Avatar by HXW is back at it again—this time with a digital drum pad that will have all drummers taking a second glance.
The PD705 is the newest electronic drum sampling pad hitting Western markets. HXW was, again, kind enough to send me one to test out.
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Best For Drummers on a Budget
The PD705 is a electronic drum pad featuring nine sample zones, custom sound import, and is the most affordable options on the market.
If you’ve followed my blog recently, you’ll know that I reviewed a mid-range electronic drum set from HXW: the SD 201-C. And while I don’t think that kit will change the marketplace in drummers’ eyes, this drum pad just may.
Introducing the PD705 from Avatar by HXW: My Review
Do you play (or want to) with backing tracks or use additional electronic percussion while you jam? For the longest time, your choices of e-drum pads have been expensive.
I remember wanting to use other samples in our live show, so I resorted to finding a used SPD-S at the local music store. And this solution wasn’t ideal, as the pads ended up failing after a short time.
Up until now, Alesis made the only affordable options in electronic drum pads. HXW is changing the game. The PD705 retails at $100 less than the Sample Pad Pro and even has one additional trigger zone.
Initial Impressions of the PD705 Sampling Pad
The PD705 looks impressive. Right out of the box, I’d go as far as to say that it feels similar in quality to the SPD-SX—everything from the weight to the knobs seems above par.
The only thing I wished had come in the box is the plate attachment that screws to the back of the unit. I would have liked to use it on a proper stand, but for now, I have it sitting in a snare stand basket.
The unit features nine velocity-sensitive pads, a built-in metronome, effects engine, looper, 600+ percussion sounds, and (this is a big one) supports USB, MIDI, and has an auxiliary input.
While this is the standard for most electronic drum pads, the PD705 comes at a much more affordable cost, lowering the barrier to entry for a lot of drummers that want to experiment with electronic sounds and the use of backing tracks.
Also, there are two additional pad inputs along with a kick and hi-hat input—something that is not supported by Roland’s SPD-SX.
Not only is this great for drummers who want more functionality, but it may also be perfect for the parents of the first-time drummer looking for a compact solution.
And the elephant in the room—the drum pad just looks awesome, as well.
The LED Indicators
Upon turning it on, I was pleasantly surprised, seeing LED indicators on each pad. By default, the LEDs light up upon striking a pad and quickly turn off.
I found there is an additional setting allowing for indicators to stay on for the full duration of the samples, but no way to have all LEDs on always.
Having them on at all times would be a massive aid in dark clubs and venues. Maybe we will see a firmware update with this change added!
The Feel of the Pads
In comparison to other electronic drum pads, the PD705 has less rebound. Some may argue this is a useful feature, as pads with too much rebound lead to a false sense of dependency on the bounce stroke.
I do worry a bit about one thing. The unit itself seems a little fragile. For example, when I hit the large, top-left pad, I can hear the plastic moving as it makes some additional noise when struck.
Triggering works excellent—the unit was able to playback even the quickest double-stroke rolls.
The Sounds of the Avatar PD705
Like with the SD 201-C, the included sounds of the PD705 are not the greatest (to my ears). You get a total of 30 preset kits and 600+ percussion sounds.
There are plenty of usable kits, but I’ve gotten so spoiled over the years with the library collection I have amassed. Again, I pretty much say this about all pre-packed sample packs (just like the SPD-SX).
Here’s a list of the kit presets in order:
- Rock Kit
- Classic Kit
- Modern Pop
- Studio Rock
- Venue Kit
- Old School
- Punch Kit
- Modern Metal
- Fusion Kit
- All Perc
- Tribal Kit
- Hair Metal
- Tight Rock
- Heavy Metal
- Hip Hop
If you happen not to like the preset kits and samples included, you can always import additional sounds with a USB stick. The PD705 allows for 20 separate user kits.
Editing and adjusting kits is a little confusing, but there’s always some barrier to entry when learning how to use a piece of hardware.
For easy sample import, HXW provides a free Wave Manager software. Have a look at a screen shot from the software below. The download is available here.
Using the PD705 with Backing Tracks
For the gigging drummer, triggering backing tracks may be the reason you decide to pick up an electronic drum pad.
For you, the sounds and features of the unit don’t matter, as long as it can send MIDI information to your digital audio workstation.
Fortunately, the PD705 has both USB and MIDI capabilities. Upon plugging the unit into my Macbook Pro, Ableton Live recognized it immediately.
I was able to send MIDI to the software right out of the box. (All I needed to do was remap some of the MIDI information for start playback, stop playback, etc…).
For $100 less than the Sample Pad Pro, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick this pad if you intend to use it only for a playback system. There are no crosstalk issues I found, either.
Overall Thoughts on the Avatar PD705
For the money, there’s no better option available. If you don’t have a ton of cash and are looking to get into sampling and playback systems, look no further than the PD705.
The unit itself could be a little more sturdy, but for the most part, I’m thrilled after testing it out. Drummers now don’t need to shell out almost $1,000 for a drum pad MIDI controller.
And besides that, the unit itself looks great—there’s no reflection of the cost when you see it for yourself.