Alesis SamplePad 4: The Smallest MIDI Drum Controller?

Alesis Samplepad Pro Review

Not too long ago I began wondering if my sample pad setup was a bit unnecessary. See, I use a laptop computer to run our backing tracks alongside a Roland SPD-SX to trigger the playback.

The problem is, I only end up using four pads on the Roland out of the total nine. I began my journey to see if the Alesis SamplePad 4 would reduce my fingerprint on stage and make it easier night after night.

Alesis Percussion Effect, Black, 4-pad (SamplePad 4)
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Alesis Percussion Effect, Black, 4-pad (SamplePad 4)
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For me, the Alesis SamplePad 4 worked perfectly in my situation. With four pads and a dual-trigger input on the back, I’m able to start, stop, change songs, and trigger samples from my playback rig without wasting pads on my SPD-SX. The SamplePad 4 is much more affordable and does exactly what I need currently. The only thing I miss from my Roland SPD-SX is MIDI out.

Related: Our favorite electronic drum kits available on the market

Overview – Alesis SamplePad 4

The SamplePad 4 is essentially the smaller sibling to the larger SamplePad Pro. As the name suggests, you get four sampling pads (two large and two raised skinny bars) to control pre-loaded sounds or user-created sounds. The pad supports an SD card with a maximum capacity of 32GB.

Alesis also recently released a new sample pad, the Strike MultiPad.

Samples are simply dropped on to the SD card from a computer and can be loaded within the user interface on the pad (need to be 16-bit, mono or stereo .wav files!).

Alesis SamplePad 4

Though the pad is relatively small, it’s not so small that you won’t have accuracy when going to hit the four pads. The illuminated pads look great and are especially useful in dark clubs.

This drum pad is perfect for drummers looking to add some element of sampling to their playing or those who need to control a DAW like Ableton Live for backing tracks.

In addition to my need to start playback before each song, I also have two additional trigger pads: one under my hi-hat and one to the right of my floor tom. I was nervous at first seeing only one trigger in on the back, but it is, in fact, a dual-zone input. A little annoying, but I am able to get both pads working by using a Y-cable.

Speaking of backing tracks, I spent two years trying to figure out the best way to set up a playback rig. It wasn’t until I followed these steps that I was able to be efficient and flawless every night.

SamplePad 4 Review

Here are the features of the Alesis SamplePad 4:

  • Four illuminated, programmable rubber sample pads – endless sampling opportunities
  • Accepts SD/SDHC cards up to 32GB – 512 samples per card and up to 89 user kits can be stored
  • USB-MIDI output for use with DAW – no internal sampling required, use Ableton Live for example
  • Onboard FX – add reverb to your sounds to make them sound huge

Note about line-level signals: You WILL need a stereo passive DI box if you want to use this in a live situation. Many users have complained about output noise and other problems when using the SamplePad 4. This is simply because they are not using a DI box to convert a line-level signal to a balanced signal that a mixing board can use properly.

Internal sounds and I/O

SamplePad 4 Top

The provided samples included out of the box are pretty mediocre. This is really no issue for me as I have my own collection of samples that I use and I’m mainly using this for MIDI control of Ableton Live.

You’ll find kicks, snares, and assorted percussion (shakers, congas, claps, cowbells, etc…) when you fire it up for the first time. Toms and cymbals are not included in the pre-loaded samples. Alesis also has a library of additional free sounds, including hits, loops, and samples, on their website.

Importing your own samples

There are many libraries available on the internet with amazing sounds. A simple Google search will reveal plenty of options for you to choose from. Importing samples is as simple as dropping them to an SD card and plugging it into your Sample Pad 4. The samples need to be in the root directory of your card.

When a sound is selected on your SD card, you can load it into a specific pad and save a new user kit. It’s a relatively easy process.

Two velocity layers per pad

While this may not be on the level of the Roland V-Drum module, having two velocity layers per pad allows you to play more dynamically with your sounds. If you’re confused by what this means, allow me to explain.

Let’s say you’re importing a snare sample to your sample pad. In terms of dynamics of playing a snare drum, think of two velocity layers as two different volume hits.

You’re able to import a lighter “tap” sample as well as a hard-hitting strike of the drum. You can then adjust the velocity level on the SamplePad 4 to determine when