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Why is the Alesis SR-16 still in production and still so popular after 30+ years?

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
203
I'm amazed that the Alesis SR-16 drum machine, which was released in 1990, is still in production, still being sold new by most major music retailers, and still very popular with musicians even in 2021 in the age of DAWs and much more advanced music technology than was available in 1990. Usually digital music equipment gets discontinued after a few years when something better comes along to replace it, but yet the Alesis SR-16 still remains. 30 years is a LONG time in terms of technology. There are much better and more advanced ways to program drums these days - DAWs have better drum sounds, and are easier to edit.

I owned an Alesis SR-16 for a couple of years and I do like the sounds, but it is a pain in the backside to program and edit patterns and put a song together with it. I sold it after I switched to Cubase. It's FAR easier to do in a DAW on a nice big computer screen than on the SR-16's tiny (and non-backlit) screen.

So this thread is to post the question - why has the Alesis SR-16 lasted so long and remained so popular?
 

DS007

Member
Messages
838
The cool thing about hardware drum machines is the "take anywhere, plug it into anything" factor. One could use garage bands features on an ipad or iphone for the take anywhere part, but just for one example if someone is using a dedicated hardware recorder it's a lot easier to plug in from the outputs from an Alesis SR16 or SR18 into that recorder than from an iphone.
I used to do just that but I personally gave up on drum machines when they stopped improving. The SR18 was a nice jump from the 16, but for this type of drum machine which isn't only geared towards electronic sounds...no one has released anything new that operates the same way. The Sdrum and Beat Buddy aren't the same kind of thing and all the drum machines that ARE the same layout don't have the right sounds (more electronic music based)
I'd LOVE to see a new fully programmable drum machine with acoustic drum sounds that has upgraded technology so that it would rival the DAW drumming programs like easy drummer, etc. Even if one had the same sound set as some of the Korg Krome/Kronos drums I'd buy it up in a second.
In part I bought a Krome just to use the Jazz Ambient kit (not a jazz sounding kit really, it's excellent for rock with adjustable room/close microphones), even though I have easy drummer 2, sometimes I like to arrange songs without my computer and that keyboard and it's drums are up the task.
Aside from all that! Lol, I think the Alesis still sells because they are portable, can be plugged right into a recorder or PA, good to rehearse with, and they don't cost a whole lot.
 

Quartermass

Member
Messages
674
I would have thought Alesis could have (at least) made the SR16 display backlit at this point. I guess they don't want to spoil the oldschool experience. It still sounds good, however (after all these years). No worries. Cheers.
 

Neer

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,767
I just bought the Behringer 606 knockoff and it’s a blast. I’ve missed my old Drumatix, but this has more features, for less than $150.
 

Motterpaul

Tone is in the Ears
Messages
13,480
I think it is the easiest by far to program an entire song. All you have to do is program individual sections and then go through a process of putting them all in the correct order. Then you can use the midi track to trigger any plugin like Addictive Drums.

That is so much easier than playing on a midi keyboard or looking for loops that match your song.
 

wildschwein

Member
Messages
4,117
As they are it's easy to get something going on in them -- really quick stuff just for song ideas. I also use it to trigger drum sounds in my DAW via MIDI. Just choose a pattern and then it sets off all the sounds in Groove Agent -- you can change all the samples and the kits to find a sound you like. They're a cool unit indeed!
 

vintagelove

Member
Messages
2,853
I think my father had a stroke trying to program one of those.

I'm 100% serious.

In under 2 minutes, I could complete an entire song using logic's drummer that would be untouchable by the alesis. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug...
 

ADF

Member
Messages
129
I not only still have my SR-16, I use it daily and even record with it. I agree with Motterpaul that it is very easy not only to program patterns, but to also sequence them into a song.

I also find the drum sounds to be very good, and identical to what's heard on many classic tracks.

I'll also add that much of my favorite music was done with drum machines, including Pyromania and Hysteria, along with countless classic pop and dance songs. And as cool as it would be to own a classic Linn, the prices are astronomical.

I haven't yet figured out how to sync the SR-16 with Pro Tools via MIDI; but is hasn't been an issue. I set the grid to 32nd notes and I can comp guitar parts flawlessly even not totally synced to the grid.
 

wildschwein

Member
Messages
4,117
It was apparently used on this track (along with real drums):

Several years back Corgan listed the actual unit on Reverb he used on the track for silly dollars.
 
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B Money

Member
Messages
6,008
i still have a Boss DR550, its fun to use once in awhile, but staggeringly primitive compared to EZ Drummer.
the "drum" sounds are particular to early 1990s. Great if you're going for that stiff, synthetic feel.
 

HCMarkus

Member
Messages
100
MY SR16 has been sitting in the studio closet for many years now. That said, I really loved using for live duo/trio shows back in the day. They way it is set up, with the A/B/Fill pattern organization and the two foot switches (Starts/Stop and A/B) allowed live shows to be very spontaneous. Instead of programming an entire song of fixed duration, a pair of patterns and the associated fill patterns enabled extending songs on the fly when the dance floor filled up. And by hitting the A/B footswitch at varying points, a single fill pattern could serve as both long and short transitions between sections. Brilliant!
 

Stokely

Member
Messages
1,690
Mine sat (mostly) in a closet for a couple decades. I disliked using it back when it was the only option I had, I sure as heck wouldn't use it now, not with software and even my hardware keyboards having far better sounds and functionality.

Ironically I bought it used in the mid 90s for $125. I sold it a few years ago for not much less than that :D

It blows my mind that this thing is still for sale, and at a similar price as in the early 90s! (Which one might say is cheaper, considering inflation.) But hey it's neat to see that people are finding it useful, and certainly the standalone drum machine market isn't what it used to be. I used the HR16, HR16B, Roland 707 (or was it the 909? can't recall) and others back in the day. I do see there is one as part of that big IK multimedia group buy, that might be worth a look for drum machine folks.
 

bluegrif

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,100
I sold mine 15 or maybe 20 years ago. I was fairly proficient on it but once I got into drum libraries of actual recorded drummers I happily never touched a drum machine again. There’s just no point for the kind of music I make. Though it’s not hard to imagine being a good tool for some genres. But those are the genres I never listen to.
 

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
203
I'm honestly surprised that Alesis is even still in business at this point. They owned the world of studio recording for about 5 years until DAW's took over.
Why's that? By your logic, every other manufacturer of hardware musical equipment should also be out of business - Yamaha, Roland, Boss, Korg, Casio etc. Fact is, even in the age of DAWs, there's still a big market for hardware musical gear even in 2021.
 




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