This article takes you through the best electronic drum pads currently on the market. These are extremely versatile electronic instruments that can add a new level of sound to your set.
These pads can be used to extend your current setup or they can act as standalone instruments.
There are 3 types of electronic drum pads: sample pads (where you can load your own sounds), percussion pads (only internal sounds), or all-in-one electronic drum pads, which are more casual options that are meant to be used as a compact e-drum set.
You can connect sample pads directly to an amplifier or PA system because all sounds are generated internally. Alternatively, you can connect headphones to them.
My top pick is the Roland SPD-SX. It’s the industry-standard sample pad for its reliability and performance. I still consider it the best despite stiff competition from Alesis with their newer Strike Multipad.
The best affordable electronic drum pad is the Alesis SamplePad Pro, but it does have a few quirks, so make sure to keep reading to see if it’s for you!
I have personally used many different electronic drum pads extensively. Although high-end drum pads can carry a large price tag, they tend to be significantly superior to entry-level pads.
However, more competitive options are coming available and I have included the best affordable pads that are currently available.
If you are looking for drum pads for beat making, then check out our alternative article on MIDI drum pads.
- The Best Electronic Drum Pads (2021)
- 1. Roland SPD-SX
- 2. Alesis SamplePad Pro
- 3. Roland OCTAPAD SPD-30
- 4. Alesis Strike Multipad
- 5. Yamaha DTX Multi Pad
- 6. PylePro Tabletop Drum Pads
- 7. Nord Drum 3P
- 8. Roland SPD::One
- 9. Alesis SamplePad 4
- 10. Yamaha DD75 Portable Digital Drums
- Other notable mentions
- Common questions about electronic drum pads
The Best Electronic Drum Pads (2021)
I am going to tell you the strengths, weaknesses, and purposes of each. I will also do my best to compare important features across models.
Do percussion pads look cool live? Yes! Especially if you are a DJ or producer, some spectators can get a little bored if you’re standing behind a laptop or standard sampler. Using electronic pads with drum sticks on stage can really spice things up and add a whole new dynamic of sounds to your performances.
Most percussion pads can also communicate via MIDI to other digital instruments or DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) such as Ableton Live. This opens up a world of possibilities!
The Roland SPD-SX is my top pick as the best electronic drum pad. It is an ultra-reliable sample pad that is great to play, easy to use, and has plenty of storage capacity.
- Ultra-reliable, great build quality
- 3 options to load custom samples
- Plenty of storage space
- Easy-to-access effects
- Very good pad performance
- A bit expensive
- Not as many features as the Alesis Strike Multipad
- Doesn’t include rich phrase looping like the Roland Octapad
The SPD-SX pad has been on the market for over 10 years and it has certainly stood the test of time, which is a good reason why this is still the go-to pad for countless pros around the world. The SPD-SX was a follow-up to their hugely popular SPD sample pad.
Roland has also brought out the SPD-SX SE. The SE stands for “special edition”, and it has 4 times the amount of internal memory. All other features are the same.
You could definitely make the argument that the newer Alesis Strike Multipad (not to be confused with the budget Samplepad Pro model) is superior to the Roland SPD-SX solely based on its better features and interface. That said, I still opt for the SPD-SX solely because it’s an incredibly reliable, functional, and easy-to-use sample pad.
3 Ways To Load Custom Samples
The SPX-SX is great for drummers that want to play custom samples and expand their own set-up, as well as for DJs and producers looking to add more triggered sounds into their performances.
There are 3 options to add custom samples onto the Roland SPD SX. You can use a USB stick with sample files and load them on. You can also drag and drop samples directly via your computer using their Wave Manager software when you connect to it via a USB lead.
Another great feature is that you can also just sample sounds directly onto the SPD-SX via its audio input. Therefore, you could very quickly capture sounds from a microphone, phone, or other instruments without any setup on your computer.
The SPD-SX allows you to load samples as one-shots or you can loop them.
The main reason I choose the SPD-SX over cheaper options is its build quality and pad triggering technology.
With cheaper alternative products, you can get crazy cross-talk between pads. An example of this is hitting one pad, and another one triggers. This can be a problem for drum sounds, but it is much worse if a wrong sample is triggered in the middle of a performance. If you are serious about incorporating a sample pad into your setup, then this is a great option.
This pad also has some really nice effects built in. It does not have a massive amount of options here, but what’s available is very nicely put together. There are two control knobs and four different effects: filter, delay, s-load, and FX.
These really allow you to tweak and modify samples on the fly. Its simplicity allows you to quickly and easily keep track of what’s going on without overcomplicating things too much.
The Roland SPD-SX supports up to 4 external pads (either 2 dual-zone pads or 4 single-zone pads). You need to get a splitter if you intend to use more than 2 external inputs.
This device has 4GB of internal memory, allowing for 720 minutes of samples. (The SE edition includes 16GB of internal memory). You can also expand the memory using USB storage.
Therefore, the total storage here should definitely be sufficient for your needs. Limited storage can be a problem with some samplers. I ran into this with the Korg Electribe sampler, which has a surprisingly limited amount of custom sample storage.
The SPD-SX also works very nicely as a MIDI controller to send trigger samples and send MIDI messages to DAWs such as Ableton Live, Logic, etc.
Roland instruments are generally not cheap, and this also holds true for the SPD-SX! Unfortunately, the price of their sample pads may be outside your budget. That said, you get what you pay for, and they are very well-known for their exceptional hardware and build quality, so their equipment tends to last a very long time. Roland instruments also tend to have very good resale value, as it’s a very well-respected brand.
Another disadvantage is that you cannot create phrase loops on the fly with the SPD-SX like you can with the Roland Octapad.
So, should you buy the SPD-SX or the SPD-30 Octapad? It depends on your needs. They are both built for different purposes and perform beautifully. As a drummer, I prefer the Octapad solely based on its live performance options. If you need custom sampling or use it as more of a secondary instrument, then the SPD-SX is a no-brainer.
Additionally, the SPD-SX is also starting to look a bit dated in comparison to the newer Alesis Strike Multipad. However, the SPD-SX is still my top recommendation based on its proven track record of reliability and performance.
This product promises so much at a much lower price point, making digital drum pads a lot more accessible to people with a lower budget. It is packed with features, and some drummers like this pad quite a lot (which is why I’ve included it), but it is let down in two main areas: crosstalk issues and switching time between kits.
The SamplePad Pro was the first sample pad I owned. I bought this product for a few reasons. The first was because it allows for lots of extensibility with external pads. Therefore, you can make your own mini electronic drum kit out of it. Secondly, you can load your own custom samples on it. It has some really desirable features that you would want from more expensive models. Lastly, the price point. This model is considerably cheaper than other options.
- Lots of extensibility for extra pads and pedal
- Very good features
- Custom sampling
- MIDI capability
- Cross-talk issues
- Some sensitivity issues for advanced playing
- Switching time between kits
It can actually be a decent option if you’re using it for basic one-shot sampling. You could load custom samples and have it as a pretty affordable secondary instrument. It has quite a lot of features for a pad in this price range.
I used the SamplePad Pro in live performances, and to be honest, it wasn’t too bad. However, it is let down in two main areas: crosstalk issues and switching time between kits.
This is a very affordable pad, but if you’re looking for a top-end drum sampler, this won’t fit the bill. When compared to the high-end sample pads on this list, the pad sensitivity is not great, switching between kits takes a surprisingly long time, and the cross-talk issues can certainly hinder how you would use this on stage.
The crosstalk issues mean that if you have the pads set to medium or high sensitivity, then hitting certain pads can trigger other ones. This might be bad for one-shot samples, but it’s far worse if the pad unexpectedly triggers a pad with a long sample or you’re using it as a MIDI trigger for something else.
In my case, the crosstalk issues were limited to 2 or 3 pads. I remember one of the top-corner ones was particularly bad. A firmware update helped this somewhat. However, you may need to lower the sensitivity on some of the pads if you are still having issues.
Therefore, I would have reservations about using this pad with long samples (e.g., bass lines, chord progressions, etc.), as crosstalk could incorrectly start or stop these.
This can be an affordable option to get into electronic sample pads if you don’t have enough money to spend on the higher-priced items on this list. If you are picky about the sensitivity of your strokes, this could be an issue.
Cross-talk can also be an issue, but you can decrease this a lot if you lower the sensitivity on one or two problematic pads. However, it never fully solved the problem for me.
Check out my more detailed review of the Alesis SamplePad Pro.
Note: Alesis also has a smaller version of this, known as the SamplePad 4.
Check out the video below to see the Alesis SamplePad Pro in action:
3. Roland OCTAPAD SPD-30
The Roland Octapad SPD-30 is one of my most loved electronic instruments. It has lots of great internal sounds and its ‘phrase loop’ feature has the best live sequencing features of any electronic drum pad, making this great for live performances. Its extensibility options allow you to easily add pads and pedals and turn this into a mini drum kit. It’s also one of the most reliable pieces of music gear I’ve ever owned.
If you’re looking for great sounds right out-of-the-box that are easy to arrange into your own kits then this is the option for you.
I’ve dropped this instrument and it’s even been rained on multiple times! The build-quality of this device was definitely strong enough to take it. It’s never crashed in 5 years of me playing it, and I’ve never experienced any types of cross-talk issues.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t support custom sampling. You cannot load your own samples on this device. However, you can use it as a MIDI controller, and even if not doing so, there is such a variety of sounds and effects that you might be able to do without custom sampling. There are a lot of built-in sounds and you can rearrange them to create your own kits.
- Exceptional phrase looping feature
- Very sensitive pads
- Very high build quality
- Easy to use
- Good effects
- MIDI-over-USB or via MIDI 5-Pin
- No custom sampling
- The screen and menu system now a little dated
- Effects cannot be tweaked on-the-fly like on the SPD-SX
The Octapad has much better extensibility options compared to the SPD-SX. You can connect up to 5 external sources (including a hi-hat controller).
I regularly make a mini-electronic kit out of this with a kick pedal, hi-hat pedal, and snare mesh head. A ride or crash cymbal pad would also be a great option.
The next main selling point of the Octapad is its ‘phrase loop’ sequencing, which is an amazing live performance tool. You can loop 3 separate instruments (kits, synth sounds, percussion instruments, etc.) with options to delete, mute, pause, etc.
Although you are limited to 3 instruments, you can swap them out on the fly. I started using it a surprising amount of times in my shows!
Like many electronic instruments, the starting and stopping of these phrase loops can be MIDI triggered. Therefore you can use it in conjunction with other samplers and devices.
If you want to trigger your own custom samples with the Roland Octapad, you’ll need to use it as a MIDI controller and trigger samples externally (such as using a DAW on your laptop). I often use this as a MIDI controller to trigger Ableton Drum Racks, but I know that’s not an ideal option for everyone!
Check out the video below to see Craig Blundell demonstrate the Roland Octapad SPD-30 in action:
The Octapad SPD-30 is a percussion pad. It is built for drummers and percussionists that want to go digital or add electronic sounds to their acoustic set-ups. It is an investment and costs much more than entry-level models. However, the Octapad is leagues ahead of these cheaper options, in my opinion.
In addition to playing my hybrid kit for bigger shows, the Octapad has been a great option for me to play in small venues with very little hassle.
The Octapad SPD-30 is far superior to the previous Octapad model that was produced in the late 1990s (the Octapad SPD-20).Check out my in-depth review of the Roland Octapad SPD-30 for more information on this.
The Strike MultiPad represented a big move into the high-end sample pad market for Alesis. It’s very impressive and it’s the most feature-rich sample pad currently available.
This pad is quite a step up from their SamplePad Pro, but it’s quite a bit more expensive. The pad includes better playing velocity-sensitive surfaces, much better sampling features, looping, and a lot of different effects. It has a lot of memory and contains very cool LED lights.
- Most feature-rich pad available
- Large 32GB internal storage
- Very nice interface
- Well built
- A bit pricey
It has the richest screen interface of any electronic drum pad on the market. There’s a lot to navigate through, but you can certainly get the hang of it once you give it a bit of time.
The Strike MultiPad can be used for on-the-fly changes to effects and sampling. It comes with a lot of built-in samples, as well as having the easy option to import your own.
You can also record audio directly into this sampler, which can be adjusted on-screen using knobs to control where to start and stop the loop.
It even has a performance looping function, which is quite nice, but it certainly doesn’t match Roland Octapad’s phrase looping (likely because it would overcomplicate the interface on the Strike Multipad far too much to do so).
It’s quite exciting to get this amount of features on a standalone unit without having to connect to a laptop.
5. Yamaha DTX Multi Pad
The Yamaha DTX-Multi 12 is a sampling pad that can most closely be compared to the Roland SPD-SX. It has 3 extra pads than the SPD-SX and a huge inventory of sounds to choose from. This model has the potential to replace your drum kit and allows you to load custom samples—something well worth considering.
- Touch-sensitive pads (great for playing hand drum samples)
- Good extensibility
- Good build quality
- Very limited internal space
- Interface is a bit dated
I think the biggest advantage of the DTX-Multi 12 are the ultra-sensitive pads. If you are into hand drums like djembes or congas, this is pretty much the only option amongst the percussion pads I am presenting to you. The pad surface can seem a little soft when playing with sticks. This is totally a matter of preference, though.
You can also add up to 5 pads externally. There are 3 inputs, but 2 of them are dual inputs, where you can input dual-zone pads or split them out to two separate single-zone pads, each through the use of a splitter.
This can make for a compact electronic drum set. Make sure to do your research when choosing external pads. Kick pads and drum pads are pretty universal, but this is not always the case for hi-hat controllers.
The DTX-Multi has only 64MB of internal memory for loading custom samples. I see this as the biggest weakness as it is quite limiting. Compare this to the 4GBs of internal memory that you get in the Roland SPD-SX. The user interface for this model can also take a lot of getting used to. The menu system is a little clunky and difficult to use. There are a lot of features, but it seems to come at the price of usability.
This is a solid contender as both a sample pad and percussion pads. I prefer the feel and features of the Roland Octapad SPD-30 for my own use or the Roland SPD-SX for onboard sampling. However, this can serve as a great alternative.
Check out the video below to see the Yamaha DTX-Multi 12 in action:
6. PylePro Tabletop Drum Pads
These PylePro drum pads offer something quite different from the ones previously mentioned.
This is a lower-priced option designed for drum practicing and casual use. It has plenty of sounds and includes foot pedals and built-in speakers, so you are ready to jam out of the box.
- Built-in speakers
- Easy to use
- Only good for casual use
- Sound quality is not great
- Pedals are very basic
These can serve as great gifts to beginner drummers and those that don’t have dedicated drum sets to practice on. They’re also a lot of fun to play.
The pedals are not great, but they work well for basic playing.
It also has MIDI connectivity, which enables you to connect it to audio software to play. It also has audio outputs that allow you to connect to headphones or external speakers.
The Nord Drum 3P uses a completely different approach to how it creates sounds. This is a drum synthesizer, meaning that all of the drum sounds are created through synthesis instead of samples. This means that you can get a whole layer deeper in terms of sound modeling and sound design.
- Great sound design options
- High-quality effects
- Uses analog-modeled synthesis
- MIDI capability
- Kick pad input
- Doesn’t support samples
- Limited input outputs for external pads
- Would not work in as many genres as sample-based pads
This is particularly useful for those that want some electronic drum tracks and sounds with great depth. If you’ve used any synth-based drum machines before, then you will have an idea of the level of effects and sound shaping that will be possible.
Just check out this video below which really shows how amazing you can get the Nord Drum 3P to sound.
It includes many of the sound design parameters you would expect from a synthesizer, such as noise and tone-shaping, mix, and effects.
You can assign these on a pad-by-pad basis and copy settings between pads. Because it uses synthesis, it has extremely low latency. If you want to go in-depth into your sound design then the Nord Drum 3P is one of the best options out there.
The sound sculpting capabilities of this drum synth could really help improve your creative workflow, as everything can be done directly on the device, without having to edit sounds on your DAW and importing samples.
It has standard audio and headphone outputs, MIDI in and out, and one external kick input. It doesn’t have a hi-hat input or the capability to add other external pads.
Of course, this pad won’t be for everyone; its lack of sampling makes this a little bit more niche in comparison to the Roland SPD-SX or the Strike Multipad. However, it’s certainly worth considering for those that want a playable drum synth with great sound sculpting.
Roland’s range of SPD::One pads were created for those that only need a small number of functions and one playable pad surface. If you feel like an entire MultiPad would overcomplicate your setup too much, then this might be worth considering.
- Very easy to use
- Minimalist and compact
- Very good build quality
- Very limited features
- Only one pad
- Quite pricey
- Only the WAV version supports custom sampling
Differences Between SPD::One Versions
The SPD::One comes in four different types Electro, Percussion, Kick, and WAV pad. The first 3 have a small number of internal sounds to choose from, and the WAV pad allows you to load your own custom samples.
- SPD::ONE Electro is for drum sounds
- SPD::ONE Kick is great for use as a stomp box (playing with your foot)
- SPD::ONE Percussion is for percussion-focused sounds (no surprise there!)
- SPD::ONE WAV is for loading your own samples.
The version that you should go for very much depends on your needs.
If you want to get the one that offers the most flexibility, then the SPD::One WAV is the best option, but you do need to do a bit of work in order to import the sounds with the correct file naming.
If you want easy-to-access internal sounds of the device, then the Electro, Kick, and Percussion versions are all very worth considering.
The Kick, Electro, and Percussion versions all have the same 4 types of knobs.
- Instruction selection
- FX (choose between reverb and delay mix)
The SPD::One WAV is quite different. The first knob also allows you to change sample sound, but the other knobs are for phones level, mix (between click and master), and master balance.
You also cannot change the actual type of way the sample is played on the pad directly, you need to alternate and change the file name. For example, if you want to load a sample as a one-shot, then you need to add “_m” to the end of the file name before loading. So it takes a little bit of work to make sure you get this right before you import the samples onto the SPD::One, but once you get this all up and running, then it’s very easy to use, and a very minimalist option.
I think that the SPD::One has a very good selling point. Lots of musicians do not want to overcomplicate their setups too much, and many already have effects pedals and lots of other pieces of gear working at once. They may want to simplify things a little bit to make sure that things will work properly on stage and that they get no surprises. The SPD::One is a reliable, minimalist pad that works nicely for basic needs.
The Alesis SamplePad 4 is a scaled-down and more affordable version of the Sample Pad Pro. This is another pad that offers a whole lot of promise, but it also has very similar pros and cons to the Alesis SamplePad Pro.
- Decent amount of storage space and sounds for its price.
- Easy to use
- Some crosstalk issues
- Pad responsiveness not amazing
- Only includes four pads
Differences Between the Alesis SamplePad Pro and SamplePad 4
The SamplePad4 has a lower number of pads, lower internal sounds, and lower storage capacity. You load custom samples in the same way, and many of the other settings are all quite similar to the SamplePad Pro.
If you’re going for something quite compact and minimalist, then this might not be much of a problem for you.
There have also been other crosstalk issues reported with the Alesis SamplePad 4, similar to the SamplePad Pro. However, it is very playable on the basis that you decrease your sensitivity to the lowest level.
This means that you can certainly trigger samples quite reliably from this device, but you will definitely not be able to play with the same level of finesse you would get from a more responsive pad.
If you want a pad for basic function, and if you want something that has more features than the Roland SPD::One, then the Alesis SamplePad 4 is certainly one to consider.
10. Yamaha DD75 Portable Digital Drums
The last electronic drum pad on our list is the Yamaha DD75, which is a good quality, all-in-one tabletop model.
This is quite similar to the Pylepro Tabletop drums we listed previously. It’s mainly designed for casual practice and playing, though it could also certainly be used as a decent MIDI controller for proper recordings.
It’s a nicely compact electronic drum pad with headphones and auxiliary input jacks.
- Built-in speakers
- Includes foot pedals
- Good build quality
- Nice internal sounds
- Supports battery power and AC power
- Headphone and aux-in jacks
- The pedals are not great
- Not a great long-term option for practicing drums
It also has battery operation which is very handy, and you can take this on the move without the need for AC power. However, for battery mode, it requires 6 type C batteries, which are not particularly cheap. So if you wanted to play on battery power a lot, it would probably be worth looking into getting rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
It has a nice and wide array of kits and genres, which are included in the internal sounds.
Similar to the Pylepro Tabletop drums, this also includes built-in speakers, so you don’t necessarily need to use headphones or a separate set of speakers. Though don’t expect top audio quality from the built-in speakers!
The pedals that come with this are not particularly good, they are more like pretty clunky footswitches, but they are usable for basic use and you can upgrade to a better kick tower and hi-hat pedal if you want (Yamaha pedals would be your best bet, particularly for the hi-hat pedal).
If you want to get a good quality tabletop electronic drum pad from a great brand, then this is certainly a good option to go for.
Although for more professional or stage use, it certainly does not compare to the Yamaha DTX-Multi 12.
Other notable mentions
Although they did not make the final cut for this article, there are some other decent options for electronic drum pads. The KAT Percussion KTMP1 is an entry-level option that includes 4 pads. It is a little limited in its features, but I do rate this one highly in terms of value for money.
The Roland Handsonic is a great high-end hand percussion pad that contains internal sounds for many different styles of music. I did not include it in this article as the device is suited to a smaller number of musicians.
Common questions about electronic drum pads
Do I need an amplifier?
It depends on how you plan to use your electronic drum pads. You can connect the audio outputs to an amplifier or PA system via instrument cables. Most drum pads also include a headphone input.
How do I load my own samples?
If your drum pad has the capability of loading custom samples, this is generally done via a USB drive or SD card.
Check the specifications of your device before loading samples. Some require specific formats and bitrates (e.g., 16-bit WAV files).
What’s the difference between high-end and low-end pads?
The number one difference is build quality. You can see a notable difference in sturdiness and quality in higher-end pads. This can make a big difference when gigging regularly. As mentioned previously, low-quality pads can trigger cross-talk and other unwanted problems.
On-board sounds of higher end pads are generally of much better quality. Another major difference is both the features and speed of the device, particularly with regard to switching kits while loading external samples.
How do I record my electronic drum pad?
If you want to record your electronic drum pad on your computer, then you will generally need an audio interface. You connect the outputs from your pad to the inputs on the interface via instrument cables. The interface usually connects to your computer via USB.
You can also connect most electronic drum pads to computers and other music gear via MIDI. Therefore you can trigger drum sounds from music production software instead of using the on-board sounds on your drum pad.
Can I connect other e-drum pads to my sample pad?
Check the external inputs of the pad. You may be able to connect other e-drum and cymbal pads, such as rubber or mesh pads directly. Some devices also include a specific input for a hi-hat pedal, which you can use the open/close functionality of the hats.
I usually recommend adding a kick pad if possible.
So those are the main percussion and sample pads that you should consider. Whether you want to add electronic elements to your acoustic playing or want a standalone instrument or sampler, electronic pads can be a great option to add to your performance.
The Octapad SPD-30, SPD-SX, Alesis Strike Multipad, and Yamaha Multipad are the high-end options that are very suitable for touring and performances. The all-in-one options are for more beginner and casual use. The Alesis SamplePad Pro comes somewhere in the middle.
If you have any comments or questions on any of the pads in this article, then please write a comment below. I promise to answer every comment!
Thinking about buying a full Electronic Drum Set?
Electronic drum sets can be a lot more reasonably priced than you might expect. Check out our updated buyer’s guide and reviews for the Best Electronic Drum Sets. They can help replicate the experience of playing an acoustic kit far more than electronic percussion pads.
If you are just starting to learn drums, then I would highly recommend getting one of these. Alternatively, we’ve written an article about the best drum machines, which is also worth checking out.
If you have any questions on Electronic Drum Pads, then be sure to ask below.
Thanks for reading,