Aaron Cain Tattoo Machines: Plenty Lines and Shades of Awesome

The Name, Aaron Cain, is Almost a Staple in the Tattoo World

This is a man that has honed his craft so much that has defined trends and designs in the industry – and continues to do so to date.

Combining the flair and dexterity that he puts into his work, with the knowledge of the equipment that will get the best results, we got a couple Aaron Cain tattoo machines line-up reviewed today.


His machines have been here for a while and a lot of artists continue to rave about them. But, what do they hold for you?


Today, we take a look at two (2) of the bestselling ones under various headings.


The Coil Octet Shader

The name of this custom tattoo machine might reveal that it is a line of shaders, but that is not all there is to see.


The Coil Octet Shader Cain 8 wrap coil


Aaron Cain tuned this piece of equipment to engineering perfection, delivering on both aesthetics and functionality.

If you have ever considered going for this model, here are some things that you would love to know.


Aaron Cain tattoo machines design

Designs might look like the extra flair that gets your attention, but they matter a lot to the way a handmade tattoo machine is used.

On the Octet Shader, Aaron brings an eccentric design approach to the cuts and carves that feature on the frame of this build.

The cut-outs on the machine’s frame are enough to promote better ventilation and heat transfer, but not too big that they allow external objects to impact the inner working parts.


The fact that they were started as a handmade collection means that he ensured a high level of precision on these parts.


Made in-house, the machine parts fit snugly together such that they can work better without hassle.

Such a top-level feel is not only justifying the premium pricing that these machines come at, deservedly so, but give the promise of working right out of the box without hassles at all.


The Octet Shader has gone through some iterations – and the new one is by far the best in terms of design.


Switching to CNC precision machining allows for a better-fitting iron frame that doesn’t weigh too much (6.45 oz) to get the job done.

Fully manufactured in the USA, you can expect high quality of parts, however this doesn’t mean it won’t fail at some point after a lot of tattooing sessions.


Frequency and voltage range

His tattoo guns can maintain a 6.5V while running at between a 100-105Hz frequency.

That is when they are unloaded, which means that the machine can take even more of that power when it is under a load of work.

The 8-wrap coil will thus, handle voltage ranges of 7.5 – 9V great, which is where you’ll peg most operations when using this piece of equipment anyways.


Remember that Aaron has been tattooing for many years before he got into building his machines.


He’s not just some engineer or inventor who developed something that could work – but an artist who uses the measures of what works in his pieces of equipment.


Affinity to needles

Coil tattoo machines have an affinity for standard needles, so you already know where to start with this one.


Over the years, though, we have more artists coming into the age of cartridges even more.


So, you should be able to pair your cartridges with the standard machines from Aaron to varying degrees of success (as long as you get standard cartridges from reputable manufacturers, you should be fine).


That said, always remember that this is an 8-wrap coil machine, so you don’t want to go haywire on the needle groupings. Otherwise, you might put the machine on so much higher power than it could handle and fry the wraps.


On the other hand, using a larger needle grouping with the lesser power you get on these wraps (comparatively) won’t drive the ink into the skin well enough.

Before committing to one, you might want to test out the various needle groupings that will work with the machine, and various needle compatibilities also.


Read More: Tattoo Needles Guide 2021 – What you Need to Know


Where is best to work with?

The name of this professional coil tattoo machine already tells us that it is a shader.

Expert tattoo artists and machine tuners might be able to break this down to get it to work for lining instead, but you are better off getting the custom-tuned Octet Liner, or the other machine below instead.

While coil tattoo machines are usually great for one task, and that alone, some come with a combination of two features.

Pushing 5s to 11s, these needle configurations on this device are best suited to shading, and shading alone.


How easy is to use it?

Surprisingly, the first point of call on the ease of use here is the design of this machine.

Aaron made it so ergonomic that the weight is centrally balanced, eliminating pull in any direction when artists are working with the unit.

The design is also such that it allows both left- and right-handed artists to get the most of their equipment without having to break it down and custom-fit it again.

Looking elsewhere, getting expert tuned to handle shading at a professional level is a huge advantage.


Gone are the days of rebuilding the coil tattoo machine to suit one operation or the other.


Did we mention the long stroke yet? This is the sweet spot that makes this machine great for shading.

A short or medium stroke would have suited machines that want to pack both shading and lining, but this choice packs a medium to high-level hit that allows you to deliver on shading with relative ease and better results.


Why not to get it to your arsenal?

Where the long stroke makes the machine a darling for both lining and shading (for artists who want to use the unit for both things), it might also limit some tattoo artists in other ways.

Most artists want a shorter stroke for lining, allowing their needles to move and work faster over shorter distances. That also eliminates wobbling and fussy work in the end.

Moving on to shading and color packing, a longer stroke will fare better since it makes the needle spend a tad more time in the skin, helping to infuse more ink into the overall work.


Striking the right balance with the long stroke was the best way Aaron could have achieved the best single functionality here.


If you’re more of a traditional tattoo artist who likes things the other way we described up here, though, you should never dream about using this guy for both tasks.

In other words, you’ll have to shell out more money to pick another dedicated liner.


The Roundback Liner V2.0

From the name alone, you can tell that this is a better, improved version over the first concept of this unit that made the market.


The Roundback Liner V2.0 - Aaron Cain Custom tattoo machines


We have been reviewing a few custom machines long enough to know that once a builder launches a second version, there’s usually a big change.

After all, they have now learned from the various complaints and feedback that they got from other artists, as well as personal usage, to incorporate working changes.

So, what changed on the Roundback Liner V2.0 – and what does it bring to the table?


What changed in the design

We said that we liked the design on the Octet Shader from above, and we stand by that, but the Roundback Liner V2.0 is in a league of its own.

Aaron Cain went the same route as the first one in some places. Fully made in the USA, the machine parts were fabricated via CNC machining to ensure precise measurements and fits.


You can rest assured that you’re getting a finely engineered piece of machinery that works seamlessly with the design-build.


Besides the few performance improvements that are shown on this machine, relative to the original, the introduction of CNC machining makes a bigger difference here.

He ensured better quality control that allows him effectively switch from the handmade process to a mass production format without cutting corners anywhere.

A main concern with the build here is how open the frame design is. It looks great, don’t get us wrong, but we believe it could have been better a frame with more internal components protection.

Barring that, though, the 6.45 oz liner coil tattoo machine is a beauty that works.


Power and voltage output

The machine is promised at a voltage of 6V when at 50% of its power. The official specs also reckon that the machine starts working at between 150-155Hz frequency on a 6.5V range when unloaded.


With that, you should be able to get 11-12V out of this Roundback Liner V2.0.


But, here’s the catch:

For most of your lining tattooing operations, you will most likely top out at 10 – 11V, and that’s even in very extreme cases. Thus, this tattoo gun carries all the power that you need to run it.


Standard or cartridge needles?

Cartridges and standard needles will both work on this machine.

Naturally, you should feel more at home with using a standard needle here. We checked, and the brand doesn’t supply needles of their own. So, you can keep to your preferred needle brands here as long as they are of high quality.

When using cartridges, a lot of artists find better success with membrane-type cartridges on these kinds of machines.


membrane-type cartridges from Mast



You should experiment to find out what works best for you but that’s a great place to start anyway.


This is also an 8-wrap coil tattoo machine, so be careful not messing around with the needle groupings.


The coil will support lower to medium needle groupings just fine, which should be more than enough to get all of your work done.


Where to use this machine?

A peek at the name of the machine alone tells you that this is a liner tattoo machine. Like the Octet Shader above, this pick is not recommended for any other operation.


Aaron packed a medium stroke on this unit, helping to deliver a faster output.


Paired with the 8-wrap configuration, you get even faster operation than you would manage with a higher wrap level, and impressive finishing than would have been possible on a lower setting.

It is suggested to be used with needle depths of between 3 and 9 with ease. That works best for lining operations so you’re in luck with this functional unit.


Why to stay away from it?

Like the Octet Shader above, you cannot use the Roundback Liner for anything else than lining – that is what we think.

If you like the handling of the Roundback for lining and will like something of the same output for shading, there is a Roundback Shader also.

Nevertheless, this could be a dealbreaker for artists who don’t like to splash too much on their machines and would rather have one that can do a couple of things.

On the other hand, this just means that the Roundback Liner V2.0 is well-tuned to lining operations and will do a fantastic job in that department.

When the quality of your work starts to increase, you might want to step up to custom units like this one that do one thing very well.


Wrap Up

On either of the Roundback and Octet line-ups, this unique tattoo machine builder brings expert lining and shading tattoo machines to the table.

It is always a fine thing to have a piece of equipment that was hand-tuned and finessed by one of the very best in the game.


Even if you are a beginner, you are sure to be on the right track when you take these machines out of the box.


Packing a decent voltage range to support its diverse operations, pairing that with varying stroke levels and a moderate 8 coil wrap, users are surely in for a treat.

We would love to see a color packer – dedicated or in a hybrid setup – from this builder soon, but the custom line-up of some of the Aaron Cain tattoo machines are taking the crown for both beginners, intermediates, and expert tattoo artists alike.

Images courtesy of: Workhorse Irons



Hi!, I'm Thomas, the driver of TMA. Tattoos are a way to express our thoughts, right? but how can we do it without the right tattoo machine? Thanks to my tattoo artist friends, I can transfer their point of view about their experiences in the industry.

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