR 16?

Well, it depends. If you do not need much extra functionality, the SR 16 drum machine would be perfectly adequate for you. However, if you want to use the drum machine for even a little studio work, you will surely appreciate the Alesis SR 18. Personally, we suggest that you try them both out at your local music shop or somewhere before you buy them.

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