I used the Alesis SamplePad Pro for about 4 months, including live gigging. This review sums up my many opinions about the model and whether you should buy it or not.
Alesis entered the market as one of the first serious contenders to the major Roland and Yamaha sample pads. While doing so, they have finally offered a sample pad that’s affordable to a much wider base of musicians.
Alesis SamplePad Pro
The overall result is a drum pad with some great features, but with a few annoying quirks.
These quirks can range from unnoticeable to quite hindering, depending on how you’re planning to use the sample pad.
Keep in mind, I have a lot of experience in using high-end sample pads. This is my personal opinion when comparing the SamplePad Pro against the best.
Let’s get into the details!
Overview – The Features
The Alesis SamplePad Pro contains eight drum pads. This includes six pads on the main face of the device, and two on each of the top corners.
These are velocity-sensitive, so they can detect some subtleties in your playing.
This sample pad contains many different in-built drum kits and sounds. These range from acoustic sounds, electronic hits, and world music to musical synth pads.
Very importantly, it also allows for custom sampling via an SD card, which is a very big plus.
You can extend this device and turn it into a mini drum kit, including a kick, hi-hat controller, and two additional pads. This leaves you with a great number of possibilities.
I recorded live hits from one of my acoustic drum sets and loaded samples of that onto this device. It worked fairly nicely, though I wasn’t amazed when using an external hi-hat controller.
Lastly, this pad looks great. The individual pads light up when hit. To be honest, I expected it to look tacky, but the effect is a nice one!
What can the SamplePad be used for?
This is a very versatile device, it can be used as:
- A drum pad for practicing
- An addition to your drum set (e.g. a hybrid drum setup)
- A pad to internally hold and loop your custom samples
- A MIDI-Controller for other devices and DAWS (e.g. Ableton Live)
- A mini-drum kit by extending with additional pads.
The features of this device in some ways even outnumber that of Roland’s devices, if taken individually (e.g. The Roland Octapad doesn’t allow for custom sampling, the Roland SPD-SX has limited extensibility). So this can serve as a great first step in using sample pads.
Drawbacks – The Quirks
I’ve talked a lot about the wide features of the device. Let’s get into the issues!
Cross-talk: This was one of my biggest concerns with using the SamplePad Pro. A well-known issue with this model is that hitting one pad may trigger another.
In my case, hitting the top left shoulder pad would trigger another pad on the device.
This would be particularly problematic if you’re planning to launch long samples (e.g. pads with long chord progressions, bass lines, etc). Cross-talk could unexpectedly start or stop these samples at the wrong time.
Alesis did release a firmware update to tackle this issue. To be fair to Alesis, this does reduce the issue to some degree.
However, from using it, it feels like the firmware update just automatically reduced the sensitivity of the problematic pads. When I manually increased the sensitivity again, the cross-talk issues persisted for me.
Is cross-talk really an issue with this device? The answer is that it depends. You may have to avoid using the particular problematic pads if you’re looking for a lot of sensitivity in your playing. Otherwise, it might be fine.
Sensitivity: As a drummer, I do not think the SamplePad Pro measures up enough in terms of detecting subtlety, in comparison to the high-end Roland and Yamaha models. For example, if you play fast double-stroke rolls or rudiments with ghost notes, it just feels a little clunky to play.
Is that an issue? If you’re using this for more basic playing and drum beats, you might be fine. If you’re expecting this to respond like a snare drum for very fast playing (or an electronic mesh pad) then you might be let down.
Loading Time: Switching between kits on the device can take some time (particularly for bigger external samples). For live performances, this can be a bit of a hindrance. However, with enough planning, you can get away with it.
What is it like to play live?
I’ve used this for live gigging. To be honest, it wasn’t too bad. At times, I didn’t think the sensitivity was amazing but it’s a nice cheap option to use alongside a drum set or for a producer’s live performance.
For long-term playing, I’m not totally sure about the build quality. It’s relatively sturdy, but if you’re very heavily gigging then you might need a higher-end drum pad. For more information about those, check out my popular article on the best electronic drum pads.
Conclusion – Is the Alesis SamplePad Pro worth it?
The Alesis SamplePad Pro is an instrument with big features at an extremely reasonable price. It can serve as a good entry into electronic drum pads, but with some issues.
The high-end sample pads by Roland and Yamaha are quite expensive and therefore out of the price range for many people.
The SamplePad Pro is one of the only real alternatives in that market that have come anywhere close to these models (another alternative is the HXW PD705, which I liked and didn’t find many issues with, but others have reported some crosstalk issues with that pad too!).
However, keep in mind the quirks of this device before buying.
The device has MIDI, extensibility, and custom sampling. If you get your hands on this, there is a whole lot to play with.
I hope you found this review helpful!
If you have any questions on the Alesis SamplePad Pro, then please write a comment below. I promise to answer all comments!
Images – Courtesy of Alesis