When I consider how far technology in the music industry has gone, I feel very proud. And the Roland HandSonic percussion range makes me wonder just how much humanity has not discovered yet.
Why the HandSonic?
For a while now, I have been lucky enough to review several electronic drum pads on the market. I have gone through several items, from entry-level to top gear sets on the market.
And in every section, Roland and Yamaha have remained my favorite brands. Even though their top-gear costs thousands of dollars, but you can invest in something reliable. Well, they take care of every drummer.
Even better, the drummer’s closest cousin, the percussionist is also catered for. In most of the electronic kits, you will meet on the market; there is a wide variety of percussion sounds embedded in the normal drum tones.
When you are looking to add some conga effect in a Latin mix, you can rely on these sounds. Or perhaps you just want to play the cowbell part in your arrangement; well you can never get it wrong.
Alesis has also been on top of the world with its Percussion pad. All these are good for playing with sticks.
But what about the huge range of percussion music that must be played with hands or fingers? Well, there are a few options, like the Korg Wavedrum. However, there is just so much a single drum can do.
And this is where I think the HPD20 wins it all. It comes with unlimited editing capabilities and everything a percussionist needs to make their music.
All hands ‘on deck’
The HandSonic idea by Roland was introduced with the HPD15, which is ideally all dancing, all singing. This device came with incredible features, including 15 pads, an onboard sequencer, ribbon controllers, and several control knobs/buttons. But with such feature, came high prices.
Later Roland produced a more affordable HPD10. It actually came a few years after the HPD15. Also, this device did not disappoint, as it carried a new set of drum and percussion sounds. Besides, its format was more streamlined.
These the HDP10 and HPD15 were doing just fine until the HPD20 arrived. Now is a real game-changer. It carries 850 nerd drum, percussion, and melodic music. As if that is not enough, you get three multi-effects processors and Roland Supernatural Sound Engine.
Roland has always been an inventor in all areas. And that is why they have tried to keep up with the contemporary standards in audio equipment. As such, the HPD20 features a direct USB connection to your Mac and PC. This means you can import WAV files to use in any of your creations.
The Build and Functions
Black is a color that carries command, and it is back with the HPD20. It offers a sexier look than the earlier versions, with its new black casing. It features a circular, rubberized play area with a gunmetal-colored hoop around. Ten recesses hex bolts hold these pieces together, making them look like a real drum head.
And before you even touch the playing surface, you will be greeted by an LCD at the center. It has silver and black knobs and buttons all around. Thet re backlighting gives it a very professional appearance.
More on LCD and Controls
This piece comes with a discrete volume control knob for headphones and Main outputs. You will notice a large Kit button that opens up the main patch screen on display. This feature is ‘return home’ that brings you back home. Hence, it is quite applicable to live performances.
There is another knob on the far end for real-time control of pitch and effects. They have two dedicated backlight buttons.
The last buttons in the front area are the Back Roll and Quick Record. They make this area a complete set.
At the top of the LCD, you will find the D-Beamed invisible infra-red light beam, Roland’s signature. This controls the sound and the effects through hand motions.
Under the LCD, there are three soft buttons that take you directly to different functions following what is on display.
Data entry and navigation
The data entry and navigation area are set on the right of the control area. It bears a menu button as well as four cursor keys that help you trace your path.
There are large +/- keys, a knob, and enter keys for entering data. And then, there is a small shift key button that activates some secondary functions. It also provides a faster way to ‘quick access.’
I like it that the power button is in the control area. This makes it very easy to switch it on and off, unlike when it was at the rear.
At the back of the device, there are a bunch of inputs. First, there is the stereo output as two ¼ inch jacks. Then there is a stereo headphone output near these outputs.
You will also notice a Mix In stereo input on the 1/4 –inch jack. This offers a difference from the normal mini-jack, making it easier to connect and external audio sources. You can use this capability to mix with the songs on the HPD20 as practice play-along.
Under the Main outs, are Trigger In and hi-hat control ins. These let you connect an external trigger input, like a drum pad, or a kick trigger. You can also add a pedal so that you can easily control hi-hat opening and closing.
Also, there is a separate footswitch. With this, you can control specific functions without using hands.
Last is the USB port that lets you connect to a computer while the USB memory port allows you to save and load HPD20 settings. You can also upload your WAV files. The MIDI in/outs and power adapter socket is also in the same area.
With these features, there is nothing you cannot do with this device. For a percussionist, it is a joy all the way.
The HPD-20 comes with features that let you take full advantage of your creativity. In terms of functionality, you can be sure your investment is worth it.
As an owner of the HPD-10, trust me when I say the HPD-20 is a technology on the whole never level.
This is one of the greatest things I love about the Roland HandSonic HPD20. It comes with a wide variety of sounds for any type of drummer.
There are up to 850 sounds, all from different percussion instruments. Do you want traditional patterns? You have got it. Or perhaps you prefer more specific options like conga and bongo, well you have it all here.
Then there is a wide range of electronic beats and mixes. These are perfect for DJs and sound engineers.
And you will fall love its connectivity. The option in including a USB flash drive means you can upload your WAV files. It has space to accommodate more than 500 files. Hence, you can customize it any way you want.
DJs and recording drummers have highly praised the HPD-20. This is because they can add their own sounds manual adding, or generate using the D-Beam functionality.
It makes performances more exciting. For a drummer, nothing makes one happier than the versatility of their gear.
I have already mentioned it used the SuperNATURAL sound technology, a trademark of Roland. This makes the pads very responsive. The technology can interpret your input into excellent electronic outputs.
Whenever you hit a pad, the software picks the vibrations with an exact response, keeping the sound natural. This is one of the reasons it a perfect solution for professional drumming and live gigs.
Also, this technology means you can keep the velocity oscillations or unnatural breaks that occur between samples.
What is more, you can easily adjust the settings on this device. That way, you can easily adapt the sounds to your playing style.
It comes with three different engines to help you edit your sounds with different effects.
The pads feature a rubber material. This means they are more adaptable to different playing needs. For those who love tweaking the sounds, you are sorted. Besides, you can also mute or just dampen the pads, giving you the best out of your performance.
In other words, you have more control to sound with this device than you would with anything else. And since you can create a huge variety of sounds to add to the existing sounds, you can extend your creation any way you want.
These sounds can work for any genre of music. And perhaps this is one thing the HandSonic HPD20 has worked on.
It is one thing to have everything you need for music production and a whole different thing to have it all under a light portable device. When it comes to excellent drumming, the amount to gadgets you need can make touring very difficult.
And for this reason, you will love the Roland HandSonic HPD20. The HPD-20 weighs a little over five pounds. This means you can carry it practically anywhere you want.
In terms of dimensions, it measures 15.9 inches by 12.2 inches by 4 inches. This means you can through it in your backpack and carry it around.
Also, the device can be easily packed into rucksacks. This is an added advantage compared to traditional drum sets or multi-part e-kits.
Also, you can play it as a sidekick drum by simply plugging in a pedal. Also, it comes with a hi-hat input. With these features, you can use this device easily with other components of Roland e-drum kits.
In other words, you can turn this device into a mini electronic drum set. You can even use it for a live performance on a large stage.
A percussionist’s paradise
It is not only the sounds and the samples that make this device practically unbeatable. You can also adjust and mix it to sound like a wide range of melodic instruments.
What does a percussionist need? They look for a bunch of different instruments that can be played to make sensible music.
Well, with the HPD-20, you can tap into any culture. It is all about variety.
So what is it going to be? Is it Indian music you are into? Play the santoor on the HandSonic.
Or perhaps you love the ancient Music of the British Isles. In that case, you will enjoy how the crotales sound.
You can also create a unique mix of instruments, and crown them with gongs and bells. This will enrich your experience.
Note also, that you can tune every sound of any melodic instrument to perfect key.
Amplifying the Roland Handsonic HPD20
The device does not come with inbuilt speakers. This means you will have to use external speakers or headphones to listen to music.
I would recommend you add the Roland PM-10 on your buying list if you want the device for practice. It is has a maximum power of 30 watts, meaning it is powerful enough to produce the sound you need. It features 10-inch, two-way coaxial speakers, and MP3/CD player capability.
And since the HandSonic already has the volume controls, you should be able to adjust the external source with ease effectively. The 2-band equalizer helps you tweak the tone to perfection.
- The size of this device is its greatest plus. It is small enough to fit into an area and offers excellent portability.
- It comes with soft and ergonomic sounds, perfect for both beginners and professionals.
- Excellent features for percussionists means they have more access to variety.
- It offers a variety of generic and custom sounds for performance. This is great for DJs.
- Even though it can perform many features, this is not a rhythm machine.
- Also, it does not have the sequencing and looping option like the ones you get with some multi-pads, including the Roland SPD-20.
Based on the features and its functionality, the Roland HandSonic HPD20 is an excellent device. Owning it will help you enrich your drumming experience, as an accessory to a large electronic drum kit, or a standalone. You can use it for a variety of needs, including live performances.