7 Best Electronic Drum Pads for Sampling, Live & More
Modern music has reached a point where the drum tracks on albums often have electronic aspects to it. Sounds are heard that you wouldn’t be able to play on a standard drum kit. Because of this, the electronic drum pad market is booming.
Drummers are using hybrid setups to integrate acoustic and electronic drumming. Percussion pads are an easily portable solution to space. You can fit most of them in a backpack.
7 Best Electronic Drum Pads - Top Picks in Percussion Pads
Not all electronic drum pads are the same. So, I have made a list of my favorite pads to talk about. After going through my list of top picks, hopefully you’ll be able to know which one will be the best for you.
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Electronic Drum Pads - Top Picks in Percussion Pads
- Things to Know About Electronic Pads
The Alesis Strike MultiPad takes its name from the Strike Pro drum kit, which is the flagship electric kit from Alesis. This should give you surety that this product delivers the same high quality.
The Alesis Strike MultiPad has 9 pads in total. It has 6 square pads, with 3 smaller “shoulder” pads near the top. Each pad has a multicolored LED strip underneath that gives off certain information depending on what you play. The LED strips help to distinguish which sounds belong to which pad, which is a great feature for when you’re playing live and there is minimal light on stage.
The Strike has an onboard stereo sampler. This allows you to capture and sample sounds from external sources like mics, phones or computers. You can easily work with the sounds through the Strike’s interface.
The MIDI capabilities allow you to control virtual instruments through a DAW on a computer. Alesis includes a version of Ableton Lite with the Strike MultiPad, so don’t worry if you don’t have a DAW already.
With 6GB of onboard sounds, this electronic pad comes packed with possibilities. The acoustic drum kit sounds aren’t great, but the electronic sounds and samples are really good. The Strike MultiPad also has an extra 28GB of space to work with. So, there’s a lot of room to load your own samples.
The Roland SPD-SX is the current industry-standard electronic pad. You will see this pad incorporated in most setups of modern artists.
It has 9 pads in total, with 6 main pads and 3 “shoulder” pads. Each pad has a light underneath, which flashes when the pad is hit. The lights also flash in time with the BPM of a sample that the pad triggers. The pads themselves are top-quality, with snare rolls sounding natural and percussion having life-like feel.
The SPD-SX is mostly known for its sampling capabilities. It has a sampling mode which makes it easy to record loops.
It has 4GB internal memory to store samples. This is a manageable amount of space, but it isn’t much compared to some competitor products. Roland has made software that allows you to program kits on your computer, then load those kits onto the device. This is one of the best things about the SPD-SX, as it makes it so easy to customise different kits.
The SPD-SX has built-in effects such as delay and EQ, expanding the possibilities of the sounds it can produce.
One of the main uses of the SPD-SX in a modern setup, is to run tracks when playing live. It has two audio outputs in the back, which allow for the drummer to have a click track playing while the crowd doesn’t hear it. So, you can sample backing tracks with a click coming though one output, while the track without a click goes through the other output.
The Alesis SamplePad Pro is one of the budget electronic pads on the market. It offers a lot of what the competitor pads offer, but at a more affordable price. So, does the drop-in price show in the quality of the SamplePad Pro? Well, yes and no. Certain aspects work just fine while others leave room for more.
The SamplePad Pro has 8 dual-zone pads in total. 6 on the main surface and 2 smaller pads at the top. The pads are velocity sensitive, meaning the sound will change depending on how hard you hit them. You can extend the SamplePad Pro and turn it into a small drum kit, including a kick, hi-hat and two additional pads.
It has 200 onboard sounds and SD storage to load in your own. It also has MIDI functionality, meaning you can use it as a controller for a DAW.
What are the drawbacks of the Alesis SamplePad Pro? Well, the main issue with it is that it has cross-talk problems, meaning that certain pads are triggered when you didn’t hit them. This can be pretty annoying, especially if you’re playing a live gig and didn’t intend for a certain sound to play.
The loading time between switching kits also takes a while. So, you’ll have to keep that in mind when playing live.
The KAT Percussion KTMP1 is a relatively simple product, but I’ve added it to this list because something simple may be just what you’re looking for.
It has 4 pads and 50 onboard sounds. That’s it. It gives a bit of variation by allowing you to change the pitch of the sounds and add reverb.
It has MIDI capability, meaning you can connect it to a computer and use it as a controller for sounds. So, if the 50 onboard sounds aren’t enough, you can expand on them with a VST through a computer.
Most drummers that I’ve seen use this electronic pad, use it for auxiliary percussion sounds like tambourines, cowbells and hand claps. It’s an easy add-on to an acoustic drum kit setup. I have seen percussionists use this device in their percussion setups. The KAT Percussion KTMP1 can be played with your hands, making it a suitable add-on to percussion rigs as well.
The KTMP1 has two output options that allow you to add a foot pedal and hi-hat controller, meaning you can fashion a small electronic kit.
One of the inconvenient aspects of this electronic pad, is how the sound settings revert to default every time you change a sound. This means that you’ll have to reset the reverb and pitch settings every time.
The Roland Octapad became pretty popular due to the annual Guitar Center Drum Off in the USA. Many of those drum solos have become viral on the internet, and most of them incorporate the SPD-30.
It has 8 large rubber pads and an interface that is relatively easy to figure out.
The Octapad is mainly advertised as a loop station. It has a phrase loop function that allows you to quickly create phrases and loop them. You can then layer 2 more phrases on top of that to create some vibey tracks.
There are 670 different sounds on the device that range from acoustic kits to synth sound effects. You can change the pitch of the samples in order to fit in every key. The pitch change function is what those Drum Off guys use to play well known tunes in their solos.
The SPD-30 has 5 extra input options, which allow you to connect external pads to create a full drum kit.
Unfortunately, you can’t load your own samples into the Octapad, meaning you’re limited to the onboard sounds. It does have MIDI capability though, meaning can plug it into a DAW and use it as a controller.
Yamaha is one of the main players when it comes to electronic drum kits. They’ve taken their expertise and extended it to the electronic pad world with the DTX-Multi 12.
The DTX-Multi 12 has 12 pads, which is the highest number of pads I’ve seen on an electronic pad. There are 6 large pads in the middle and 3 “shoulder” pads on the top and bottom of the device. These pads can be played with sticks or hands.
It has a unique sampling function which allows you to pull WAV and AIFF sounds directly from a USB. This makes it easy to load your own sounds, since you don’t need to plug it into a computer to get extra sounds.
There are a total of 1277 onboard sounds on the DTX-Multi 12, which is a lot more than most competitor products. It has 64-note polyphony, which basically means that 64 notes can all be playing at once before it cuts any of them off.
I’ve used the DTX-Multi 12 in worship settings. It’s a great tool to play auxiliary pad and extra percussive synth sounds.
Nord isn’t a company that you would typically think of when looking for electronic drum pads. They are known for their innovation when it comes to synths and keyboards. However, the Nord Drum 3P is one of the coolest electronic pads I’ve seen.
The sounds aren’t samples, they’re electronically built from scratch to get that standard Nord synthesized quality.
The 3P has 6 pads and one trigger input for a kick pedal. This isn’t a huge number of pads compared to competitor products.
The real value in this electronic pad, is the extensive sound editing capabilities. You can tweak the sounds with individualized dynamic response. This gives you endless possibilities for sounds.
There are acoustic kit sounds on the 3P, but it would be better suited as a completely electronic add on to your stage or home setup.
Things to Know About Electronic Pads
Sampling refers to when a sound has been recorded and then is available to be played when it is triggered. That sound has been “sampled”. Most pads allow you to do custom sampling, but some don’t have that function.
Before buying an electronic pad, check how many external inputs it allows. You can add extra pads to create a full drum kit, or just have extra options to hit. Most electronic pads have an external input for a kick pedal at least. Some have a lot more.
No products on the list above have onboard speakers, meaning you will have to plug in headphones or an amp to hear them.
Electronic based music isn’t going away any time soon. Even genres like rock and metal are starting to incorporate electronics into their sound. Electronic drum pads are a small and portable solution to keeping up with the times.
If you are a drummer who is planning on playing modern music, or if you want to evolve along with the music industry, then I’d highly suggest picking up an electronic drum pad.