Now we know what Akai’s drum machine plus simple bass synth sounds like. And no surprises – it’s a simple, classic-inspired analog drum machine with a basic synth. And yeah, you’re probably going to want to consider one, certainly at this price. (We’ll just be pitting it against the KORG volca beats, which we know we love.)

Akai has posted an official, if preliminary and unlisted, video to their account, and made the presence known to readers of their forum. So, this is the real thing – just not quite up to the usual marketing video material, though that’s fine by me. Akai reps I’ve talked to have been just as impatient to get a working unit as readers have. (It’s still not clear what happened at Musikmesse even to people in the booth; it seems some of the Akai folks did indeed think that the one demo unit they had was damaged by using an improper power supply. Booths at trade shows get chaotic.)

It seems that what’s happened is that someone at Akai has decided to “leak” an internal video from the company showing what the unit sounds like. It’s a bit rough, but you get a good idea of the basic character of the synth.

That leak appears intentional, as it was announced on the community forum and the YouTube video, while unlisted, has all the links to the Akai community. See the discussion with Akai’s Dan on a thread this week. Anyway, it’s out now, and it is definitely a video shot by Akai. Akai told me at least one previous “leak” of the Rhythm Wolf on SoundCloud was a fake.

That one-oscillator synth and filter sounds okay, but thin enough that it probably isn’t going to replace other synths. That’s expected, given the synth’s architecture. (I’m imagining carrying a KORG volca and, of course, MeeBlip anode with it.) Also, even with headphones, I’m very curious how the bass drum stacks up against the massive bass drum on the volca beats.

But as I noted in the spring, the interface design of this unit is fantastic from a workflow perspective. And it seems they’ve put together a really balanced sound as far as the drum parts. It shares plenty of Roland TR character, but it’s also already sounding distinct. You just can’t quite tell from this video. (That is, it sounds like… a drum machine. We’ll know more when we can hear it properly.)

In other words, this is more or less what we expected and hoped for even looking at the non-sounding unit in Frankfurt earlier this year. And that’s good news.

That said, it’s worth observing that the video is preliminary. Firmware changes can have a big impact on sound, even on an analog synth, by changing the ranges of knobs and whatnot. But I’m pleased: the Rhythm Wolf looks like a contender. Can’t wait to get the real unit. And having these fun, little machines that are more idiosyncratic, like the volca beats, Rhythm Wolf, and so on, to me is really creatively inspiring. It’s not just that these machines are more affordable. It’s that the challenge of making them smaller, simpler, and cheaper can often produce something with a lot of character. And they can be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned.

Akai’s $199 Analog Drum Machine with Bass Synth: Rhythm Wolf Details

Hands on with Akai’s $199 Rhythm Wolf Drum Machine, More Details


  • top right?

    I’ll be first in line to get one – meanwhile…
    in the bottom picture, what is that box in the top right with all the pads??

  • Yanakyl

    Finally, I need to hear more still. The snare is a bit akward to my hear, tone and noise don’t seem to blend in one sound. Though I’m sure a bit of overdrive can do magic for that.
    Love the hats.

  • chaircrusher

    It sounds like a cheap console organ rhythm box to me. That kick is heinous.

    • Peter Kirn

      Possibly… I’m not sure yet… want to hear the real thing.

  • chaircrusher

    And the synth sounds out of tune, like it isn’t tracking an octave properly.

    • Peter Kirn

      That’s possible. It’s all preliminary…

    • Jean Fatale

      Somehow they managed to released the thing without noticing that the synth part is terribly out of tune. Something you appearantly heard in a couple of seconds. Pretty incredible that they missed this. Well, now there’s a firmware update which is supposed to work okay and tune it.

  • regend

    i wonder if they are using the same alesis micron/akai mini ak sound engine but what i am hearing from the bass tones are nice enough for live jamming. the drum sounds i’m not sure about. i agree with pairing this up with one of the volca’s or monotribe or anode. those were my thoughts exactly. akai has a winner here because of what you get for the price.

    • miscend

      Not the same sound engine. The Miniak/Micron/Ion are virtual analogue. This is real analogue.

    • regend

      taking it apart will reveal…THE TRUTH and how we can mod it

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, these are new circuit designs. A winner… well, maybe. I want to hear more of the actual drum sounds, because you could just as well spend the money on a volca beats.

  • Paul

    Sounds shit. Excellent! I don’t have to buy one!

  • poopoo

    no bottom end to bass? or toms???

  • wetterberg

    the main thing I hear about this unit is that the kick has no bottom end. These people must have sub-par monitoring, because there’s plenty of low end. It doesn’t sound good to my ears, but it’s there.


    Man, that snare is powerful.

    • gotmodis


  • John

    Wow, that could the worst sounding drum machine I’ve heard in a while.Wondering if this a joke setup of something…

  • edisonSF

    sounds hella bad. wow. another example of “analog don’t particularly mean good”.

  • Ryan

    Sounds like the MPC 5000 synth engine HAHAH

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Another weak sounding inexpensive analog device. It would have been better if Akai had built a a simple hands on sample based drum machine.

  • lazenbleep

    it sounds like a shred video. it’s a shred right, guys,,,,,,guys,,,,,,,

  • Blue Monster 65

    Sounds OK (lots of low end in the BD on my monitors), but the snare and hats need work. Just not all that thrilling overall, but I’d like to check it out in person to really see what its like.

  • droogie

    Sounds like going to the dentist…painful

  • Hermann

    Very cool is it switching on the youtube subtitles (they’re french!?): “Voila voila moi!”

  • DJ Hombre

    Might save a stack of cash & pick up one of these cheeky numbers instead:

  • ProModCon

    I’m liking the metallic sound of the hihat, bass drum to me sounds like it has more than enough low end simaler to the mfb-522 I’d say. Snare sounds piss poor in all honesty, do you have to use a tom to get any sort of snare resembling sound? or is it that sound with the white noise in the snare section? I didn’t think much of the volca beats snare, has a similar tone with some adjustable white noise. Wish the guy played with the decay on the hihat more and played around with the bass filter more. Now the demo is out, I’m considering cancelling my pre order and get one second hand next year

  • Baymond

    Might be ok to add to synth rig as drums only or backing sequence….sounds a lot like my Miniak drums though……especially that annoying wood block…

  • James Bernard

    Really inspiring demo and music. Totally doesn’t come across as someone showing the features who has no clue about electronic music at ALL… (LOL).

  • Llanmaster

    I saw this demo when it first appeared, a month later it seems to sound worse. The guy demo-ing seems clueless. I would also say his tweaking is extreme, no allowance for subtlety at all. I own an MFB Tanzbår and that sort of tweaking would render appalling sounds from that too.

    I must add that I think Akai’s communications are equal to Moogs with the Sub 37. Thirty years ago you can understand waiting for press release and infos, today it’s ridiculous. I want another Wolf demo before the hammer finally comes down on the coffin nail!