Akai Rhythm Wolf Review: YIKES!
At first glance, the Akai Rhythm Wolf looks like a great deal. It’s an analog drum-machine/sequencer/synthesizer that anyone can afford.
It seemed a bit strange that anything with a 100% analog signal path would have such a low price point. When buying audio equipment, you get what you pay for. Does that mean that the Rhythm Wolf is a bad product?
After reading a number of negative reviews, something seemed fishy. There seemed to be two groups of people who reviewed this product: people who hate the Rhythm Wolf and people who loved it.
In this review we’ll be taking a closer look at the Akai Rhythm Wolf. If you have any questions after reading this article, don’t hesitate to drop a comment down below!
What Will Be Covered In This Review:
- Main Features
- What I like About The Rhythm Wolf
- What I DON’T Like About The Rhythm Wolf
- What Others Say About The Rhythm Wolf
- A Better Alternative?
- Final Verdict
The Akai Rhythm Wolf is a 5-voice analog drum machine that features a bass synthesizer. The Rhythm Wolf’s main selling point is it’s 100% analog signal path.
There are 6 pads for each of the drum sounds. The pads are not velocity sensitive so don’t expect any sort of “realistic” or expressive drum programming.
The Rhythm Wolf has a 32-step sequencer. This is my favorite feature of this drum machine. Without the sequencer I would’ve rated the Rhythm Wolf a 1 star, instead of 2.
What I like About The Rhythm Wolf:
Let’s talk about the good things Rhythm Wolf has to offer first.
You’ll first notice that the Rhythm Wolf has a very solid build quality for it’s price. The knobs are very sturdy and the product feels more expensive than it actually is.
I was a big fan of the Rhythm Wolf’s design. The wood side panels look great! It is worth noting that the wood panels aren’t actually real wood. They are a plastic-type material. Could’ve fooled me!
The overall design was very well thought out. All of the knobs are laid out nicely into the Rhythm Wolf’s compact design.
Another thing I liked about the Rhythm Wolf was it’s configurability. Each drum is easily tweakable to your liking.
The bass drum is especially fun to tweak around. It has a very clean sine-wave type sound.
Like I mentioned earlier, the 32-step sequencer is also a nice addition to this drum machine. It has a nice little A/B switch feature that allows you to change between rhythms.
What I DON’T Like About The Rhythm Wolf
Unfortunately the list of stuff I don’t like about the Rhythm Wolf is longer than the list of stuff I do like.
Let’s start out the hats:
The hats are pretty dry any boring. They are pretty much just produced by a basic white noise oscillator.
The hats also sound extremely similar to one another. This will without a doubt limit what you can do with the Rhythm Wolf.
The “Howl” Knob? (lol?):
In theory, the howl knob is supposed to give a nice crisp distortion to your drums and in-turn make your beats phatter.
It doesn’t… First of all, it adds a VERY noticeable amount of background noise. The distortion itself gives a gross-sounding distortion(not in a good way).
It would’ve been nice if Akai included an effect section instead of the howl knob.
The BASS Synthesizer:
If you thought the howl knob was bad, just hold on. The bass synthesizer produces a very un-exciting, almost acidy, bass.
It can be controlled by a filter, but the filter isn’t that great either.
As seen in the youtube video above, when tested, the tuning is inaccurate. If you aren’t planning on playing in a designated key, this won’t be too much of a problem.
No Outputs For Drum Channels?
This issue really bothered me. Since there are no built-in effects, I would expect outputs for each individual drum channel so that I can route them to external effects.
There are two outputs on the Rhythm Wolf: One for all of the drums and one for the bass.
What Others Say About The Rhythm Wolf
There were a ton of negative reviews for the Rhythm Wolf. I also happened to notice a few happy customers as well.
Some of the more positive reviewers said that although this drum machine clearly has limitations, it’s a great little machine that offers a lot for it’s low price.
Another positive thing I’ve been hearing is that this drum machine is simple for anyone to use. Even if you have zero experience in synthesis, this drum machine is pretty straight forward.
The Rhythm Wolf also has an assortment of nifty features such as the tap-tempo and the A-B switch. For the very-low price of $200, there are a good amount of features to play around with.
Some of the more critical reviewers talked about how limited this drum machine is. The negative reviews also mentioned how un-interesting the sounds were on the Rhythm Wolf.
Just because something is labeled as “100% analog” doesn’t mean that it will ultimately sound better than digital drum machine. The Rhythm Wolf does nothing that you can’t emulate with software(or any digital synth/sequencer).
There were also negative things said about the bass synthesizer module. I even saw the bass synth described as “weak as water”. You don’t get too much configurability with the synth part of the Rhythm wolf.
- Very Affordable
- Can be a great educational tool for a beginner
- The step sequencer is easy-to-use and very useful for live performance
- The hats sound very similar and uninteresting
- The bass synth is very dry and boring
- The “howl” knob sounds horrible.
- The tuning goes out of key
- No separate outputs for drum sounds
A Better Alternative?
For only $160, you can’t go wrong with the Korg Volca Beats. If you are looking for an alternative to the Akai Rhythm Wolf, surprisingly you can pick up a much better piece of gear for a lower price.
Here’s the Volca Beats’ features:
- 16-step sequencer
- Midi sync in/out
- Stutter effects for an added glitch/delay effect
- Midi input
- Extremely portable! It even has a built-in speaker and battery.
- Can be powered by an AC adapter as well.
Overall, for less than the Rhythm Wolf, you can get your hands on Korg’s high quality Volca Beats sequencer. If you’re looking for a good analog alternative to the Rhythm Wolf, Volca Beats is your answer.
A Better (digital) Alternative?
I’d recommend buying a Korg Electribe instead of a Rhythm Wolf. For double the price of a Wolf, you get SO much more quality and flexibility.
I wrote a full in-depth review on the Electribe that you can read here.
First of all, you actually get a GOOD synthesizer. The Electribe’s synth is modeled after the KingKorg and can produce very unique sounds. There are even a ton of synth presets included.
The Electribe also has velocity sensitive drum pads and includes a library full of drum samples. You can create much more expressive and realistic loops on the Electribe.
In the long run, I would recommend the Electribe over the Rhythm Wolf any day. Would you rather buy a crappy, cheap product and have to upgrade later on, or just buy one awesome product that will last you a lifetime?
Overall, I wasn’t too fond of the Akai Rhythm Wolf. I guess it mainly depends on what you need a drum machine for.
If you are looking for a cheap drum machine to play around with, the Rhythm Wolf serves that purpose well.
If you are planning on doing anything remotely serious, I’d recommend a slightly more expensive sequencer such as the Korg Electribe.
Did you agree with what I said about The Rhythm Wolf?
Voice your opinion in the comment section below!