Akai Rhythm Wolf Review: YIKES!

rhythm wolf review

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?
  • Pros
  • Cons
  • Final Verdict


Main Features!

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:

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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

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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.

Inaccurate Tuning!?

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.

rhythm wolf back

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

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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?

>> Click here to checkout the Korg Volca Beats on Amazon

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?

Korg Electribe

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?


Final Verdict

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!


Leave a Comment


  1. Akai should just fess up – admit that they couldn’t add all the stuff that it should have for $200 – and make the schematics available, if they did that they would probably double their sales, and start a new cottage industry for those who know how to think and solder, Other than the separate outs – It should have a least a switch on each voice to  separate it from the the howl send.  It should be really simple to turn the RW into something the eurorack guys would love.

  2. RonaldOlson It was sad to see something this low quality be put out by Akai. I can’t see anyone keeping this in their studio for more than a month. It’s a kid’s toy at best. lol! I do like the idea of releasing this as a schematic. If they sold Rhythm Wolf kits, it would be worth it just for the learning experience of building a sequencer.
    I’m glad you enjoyed this review! The whole purpose of this site is to provide honest reviews and articles about music production. So many new producers jump at the opportunity to buy the cheapest audio equipment only to find out that the saying “you get what you pay for” is really true.

  3. I bought one of these on sale, and I must admit, I love it! Don’t let this review put you off, you just have to know “how” to use a synthesiser. They don’t make sounds on their own, you have to work a little every now and then. Run it through a basic para eq and compressor and you have a killer machine. The Hat tuning is terrible, (useless, I admit) but using a bit of external processing this thing sounds brilliant, I love it, its snare can pull amazing sounds with some processing. I mean, its cheap as, what did you think youd’e get? Drug f$%ked DJs these days have no idea “how” to use gear, if it doesn’t make a perfect sound as soon as they buy it, its useless in their eyes… pretty pathetic. Give me a break, effort people, at this price you have to go to even a “little” effort!

    1. Interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing! I still that Akai sacrificed a lot of quality to keep the price low. How much of a difference did the EQ and compressor make?

      1. I think the biggest problem was, people just expected an 808/909 cloning so to speak. I have an 808, I love her to bits, but I didnt buy the wolf for its ability to sound like those machines, I wanted to sound unique, and I must admit, it does, its a unique little analog synth, and in (n) years it will be worth lots! Its kick its freaky, the sub goes nuts for it. I had a symetrix 528e laying around that I just wasnt using any more, sure its more for spoken voice stuff in its design, but I decided to plug the wolf into it and it just sounded great. I instantly started sampling grooves off it. Ill soundcloud a few tonight and you can listen. Yes the hiss on the distortion is high, but it sounds analogue dirty, Im pretty sure its a “gain distortion” based circuit, you are bound to get some hiss, like a crappy bit of gear, I reckon the distortion is great (Id love to hack it and plug a guitar into it!) with some tweaking of the para eq and compression, I just use a little hiss wacker/gate to shut it up in quite moments, when I sync it along with my 808 I get some really cool grooves going. Clean and dirty analogue all together. But the best thing is it has gate sync. I can hook her to my euro rig etc. For the price I wont know Akai, they did a decent job packing it for the production cost I would say. But then again I did buy it on special, but I think its still worth it for retail.

        1. I’m glad to see someone who enjoyed the Rhythm Wolf. Maybe it’s not as terrible as it seems. Thanks again for sharing your experience with it. Would you still recommend it to beginners who don’t have much extra gear? I feel like this sequencer is targeted at a beginner audience. In this case, wouldn’t it be a better option to spend a bit more for a piece of gear that will perform better in the long run?

          1. I would certainly agree with the beginner audience theory. Youre right that its aimed at people starting out, but also people that are on a tight budget. But its still an analogue synth, hooked to some decent control circuitry. Im an electronics engineer, and Im hanging to get a decent circuit so I can mod it, thats when you’ll see its value, Ill fix that high hat problem, but I wont touch the kick, nor the snare, their perfect with a little external processing (comp/eq). Theres already a good mod out for separate outputs of all voices, modders love cheap stuff like this, you can do so much with it.
            But yes, if your after more features/sounds, this is to be avoided. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and its analogue circuits are good oscillators for more processing/fun.

          2. I do have to admit that the kick sounds great right out of the box. Good luck with the modification. I’d love to hear how it goes!

  4. Looks like Im hijacking this thread (lol) but one more thing I forgot to mention, the much better “comparison” product is the Korg Volca beats. For the sake of good “science” Analog machines must always be only compared to Analog machines. The Elctribe is analog modelled and although I agree that digital can be better then analog in cases its unfair to compare a machine that is “rigid” analog compared to something that has so many more options like AModelling. I only just bought a Volca over the weekend and I must say they are also way cool to play with. The kick on the wolf is better (just haha) but the hhats/snare on the volca are so sweet for true analog circuits. Im loving all this cheap analog crap, its fun and brings in a new workflow.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I keep hearing great things about Korgs Volca series. I’ll definitely add it to the article. And don’t worry about “hijacking the thread” lol.

  5. Got one in used in almost brand new condition for 90 bucks and 10 bucks shipping, it is worth it for 100 bucks in almost mint condition, if this thing was 100 bucks then normally it would be a steal thus beating the volcas, but since it is in the same price range no (unless you get lucky and get it cheaper like i did) its fun to use it as a pedal too for other synths and make some crazy sounds

  6. The kick drum is the only pro on this try hooking it to a decent sub or 15 inch monitors and you’ll be amazed by how low this puppy can go, but other than that it’s pretty much useless.

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