The 3 Best Electronic Drum Pads 2020

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sample pad

I researched the market in a quest to find the best electronic drum pad.

I run into some substantial differences in:

  • quality
  • pre-built sounds
  • storage
  • features
  • interface

In compare to electronic percussion pads, sample pads offer you more freedom to be creative.

As a drummer, I fully understand features we need from sampling pads, like to have easy to use interface, different metronome options, soft and large pads, good sound, external input jacks, large screen, etc.

I found three pads that currently rule the market. Every professional drummer who decides to add an electronic pad to his set will use one of these three that’s for sure.

In this article, I will compare all the important features and point to you some pros and cons as we go over. Let’s start by checking the front side of each electronic drum pad and dive a little deeper into the interface of each.

the 3 best electronic sampling pads

best electronic pad
yamaha sample pad review

Yamaha DTX-MULTI 12

alesis electronic pad review 2020

Alesis Strike Multi Pad

spd sx review
Overall 8.2
0%
Interface
9 / 10
Storage
6 / 10
Usability
9 / 10
Built Quality
8 / 10
Value for the money
9 / 10

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good interface
  • Responsive fast
  • Multi sampling

Cons

  • Thick pads
  • Plastic buttons
  • 4GB of Memory

The Front Side

roland sample pad

This is the left side of the electronic drum pad. Going from left to right, in the upper row we have a: 

  • power button
  •  master volume button that controls sound volume you send to an external device
  •  headphones volume knob
  •  click speed button
  •  button to start or stop the metronome

In the down row, we have two buttons that modify the master effect and four buttons to turn on/off the delay, filter short looper, and FX.a

roland spdsx review

In the center of the sample pad, we have a medium size screen that shows the kit name, BPM, signal, etc. All menu options are shown here. Three buttons underneath the display execute the functions shown above.

roland spd sx left side

On the right side of SPD-SX, we have:

  • The KIT button that displays the top screen
  • MENU button that accesses various functions, such as overall settings for the entire drum pad
  • SAMPLING button captures a sample

Also, two very useful buttons:|

  • QUICK MENU button that accesses a quick menu 
  • ALL SOUND OFF button that stops all currently playing sounds 

The most useful button here is the PAD CHECK button very useful in a live situation. It allows you to check which sample is loaded on a particular pad. The way to do this is to hi that pad while holding the button. It will play the sample in the headphones but not to the front of the stage.

The Rear Side

roland spd sx rear inputs
  1. Security slot
  2. You can connect a USB flash drive
    here. This allows
    you to import audio files  or save
    SPD-SX waves and settings to your
    USB flash drive.
  3. You can connect your
    computer
    here via a USB cable. The included software
    lets you import audio files or sample the sounds played
    by your computer.
  4. External power supply – AC adapter
  5. Output for midi device
  6. The MIDI IN connector is used to receive control or performance data from another MIDI device, such as an external sequencer, via a MIDI cable
  7. The Gain knob is used to adjusts the volume that’s
    input to the AUDIO IN jacks
  8. When you want to sample, connect your microphone or digital audio player to these jacks.
    The sound that’s input to these jacks will be output from the MASTER OUT jacks and the
    PHONES jack.
  9. Left/mono channel for audio input explained under 8.
  10. A Foot Switch (FS-5U, FS-6)
    can be connected here and used to
    control a variety of things.
  11. Sub Out – Connect them to your mixer or audio system.
    These jacks output the sound of only the pads
    you’ve specified.
    If you’re outputting in monaural, connect to
    only the L/MONO jack.
  12. Sub out
  13. External pads or acoustic drum triggers can be connected here.
  14. External pads or acoustic drum triggers
  15. These jacks output the sound. Connect them
    to your amplified speakers or recording
    device.
  16. Output jack  – If you’re outputting in monaural, connect to
    only the L/MONO jack
  17. Phones jack – Headphones can be connected here. Sound will still be output from the SUB OUT jacks and MASTER OUT jacks even if headphones are connected.

Pros and Cons of SPD-SX

Pros

History

Roland has a long history of producing the multi pads and this is their latest addition. They have a clear understanding of easy to use interface and intuitive quick access to the most frequently used functions.

Speed

As far as the speed goes it is faster than Alesis Strike Multi Pad although Alesis is released recently. You will notice the speed feature when you press the click, it starts right away, cool right?

Usability

With SPD-SX you get over 3 hours of sampling time. The black version has 4 GB while the red one has 16 GB and costs 100 bucks more. 

The sound base is controlled trough Wave Manager, the software with which you can easily rename, drag, drop and save the samples. 

The pre-built sound base is not so large, there are more than 200 loops and sounds but after all, this is a electronic sample pad and the idea is for you to create your own samples.

Click feature

The option we all need is hearing the click and not sending it to the front which this electronic drum pad supports. 

Kit Chaining

Roland SPD-SX has a kit chaining feature used to save the kits by the order you like. 

So, for instance, you save it kit 1, kit 50, kit 13 and then you just press next when you want to switch. A very useful feature for live situations.

Sampling

Switching between samples is smooth, the first sample doesn’t stop when you play the second, except if you want so. Also, the red lights show you exactly what pad is on.

You can connect the sampler to a phone in order to manipulate the samples so you are able to load, control and split them on the device

Cons

There are no big cons with the Roland SPD-SX but let me point the few things I don’t like.

When it comes to the quality of workmanship there are two things I don’t like: 

  • the pads aren’t too soft 
  • the buttons are made out of plastic

Storage

The storage of just 4 GB and not having the sd card slot can come hard sometimes. If you need more storage you are forced to buy a 100 bucks more expensive model which is not too much if you want to stick with the Roland. 

However, you don’t have to store the samples in the pad. You can use the SPD-SX as a sound card and load samples directly from the computer

There is a way however of getting some additional space by whipping out all the pre-built sounds. 

The sound base is small but the purpose of sampling pad justifies that. There is no Hi-Hat control input jack because the SPD-SX was designed more like a sampling pad, not as a mini kit.

Yamaha DTX MULTI 12

yamaha sample pad review
Overall 6.4
0%
Interface
7 / 10
Storage
4/ 10
Usability
5 / 10
Built Quality
9 / 10
Value for the money
7 / 10

Pros

  • Built quality
  • Internal sounds
  • 12 pads

Cons

  • Small display
  • Complicated interface
  • No lighting
  • Metronome volume on the back

The Front Side

yamaha electronic pad display

The first thing we see on the left side of the DTX MULTI 12 is the main output volume knob. In the center, we have a two-line LCD screen where you can see all the settings. 

The right section of the display shows the pads that have been struck and are currently producing a sound.

yamaha sample pad buying guide

The most important options are stationed in the center. On the left you see MIDI,VOICE,KIT, PATTERN, WAVE, UTILITY button. All these buttons are used to access the settings in the menu. 

  • Click-track button used to start and stop the built-in click track (or metronome). In addition, you can also activate the tap tempo function by holding down the SHIFT button and pressing the button.
  • EXIT button. You can use this button to exit a page or turn sounds on and off by holding a SHIFT while pressing the EXIT button.
  • ENTER button is used to execute processes and confirm values. By holding the shift you are able to activate the panel lock function to lock and unlock the front panel.
  • STORE button is used to store settings and other data in the DTX MULTI 12’s internal memory. In addition, this button will light up whenever parameters have been changed but not yet stored

yamaha dtx multi 12

These selector buttons are used to navigate between parameter setting pages and parameters in the various setting areas. 

You can activate and deactivate the input lock mode by holding down the SHIFT button and pressing the VA button. 

Two large buttons are used to DECREASE or INCREASE the value at the cursor position. By holding a SHIFT button you are able to skip 10 units at once.

The Rear Side

yamaha electronic pad inputs
  1.  On/off button
  2.  External power supply – AC adapter
  3.  Output for midi device
  4. The MIDI IN connector is used to receive control or performance data from another MIDI device, such as an external sequencer, via a MIDI cable
  5.  The Foot Switch jack is used to connect an optional footswitch
    (FC4, FC5, FC7, etc.) or hi-hat controller (HH65, etc.) to the
    DTX-MULTI 12.
  6. The Hi-hat Control jack is used to connect an optional hi-hat
    controller (HH65, etc.)
  7. Trigger-input jacks are used to connect optional pads.
    The PAD jack is compatible both with mono and stereo (two and three-zone) types; 
  8. Trigger-input jacks are used to connect optional pads. The PAD 8 jacks support standard mono-output pads
  9. Trigger-input jacks are used to connect optional pads. The PAD 9 jacks support standard mono-output pads
  10. AUX-In jack  External audio signals can be input via this standard stereophone plug. In this way, you can connect an MP3 or CD player
    to play along with your favorite tunes.
  11. Gain knob – Use this knob to adjust the gain level for audio being input via
    the AUX IN jack
  12. Output – Use these jacks to output line-level stereo mixes. For example,
    you can connect each of the jacks to the left and right inputs of
    an external stereo amplifier or mixer using mono audio-jack
    cables
  13. Output mono – For mono output, use the L/MONO jack only.
  14. Volume knob – Use this knob to adjust the level of audio output from the PHONES jack. 

Pros and Cons of DTX MULTI 12

Pros

Number of pads

This is the first sampling pad from Yamaha. Although there is room for improvement I would say they done a great job. It’s the only out of three pads from this list who has 12 pads. It is built well, very firm and stable but with soft pads.

Extra

  • The buttons are made out of high-quality rubber.
  • The “two-floor” placement of the pads can come handy in live situations when you are in dark and the visibility is reduced.
  • Footswitch and sub out are also great features. 

Mini Kit

It is made more like a mini kit so it has a large sound base with 1277 sounds onboard and a hi-hat jack and 4 one-zone or 2 two-zone triggers.

A great option in comparing to Roland sampler, for instance, is playing samples directly from USB. It is very easy to add and layer samples trough Yamaha app DTXM12 Touch.

Cons

Display

Let’s start with the biggest con on DTX MULTI 12, the display. It is too small for this kind of powerful device. Interface navigation is a real pain in the but. 

This sampler has various options and it is a very powerful device but the tiny screen makes things harder.

Display

Let’s start with the biggest con on DTX MULTI 12, the display. It is too small for this kind of powerful device. Interface navigation is a real pain in the but. 

This sampler has various options and it is a very powerful device but the tiny screen makes things harder.

Complexity

Due to complexity, this device has a multi-level menu but the navigation is very complicated.

For instance, if you want to increase metronome volume you need to go to settings which is almost impossible in live situations. Also, the metronome volume knob is placed on the rear side of the sampler.

Storage

The 64 MB for a modern sampler just isn’t enough. It would be helpful if you could delete some of the unnecessary sounds but you can’t. Anyway, forget about the large numbers of large wave samples.

In comparison to other samplers, this one has just one volume knob. Last but not least is the lack of lights like on the SPD-SX or Multy Pad.

Alesis Strike Multi Pad

alesis multi pad review
Overall 8.7
0%
Interface
8 / 10
Storage
9.5 / 10
Usability
8 / 10
Built Quality
9/ 10
Value for the money
9 / 10

Pros

  • Big display
  • Soft pads
  • Lighting
  • Large storage

Cons

  • Metronome reaction
  • Hard to press buttons
  • Flow between the kits

The Front Side

electronic drum pad for drummers

On the left side of the Alesis drum pad, we have four rows. In the first row starting from the top we have three-volume knobs. 

  • main output
  • aux
  • headphones volume

In the second row, the first two buttons are used to edit effects on the sets and on the main output. The last button PAD CUE  is used to audition sounds to the headphone outputs only. 

When active, the button LED will flash on and off, and any pads triggered will be routed directly to the headphones without interrupting the main audio output.

The third row has also three buttons marked as A, B, and C. With these buttons you can switch between banks. Holding them you can edit the bank. 

The last row is reserved for two knobs, enhanced with some led light in the background. They can be assigned to control pad parameters or FX parameters

electronic drum pad

The large multicolor display of Alesis Multi Pad is placed in the center. Here you have all the information about the current kit you’re playing. 

Also everything you do like editing pads, fx, samples, adjust settings is showed on this multi-color display. Underneath the display, there are 6 buttons used to access the functions above.

best sample pad

On the right side of the Alesis drum pad, we have some very useful options. 

  • By pressing the BPM button you are able to set the tempo and choose the time signature. 
  • METRONOME  button used to turn to click on and off. By holding this button you will be able to change the sound, volume interval, and pan.

The large knob you see on the left is used to scroll through settings and parameters. Also by pressing it, you can enter the settings or by pressing it again you are able to save it. 

In the Perform Mode, there are three options: 

  1. Pad View
  2. Trigger In View
  3. Foot Control View 

The PERFORM button is used to navigate between them.

  • With the SAMPLE button, you can record audio from record inputs, USB or midi device. As you probably assume the PANIC button is used to stop all the sounds immediately.
  • The KIT button allows you to enter the list of kits where you can edit them. With large + and – buttons you can select the right kit. PAD button controls response, lights and output routing of the pads. 
  • With the SOUND button you can access the base of sound or you can import your own. UTILITY button controls global settings and backups.

The Rear Side

alesis electronic pad rear side
  1.  External power supply – AC adapter
  2.  On/Off button
  3.  You can connect a USB flash drive here. This allows you to import audio files  or save waves and settings to your USB flash drive.
  4. You can connect your computer here via a USB cable. Also, you can import audio files or sample the sounds played by your computer.
  5. The MIDI IN connector is used to receive control or performance data from another MIDI device, such as an external sequencer, via a MIDI cable
  6. Midi Out
  7. Output right –  Connect these outputs to your loudspeakers, audio interface
  8. Output left
  9. Trigger input –  Connect these inputs to your acoustic or electronic triggers. When
    connected, hitting a trigger will send an electric signal to the drum module, which will trigger the corresponding sound.
    Trigger In is a single-zone connection.
  10. Trigger input –  Trigger Ins 2/3 is a dual-zone connections. 
  11. Aux Output Right – Connect these outputs to route audio signal to another destination. You can
    individually route sounds from each pad, trigger in, or foot control to either the Main Outputs or Aux Outputs.
  12.  Aux Output Left
  13. Trigger input –  Trigger Ins 4/5 is a dual-zone connections. 
  14. The HH trigger Pedal can be connected to an on/off control or a variable foot controller.
  15. Record Input Right – Connect these inputs to an audio source such as a smartphone, microphone,
    instrument or mixer for recording samples which you can then assign to the pads. The sound from these inputs is also
    passed to the Main, Aux, or Phones Outputs
  16. Record Input Left
  17. Foot Control Input – Connect optional footswitches to these inputs for additional sounds or
    control functions. 
  18. Foot Control Input
  19. Mic/Line Gain  Turn this knob to set the gain level of the Record Inputs. If you are using a mic-level input, turn the knob toward the Mic setting.

Pros and Cons of Strike Multi Pad

Pros

This sample pad is the newest of all three from the list and it is the first GOOD multi-pad from Alesis. I really don’t like the pads in the past, they had a lot of flaws like hard pads, bad interface, errors here and there. 

They just haven’t been useful, for instance on some of them you couldn’t play two samples at once, or you couldn’t play click only in the headphones.

With Strike Multi Pad they decided to forget the past and jump into a higher league. 

Pads

The first big pro are the pads, they are soft and much better built than the ones in the past. It is larger than SPD-SX so the pads are also slightly larger as well. you couldn’t play two samples at once, or you couldn’t play click only in the headphones.

Display

The second large improvement is the multi-color display, it is the biggest of all three. Very easy to use and enjoyable. The interface, it is more similar to SPD-SX than to DTX MULTI 12. The screen is reinforced so it should handle some hit from time to time.

Lights

Lights underneath the pad are also a great addition. Not just they look modern but the lights this big come handy in a live situation. The colors are changeable, so, for example, you color some sounds in green color or some samples in yellow and so on.

Storage

I need to mention the 32 GB of internal memory. For the same price as SPD-SX, you get a lot more storage. It has 8000 pre-built sounds and loops which are better organized than on the other two multi pads.

Best out of both worlds

Similar to Yamaha it can be used as a mini electronic drum set because it has a hi-hat jack and a couple of other external triggers. It has an option of multi-layer zones and multi-layering effects.

It has two headphone jacks so you don’t have to use adapters are a great additional feature. 

Strike Multi Pad has many similarities to Roland SPD-SX such as:

  •  “stop all sounds” button
  •  three-volume knobs for main, headphone and aux
  •  button to check a sample before playing outside
  • knobs for DJ stuff

Cons

One con that is not directly related to the pad itself is a fact that this product is new so still, there aren’t enough “how-to videos” and tutorials online.

Buttons

Buttons are kinda hard to press so sometimes in a live situation it happens that you don’t click some button. But, when you get used to it should go smoothly. A button that would come useful but doesn’t exist is the EXIT button.

Lack of speed

Although it uses newer technology this sample pad is a little bit slower than Roland especially when it comes to loading time.

In comparison to SPD-SX, it doesn’t have a kit chaining feature which means that you are not able to sort kits how you would like. It is possible that they will change this with some if it’s future software updates.

Metronome issue

One of the things I hate the most is the metronome issue. When you hit the click, it doesn’t start at the moment which can be frustrating.

Kit switching

The switching between kits it’s not solved yet since the sample you played at first will stop when you switch to another kit. The Strike Multi Pad does not have a software editor like DTX and SPD-SX

Conclusion

The Roland SPD-SX has everything one modern electronic drum pad needs to have. I am not saying that other pads are not as good but for me, this one definitely has some advantages. 

I think it is because of Roland’s experience in making multi pads. This is Yamaha’s first multi-pad and for the Alesis, it’s their first good sample pad.

As a drummer I want all important features like headphone volume, click settings, check button, sound off button to be near and easily accessible. The speed and usability go in favor of the Roland sample pad.

It is more expensive than Yamaha but I can live with that. The things I will also need to live with are pads that not too soft and low memory space.

As the best electronic drum pad I choose Roland SPD SX.

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