The Alesis SR18 is the successor to the extremely popular still-in-production Alesis SR 16. The SR18 was launched in 2009 to try and replicate the success of its predecessor! It seems to have achieved its goal since it is still in production and has been popular enough to review it.
So why does this Alesis Drum Machine get all this love? The SR18 is an ideal option for anyone who is in love with the vintage look of 1990s drum machines but wants better capabilities. The low price of it is also an attractive feature. Enough with this; let’s dive into the review.
Alesis SR18 Review
The Alesis SR18 drum machine is beloved by producers, live performers, and songwriters. It has aged like wine and is still popular even after these many years. So what does the SR18 have that makes it so fabulous?
Let’s start with the hardware; there is a backlit screen in the machine that lets you clearly see the various items. The 12 velocity-sensitive pads allow you to express yourself better. All the buttons feel tactile and are pretty durable. This machine can even be battery-powered by AA batteries.
The connectivity is excellent, with stereo and MIDI support. You can plug in various MIDI trigger devices if you want to. There is even an instrument input!
There are a lot of sounds in the Alesis SR18. To be exact, there are about 500 drum sounds and bass sounds you can use. They have good quality, and you can also use the built-in EQ, compression, and reverb effects to improve them. The sound quality has been improved over its predecessor. There are 100 preset patterns; you can also add a hundred of your own as extra.
This drum machine is relatively easy to use. While it isn’t as user-friendly as the older version, it is still way more uncomplicated than modern drum machines. The only irritating aspect is that step editing built-in patterns is too time-consuming.
Overall the most people consider this to be the best drum machine made today for the price due to its simple to program capabilities with really cool looks and large pads.
- A large number of samples and patterns
- Backlit screen
- Rugged construction
- Simple to use
- Priced attractively
- It can be battery powered
- Has an instrument input
- Real-time Alesis built-in effects
- No complex controls
- Velocity-sensitive pads could have been spaced out a bit more.
Alesis SR18 Features and their performance
The SR18 takes many design cues from the SR 16 drum machine. It has the same vintage look and will be nostalgic to anyone who used drum machines in the 1990s. The pale grey plastic body, rubber keys, and the simple screen are reminiscent of a bygone era.
So, if the physical design is old, what about the internals? Well, thankfully, the software and internals do not feel like the 1990s. This drum machine has a faster processor, better storage, more sounds, and way more features than its predecessor. There is no automatic save through, so make sure you save everything manually before turning the machine off.
However, the SR18 does retain many of the great features of the SR 16. It is effortless to use; there are no modern complex setups and such, so you can pick it up and learn to use it quite quickly. No more spending hundreds of hours on youtube videos before you can learn to tap tempo for Baa Baa Black Sheep. It has also retained the small form factor of its predecessor, making it easier to carry around.
While the fundamental aspect of the design hasn’t changed, you will appreciate the minor updates made here and there.
The SR18 features a rigid plastic shell that is rugged and isn’t prone to cracks. While we do not recommend you drop testing it, it can take a few falls!
There is the usual myriad of various menu buttons on the face; they all have a nice feel when you press down on them. Even the knob on top feels quite tactile. One of the notable buttons is the tap tempo button, with which you can make your own beats. The only issue is that the save button is right next to the erase button, so a single slip of your hand can lead to hours of work disappearing.
Coming to the most important buttons, there are twelve touch-sensitive pads positioned on the bottom. The limited space allocated to them does make them a little unergonomic.
The best upgrade the SR18 received was for its screen. The screen is now backlit and is quite bright, so you can easily view it in the dark or from a distance. While it doesn’t have the fancy colors or touch screen options of modern drum machines, it gets the job done.
You can power it by using the included wall adapter or even run it using six AA batteries. The better screen and being battery powered are among the most significant hardware updates to the SR 18 over the SR 16.
The SR 18 comes with 12 velocity-sensitive pads, much like the SR 16. These pads can recognize the force with which you are playing and translate it into nuances in the sound. The pads are simply outstanding. The only issue is that the pads are packed together due to the small size of the SR 18, making them uncomfortable for a few people.
These pads can be set up as either drum, percussion, or bass. With drum and percussion setups, you can assign separate instruments to each pad. In bass mode, you easily program bass lines.
These pads can operate in two modes. The Pad Play mode is the standard model, and each pad will play one sound. The second mode is Pattern Play mode; with this, you can assign a pattern to each pad rather than a sound. While not everyone will use this, it can be helpful at times.
All the connectivity options of the SR18 are loaded on its backside. It has complete MIDI support with an in and out/through port. You can plug in a DAW or keyboard with it.
As for your traditional options, you have two stereo outputs. You also have a headphone jack that you can use to practice quietly.
The main connectivity advantage of the SR18 over the SR 16 is that it has a ¼ inch instrument input. With the instrument input, you can plug your guitar or bass and play along! The only thing is that two Aux output jacks in the SR 16 have been shrunk to a TRS stereo jack in the SR18. We are not really on board with this decision.
Sound quality with 24-bit sound engine for dynamic, high-fidelity grooves
The sound quality is pretty good for most of the samples. All the samples are actually recorded, so you get a realistic sound free from any digital noise artifacts. They will sound like an actual drummer!
The sounds are much clearer and feel more powerful than older Alesis models. The dynamic articulation feature also helps deliver a more authentic drum sound. You will find the SR 18s sound to be much fresher than the older SR 16. The sample/DAC bit resolution is also at 16/24, which is quite an upgrade compared to the predecessor’s 16/18. The sound quality improvement is very noticeable.
Hundreds of inbuilt Quality Sounds
The Alesis SR18 comes packed with over 500 drum and percussion sounds along with 50 more bass sounds. This includes 65 cymbals, 71 kick drums, 78 toms, 89 hi-hats, 99 snares, and about 169 different percussion sounds. These are from various drum kits, from classic acoustic ones to electronic ones. There are even 32 polyphony voices. Yeah, it’s a lot.
The nice thing is that each instrument category is subdivided. For example, the snare is divided into acoustic snares, vintage snares, SFX snares, and many more. This will help you find the snare you want quicker.
This drum machine also comes with 100 patterns, with additional space for 100 of your own. With the SR 18, you can also program a percussion kit and bass instrument, along with a drum kit!
Built-in Alesis effects
The built-in effects of the SR 18 are actually quite good; you can apply reverb, compression and do EQ with it.
The reverbs are pretty good, but the thing is, most of them are not that subtle and can be in your face sometimes. However, there are a few select options that provide a slight dry sound that modern producers appreciate.
EQ and compression can be done for each sound sample. There are about a dozen EQ compression presets. Like the reverb, most of these are not subtle and can be pretty heavy-handed. However, there are one or two subtler presets that you can use to level out the differences between the sound samples.
The good thing is that if you do not like the effects, you can turn them off quite quickly.
The Alesis SR18 is a fantastic drum machine that has remained in production for over a decade. It has many upgrades over the SR 16 that make it a worthy successor. From more sounds, patterns, and effects to significant hardware upgrades, it is worth the extra cost over its predecessor.
If you need a vintage drum machine with excellent sound quality, numerous features, and heritage, you cannot go wrong with the Alesis SR18 drum machine. It’s an excellent piece of gear in and out!