Akai XR20

Akai XR20
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Akai released the XR20 Beat Production Station in 2008, which was a time when hardware drum machines were falling out of favor compared to the versatility offered by software versions. However, the XR20 was designed to be portable enough to appeal to the hip hop and R&B producers of the time thanks to its live capability.

The XR20 sports a very traditional design with the LCD taking up the top left corner of the front panel. Beneath it, you'll find the 12 pads that are used to trigger sounds on the XR20. These can be either drums, 1-shot, and synth or entire patterns if you are in Pattern Play Mode. Next to these are the Pad Pay Buttons, which are used to select which sounds you want to be triggered by the pads. The Value Dial takes up the top right corner of the front panel and is used to increment and decrement values and settings. Alternatively, you can use the INC/DEC buttons below the dial to do the same. Directly below these are the Page Right / Left buttons for navigating between pages of options when browsing through menus and settings. The XR20 also has number buttons if you prefer inputting values directly. The middle of the front panel is dedicated to various Mode, Setup, Transport Control Buttons, and other general controls.

The rear panel of the XR20 houses the DC In, On/Off Switch, Volume knob, 1/4" TS Right/ Left Outputs, phones output, Aux L/R, microphone input, MIDI In, Out/Thru, and Start / Stop Footswitch. Here you'll also find a Count / A / B / Fill input and Kensington lock. Unfortunately, The XR20 does not have a USB port of any kind.

The biggest advantage of the XR20 is its lightweight design and the fact that it can be powered by batteries, which makes it very portable. In terms of sound, the XR20 comes with 100 fixed preset patterns as well as 100 blank slots that can be used for storing user patterns. The hundred preset kits of the XR20 feature 720 on-board samples of which 414 are drum hits and 306 are one-shots. In addition, it has 64 synth sounds consisting of synth leads, basses and more.

At the end of the day, the XR20 was an interesting product for its time, especially for anyone in search of a traditional drum machine. Unfortunately, it is not only sampler-free but also lacks USB, which limits its usefulness these days.

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Demos & Media

Akai XR20 Drum Machine Factory Demo Song
Sound Programming
Akai XR20 Demo: More than just a Hip Hop beat box
Akai XR20 Reference ManualAkai XR20 Reference Manual & Quickstart Guide


Polyphony - 32 voices
Multitimbral - 12 parts
Waveforms - ROM
Controls - MIDI In/Out/Thru
Memory - 100 patches RAM, 100 patches ROM