Alesis SR-16 Drum Machine Review: A Reliable Classic

DJ mixer and headphone

Quick Overview





  • Reliability
  • Ease of use
  • Sound quality
  • Compatible with most music genres
  • Portability


  • Plastic construction can be fragile
  • Sound quality not up to studio work
  • No backlight
  • Secondary button functions unlabeled


The venerable Alesis SR-16 is a classic drum machine that has been around in virtually the same shape for almost 30 years. It is more limited than many newer models (and even its own big brother the SR-18) but what it does-it does very well.

Key Features 

The Alesis SR-16 has a number of features that have held solid appeal for many over the years. Some of the top features include the following:

  • MIDI support allows use with keyboards, computers and e-drum kits
  • 233 sounds
  • Digital effects
  • Create and save customized patterns and songs
  • 12 velocity sensitive pads
  • 16-voice polyphony
  • 2.5 lbs


    The venerable Alesis SR-16 is a classic drum machine that has been around in virtually the same shape for almost 30 years. It is more limited than many newer models, and even its own big brother the SR-18, but what it does-it does very well.

    Right out of the box, the SR-16 comes with 233 drum samples, 100 preset patterns and extra space for another 100 user specified. There is space for 100 kits; 50 are preset and 50 are user-specified. There are a range of the usual digital effects and, if you fiddle with the interface long enough, you can probably get it to do most anything. The unit also comes with 12 velocity sensitive pads which, combined with the unit’s Dynamic Articulation feature, enables the drum tone to vary depending on how hard it's hit. The tempo range stretches from 20 to 255 beats per minute. All in all, it’s a feature set that’s plenty for the money and for the purposes of creativity. It is worth noting that the SR-16 comes with two footswitch jacks in a two button configuration. Make sure you use momentary and not latching switches; the Boss FS6 unit can flexibly switch between the two.

    The sound quality on the SR-16 is generally excellent; the samples are recorded in the studio with real drums and percussion. The limitation is that they are 24-bit recordings which — although quite good — do not measure up against more modern technology. The SR-16 is hampered by its limited ROM capacity which means that it cannot compete with more modern, dedicated studio instruments. If you are looking for something for use in the production booth, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to carry around, works reliably and is fairly simple to figure out, many think there is no better choice.

    Where the SR-16 really shines is as a tool for creativity, helping musicians to jam and compose without having to be very technologically savvy. Anyone who has tried to record a quality acoustic drum sample knows how difficult it is.

    It’s easy enough to learn for most and convenient to carry around. Unlike more modern drum machines which are geared for more of a hip-hop or R&B vibe, the SR-16 sounds good regardless of the music genre. If you’re looking to lay down a backing track for your country music composition, it’s hard to argue against the SR-16.

    The SR-16 has also been employed in live performances because of its reputation for reliability. Some musicians use the unit’s MIDI input with a drum pad like the Kat Percussion KTMP1 as a compact alternative to a full kit.


    The SR-16 is a tried and true piece of equipment that is optimally configured for casual jamming or whenever creativity strikes. When used for these purposes, it is difficult to do better on a dollar-for-dollar basis than the SR-16. If you are looking for something to use in the production booth, however, you may do better to cast your view to a more modern alternative or even a software alternative such as a DAW.

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