An electronic drum pad is a percussion instrument that triggers samples or synthesizes sounds. They are becoming more and more common in drummers’ setups. They offer a range of sounds that cannot be normally achieved with just a standard acoustic drum set.
Many drum companies are creating higher and higher quality drum sampling pads each and every year. Prices for electronic drum pads range from inexpensive to very costly. We hope this list helps you decide on the perfect electronic drum pad for your setup.
- Best Electronic Drum Pads 2018 – A Quick Glance
- 1. Alesis Samplepad Pro – Best Electronic Drum Pad
- 2. Nord Drum 3P – The Electronic Drum Synthesizer
- 3. Roland Octapad SPD-30 – Worst Electronic Drum Pad
- 4. Roland SPD-SX – Our Favorite Electronic Drum Pad
- 5. Yamaha DTX Multi Pad – Decent, But Not Best Electronic Drum Pad
- Electronic Drum Pads – Buyer’s Guide
- How Do You Mount A Sample Pad?
- Conclusion – Best Electronic Sample Pad
- Roland SPD-SX
Best Electronic Drum Pads 2018 – A Quick Glance
When it comes to buying an electronic sample pad, the experience is bit different than purchasing electronic drum kits. An electronic drum pad is essentially a tiny electronic drum kit arranged in a portable fashion.
Most electronic drum pads consist of small rubber pads that can be programmed to play different sounds and triggers. Look at our comparison table below. I will provide you with more information that will help you in our Buyer’s Guide later.
What Kind Of Electronic Drum Pads Should You Avoid?
Just like every product on the market, there’s going to be some cheap entry-level ones you should not waste time with.
There’s many electric drum pads available that have this exact design. Don’t waste your time or money on these.
They generally have poor strike detection, small pads, and terrible sounds. I would only suggest one of these as a gift for a small child.
1. Alesis Samplepad Pro – Best Electronic Drum Pad
Alesis is a company most known for designing electronic musical instruments, digital audio processors, audio mixers, digital audio interfaces, recording equipment, drum machines, professional audio and electronic percussion products. They offer the best value on all of their products. The Alesis Samplepad Pro is no different.[alert type=red ]Many users of the Alesis Samplepad are reporting dead pads after weeks of use! While we didn’t have this issue, it is worth noting![/alert]
- Expandable multi-pad percussion instrument for studio and live performance
- 8 isolated and responsive rubber pads with blue LED illumination
- Two pad inputs, kick and hi hat pedal inputs to integrate with existing acoustic or electronic setup
- USB MIDI to computer, five-pin MIDI input/output, 1/8" audio input
- 10 kits with 200 sounds included, expandable by up to 32GB SD card
We are looking at one of their more recent products: the Alesis Samplepad Pro. We have picked it as the Editor’s Choice for electronic drum pads. This electronic drum pad competes with the Roland SPD-SX for features and usability, at half more than half the cost.
Overview of the Pads and I/O – Alesis SamplePad Pro
The Alesis SamplePad Pro features 8 isolated and responsive rubber pads with blue LED illumination, two pad inputs, kick and hi hat pedal inputs, USB/MIDI to computer, five-pin MIDI input/output, and an 1/8″ audio input.
This drum pad is also equipped to support a kick drum and hi-hat pedal. Both inputs can be set for either switch or variable operation. Adding extra pads, a kick trigger, and a hi-hat controller can turn your SamplePad Pro into a small electronic drum set.
What Do You Get Out of the Box?
This electronic drum pad comes stocked with 10 kits with 200 sounds included, expandable by up to 32GB SD card. Alesis has made it easy to bring your own samples to the party. By utilizing the Alesis SampleConverter Utility, you’ll be able to import any sound you wish to bring with you to your shows.
How is it that this is the only drum sample pad that supports sample playback from an SD card?! This is a killer feature!
Only Need To Play A Few Samples? Check Out The Alesis SamplePad 4
Similar to the Alesis SamplePad Pro, Alesis also makes a product that’s half the size and has half the pads. The Alesis SamplePad 4 Compact is perfect if you only need a few pads for your style of music.
- 4 pads for percussive and sampling triggering
- Built-in library of 25 most commonly requested percussion and electronic drum sounds
- 10 preset kits, or add any sound sample or loop to your drum or percussion setup via SD card
- USB-MIDI output for use with virtual instrument and recording software
- Accepts SD/SDHC cards up to 32GB, storing 89 user kits and 512 samples per card
There’s Some Issues With The SamplePad Pro
Like I had mentioned earlier, this electric drum pad has some problems. Some users are claiming that single pads on the unit are going dead after just weeks of use.
Others complain that the headphone output is not functional and the power switch doesn’t work.
In all of these cases, I can only hope that Alesis did their best to appease their consumer base.
My conclusion: best entry-level product! It’s a fantastic price point, but it seems like this product might be a bit faulty.
2. Nord Drum 3P – The Electronic Drum Synthesizer
Nord Keyboards is a Swedish instrument manufacturer. The company began in 1983 when founder Hans Nordelius created the Digital Percussion Plate 1. Since then, Nord has made tons of great products used by many musicians all over the world.
Nord’s version of the electric drum pad is a little disappointing in our view. Like other Nord products, this electronic drum pad has a clunky knob interface (just our opinion), with a old-school digital display that gives minimal information to the user.[alert type=green ]We much prefer the design of the Alesis and Roland SPD-SX displays.[/alert]
The Nord Drum 3P Is Not A Drum Sampler – It’s A Synthesizer
Maybe this product doesn’t totally fit this post, but I wanted to include it since Nord is such a well-known brand.
The big thing to remember on this electronic drum pad, is that it is a percussion synthesizer. The unit is not a sampler. Therefore, all the sounds from the unit are made inside the unit using synthesis.
Is this a good or bad thing? It’s really up to you.
Modes Of Synthesis With The Drum 3P
There are four modes of synthesis: resonant synthesis, subtractive wave types, FM synthesis, and ring modulation synthesis. The Nord Drum 3P only has six pad channels, so you will be a little more limited on places to hit.
Analog Is Better, Man – Not Really
If you want to join the know-it-alls at gearslutz.com debating analog vs. digital synthesis, I promise I won’t stop you. What I will say is that this machine can make some pretty cool sounds. In the end, that’s all that matters. Not a bunch of technical circuitry.
Overview of the I/O – Nord Drum 3P
There’s a headphone output, main left/right output, a kick trigger in, MIDI in/out, and a 12V power input. It’s a little disappointing that there’s only one extra pad input for a kick trigger.
The Nord Drum 3P Does Not Have USB Capability
I know this isn’t a total deal breaker, but the Nord Drum 3P has no USB output. Yes, there is a MIDI input and output, but in order to use this product with a digital audio workstation (like Ableton), you’re going to need to buy a USB to MIDI adapter.
My conclusion: it’s not for me personally, but it rocks! Drum synthesis is really cool, and you can make some great sounds using this drum synth.
3. Roland Octapad SPD-30 – Worst Electronic Drum Pad
Roland is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments. They are arguably the best and most notable when it comes to electronic musical instruments. Whether it’s a MIDI keyboard or a percussion sampler, Roland is bound to have a great product. That being said, sometimes even the best in the industry can make mistakes.
- The latest pad-sensing technology developed for V-Drums provides even and accurate pad triggering with excellent isolation between pads
- Four dual-trigger inputs, plus hi-hat controller for adding pads to create a mini kit, or for connecting triggers from acoustic drums
- Phrase Loop function inspires your creativity; record your playing in real time and overdub up to three layers
- USB connectivity for MIDI and memory storage
The SPD-30 Is An Outdated Ancient Relic, Revived From The Past
The Roland SPD-30 is exactly that. A mistake in my eyes. This electronic drum pad was originally released in 1985 and it was revolutionary.
It has since been “reinvented” while still missing many in-demand features. By today’s standards, it just doesn’t hold up.
The SPD-30 has eight trigger pads and comes packed with hundreds sounds50 drum kits. There’s tons of percussion sound effects from all of the world, as well.
Overview of the I/O – The “Monster” Of Pad Inputs
The SPD-30 offers a ton of external inputs: kick, snare, hi-hat, ride, and does feature hi-hat control. That’s a plus in our book. You can make the smallest “big” electronic drum set out of this sample pad.
The biggest negative of the Roland SPD-30 is that lack of the ability to import custom sounds. Why spend upwards of $700 on a product, when you can get way more features from the SPD-SX or the Alesis SamplePad Pro?
Is There A Way To Still Use Custom Sounds With The Octapad?
Yes! But, in order to achieve this, you will need a couple of things:
- Roland SPD-30 Octapad
- USB Cable / MIDI Cable
- Macbook or PC Laptop
- Digital Audio Workstation (Ableton, Cubase, Logic)
- Sample Libraries (EZ Drummer, Addictive Drums 2)
- Audio Interface
While it is possible, and this is what I do with my Roland SPD-SX and Alternate Mode malletKat, it’s much more of a headache if you want to just plug in and play. I have to plug all of that in at every gig I play.
My conclusion: this product should be discontinued. The next version of the SPD-SX should include all the I/O that the Octapad does.
4. Roland SPD-SX – Our Favorite Electronic Drum Pad
At number four, again we have Roland. At this point, the company doesn’t need another introduction. The SPD-SX is the newest electronic drum pad in the SPD family. I have owned both the SPD-S and the SPD-SX and I can tell you that this is my favorite electronic sample pad on the entire list.
- Unique sampling-pad concept the only instrument of its kind in the world 2GB internal memory, enabling approximately 360 minutes of sampling (mono) without requiring external memory Nine velocity-sensitive rubber pads, two external dual-trigger inputs Easy capturing and assignment of audio data through Multi-Pad Sampling Three units of multi-effects onboard, with two real-time control knobs and four dedicated effect buttons Individual Pad Dynamics indicators show pad status and audio-level activ
A Sample Pad That Boasts The Best Features
The Roland SPD-SX features nine customizable sample pads with LED indicators. It’s the only instrument of its kind with a whopping 2GB of internal sample space, enabling approximately 360 minutes of mono samples.
The electronic sample pad offers two external dual-trigger inputs for additional pads.The SPD-SX also comes with over 900 drum and percussion sounds. This electronic drum pad has an amazing feel. The velocity sensitive rubber pads have excellent rebound and durability.
On the back we have two USB ports: one for importing samples and one for connecting to your computer. You can use your computer to import samples to the electronic drum pad.
How Does It Compare To Its Predecessor, The SPD-S?
The SPD-S was notorious for extremely slow sample loading times. Upon importing files from the flash card on the previous model, uses would sometimes wait hours for their samples to load on to the SPD-S. I can assure you, the sample load times on the SPD-SX are way better. Almost instantaneous!
Overview of the I/O – No Hi Hat Control
The Roland pad has DC In, MIDI In/Out, Audio In (so you can jam your favorite tunes with your SPD-SX!), Sub out, Foot SW input, Trig In 1/2 3/4, a master output, and a headphone input.
It’s very unfortunate that this sample pad doesn’t have hi hat control! This is my biggest issue, as some trigger pedals do not work with it.
This electric drum pad is well worth your investment. I have had mine for three years and it is still in perfect working condition. I use mine in conjunction with my Alternate Mode malletKAT.
The SPD-SX Is The Go to Choice of Touring Drummers
Why do so many drummers use the SPD-SX? Availability.
Many touring and backline companies offer this drum pad for fly dates, so you don’t always have to check your sample pad when paying for baggage.
If you’re unfamiliar, a backline company either rents you or supplies your band their gear for a certain show. This is handy when you don’t have time to drive to a gig and must fly out.
Roland makes it easy, as you can use a USB stick to save all your samples and load them onto another SPD-SX. If you use a laptop with something like Ableton, it’s as simple as plugging in a USB cable to your freshly rented drum pad.
My conclusion: best for touring professionals and serious players! There’s a reason why you see this thing on so many kits![alert type=red ]Some users of the SPD-SX have noted that after an extended period of time (months to years), the power button will cease to function. This is most likely an issue with the motherboard and is fixable. This is not everyone’s experience, however.[/alert]
5. Yamaha DTX Multi Pad – Decent, But Not Best Electronic Drum Pad
Yamaha is easily the biggest company on this list. They make everything from grand pianos, guitars, basses, acoustic drum sets, and even motorcycles.
- 1,061 Drum/Percussion/Effects sounds
- 216 Keyboard sounds
- Mute/Layer function
- Sequencer and Preset Loops
- 64MB Flash-ROM for user samples
Yamaha’s Pad Comes Pre-Loaded With Tons of Samples
The Yamaha DTX Multi Pad makes a case for competing with the SPD-SX and the Alesis SamplePad Pro. It comes pre-loaded with 1,061 drum/percussion samples and 216 keyboard samples. This electronic drum pad also has a sequencer and preset loops.
The DTX Offers The Smallest Sample Storage Space
If you want to add your own custom samples, you have 64MB of internal memory. This is where the Yamaha electronic drum pad needs improvement. The Alesis and the Roland SPD-SX both can handle way more internal samples.
Overview of the I/O – 5 Trigger Inputs For More Fun
On the back of the unit, we have a standard 12V input, MIDI in/out, a Foot SW input and high hat control, 5 extra pad inputs, a mono aux in, master out, and a headphone input. A bummer that the aux in isn’t stereo.
My conclusion: extra triggers doesn’t make up for the 64MB of storage. Yamaha, update this thing!
Electronic Drum Pads – Buyer’s Guide
If you’re interested in purchasing electronic drum pads, you must take a look at your specific needs as a player. Some electronic drum pads offer more features at a more expensive price point.
Think Of Your Needs As A Drummer
Some players might have a need for just one sample during a live show, while others may want to play an entire show with just the electronic drum pad. These benefits will help you in understanding which drum sample pad is right for you.
For the occasional sample user, consider purchasing a smaller electronic drum pad like the Alesis SamplePad 4 or the Roland SPD-One. These electric sample pads offer the same functionality of a larger drum pad without the high price and larger size footprint.
These products can be used along-side various products in their family, so upgrading from this is never a problem. If this is your first electric sample pad, you can always add more to your setup without fear of wasting your hard-earned money.
A few of the products listed here do not have the functionality of custom user samples. If you have a need to bring your own samples from the studio, you will need to pick either the SPD-SX, the SamplePad Pro, or the DTX Multi Pad. It’s unfortunate that the SPD-30 still cannot load custom samples after all these years.
If you love synthesizers and synthesis, the Nord Drum 3P is the electric drum pad for you. It features so many cool sounds that can be completely manipulated inside the unit. While it might not be my favorite electronic drum pad, it may very well be yours.
How Do You Mount A Sample Pad?
If you have an electronic drum pad, you need to mount it. Hardware stands do not come with the product.
I still to this day do not actually own a “legit” electronic drum pad stand. I made my own out of things I already had. You find an old hardware stand laying around and rig it up to your drum pad with a multi-clamp.
Another way to mount your electric drum pad is to put it in an old snare stand. While this might not look the coolest, it will get the job done.
If you don’t have anything laying around, this is the stand we recommend you buy for your drum pad.
- New angle-adjustment clamp that offers 200 degrees of tilt
- Double-braced tripod, height-adjustble 2-section pipe that for standing or sitting play
- It's the successor to the PDS-15, and features a newly improved angle clamp that provides 200 degrees of tilt
- The stand works with Roland's HPD- and SPD-series instruments, which include the HandSonic 10, HandSonic 15, SPD-20, and SPD-S
- Available along with the Roland HandSonic 10 is a double-braced support stand: the PDS-10
Conclusion – Best Electronic Sample Pad
The electronic drum pad that stood out to us was the Roland SPD-SX. Thanks to the incredible ability to import custom samples, excellent durability, external trigger inputs, a stereo auxillary input, and overall great feel, choosing the Roland SPD-SX as our favorite wasn’t a difficult decision. In case you feel like we left out an electronic drum pad you love using, feel free to leave a comment down below.