Want to get your hands on a vintage Akai drum machine with many of the basic features included in their classic MPC’s, but without having to pay the exorbitant four-figure classic MPC prices? A good starting point is Akai’s XR-10 vintage drum machine. This is a drum machine that came out around 1990 (give or take a year or two) and was aimed squarely at the consumer market. A 16-bit machine with built-in sequencing, the XR-10 provided you with 65 different percussion sounds that had a decent amount of tweakability, including pitch, pan, and forward/reverse adjustments on each one. This machine also lets you store hundreds of different rhythm patterns and 20 full songs to boot, with controls that allowed the user to copy-paste and replace the individual bars with ease.
Many producers who are familiar with Akai’s hardware know full well the minimal learning curve involved in being able to utilize each device’s basic features. As an Akai S950 owner, it only requires about a half-hour with the instruction manual to get the basics as the button layouts and one simple screen have all the controls laid out for you. The XR-10 is no exception to the rule either.
If you consider yourself a fan of early 90’s music (specifically hip hop and electronica), the video below will prove how you would love this drum machine just as much- considering many of its pre-loaded sounds were slathered all overloads of tracks from that era!
The XR-10 centers around four basic modes. PATTERN mode allows you to tap out the individual hits using the pads (which, unfortunately, are not velocity-sensitive like in the MPC’s). SONG mode lets you sequence the groups of patterns together and helps you structure and edit your full song. The SOUND mode gives you the tools to edit each drum sound. Finally, UTILITY mode alters miscellaneous parameters, such as which drum sounds you assign to each pad, MIDI settings, etc. The functionality of the main buttons on the XR-10 corresponds with the specific user mode you are working in.
Many users of the Akai XR-10 swear by its well-rounded sound, stating that many other drum machines of its time (including the Yamaha, Boss, and even the cheaper Rolands such as the 505) sound flat in comparison! Similar to the Roland TR-707, the XR-10 was a sample playback machine, not a full-bodied analog synthesizer like the Roland TR-808 and 909. Regardless, for its price (which is under $100 with enough search dedication), this bad boy is a beast and would probably make a welcome addition to many studios out there.