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Rating and Reviews: Akai XR20 Beat Machine

Let the XR20 inspire you with hundreds of pre-programed beats and sounds ready to be mixed, matched, and tinkered with.

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Value
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"The good bad and ugly" submitted June 6, 2008

By a customer from gmail.com
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Sound
Features
Ease of Use
Quality
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The Wow Factor
Musical Background: Producer, Performer, Musician
Music Style: Everything from Rock to Hip Hop and in between.
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Sound: Drum machines, especially items such as the StreetBox and the XR20 are tough sells in the age of samplers. While the XR20 has 700 sounds, each of which can be tuned higher or lower, you're still stuck with those 700 sounds. I honestly wasn't overly impressed with the sound palette. The first night I had the machine, I sat down and worked through all of the sounds and put my own kit together. The sad part about this is, I had trouble picking 12 sounds for my custom kit...not because there were so many great sounds, but because I felt there were so few. The XR-20 is setup with 3 channels of MIDI, "Drums, One Shots and Synths". Some of the one-shot sounds are pretty nice, but there aren't enough of them to be very flexible. They give you two guitar chords when you wish you had 3 or 4. The downside to these one-shots is that they'll be overused and outdated in notime. Leaving you with a machine where only the Drums and Synths are useable. The synths are OK. They aren't groundbreaking or especially exciting. Comparing the selections of sound in the XR-20 to the venerable Boss DR-5...the Boss wins hands down. Then again, the Boss retailed for around $500 more than 10 years ago...so given the price of the XR-20 I guess it's ok. Feature: I've owned a few drum machines in my day, Sequential Circuits, Roland, Boss...but the XR-20 is the first Akai machine I have owned. The XR-20 has all of the common features in a drum machine that you've come to expect. You can tune each sound to your liking, you can put together your own kit of the sounds you like. I think where the machine really excels is in the Akai sequencer. Akai has made a name for itself with the MPC series of samplers/sequencers. I've never owned an MPC so I can't say that the XR-20 is LIKE an MPC sequencer but I'd imagine that it is. Obviously you can adjust your quantize to wherever you want it. The unit has a "swing" feature that works alright in some situations. But there is something about how this unit sequences that give the drums a certain natural groovy feel when compared to a 100% software sequencer like Cakewalk Sonar. Another feature that I have grown to love is the "repeat note". I use it frequently when laying down hi-hats, to minimize the wear and tear on the pads and also to keep everything in-time. You can come up with some ridiculous hi-hat riffs using the repeat function. The way the XR-20 stores patterns is in an A/B + FILL configuration. So you can easily pop between pattern A and a variant pattern B while also throwing in a FILL whenever you want. I'm not sure how useful this is in the studio...it might be geared more towards a live DJ who incorporates some of his own beats into the set. As someone else already mentioned, the pads are backlit with a nice neon-blue color. They flash when the pad is pressed or sequenced. This looks really flashy and impressive, but it's not overly useful. It would look great next to a DJ on a live set. enough on that... Ease of Use: The unit is fairly easy to operate. Many of the menu buttons are dual-purpose and serve to toggle between one type of menu or the other. I found this to be a little confusing at times and it's probably just a situation where I need to adjust from one machine to another. I'm not particularly fond of how the XR-20 measures out its' pattern length. It has a default of 8 which is actually 4-4/4 measures. Dropping it down to 4 turns the pattern into 2-4/4 measures. I'm not sure of the logic here and I haven't bothered trying to understand it yet...but be aware. Quality: The unit seems fairly well built. I am a little concerned about some of the smaller menu buttons and how long they'll hold up to abuse. On the flipside, the DR-5 is still going strong after all of these years and the XR-20 actually seems better built than the DR. In any case, I'd still be careful with the unit. Value: I put the value at about the halfway mark. For some people, $300 is not alot of money to spend on a new piece of equipment...for others, that $300 investment needs to last. When I say "last", it's not only the physical aspects of the machine, but the sounds that it makes. Will the sounds in the XR-20 be as useable today as they could be in 5 or 10 years? NO. This is where the XR-20 falls flat on its' face. I think this machine will be pretty darn good for the next couple of years, but if you are very serious about making beats, I'd recommend holding out and getting yourself an entry level sampler. Manufacturer Support: I haven't needed to contact Akai support for any reason so I cannot comment on this. The Wow Factor: It's a decent piece of gear to add to the arsenal. If you're strapped for cash and want a decent machine, you could go with this or maybe buy something from the secondary (used) market. Overall: I can see myself using this machine for years and years to come. Only because I've got it linked up with the DAW so I can lay down some drums on the XR-20 and then pipe the MIDI into the computer and assign different hits in GURU. This is a nice little setup, but it's not perfect. If the XR-20 had 4x4 pads, it would be unbeatable. 3x4 pads is kind of unorthodox. If this unit was lost or stolen or destroyed...I definitely wouldn't rush out to replace it. It's not an integral piece of my workflow.
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"It's a good starter drum machine but lacks alot of extras." submitted April 21, 2008

By a customer from aol.com
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Musical Background: Music Artist
Music Style: Just about everything
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Sound: Ok lets start off by. the sound. The drum & bass sounds are all pretty much nice. The synth sounds are not all that great. Most of em sound like something out of a nintendo super mario video game which might not be bad for some. Feature: power supply,manual,midi in midi out so you could use it as a controller i guess. mic input which is not all that great at all. You cant even hear your voice all that well with it plugged in bc theres no kind of amp pushing your mic sound. Pretty dumb idea on their part having a mic input with no kind of phantom power built in just use a mixer. Ease of Use: This thing is so simple my 10 year old lil brother could make beats out of it but like i said there needs to be way more synth sounds and better sounding ones. More piano and strings would of been nice bc they sound the best on this thing so do alot of the bass sounds. Quality: built great so far but it isnt built like a tank looks like you gotta take care of it & never drop it bc it seems like it would break easy. Value: i think it's ok but it lacks in some areas. I think with an upgrade it could be even better. Hopefully this is just the first xr-20 maybe we'll see an xr-23 in 3 years. Manufacturer Support: never dealt with em & i dont plan on to but i gotta 2 year warranty just in case. The Wow Factor: it's ok not something that will knock your socks off. Overall: i'll probably be ok with this product for a few years till they make a newer and better one.
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"If your looking for house & techno stay away from this.." submitted January 11, 2010

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Musical Background: Advanced
Music Style: Tech House
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Sound: I bought this to make different types of music and all this thing sounds like is hip hop, hip hop, and hip hop. Not one house kit, not one clean sine-wave style kick. It's all phat garagey sounding music. Feature: I hear this thing has effects. Ease of Use: Pretty easy Quality: Made well. Value: If your on a budget and want to play $300 for 650 individual sounds... I blew through the library in under 30 mins just listening to all the different sounds. Manufacturer Support: I'm assuming they got a great support team. The Wow Factor: I don't like one thing about this product. I wanted to make house music and the kicks aren't for house music. They are way too phat. I could of used a couple of claps from this machine but it's worth it. If you wanna make house or techno look somewhere else. It's too RNB and hip hop.
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"The most fun I've had with a drum machine since my TR-606!" submitted June 2, 2008

By a customer from nc.rr.com
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Ease of Use
Quality
Value
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Musical Background: Active musician
Music Style: Pop
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SPOTLIGHT REVIEW
VERIFIED BUYER
zZounds has verified that this customer bought this product from us.
Sound: Technically, the 16 bit, 44.1 kHz sample playback engine sounds great - no noise or grittiness. The lows thump your chest and the highs are crystal clear. The 700+ sample sound set covers all contemporary music genres: Hip Hop, Glitch, Techno, Synth Pop etc. Feature: Nice built-in effects (assignable per pad), tap tempo, note repeat, 10 -digit keypad, runs on AC or AA Batteries (x6), back-lit drum pads. Of course the only thing this box is missing is sampling capability - but this not what this drum machine is about. I docked the machine one point because while the pads are velocity sensitive, the truth of the matter is that they will only output 1 of 2 velocities (soft and hard). You have some control over the actual velocity values (MIDI velocity values) sent out the MIDI port, but you're stuck with a soft and loud hit only - not true velocity sensitivity in my opinion. Ease of Use: Frankly, I haven't had so much fun with a drum machine in a long time. I've owned dozens since the early '80s, including MPCs. This instrument is so easy to use straight out of the box, you'll be making beats in no time and looking up at the clock to see that 4 hours have passed and you haven't even cracked the manual yet. Everything is where is should be, and everything works like you expect it to. Kudos to Akai for their attention to detail. Quality: No issues here. Though I wouldn't say its built like a tank, you don't have the concern that it would break after a few years of pounding. In fact, I like the pads on this machine BETTER than the pads on Akai's entry-level MPCs like the MPC 1000 and 500. They just feel right. Value: A steal at $299.00 (street price). Pocket change. What are you waiting for, buy one already! The Wow Factor: From the moment Akai introduced this at Winter NAMM, I couldn't wait for it to be release. I'm glad its making it into stores now (May-June 2008), rather than Akai making us wait almost a whole year after announcing the product (like with the MPK49 - which I also have and love). Overall: I've been playing with mine for over a week, and the honeymoon is still not over. Sure, the backlit pads are a gimmick to some, but I find it helps to see the flashing patterns to know what drums are triggering in a particular pattern - plus it just looks cool. Add to that the fact it can be run on batteries (6 AA Batteries last about 5 hours - so get rechargables!), and I can see taking this everywhere.
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