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Acoustic drum kits are fantastic and very, very loud.

They also tend to sound a bit samey and so as soon as enough magic electricity existed to generate cool percussive noises we have enjoyed the presence and versatility of the electric drum pad.

They can replicate an acoustic drum kit and give you the ability to practice on deliciously silent headphones, or they can create completely crazy sounds, hits, single shots, loops, and phrases. They can also augment an existing drum kit with alternative sounds, features and ideas or help bring a more natural expression to your electronic-based music.

In this article, we’re going to check out the coolest and most rhythmically inspiring electronic drum pads that we can find. They are not necessarily brand new this year because these machines tend to stick around. We’re not going to go into complete electronic kits on this occasion as they tend to have a different intention to a single drum pad or multi-pad device.

Check out our picks for the best electronic drum pad:

  1. Roland Octapad SPD-30
  2. Nord Drum 3P
  3. Alesis Strike Multipad
  4. Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad Special Edition
  5. Roland SPD::ONE
  6. Alesis SamplePad Pro
  7. Alesis SamplePad 4

Roland Octapad SPD-30

Both Alesis and Roland have been producing multi-pad electronic drum pads for a long time, and both get a few entries on this list. But we have to start with the Octapad from Roland because everything else is still playing catch-up to this iconic machine.

The Octapad SPD-30 Version 2 is the reinvention of that classic Octapad, and while it’s not the flashiest in our list, it piles on the features and functionality like no other device.

The pads themselves come from Roland’s V-Drum technology for their high-end electronic drum kits. This brings accurate triggering with great isolation between the pads. On the back are four dual-trigger inputs and a hi-hat controller for expanding the Octpad into a whole mini-kit. The display is huge with ample buttons for navigation and sound loading, and each pad has an LED indicator for smooth operation in low light.

The original Octapad was just a MIDI controller whereas the SPD-30 is packed with 670 instrument sounds. With version 2, they’ve increased the number of kits to 99, taking in traditional sounds from around the world, classic and contemporary, ethnic and banging electronic dance music styles.

You can chain kits together to quick changes during a live set. You can customize the sounds with the onboard controls in terms of tuning, muffling, attack, pitch sweep and much more. At the end of the chain is a multi-effects engine with 30 types of effect plus EQ, limiter and reverb.

The innovative Phrase Loop function lets you build up percussive phrases with up to three layers of overdubs to create your own recallable patterns. You can store up to 50.

The SPD-30 is a solid percussion machine that everyone else tries to emulate. The only thing lacking is the ability to load your own samples so if that’s important then maybe you’ll want to check out some other options like the Roland SPD-SX.

Street Price: $729
Roland Octapad SPD-30

Nord Drum 3P

Nord is best known for their pianos and synthesizers and so you wouldn’t expect to see them topping the list of drum pads. But the Nord Drum has been an elegant and exciting option since it was first introduced and the current Nord Drum 3P is a wonderfully playable device.

The Nord Drum 3P is a “Modeling percussion synthesizer” and so it’s not about samples or pretending to sound like an acoustic kit; this is about electronic drums. The sounds are all synthesized in real-time using a combination of synthesis modes.

It uses Resonant synthesis to generate complex physically modeled sounds like drumheads, marimba, vibraphone, and cymbals. It used basic subtractive synthesis waveforms to generate classic synth-type kicks and snares. An FM Synthesis mode conjures up bell-like and organic noises and then Ring Modulation brings in the weirdness.

But that’s just the beginning. Next, you can work on the Noise section, from silky smooth hiss to gritty bursts of filtered noise. Then a Click section adds that all-important ultra-short attack transient to the sound. All of it is entirely editable and so essentially has an infinite amount of sounds.

The box itself is strikingly red and very neat and compact. It has 6 velocity-sensitive pads and a single trigger input for a kick drum pedal. MIDI in and out ports let it connect to a broader system with ease.

The Nord Drum 3P is more complicated than most of the other devices on this list but that gives it a unique personality and character that sets it apart from the crowd.

Street Price: $699
Nord Drum 3P

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Alesis Strike Multipad

This is one of the latest multi-pad devices to hit the market It benefits from having more up-to-date technology than some of the older, more mature multi-pads.

This is most obvious in the gorgeous 4.3″ display that lets you edit right on the device without having to go to a computer for sample editing. It also has comparatively vast amounts of storage. There’s 32GB inside and it comes with 6GB of content including loops, drums, percussion, and melodic instruments. So it comes packed with sound right out of the box.

The Strike Multi-pad can sample directly from a microphone, an external player or phone; you can record over USB or directly from the internet.

You can add your own library via computer or plug in a USB thumb drive. The screen will let you allocate samples to any of the 9 pads, edit start and endpoints, loop points, sample type and how it’s routed. It also allows you to set up the effects, either for the kit or master effects, and they have dedicated on/off buttons.

And then there’s the looper. You can overdub your performance time and time again to build up huge patterns and performances. You can then save the generated loop and use it in another kit or another performance.

The Alesis Strike is a perfect example of how newer technology can build and enhance a great idea. It takes things to another level in terms of instant usability and the ease with which you can build up your own kits, ideas, and performances.

Street Price: $699
Alesis Strike Multipad

Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad Special Edition

Rather than squeeze sampling into the existing SPD-30, Roland decided that the ability to sample and load up other sounds needed a new machine. And so we have the SPD-SX.

This time you have 9 velocity-sensitive pads with LED indicators plus two external dual-trigger inputs. The idea is that you can sample straight into the machine and map them across the pads. This can be done as simply as hitting a pad at the start and stop point as the audio is playing through either from an external source or from a computer over USB. In the Special Edition, there’s 16GB of internal storage for hours and hours of recording.

Using the Wave Manager software you can import samples, create kits, chop up sounds and build your set.

There are three powerful effects engines, two assignable per kit and one for master effects. You can trigger filters, looping, reverbs as well as one-shots, phrases and whatever you can think of.

Like the SPD-30, the SPD-SX has been around a while but with the added storage of special edition it can keep on going for many years yet.

Street Price: $799
Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad Special Edition

Roland SPD::ONE

There are 4 of these brilliant little single pad percussion pads in the SPD::ONE range.

Choose from Electro, Kick, Percussion and Wav Pad. They all come with a range of sounds plus 4 easy controls to tweak the sound to your liking. This is all about adding an electronic drum sound to an existing setup or combining SPD::ONEs into a super versatile and expandable situation.

The Electro pad features classic analog percussion sounds with control over pitch and effects reverb. The Kick Pad is all about the bass drum and you can happily stomp on it with your foot to add a thumping accent to your set. Percussion lends itself to hand tapping with cymbals, bells and melodic sounds. The Wav Pad lets you trigger samples, loops, performances, whole tracks or silly noises.

In the right situation, these are totally brilliant although they are not a complete percussion solution like the other machines on this list.

Street Price: $149
Roland SPD::ONE

Alesis SamplePad Pro

With the SamplePad Pro, Alesis brings the format into a more affordable device. It’s a great size, fabulous technology, looks good, is expandable and is ready to rock out of the box.

It looks like it has 6 pads but there are another two to the left and right of the Alesis logo. They are shorter but raised higher than the rest, giving a sort of rim-shot or percussion vibe. They all light up blue when you hit them.

Inside are 200 preset drum and percussion sounds covering all sorts of styles from acoustic to heavily electrical including 10 complete and ready-to-play drum kits. Navigation is provided with a couple of buttons and a nice, bright LCD screen. But you are not restricted to the onboard sounds. An SD Card slot on the back lets you load up your own samples which can be triggered as one-shots or looped to play along with.

You can mix in songs to play along with via the auxiliary minijack input and it has a MIDI output and USB for connecting to your computer or other sources of sounds.

On the back, you can plug in pedals to control the kick drum or hi-hat giving you a more traditional drum kit feel. Or add another two individual pads to expand your possibilities.

The SamplePad Pro offers a complete drum pad experience with a really easy workflow and bags of expandability.

Street Price: $299
Alesis SamplePad Pro

Alesis SamplePad 4

The clue is in the name. It’s a sampling multi-pad machine with 4 pads. The Alesis SamplePad 4 is a more compact and simpler version of the SamplePad Pro. The pads use the same technology and have a great expressive feel and dual-zone layering but it takes up a lot less space.

Inside there are 25 of the most requested percussion and electronic drum sounds shaped into 10 preset kits. Once you tire of those then you can start importing your own samples and build your own kits. You can load any single shot or loops from SD card directly into the SamplePad 4. You can edit the kits on your computer connected via USB. Each pad can be tuned and there’s some reverb in there to enhance the sound.

The SamplePad 4 comes with some great sounds and gives you the ability to quickly add your own sample and kits, making it very versatile.

Street Price: $179
Alesis SamplePad 4

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