In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: July 13, 2022
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Midi drum pads don’t have keys. Instead, they have pads, and you hit them with your fingers or sticks. These controllers are popular with various virtual instruments paired with sequencing software. They create trigger samples or beats and are usually a part of different home recording studio setups.
There are various types of MIDI drum pads available on the market. Not all of them are capable of producing the best beats. Check out our detailed review of each of the MIDI drum pads that made it to our top list, as well as a buying guide to help you make your final choice.
Here, we will examine and review the best midi beat pads on the market and what features you must consider when buying one.
We highly recommend not to go for any cheap beat pad because it won’t cut it.
The Roland HPD-20 hand percussion instrument is a top choice for live performances and studio production. We like that it comes with 850 inbuilt sounds and supports a USB flash drive for convenient file transfer.
We were highly impressed with the EQ13 silicone rubber pads that make this instrument more comfortable to use.
HPD-20 has made it easier to set midi tone numbers from a laptop. It was difficult to use in the previous laptop models.
What are its best features?
The HPD-20 makes transitions from your previous model much easier. It has more velocity-sensitive controls to create a variety of sounds.
Moreover, you have the option of using the inbuilt sounds and laying the foundation for your music.
What could be improved?
However, we were disappointed that Roland didn't add pressure-sensitive capabilities to the pad controls. Pressure sensitivity adds much more variety to controls and how your music sounds.
Another downside is that you can't loop or edit any quick recording, but that might not be a deal-breaker.
The Alesis Strike Multipad features nine pads with an inbuilt looper and a sampler. It supports a couple of the ins and outs, and sample loading with USB flash drives was pretty easy.
A small 4.3-inch display on the unit displays the current active controls on your instrument.
The instrument comes with nine different rubber pads, including six large pads and three short pads on the shoulder. A small LED light is present right under each pad, and you can program them.
It comes with quality drum samples, and you can assign two different samples to a single pad driven by velocity. Of course, these pads are pressure-sensitive so that you can alter the samples according to your needs.
Moreover, its loop function is another welcome addition. You can layer compositions up to 16 sequences and save them separately in the sample bank.
What do we love it for?
We were highly impressed with the inclusion of a looper and a massive memory that this unit can support. A killer feature that got us going was its customizable LED lights.
You can individually program them and react differently based on what you assign to each pad. You can conveniently categorize each sample.
For example, you can assign yellow for snares, blue for kicks, or white for loops. That's pretty impressive!
What were we disappointed with?
However, we didn't like the menus because they took a bit of getting used to. They might be all laid out logically, but you need to go through a few rounds moving between menus, and using that control dial to move and select different samples seems pretty fiddly.
The Akai MPD218 supports USB, and it features 16 different MPC drum pads with 6 assignable knobs to make your music production much more versatile. We were impressed with the separate buttons for full level and note repetition. The production software is pretty awesome.
If you feel like playing the pads on their own and creating some tunes, you can do that easily with this unit. The software that it comes with is not mandatory to use the instrument. This midi drum pad is a top choice to create ambient electronic music.
Why is it special?
This is an indirect upgrade from MPD18, and it works well. The pads are responsive, and you can explore the dynamic range when you are finger drumming. You can use the software to create some extraordinary sound effects.
The unit itself is not that big, but it features massive thick pads that are velocity-sensitive. Moreover, the controller knobs are smooth to move and very precise.
What are the flaws?
But we would have appreciated it if Akai had provided some documentation. Setting the instrument up might not be that difficult, but you have to go through a bit of a struggle for deeper editing because navigation becomes tough when using different settings.
So, you will have to get used to the controls to be more precise in using this device.
PreSonus ATOM is a powerful mini pad controller, and it features Studio One Artist and Ableton Live recording software. The controller features 16 full-size pressure and velocity-sensitive LED pads and 8 assignable banks. Moreover, it is equipped with 20 assignable buttons and 4 different endless rotary encoders.
It is a durable unit, and those lights look great when playing your tunes. Those pads feel and look pretty nice, and they are fully pressure and velocity-sensitive to create a range of different sounds.
Your workflow becomes faster and more precise, thanks to the Studio One Artist.
You can get your songs out well polished and pretty quick. Another benefit of Studio Artist One is that it makes using the controls much easier. So, you don’t have to go through a learning curve when using this instrument.
What’s more, all the controls are fully compatible and integrated with the Ableton Live program.
However, it might take a bit to get used to the vertical controls. It is not exactly a plug-and-play device because the inspector it comes with is not its input device.
Some units have this default setting, but it doesn’t come with it. Moreover, the four knobs are not bankable, which we found disappointing.
What makes it stand out?
You can get your songs out well polished and pretty quick. Another benefit of Studio Artist One is that it makes using the controls much easier. So, you don't have to go through a learning curve when using this instrument.
What's more, all the controls are fully compatible and integrated with the Ableton Live program.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
However, it might take a bit to get used to the vertical controls. It is not exactly a plug-and-play device because the inspector it comes with is not its input device.
Some units have this default setting, but it doesn't come with it. Moreover, the four knobs are not bankable, which we found disappointing.
The MPS226 is a USB midi controller with 16 RGB MPC drum pads. You’ll get fully assignable and production-ready controls. The controller comes with a comprehensive software program, including Drum Synth 500 and Ableton Live.
This product is easy to use and will not break your wallet. The lightweight design of this controller makes it convenient to use on the go.
This controller works well with quality drum machines, making it a better option than the previous model, which was MPD218.
That doesn’t work with such an application. You will need to go for the newer model, the MPD226. You can customize all your settings according to your requirements.
What makes it special?
The feature we liked the most in MPD226 is that you can get precise fills and beats when using a drum machine. Moreover, you can make those fine adjustments and make your tunes pop out.
We also loved the fact that it is compatible with iOS apps. You can conveniently connect it with your phone and start sharing and making those tunes using your phone.
What cons did we find?
However, you will notice something not right with the pads. They are pressure and velocity-sensitive, but they are not as smooth as such a device should have had.
The Alesis Sample Pad 4 is your true sampler, and it features illuminated rubber pads. Furthermore, it comes with an inbuilt sound library and accepts SD/SDHC cards. We love that it is a compact unit and an ideal choice for music creation on the go.
This device differentiates itself from others because it is a user-friendly product that doesn’t need you to go through numerous learning curves.
It breaks away from the trending of those complex devices that don’t even have any user manual to help the s to n. It also comes with some preloaded sounds, and you can always use your SD or SDHC card with it to play even more.
What stands out?
We love how it keeps things simple and doesn't have to be an expert to use the instrument. If you are starting to create your tunes, this is probably the best device you can find on the market.
What cons did we manage to find?
But we did notice a ground hum when you turn it to 100 percent volume. Therefore, you will have to connect it with another device to establish the ground path.
Of course, you will not find this device as versatile as some of the devices mentioned above, but that is because it is a compact version and focuses on portability.
The Akai LPD8 is another USB controller pad with 8 different velocity-sensitive pads and 8 knobs. There are four programmable banks, and you also get editing software that works with it.
It is the best choice for you if you use your laptop for music creation. The Software program is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh.
You can consider another compact version that won’t compromise the number of controller pads and knobs. Therefore, despite being a compact device, it still is a pretty versatile device. You can create a range of different sounds and tunes using it.
Plus, the software that comes with it is pretty easy to use on your laptop. This device is all about creating tunes on the go. You can also assign the knobs to use a range of other functions and software parameters. The pads are pretty stiff but very sensitive.
What are its best features?
It is a pretty compact unit, and you can conveniently use it on the go. Another excellent feature of this unit is the pretty stiff pads and still hypersensitive.
What could be improved?
Still, you can consider this unit morse a gadget rather than a workhorse. It handles most workflows, but it still doesn't get the jobs that a full controller might enable you to achieve.
Things to Consider
The market is flooded with various types of midi drum pad controllers from various brands. But if you want to get the best value for your money, you should only consider the quality products.
These products are durable and deliver top-notch performance. But of course, there are some other criteria you have to deal with when buying a midi drum pad controller. For your convenience, we have developed this buying guide so you can look for the best device according to your needs and preferences.
Benefits of a MIDI Drum Pad
Midi drum pads are becoming increasingly popular over time. Most music creators prefer a midi drum pad instead of a digital piano or midi keyboard. The reason is that it is pretty versatile, and it allows you to create different piano notes while still managing to deliver exceptional beats.
While you can still create your beats using a midi keyboard, midi drum pads are more versatile in creating tunes with higher quality.
Midi drum pads are much more portable than something like midi keyboards. Some of these drum pads are so small that you can conveniently place them in your laptop bag, such as the Akai LPD8.
It means the music creation on the go becomes much easier. You don’t have to carry a massive device with you all around when you have midi drum pads.
Ease of Use
Another huge advantage of using these midi drum pads is that they are easy to use, like the Alesis Sample Pad 4. Most of them come with different programs that you can install on your computer and start using your device like a pro.
Some devices don’t require a program to use. You just open the box, connect the device with the instrument and start flowing in the beat. You don’t have to be an expert drummer to use these controllers either.
Features to Consider Before You Buy a MIDI Drum Pad
Number of Pads
It depends on what type of music you create and controls you need to find midi drum pads without a fader. But if you use a fader to create more sound effects, you certainly need this feature in your midi drum pads.
You can go for a midi drum pad 4 to 6 if you are a beginner, like the Alesis Sample Pad 4. It is more than sufficient. But make sure that you have four to five knobs to control the output in such a model.
Anything from 12 to 16 pads, such as the Akai MPS218, will work the best for more advanced users. But again, it entirely depends on how you intend to use your controller.
Another important feature that you need to consider is the overall capability of an instrument before you buy anything. Different instruments are designed for different purposes.
If you are a beginner and buying such a device for the first time, you shouldn’t go for a device geared towards professionals. This combo will not work for you because most of its features will be useful to you, and you won’t use them effectively.
It will take longer for you to learn the basics because you will be too distracted by the advanced features. Similarly, pros won’t like to go for a device made for beginners simply because there are no rough features in it.
Therefore, go for a device that goes well with your beat creation capabilities. Some devices are much better for music creation on the go, while others are suitable for studios. You also need to look for these features depending on your music creation habits.
You also need to match the layout of the controller with your needs. For instance, many musicians prefer to go for a minimalist setup to keep everything simple. Their preferred choice is 8 pads and 8 knobs, and there is no internal processor.
These instruments are pretty compact and lightweight. In addition, they are compatible with any software. They are also easy to navigate and adjust. Moreover, they come with many controls for convenient sampling, looping, and beat-making purposes.
You have to make sure that all the controllers are conveniently accessible right on top and the system is pretty convenient to use. You don’t want the instrument to have difficult access to the controls. Otherwise, usage becomes more of a pain in the neck, hindering your creativity.
You also have the option to go for a standalone controller or computer-dependent controller. Computer defendant controllers can connect to any computer and software program, and you can conveniently assign sounds to knobs and pads that are available on the controller.
But you can’t use them as standalone instruments because they cannot produce any sound on their own without any compatible digital audio workstation or DAW.
But the best thing about these standalone controllers is that you can use them as a computer-dependent device and directly connect them into the mix.
These devices come in extremely versatile models, and with various touch screens, they can also perform a range of different jobs from live performance to recording to mastering and so much more.
The velocity sensitivity of these pads on drum controllers is one of the best features that these devices come with, such as the Alesis Strike Multipad. When this feature is on your controller, you can create your beats more accurately.
It becomes even more interesting if the controller that you choose comes with pressure sensitivity pads. You can precise your pad hits and create sensational music with extraordinary details with these features.
Therefore, you should look for midi drum pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity for more precise audio output if the budget allows.
Inputs & Outputs
First of all, you need to know how to power your controller. Most of the midi drum controllers come with USB bus power input. And it is the best route to go because you can use this feature at your home, studio, or on the go. Just connect the USB with your computer and start working on your beats.
But midi drum controllers also come with an external power supply, and some models are rechargeable. However, the USB route is the best option for you to consider.
As far as the connectivity is concerned, a standard controller can transmit midi messages via USB, such as the Presonus Atom. Other devices can use a fancier interface with a higher input/output count.
For example, some devices come with a 5-pin midi out, and you can connect vintage hardware with it. Some of these controllers even come with mic inputs, a headphone jack, and other options.
Regardless of the type of pad controller you are looking for, it is critical to check the unit’s compatibility with the devices you use. It directly relies on what DAW settings and other gear you use.
For instance, if you use Ableton Live for your DAW, most pad controllers work well with Ableton, like Akai MPS226 and others. However, not every controller on the market will work flawlessly with this DAW. You will have to be even more careful if you use any other DAW, such as Cubase or FL Studio.
The problem is not associated with physical integration. It is more related to the software programs with these controller pads. Most brands include an application program with their controllers. You can use these programs to edit various settings, including the midi settings.
Therefore, do some research before buying any of these midi pad controllers. Otherwise, you will have to return your favorite device because it wasn’t compatible.
You need to consider how you will use your midi pad controller and, of course, where you are going to use it.
Maybe you create your beats in your home that don’t have much space. You will have to look for a smaller controller that is more portable, like the Alesis Sample Pad 4.
Or maybe you have a studio and have ample space, which is why you can go for a full-fledged controller unit, such as the Roland HPD-20 or Akai MPD-218. If you create music on the go, then again, you will have to look for a device that is more portable.
If you choose a compact device for easy mobility and compactness, you will have to compromise on your control options.
However, the units with almost everything are pretty big and are not easily mobile. So, consider these options before you pull a trigger on a particular pad controller.
The computer-dependent models are much cheaper. However, you will need powerful computers to handle any sequencers with an adequate software program, which might cost you extra money.
Most of us already have computers in our homes, and they are quite capable enough to run music software. Just don’t run multiple tracks simultaneously, and the computer will work fine.
These software programs also work with your iPad, so you might not need to buy a separate computer to run these computer-dependent controllers.
If such a device costs more than average, it might also come with a range of additional controls.
Standalone models control is expensive as compared to their standalone computer-integrated models. They are suitable for professionals and can manage a pretty good audio output.
Midi drum pads are music creation devices that produce digital music to create your beats by triggering single shot samples quickly. Creating music is more enjoyable than using a mouse and keyboard. These controller pads are excellent for studio use and live performances.
There are various ways to create your music without even using drum pads. Stills, midi controllers, and drum pads are mandatory for modern music creation. These drum pads can enhance your music creativity and improve your workflow in any music studio.
Midi drum pads are excellent prospects for finger drumming. Finger drumming is a new skill, and it is critical if you are a beatmaker. It looks impressive once you have learned it properly. But you can fuse performance and beat composition into one with it.
You have to start by listening to some inspirational beats and following in their footsteps. Make sure to start simple and focus on the rhythm.
This way, you can play comfortably for a long time. Make sure to move your fingers instead of your arms to be more fluent in your play. And keep in mind, don’t play every sound in one go.
Always use the note repeat feature to make more interesting beats. You will get to use more pads when some of the earlier notes are already playing in the auto-repeat mode. Use other effects to shift between different patterns to create a complicated effect without playing out much.
The best midi drum pad on the market is the Roland HPD-20 controller. It is a decent option when it comes to sound output. It might not have sensitive pads, but it provides you with multiple options to create extraordinary beats in no time.
The runner-up is the Alesis Strike Pad with an inbuilt looper and sampler. It also features velocity-sensitive pads to create beats with more precision.
And at the third spot is Akai MPD218 which comes with 16 different drum pads and 6 different assignable knobs. If you are looking for versatility, then this is it.
Make sure to go for the controller suitable for your music creation style. You have to consider the number of pads, the size of the controller, the connectivity options, and software compatible with your computer before you buy anything. It will enable you to get the best bang for your buck.