Electronic drum pads are growing more and more popular today. They are helping drummers in many ways make their lives easier. A drum pad, or as they are commonly known as ‘drum sampling pads,’ offers a range of drum sounds not found with acoustic pieces.
Technology has taken drumming to a whole new level. And it is all about innovation and creative ideas that make drumming more interesting. Today, there is always something a drummer will be looking for to make their sounds betters, especially in a studio setting.
And thanks to sampling pads, they are able to make different sounds based on their personal experience.
One of the best examples of a sampling pad is Roland SPD-SX. I have reviewed it several below, and it stands as my motivation for other reviews.
What is an electronic drum pad?
Electronic pads are also called sampling pads in many instances. However, there is a sure difference between them.
Electronic drum pads have pads and speakers. This means they can be used as a drum kit.
Sample pads, on the other hand, feature as an addition to a drum set. A drummer can use them with an acoustic setup to create most sound ranges. Also, they add loop and effects in electronic drum setups.
The only difference is the speakers. Hence, the terms are used to mean the same thing.
We can, therefore, define the electronic drum as a percussion instrument that triggers samples. In other words, it synthesizes sound.
An electronic drum pad was originally called tabletop electronic drums. There are two types, the percussion pads which you strike with a stick, and the MIDI pad controller type.
– Electronic percussion pads
This type of electronic drum pads can be used for different situations in a live setting. They perform great giving out one-short samples and synthesizing drum samples.
Also, they perform loop phrases and full playback for backing songs.
They can use an envelope generator (ADSR), which receives the trigger signal when you hit the pad. This brings out the appropriate attack for your drum backing traks, decay, sustain, and release.
Many modern drum pads have velocity sensors in the input. And they will play varying volumes or samples in the right way. They give the player a dynamic and musical sound.
The MIDI interface in these pads achieves the right sound play. Again, the trigger function will send a note on message, as well as playback the sample.
The percussion pads are sometimes confused with practice pads. The latter comes with strike-able pads and different preset kids.
The percussion pads are quite popular among touring drummers who mostly use acoustic drum sets. They use it to play additional samples during a live performance.
– MIDI Pad Controllers
These are the e-drum pads use with hands and fingers. They are common in recording studio settings.
They are mostly used in hip-hip and pop production. But many drum players use them in live performance.
What is the best electronic drum pad?
All the drum pads I have reviewed above are among the best items in the market. However, you cannot pick all of them.
And for this reason, I will take you through a quick feature that makes a drum pad the best. Perhaps you can even consider other options.
10 Top Electronic Drum Pads Reviews
I put the Roland SPD-SX at the top of this list because it is one of my favorites. Today many drums and percussion companies are using high technology to create beautiful sampling pads and this one of them.
Every instrument comes at varying prices based on the features. When you want to pick the right pad, it is always proper to understand what to look for in a drum pad.
When it comes to using the playback systems, the Roland SPD-SX is a true leader. No wonder it has become very popular with both professional and amateur drummers.
It is the newest addition to the SPD group, and it has already become very famous.
The Roland SPD-SX comes with nine sample pads, fully customizable, and with LED lights.
It carries an internal memory of 2GB. There is no other instrument of these types with such a sample space. It, therefore, gives you about 360 minutes of mono samples.
Also, you get two external dual-trigger inputs where you can add more pads. The pad carries more than 900 drum and percussion sounds.
It offers one of the most fantastic feelings. It has velocity-sensitive rubber pads for a wonderful rebound and sturdiness.
And if you want to get the most from this device, try connecting two Roland external pads with a malletKAT MIDI controller. You will not imagine how many sounds you can create in a live performance.
There are two USB ports on the back. Use them to connect your computer and for important samples.
Compared to its predecessor, the SPD-S, this pad has a faster sample loading time. You don’t have a long time for the samples to load as with the SPD-S case.
– I/O overview
The SPD-SX does not come with Hi-Hat control. For this reason, it is not link with some trigger pedals.
It has DC IN, MIDI In/Out, Audio In, and Sub out, Foot SW input, Trig IN 1/2/3/4, master output and AUX for headphones.
I think it is generally a worthy investment. I have used mine for some time, and I believe there is everything you need to create good music.
- You can load your sounds:
- It has a very long lifespan.
- Roland is a great brand.
- It does not have hi-hat control features.
- A bit pricy
Alesis is a company that has been on the market for quite a while now. It has gone steps in designing musical devices, MIDI controller, digital audio process, and electronic percussion instruments, among others.
One of the things that make them stand out is their quality. Though sometimes, they opt for the best value in most products.
But with the Strike Multipad, any negative thing you may have experienced could be history now.
This is the latest model from Alesis, and it comes carrying more than 7000 sounds. It was launched in December 2018 with features comparable to the Roland SPD-SX. They share looks and the number of pads.
Alesis really understand how to take care of the drummer’s needs. With this device, you can sample, edit, loop, and perform very easily.
I have not used the Alesis Strike Multipad, but I already love the features it comes with.
First, it has more than 7k built-in samples. With these, you have limited access to the power of creation.
And for such a huge amount of samples, you are probably wondering about its internal storage. It comes with 32GB storage. And this among the characteristics that attracted me to the sample pad.
The USB port allows you to connect your phone and computer. And you can use any of these sources, including a microphone, to record samples.
It comes with nine-velocity sensitive pads. They all have customizable RGB lights.
Also, there is a 4.3-inch color display on the face. This makes it easy for you to see what you are choosing so that you don’t have to guess. It also allows the use of on-board looping software.
– I/O overview
The Strike MultiPad Pro comes with all the fantastic Ins and Outs. And this is where Alesis have beaten Roland, as they have done their homework pretty well.
This item can easily become a small electronic drum kit. Any drummer who understands technology will love this item.
- This is the latest model from Alesis. Hence it comes with the best features.
- The display is quite fantastic
- An excellent alternative from to the SPD-SX
- A bit costly
I cannot emphasize enough how much Alesis has become my favorite brand for many products. Every item they put out on the market is set to meet the users’ needs.
And it comes to affordability; you will find the Alesis SamplePad Pro quite a budget saver. It is one of the most affordable sampling pads on the market.
If you are looking for the cheapest way to add electronic sounds on use backing live, then I recommend this pad.
It is a beautiful choice for both professional and beginner drummers. It will help you easily add sampling to your acoustic setup.
The Strike Multipad is far the greatest choice from the original. And Alesis has invested heavily in this technology.
And since the Alesis Samplepad is among the most recent releases, you can expect nothing but the best. I recently reviewed this item, and I can say there is so much one can get from it.
If you haven’t come across this product, it has some of the nicest features you can expect in a standard sample pad.
It comes with eight isolated and responsive pads. With these, have unlimited access to the world of musical possibilities.
The blue LED illumination makes it look shiny and bright in dimly lit situations.
It features two additional pad inputs. These include both the kick and hi-hat.
If you want to record music, you can do it through your phone or computer via the USB/MIDI.
There are a five-pin MIDI input/output and a 3.5mm audio input. With this, you have the best way to record any sounds.
Its ability to accommodate both a kick drum and hi-hat pedal is perhaps what makes it superior to other pads. And this can turn the Samplepad Pro into a small e-drum set.
– From the box
When you open the SamplePad Pro box, you will get a device with ten kits and 200 on-board sounds. You can expand it up to 32GB SD card as you like.
Alesis has ensured that a drummer can bring their own sample to the performance.
With the Alesis Sample Converter utility, one can import any sounds of their choice.
- The only sample pad that supports SD card playback
- Very affordable
- You can back your truck setups.
- It is not the latest model.
- Some user complains of dead pads after using for just a few weeks.
Alesis and Roland are the market leaders in producing sampling pads. But some other companies are making significant progress as well. Nord and Yamaha are among them.
The 3P by Nord looks similar to the SPD-SX reviewed above. But they are different in many ways.
And can say the Nord 3P is not a sampler per se. It is more of a synthesizer, but it operates just like a drum pad. It is good to note this.
The reason I have included on this least is that many people confuse it with other products, like the SPD-SX. But it does not come with any internal samples and has no ability to accept any.
The brand is called Nord Keyboards, and it is situated in Sweden. It was stated in 1983 when Hans Nordelius, built the Digital Percussion Plate 1.
Over the years, the company has made many other great instruments.
But I find their version of an electric drum pad quite a bit unsatisfying. Its display is a bit vintage, and the knob interface is clunky. You will not access as much information as you may want to.
Perhaps this is because it is not a drum sampler. And all the sounds are created using synthesis.
So, it depends on the individual to discover its applicability.
– The modes
The 3P comes with four synthesize modes; resonant, subtractive wave types, FM, and ring module. It also comes with a six pad channel, which gives you limited hitting areas.
With proper use, this device can make great music. Well, I cannot tell what you may prefer between analog and digital synthesis. But then, we all may need to avoid a bunch of technical circuitry at some point.
You will need a headphone input, main left/right output, a kick trigger in, a MIDI in/out, and 12 volts power input.
It comes with only on extra pad input for the kick. This is just like other drum pads out there.
The Nord Drum 3P does lucks USB capability. This may not be such a significant issue, but that means you cannot use it with a digital audio workstation.
For me, nothing is exciting about this device. But drum synthesis is quite nice. You can make some beautiful music with this piece.
- Excellent music synthesis
- Many preset sounds
- Not for sampling
- A bit costly
The Yamaha DTX Mutipad by Yamaha is a great competition to the SPD-SX and Strike Multipad.
But it is not as updated as the other two.
It is very famous among many drums that would rather not use the SPD-SX by Roland.
The problem with this piece is it has minimal on-board storage. I find it a bit outdated, too, and it does not allow for any additional samples.
Yamaha is a big company. The brand alone should tell you the DTX sample pad is a great product, even if it has a few downsides.
The DTX Multipad flies in the same league as the SPD-SX and the Alesis SamplePad Pro.
It comes with 1061 on-board drum/ percussion samples and 216 keyboard sounds. It also has a sequencer as well as preset loops.
This SamplePad carries the smallest storage space. And this is perhaps where Yamaha has failed. It can be the best pad if the improved here.
However, this may not be such a problem for those who don’t need too many sounds. Also, it allows for external storage.
You will get a standard 12V input, MIDI in/out, a Foot SW input, and a hi-hat control in the back. It also features five extra pad inputs, a mono aux-in, master out, and a headphone input.
The 12 velocity-sensitive rubber pads are thick and fully sensitive. This feature makes them respond quite nicely when played with hands and fingers.
But the aux is not stereo. This is why we said it is about out-of-date.
- The drum pad comes with nine playing zones. This gives the player a wider are to use their imagination.
- It carries 1061 pre-loaded samples
- It has five trigger inputs
- It only has 64MB of internal storage, which is not enough for modern music needs.
- The interface is a bit complicated, especially for beginners
I have always loved Roland products. The company has been using cutting-edge technology to built drums for many years. The first Octapad was built in 1985, initiating a revolutionary error in sound sampling.
Perhaps it was not the best idea at the moment. But over the years, they have added a number of updates.
And today, it has contemporary connectivity and sync option together with many sounds. Also, the drum pads feature triggering technology. I call it a roadworthy self-contained musical item.
Unfortunately, one cannot import any sample on it. This has been the main concern of many drummers.
It only comes pre-loaded with 50 drum kits, and that is all you will have to work with. The percussion sounds are not enough to meet modern drumming needs.
The SPD-30 just holds on when you consider today’s standards. It has been ‘reinvented’ to make it better, but it remains pretty basic.
It comes with eight trigger pads packed with hundreds of sounds. It carries 50 drum kits with tons of percussion sound effects from different parts of the world.
With this drum pad, you get a ton of external out output. You should be able to get the kick, snare easily. Hi-hat and a hi-hat control. Based on the contemporary music industry, that is a big plus.
This means you can easily turn this device into a small music electronic drum set.
The biggest downside is the lack of sound importing ability. This may leave many drummers wondering why they should invest in it.
– Using custom sounds
You can still use custom sounds on this e-drum pad. But for that to happen, you will need a few items, including a USB/MIDI cable, a laptop, a DWS, sample libraries, and an audio interface.
But if you don’t want to go through such a hustle, it would be better to use an alternative pad. The Roland SPD-SX, for instance, is more up-to-date.
Operating with the on-board sounds is quite easy. This one of the features that make many drummers pick it.
The pads offer a great playing response. You will feel quite good when playing. Besides, it is quite sturdy and is made with high quality considerations.
It is not my favorite on this list, but it is still an excellent solution for electronic sounds.
- 50 preset sounds
- Supports hi-hat controllers
- Great feel
- Lack custom samples
- Out of date
The KAT Percussion Electronic drum pad is one of the most affordable entry-level drum pads on the market. It is designed for those in need of something cheap but high quality.
This is a compact drum pad, suitable for travelling and easy setup situations. It comes with 50 drum and percussion sounds playable on four pads.
Each pad is velocity-sensitive, which makes it an excellent tool for creating music. Using the pads is pretty simple too.
One can increase or reduce the volume of each pad. This feature is quite wonderful because it lets you use the devices as you wish.
I did not like the size of the pads though. Even though the responses are excellent, the pads are small and too close to each other. You can easily hit the wrong one while playing.
In addition, it does not have storage capability. You can therefore not use with custom samples.
But the price makes it worth your investment. For those in need of something simple, you can never lack what you need in this pad.
The device supports external hi-hat and kick inputs. This feature makes it suitable for live performance.
The fact that you can adjust the level of each sample, and alter the sounds quality makes them pretty interesting.
Also, it comes with USB and MIDI connectivity. Besides, is bears stereo outputs for live performance.
I would not suggest it for professional use though. Perhaps someone just looking for a practice pad.
- This is an affordable drum pad
- Comes with hi-hat and kick inputs
- Supports USB/MIDI
- Not the best quality
- Unable to store external sample
I have loved Pyle products for quite a while now. And the Pyle Electronic Drum Set Pad PTED06 is among the best items from the manufacturer.
It comes with a bunch of drumming and learning tools, including a metronome recording and groove trainer.
All these come with a competitive price. Considering it has the most extensive collection of sounds and preset kits, it is worth the investment.
The PTED06 features seven touch-sensitive drums pads on a tabletop housing. You get one snare, three toms, one hi-hat and two cymbals.
It also comes with two foot pedals. One acts as the hi-hat while the other as a bass drum pedal.
Inside the pad are 300 sounds and 55 preset kits. With these, you can make as many sounds as you wish until you have the best music.
There are two built-in stereo speakers. This means you can practice alone at home without connecting to loudspeakers.
The 3.5 mm jack out enables for external amplifier or headphones. And the 1.4 inch input for external music device makes it possible to record and add samples.
Connect your PC and record music using on-board software through USB MIDI output.
It runs in an AC adapter or batteries. And the control panel backlit buttons and LED display.
PTED06 is suitable for beginners. But has excellent features for recording too. Its price makes it quite a save.
- USB connectivity
- Hi-hat and kick capability
- It might not be the best for professional work
The Pyle Pro Tabletop Pad comes with seven touch-sensitive drum pads. It has a similar feature to the PDC06. But it is not as advanced.
It has two pedals, one as a hi-hat and the other as bass drum pedal.
The devices come pre-loaded with 250 sounds, and 25 presets. You can use these options to create any type of music you wish.
The two stereo built-in speakers make it a compact tool for drummers. And if you don’t want these, use the ¼ jack output for headphones and amplifier.
The device has a USB/MIDI output for those who wish for PC connections. It runs on batteries or PC adapter.
On the control panel, you get a beautiful LCD display.
If you want to use a computer for serious MIDI recording, this is not the device for you. I would rather you found another one. But for the cost, it is the best.
- 250 sounds
- A good brand
- Touch-sensitive pads
- Not good for custom sounds
- Pedals are not stable when playing
Paxcess is another great brand for electronic drum pads and music accessories. I include the Paxcess Roll-Up Pad in the review because it is among the cheapest products on the market.
It comes with seven drum pads zones, one snare, three toms, one hi-hat, and two cymbals.
It comes with two built-in stereo speakers, each having 2 watts. You can connect it to headphones using the ¼ jack output. And there is an additional input for mp3/music devices.
You can use the USB for charging and MIDI connection. It comes with a rechargeable battery.
This electronic drum pad is made for kids. Sometimes it looks more like a toy than a serious drum pad.
But since kids need an exciting way to learn to drum, I would recommend it for parents looking to motivate their kits. But it has the cross-sticking issue, which can be quite a nuisance.
- It is easy to use
- MIDI trigger capability
- Long battery life
- You cannot transfer the pads set up to real drum kids
- Unstable foot pedals
How did electronic drums get in the market?
To better understand electronic drum pads, one must look at the history of electronic drums. When I started using electronic drum pads, I was compelled to practice with e-drum sets for a while.
As an acoustic drummer, I was never interested in knowing much about e-drums. But today the information helps me make better music.
The first fully-transistorized electronic drum piece was introduced to the market by a Japanese company, AceTone, in 1964. The launch was done at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
This first instrument was not automatic. It did not have any preset patterns. However, it came with buttons that produced different percussion when hit.
The inventor was called Ikutaru Kakehasi, and he named the set R-1. He later becomes the foundation of Roland Corporation.
During the time, organists depended on some type of accompaniment whenever they were playing. And for this reason, the R-1 was useless.
However, it marked the beginning of a new error where more products came up. It gave birth to FR-1, RR-77, Rhythm 330, and Dr. Rhythm. And today, many drummers love TR-808, which came much later.
The e-drum industry has greatly evolved with various brands producing the best features. Some of the best electronic drum pads can be tuned to sound just like a real acoustic piece. They are most applicable for practice, rehearsals, and studio recording.
Are electronic drum pads any good?
Let’s face it. Modern music is not easy. There is so much demand for a drummer. There have been all sorts of music, and still, the drummer needs to remain authentic.
And one instance, they are expected to replicate the sounds for recording. Acoustic drums don’t give the ability to use different sets. This is why most of the recorded work is done on the electronic samples.
Modern drummers find sampling pads very useful. Even the most experienced and professional drummers use the drum pads.
Drummer can load individual samples on the tools and use them in live performances. They can simply record the sounds they want on, even using their phones and transfer to the pads. And during a performance on stage, they can choose between sounds, making things more interesting.
They have kept improving in terms of technology and user experience. And this is why drummers as exposed to infinite hybrid setups. That can create different scenes involving acoustic drums, cymbals, and external triggers.
There are infinite sounds opportunities where sample pads are involved. One can play a diverse range of styles based on the music genre.
For instance, hard rock requires a really loud drum set, whereas jazz needs smooth sounds. With a drum pad, one can use any type of drum combination to switch between these genres.
High-end electronic drum pads come with external trigger inputs. This makes it easy for practicality when drummers are playing on the live stage.
Triggers make it possible to produce authentic and realistic performance. As you may already know, electronic drum sets don’t sound as authentic as acoustic sets. Hence, the triggers bring out the nuances and lifelike playing of true drummers. When combined with the consistency and surety of e-drum sound replication, everything becomes clear.
As much as sampling pads are good, they also have some negative sides. This is normal for many types of music instruments. Besides, there is nothing perfect in the world.
The feel of the pads is not realistic. When you are used to playing an acoustic set, you will have a tough time adjusting to the sampling pads.
In some ways, it can really mess with your playing.
For instance, those who are used to playing on practice pads can get a false sense of rebound. And when they try out real drums, it becomes tough.
Fortunately, some of the high-end pads from top-brands like Roland and Yamaha are made to look and sound just like real drum sets.
I don’t like the cable on the drum sets. And if you are not careful, I can be very infuriating to deal with cables all over the stage.
One needs to be very neat. Otherwise, when the nightmare begins, you will not be able to untangle yourself.
This, however, will not be such a big problem if you know how to arrange your gear on the stage. Sometimes items break, simply because the user was not careful with arranging the cables.
At live shows, you will not perform without a PA system. This is true for electronic music gear.
Depending on how big the stage you are playing on is, you must either have an amp or a PA.
This is because the pads produced sound through electromagnetic impulses. They must, therefore, be interpreted and magnified for the human ear.
And since you want your audience to hear what you are playing, you don’t have any option.
Also, using sampling pads requires some sort of technical knowledge. You cannot just wake and start using custom samples.
Some of the best sampling pads are quite complicated too. It will, therefore, require you to gain a bit of expertise in creating samples, chopping them, and importing into your pad.
It is not easy to understand how MIDI works. There is a need to learn and practice extensively before making any progress.
Whether sampling pads are good or not depends on an individual’s approach and needs.
Personally, I think they are really cool. Consider how much sounds to get and what you can do with the different options they give.
But I would not recommend it for someone who is just learning to play drums. It is better to learn from acoustic setups firms.
Hence, they are quite useful for those seeking to play different styles. Also, if you are looking to compete with different artists, it will be totally worth it to invest in an electronic drum pad.
Pads and pedals
Using an electronic drum pad should only be for practice purposes. The user, therefore, should have the intention of changing to an acoustic or electronic drum kit.
For this reason, consider a drum pad with a similar number of drum and cymbal pads. This will make it easy to switch.
Basically, you are looking for four drum pads, three cymbals, and two pedals.
Many ins and outs
These will help you play along with your favorite music for motivation. Hence, you should be able to plug into other electronic devices like smartphones and computers.
Connecting to headphones makes them virtually silent. And you need the USB/MIDI input for recording and modifying grooves.
The range and quality of sounds
The sound range is all about individual sounds that can be stored on the pad. Some pads come with hundreds of in-built sounds, while others have only a few. The more the sounds, the better.
You assign the sounds on a pad-to-pad basis or change the sound of all pads. You have a bigger room for customization with the first option. So choose one that works for you.
There should be no doubt about the sound quality. But the sound is a subjective issue, so I will not go into details.
The best drum pad might be found with higher-priced options. So you may have to look at the cost in terms of quality.
Among the product reviewed above, I find the Roland SPD-SX a more applicable choice.
You can get essential custom sounds with ease. Besides, it is durable, features external trigger inputs, and many cool ins/outs. And with its overall feel, you would love it too.