Looking to buy the best electronic drum pads?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this insider's guide, you’ll learn the following:
- What Are Electronic Drum Pads?
- What Are The Different Types of Electronic Drum Pads?
- How Do I Use Electronic Drum Pads?
- What Should I Look For In Electronic Drum Pads?
- And much more!
Below is a quick list of all my top picks. Keep scrolling to learn more about the best drum pads on the market today and for some of my best buying tips and tricks!
Roland SPD-SX Percussion Electronic Sample Pad
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Roland OCTAPAD SPD-30 Digital Percussion Pad
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Yamaha DTX Multi Pad
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Roland SPD-1W Percussion Electronic Drum Pad
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My Overall #1 Rated Pick
There’s a good reason the Roland SPD-SX is the industry-standard sample pad for professional drummers around the world.
With an insane amount of features to customize, edit and affect your drum samples, the possibilities are endless with this brilliant electronic sample pad.
Whether you’re a gigging drummer looking for something to expand your sonic capabilities or you’re a music producer looking for something to add that killer percussion track to your next hit...you won’t find a better electronic sample pad than the Roland SPD-SX.
Top 5 Best Electronic Drum Pads
In a hurry? Check out my top 5 picks below! Keep reading to learn more about these best electronic drum pads.
What Are Electronic Drum Pads?
Electronic drum pads (also called sample pads) are effectively small standalone electronic drum kits in a portable box.
They usually consist of a single unit that has a series of rubber pads arranged on top, that can be rested on a tabletop or mounted on a stand.
Different sounds can be assigned to each of the individual pads that will then trigger when struck by a stick (and in some cases with your hands).
Electronic drum pads are a great portable way to add extra sounds to your drum kit (acoustic or electric), for use as a portable electronic drum kit and for producers looking for an effective way to record drum and percussion tracks into their DAW (digital audio workstation).
What Are The Different Types of Electronic Drum Pads?
There are two main types of drum sample pads.
Also Read: Top 5 Best Amps For Your Electronic Drums
The first type is those that have customizable sounds, with the ability to load in your own samples, loops and tracks.
These types of sample pads are usually higher in price than other versions however they are much more customizable and therefore more versatile as an electronic percussion instrument.
A great example of this type of pad is My #1 Top pick, the Roland SPD-SX.
The second type of electronic drum pad has a library of sounds built-in that are fixed. Meaning you can’t add any of your own sounds to the unit.
These types of units tend to be simple, inexpensive sample pads that are designed for someone to trigger drum and percussion sounds with the minimal fuss or technical know-how.
You won’t need to worry about loading or editing samples within the unit and the interfaces are often very simple and easy to use. However, this does mean they are inherently limited with what they can do.
A good example of this type of electronic drum pad is the Kat Percussion KTMP1.
How Do I Use Electronic Drum Pads?
There is a multitude of different ways you can use an electronic drum sample pad.
Kit Expansion/Live Triggering
One inherent limitation with acoustic drum sets is that the sounds you have available are limited to the drums and cymbals you have in front of you.
With the addition of a drum sample pad, you can suddenly expand your sonic palette to include hits, handclaps, cowbells, snares, swells, explosions, cats meowing….you name it, the limit is your imagination and the samples you have available.
This means that in a live performance setting you’re able to cover so much more sonic ground.
If you’re in an 80’s tribute band then having the right gated snare drum and synth drum sounds couldn’t be easier. Or even for more modern pop players that need hand claps, sub kicks, and 808 samples to really enrich their live shows...
… an electronic drum pad can do it all, in a relatively small package.
You can also use many of the sample pads for live looping, meaning that effectively you can be a true one-man (or lady) band!
Another great function of a lot of electronic drum pads is the option to add kick drum and hi-hat controllers, through dedicated pedal trigger inputs.
This effectively means that you can use the sample pad as a super portable electronic drum kit.
Perfect to sling over your shoulder and take to gigs or rehearsals where space or equipment is limited.
Plug into the headphone jack and it could also be a great low-noise alternative to an acoustic drum kit, allowing you to practice all hours of the day (and night!).
As drummers, we tend to pick the short straw in how much equipment we have to lug around a portable sample pad can be a very appealing option for working drummers that travel from gig to gig...your chiropractor may be out of business!
Electronic drum sampling pads are also great for anyone that creates music on a computer.
The majority of sample pads will have USB-MIDI connectivity, meaning they can be plugged into a computer and used to trigger and manipulate the sounds within your DAW (such as Logic or ProTools).
This is especially useful for producers wanting to add drum tracks to music, as it means you can play the patterns with drum sticks rather than inputting it on a MIDI keyboard (which from experience can be incredibly frustrating!)
Also for bedroom producers with very limited space (with the addition of kick and hi-hat pedals), it can be a great solution for a studio drum kit.
What Should I Look For In Electronic Drum Pads?
The type of electric drum pad that’s right for you depends on what you intend to use it for.
For example; if you’re a drummer that plays in a function/party band and need a lot of samples available to cover a range of styles, then a decent customizable sample pad with a load of built-in sounds would be the way to go. (Such as the Yamaha DTX multi-pad or Roland SPD-SX).
These options would give you the most amount of flexibility and diversity whilst delivering excellent quality audio. They also have fewer issues with ‘crosstalk’ (other unwanted pads triggering at the same time)...however, be aware that they are usually at the higher end of the price range.
If you’re someone that just wants to add a bit of percussive flavor to your sound (without having to get your head around transferring WAV files and dealing with bit rates) then a dedicated ‘non-editable’ percussion pad would be ideal.
These pads are the easiest way to expand your palette of sounds without spending big bucks for the privilege.
The Alesis Perc Pad is an example of a very cost-effective option.
Also Read: Top 5 Best Headphones For Electronic Drums
My Reviews Of The Best Electronic Drum Pads
The original Roland SPDS has been the industry standard in drum sample pads since I can remember.
This new updated version, the SPDS-SX takes all the awesome features of its predecessor and turns them up to 11.
With 9 velocity-sensitive rubber pads, onboard multi-effects, 4GB of internal sample storage, USB-MIDI connectivity, rugged build quality and more custom playback options than you could shake a stick at...this sample pad has it all.
It also comes with dedicated ‘Wave manager’ software for importing and managing samples as well as overall patches.
I own one of these pads myself and have used it for countless gigs and rehearsals. I can attest to its overall reliability and the options for customizing to suit your needs are endless. Loading samples through the wave manager is also a breeze.
The separate headphone output option is also great, as it allows you to play backing tracks out front to the audience whilst running a separate click track just to your headphones (a very useful feature for playing live).
The only real downside to the SPDS-SX is that I wouldn’t say it’s that easy to dive into and use straight away.
With all the various options and modifications you can make, some may find it overwhelming and a little confusing to use...especially if you don’t have much experience with electronic drums.
Also if you want something that has a massive library of usable built-in sounds to use right off the bat, then this might not be your best bet, this pad really shines when importing and manipulating your own custom samples and backing tracks.
If you’re looking for a very reliable, robust, highly-customizable, great looking and sounding electronic drum pad then you’d be hard-pressed to find better than the Roland SPD-SX.
- Very well-made
- Highly customizable
- User friendly included software
- Can be overwhelming for a novice
- Higher price point
- Less built-in sounds
With a staggering 99 onboard drum ‘kits’, that include musical instruments from India, the middle east, China, Africa and Latin America, as well as modern and orchestral instruments, you’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to adding new flavors to your drumming.
The sounds are all customizable with elements such as attack, muffling, pitch sweep and gain all easy to modify through the built-in user interface.
The unit also has inputs for both bass drum and hi-hat pedals (fully compatible with Roland V-Drums pads) meaning that it’s super easy to turn the SPD-30 into a portable electronic drum kit. Great for gigs and studios alike!
Another thing I love about this Roland percussion pad is the feel of the pads. They’re super thick and give a very satisfying rebound to the stick...making it a pleasure to play.
The main downside is that all this usability comes at a price, making it the most expensive electronic drum pad on my list.
If you want an electronic drum pad that’s going to instantly give you a whole world of sonic possibilities at your fingertips, right out of the box...then the Roland Octapad is the pad for you.
- Large library of great sounds
- Excellent sound quality
- Feels great to play
- Can add foot pedals to create e-kit
- High price point
- Bigger than most pads
In my in-depth review of the ‘Best Electronic Drum Sets 2020’, there’s enough proof that Alesis really know how to make quality electronic drum instruments that aren’t going to break the bank.
This entry-level sample pad is a fantastic example of excellent functionality at an insanely affordable price point.
The drum module houses four electronic pads which means it’s extremely portable, making it a great option for drummers using public transport but still need an expanded set of sounds.
Unlike higher-end sample pads, the Alesis sample pad requires a removable SD card (not included) to load samples. So you will need a way to import samples onto an SD card for use.
It also includes 25 built-in samples of its own, meaning it can be used straight of the box for various things such as cowbells and handclaps...a great touch.
At this price point, you’re not going to get all the fancy customizing options of some of the high-end pads, however, it does include tuning and reverb which is a nice simple way of adding ambiance and modifying your samples.
It also has MIDI connectivity meaning it can be used to trigger sounds through your computer recording software.
If you’re looking for an affordable, easy to use and compact sample pad that you can throw in a bag for gigs or rehearsals then the Alesis sample pad is ideal.
- Very affordable
- Built-in percussion sounds
- MIDI connectivity
- Some issues with triggering accuracy
- Inbuilt sounds are not the best
Yamaha DTX Multi Pad
This Yamaha drum pad is packed to the brim with great features.
Designed to be played comfortably with your hands as well as sticks, the forgiving rubber pads provide a very comfortable playing surface that’s a joy to use.
This sample pad ships with an eye-watering 1,277 different drum, percussion and effects sounds!
All of these taken directly from Yamaha’s flagship DTX line of electronic drum kits.
It also allows you to connect a kick pad and hi-hat controller meaning that you effectively have a top of the line Yamaha electronic kit, in a very portable (and comparatively affordable) package.
Similar to other pads in this price range, you can also use the Yamaha DTX Multi as a MIDI controller in your DAW of choice. Adding to this pads overall versatility.
The only real issue I have with this electronic drum pad is that the available onboard memory for importing your own samples is extremely small (only 64Mb, compared to 4GB on the Roland SPD-SX!).
This implies that is predominantly intended for use with the in-built sound library, making it more of a Percussion Pad rather than a sample pad.
If you’re looking for something that has a great feel, using sticks or hands, and has an excellent extensive onboard library of sounds for any musical eventuality, then the Yamaha DTX Multi is the pad for you.
- Big library of inbuilt sounds
- Pads feel great to play
- Can add Hi-hat and kick pedals
- Well made
- Small internal memory
- Sounds slightly dated
Roland SPD-1W Percussion Electronic Drum Pad
The Roland SPD::ONE pad is the most basic of all the electronic drum pads that Roland offers.
With one solid metal unit housing a single rubber playing surface, you couldn’t get more stripped down if you tried!
The SPD::ONE series of pads come in a series of different versions, most of which include a range of non-editable samples built-in.
The other options in the range are the: Electro Pad (with electronic/ dance sounds), Percussion Pad (basic percussion sounds such as cowbells and handclaps), Kick pad (just kick samples played by your foot) and the WAV pad which I’m reviewing here.
The WAV version of the SPD::ONE is the only version that you can import your own samples and backing tracks onto. In my view, this makes it the most versatile and the most useful of the series.
It has 12 slots for your uploaded samples, with options for two samples to be triggered simultaneously or a sample and a click track together.
Uploading samples couldn’t be simpler as the unit connects to a computer via USB and acts as an external hard drive with pre-allocated folders that you just drag and drop your WAV files into.
It even had instructions painted on the back for naming your files to change the type of playback you would like for each sample (i.e one-shot, loop, on/off, etc)...which is a great touch.
This pad is also a very simple solution for any musician that wants to trigger backing tracks as it can store whole songs for playback. It also has knobs to control the level of the click (metronome) compared to the backing track in your headphones (very handy).
With the addition of an included mounting bracket, you can combine this pad with a number of attachments to clamp to a cymbal stand or other mounting hardware.
I personally use this exact pad A LOT.
In my current band, we use a lot of ambient segues and sound effects that I trigger remotely. I wanted something for this purpose that was relatively cheap, robust but most importantly compact so I could throw it in my pedal case.
It works incredibly well for my needs.
For anyone that wants a simple and portable solution to triggering samples and backing tracks live then this will do the job perfectly!
- Very portable
- Easy to use
- Patch selector hard to see in low light
- Too stripped back for some
Final Thoughts On The Best Electronic Drum Pads
The world of electronic instruments can be pretty daunting for the average ‘acoustic’ drummer like me. The key to getting the most out of your drum sample pads is experience.
Grab a sample pad and get playing!
Experiment with creating or editing as many different sounds as you can. Some will sound awful at first and just not work, but eventually, you’ll get used to getting the most out of your sampler and will be firing out killer sample-based jams in no time!
So there you have it! A full round-up of some of the best electronic drum sample pads on the market, to suit any level or budget.