Somewhat akin to a small MPC without sampling, the Akai XR20 Beat Production Station ($500; www.akaipro.com/xr20) is a drum machine with benefits. It has 700 built-in drum, percussion and synth/bass sounds geared toward "urban" production to play from the 12 backlit pads. The 99 Factory patterns and 99 User patterns become even more useful when using the Pattern Play feature, which lets you trigger different patterns from individual pads. Akai's Drum Roll and Note Repeat from the MPC line are included, and the built-in effects engine offers EQ, reverb and compression for expanding the available palette. Transport controls, a Jog Wheel, numeric input and the pads themselves can all act as MIDI controllers or can be externally sequenced via the MIDI connections. Also, a mic input, main outputs and separate headphone output and output volume controls help make it flexible for stage or studio use. Best of all, the whole thing can be powered by six AA batteries for beatmaking anytime, anywhere.