MIDI drum pads are great for quickly making beats and triggering one-shot samples in a much more enjoyable way than using a keyboard and mouse!
MIDI instruments and other devices are essential pieces of equipment for everyone who wants to make music. Thanks to the rapid technological progress, these devices aren’t as expensive as before and can be found in every home studio.
These MIDI drum pads are great for both live performances and studio use.
You can also map buttons and knobs to control almost any feature on your DAW software using MIDI mapping.
The 5 Best MIDI Drum Pads
Please note: If you’re looking for a standalone product, then check out our article on the best drum machines. Alternatively, If you’re looking for a standalone sample pad that acts as its own separate instrument, then you should check out our popular article on electronic drum pads. Sample pads are generally MIDI-enabled, so they can perform the same features as MIDI drum pads.
1. Akai Professional MPD218
The Akai MPD218 is a well-built and great-value pad that is very nicely sized and has a lot of MIDI routing options.
There are 16 pads with fantastic velocity sensitivity, as well as six control knobs that you can assign to practically any MIDI parameter on your digital audio workstation.
You can use different presets by holding the Prog Select button and also switch between different control and pad banks.
There are buttons that allow you to switch between 3 different pad banks, so you can effectively have different MIDI routing for each bank, which will allow you to get a lot of versatility from this part; you could set these up as separate drum kits and switch between them whenever you want.
The 3 control banks allow you to switch between different MIDI routing settings for your control knobs, which could then control different effects.
This MIDI drum pad offers great value if you’re looking to get something that’s on a pretty affordable budget. If you don’t need all of the frills of flashy LED screens and extra options, then this is our recommended option.
2. Korg nanoPAD2
Check out our video below showing the nanoPAD 2 in action.
Long story short—compact dimensions, great hardware quality, sensitive pads, and basic but reliable functions.
This model represents the second generation of the super-compact nanoPAD series. The evolution of this device lasts for a full decade, and the new version comes with some upgrades, especially in hardware.
This device now comes with 16 pads instead of 12, which was the case with the original model.
The Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line a pretty good deal. It is a perfect tool for your home studio, especially if you are a beginner and don’t want to spend a lot.
Its XY pad is also very cool for playing scales and arpeggiators.
Check out our more in-depth article on this: Korg nanoPAD2 Review.
3) Native Instruments Maschine MK3
The Maschine MK3 is a mega MIDI drum pad with two high-quality LED screens which allow you to browse and alternate between different kits without having to look at your laptop.
There are a ton of controls on this device. The 16 pads can be used for drum sounds, but they can also be used to create bass lines, melodies, and chord progressions with scale lock-in, so you don’t even need much knowledge in music theory to be able to create great music.
This allows you to create stabs and could help you create music in a much more fluid way without having to have a separate keyboard or go to your laptop.
The MK3 can be USB-powered, so you do not need AC outlet power for it to work. Though, if you want to make the controls much brighter, you can plug it into AC power.
This is a higher-budget and high-quality device. For people that like the machine workflow, this could be a great option to consider.
4) Ableton Push 2
Ableton Push 2 is a very sought-after MIDI controller for Ableton Live users. It is used to great effect in conjunction with Ableton Drum Racks, as well as having a mountain of other features!
The pads are nicely sensitive, and they work very well for creating drum beats.
For example, in Timberland’s Masterclass videos, you can see him using the Ableton Push 2 to create some cool beats on the fly.
Ableton Push 2 is a great way for you to create beats without having to look at your laptop—this can really get you in the zone when creating music.
If you’re looking for a fully-featured MIDI controller that works as a drum pad, effects controller, and allows you to trigger scenes via the Ableton Session view, then this is certainly worth considering.
5) Akai Professional LPD8
Akai also has a strong competitor in this segment of MIDI drum pads. Unlike Korg nanoPAD, this one comes with only 8 pads, which might seem inconvenient to some. On the other side, there are also 8 rotatable knobs which can be used for every software parameter, so you can get the best of both worlds from a small device.
Speaking of the hardware, the overall quality is pretty good. The pads feature excellent, sensitive velocity, so you can count on plenty of dynamics. There are four programmed banks, while the device is USB-powered, making this drum pad pretty portable.
What Should You Look When Choosing MIDI Drum Pads?
There are few things you should keep in mind when choosing MIDI drum pads. Think about your needs. What size drum pads do you need? Do you want extra knobs and controls for effects? What is your budget?
Another important thing to consider is what software or hardware you’re going to use this MIDI drum pad with. However, MIDI is compatible with all good music production software, so there’s not much to worry about here.
Also, consider things like size and weight. If you want to carry your device from place to place, it should be small enough to fit your bag, not to mention that heavy pads could be pretty inconvenient. Think of the power supply as well. Fortunately, compact MIDI drum pads are usually operated with a USB port, which is a huge benefit for someone who is in a constant move.
Finally, find a piece that guarantees good playing dynamics. Pads must be sensitive to velocity if you want to express yourself in a proper way.
Whether you’re a hobby musician or a pro, a MIDI drum pad is definitely a piece of equipment that will come in handy. The benefits are numerous for both musicians and producers.
You can count on superior workflow, plenty of practicality, and easiness of use. Above everything, you will have a better musical expression, expand your knowledge, and become a better musician.
MIDI drum pads don’t cost a fortune anymore. So there is no reason why you shouldn’t try them, even if your budget is tight!