The Core Features
What makes percussion pads great? Samples. Both of our contenders serve the purpose of adding creative sounds into your setup.
Yes, you can access all types of acoustic kits from the heaviest of crushing metal tones to dynamic jazz drums. But the beauty of Roland and Alesis pads is the ability to record or play anything from an existing song to random sound you make, cut it up and use it however you like.
The two drum pads are very similar in core features. They have the same MIDI and USB connectivity so you can record sounds from any source – your PC, phone, microphone or any audio device – and edit the sound using the onboard software. There’s potential to add effects, equalise and edit clips into smaller chunks.
Another essential function is looping. They both have the capacity to design loops from the ground up and start and stop them as you play. You could arrange these as dense as you like or keep it simple. Your loops are only determined by the memory you have available, so in theory, you could hit start on a song and let it play all the way through.
Let’s have a look at the features that set the Strike MultiPad and SPD-SX apart from one another.
Roland have been in the electronic drum game for years. They’re reliable with firmware updates and keep their products performing at their best. This includes the corresponding Wave Manager PC software, making it extremely easy to import, assign, edit and organise samples. And as the SPD-SX has been around longer than the Strike, it’s recognised by loads of DAWs for simple integration.
One way you can create loops easily is to play a song or sound from your device with it plugged into the SPD-SX, press record, hit a pad you’d like to assign it to and hit it again to cut it. It’s quick and straightforward to build up your library of loops. The only downside to this is it isn’t entirely accurate and does depend on the timing of your hits.
However, the SPD-SX benefits from excellent velocity-sensitive pads and two external drum trigger inputs. This lets you incorporate the kit into an acoustic setup and spread your samples over more than nine slots.
Once you’ve loaded up your sounds, you’re able to adjust the audio levels of each sample or loop, customise panning or add effects. There are two dials on the front panel that let you can apply effects in real time, a bit like a DJ.
The 4GB of internal memory is large, but not the largest on the market. It hasn’t got the friendliest UI either with its small screen and more fiddly process. It works much better when using the accompanying PC software.
Alesis Strike MultiPad
The Strike MultiPad is definitely all song and dance, but does it have the content to back it up? Absolutely. It comes with copies of Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First for your choice of external sample editing software.
But you may as well do your editing on the hardware itself, as the 4.3” display is effortless to navigate. It’s also simple to enter BPM and choose to add it to your audio output or line it out for other band members. Picking your drum kit is intuitive thanks to two different select layouts.
Like the SPD-SX, it has two rotary knobs for real-time effects and nine responsive pads. The Alesis, however, takes light feedback one step further than its rival. You can customise the colour of each pad if you’d like to associate a colour to a certain type of sound.
They inform you of the BPM of an assigned loop and light up from left to right, indicating how far a loop is through its cycle. There’s also an option to play random pads from hitting just the one to mix up your sound the way hitting a cajon would produce different tonality each time.
With 6GB of pre-loaded content, you have a massive amount of great stock sounds to get you started. There’s a further 32GB of free storage, meaning you’re well and truly future-proofed. The sticking point is whether Alesis continue to update the software and provide new sounds over the coming years.
What’s better? The Strike MultiPad or SPD-SX?
If you’re after percussion pad that has a proven track record, sounds great and is a well-known industry standard, the Roland SPD-SX has you covered. Its software is still good and regularly updated, and the hardware is excellent when you get playing.
The Alesis is at the forefront of the latest tech going into the Strike Multipad, with supreme sound and creator options you can sink your teeth into. Its live playing ability is where it truly shines thanks to the light feedback and quick kit selection.
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