If you don’t have a lot of room but still want to record drums at home, a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) drum pads are a great option. In addition, MIDI drum pad controllers are an integral part of the recording, sampling, and live performance processes for many forms of electronic music.
Some musicians, music producers or music enthusiasts don’t have a drum set or the necessary equipment to record live drums; therefore, they need to find another way to capture beats. This is where a MIDI drum controller can fit the picture. For example, you can make professional-sounding drum tracks in the comfort of your own home with little noise, thanks to a MIDI drum controller.
In this post, we will discuss seven most reliable MIDI drum pads currently available. We are aware, however, that not all amateur musicians have the same degree of familiarity with this device. Therefore, we’ll also cover the uses of MIDI drum pads and what to look for when buying a MIDI drum pad before we get into our top picks.
Roundup of the Best MIDI Drum Pads
|Overall Best MIDI Drum Pad||AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3|
|Best MIDI Drum Pad for Professionals||AKAI Professional MPD218|
|Most Intuitive MIDI Drum Pad for Professionals||PreSonus ATOM Production and Performance MIDI Pad Controller|
|Best MIDI Drum Pad for Live Performances||Alesis SamplePad Pro|
|Best Compact MIDI Drum Pad||Kat Percussion KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad|
|Best Budget MIDI Drum Pad||Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line USB MIDI Pads|
|Most Versatile MIDI Drum Pad||AKAI Professional Fire|
What Are MIDI Drum Pads Used For?
MIDI drum pads may appear completely strange to you if you’ve never used one before. It’s hard to mistake them for drums, given their appearance. They comprise a grid of bright buttons that are usually padded for comfort. It is possible to assign different sounds to different pads and then use them to play those sounds directly into your digital audio workstation (DAW).
You may make your rhythms using a MIDI drum pad by rapidly triggering one-shot samples to create digital music. It allows you to create patterns and loops on the spot. Additionally, making music on a MIDI drum pad is more fun than utilizing a computer mouse and keyboard. Whether in a studio or on stage, these controller pads will serve you well.
A MIDI drum pad is an excellent tool at your disposal if you want to engage in extensive drumming or beat tracking in a MIDI setting. It’s also a great option for artists who aren’t used to playing the piano.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Suitable Midi Drum Pad
Drum Pad Types
Drum pads are essential components of MIDI drum pad controllers; the question is, however, what type of drum pads do these devices have?
Have you tested their touch sensitivity to see whether you can transmit velocity data to your digital audio workstation? Do they have backlights to provide visual feedback and different colored backlights to identify which kits they correspond to by color quickly? How many pads does it contain, and how simple is it to map them?
Number of Pads
A midi drum pad with four or six pads should be enough if you’re starting. Nonetheless, such a model should contain at least four or five controls for its output.
Any configuration with between 12 and 16 pads will provide the optimal experience for more expert users. But again, this depends on how you want to use your device.
Banks and Modes
Individual MIDI drum pads are assigned to certain samples or loops in groupings that are referred to as banks. If we take the example of a MIDI pad controller, one button press will get us access to three different mappings that are unique to the device.
It is especially helpful when performing live since it allows you to preload various banks of samples and then rapidly switch between banks to play different combinations of sounds.
Many MIDI drum pads also feature modes that vary how the MIDI signal is conveyed. Some examples of these modes are full velocity and note repetition. Full velocity turns off touch sensitivity and makes every hit play at the maximum volume. At the same time, note repetition enables the player to double or even triple the number of notes played.
The included software is the factor that has the most personal impact on the pricing of most MIDI drum pads. Many come preloaded with sample libraries, music production software or DAWs, or full software suites for sampling and virtual instrumentation.
These sample libraries and software suites interact with the unit’s displays, allowing for simple operation without using a mouse.
While some drum pads include just a USB port for transmitting MIDI data, others may be used more like an audio interface thanks to their inclusion of microphone inputs, additional MIDI ports, and headphones. Not only is this kind of drum pad suitable for home recording studios, but it may also be taken on the road or used in live settings.
Build and Durability
Build quality should get some consideration. Some inexpensive drum pads are made entirely of plastic and have a fragile, low-quality feel. The construction of higher-end versions sometimes includes the use of metal.
There isn’t anything wrong with either style, but you want to ensure that your MIDI drum pad can withstand wear and tear over time. Always go for reputable brands that back their products with substantial warranties.
Top Midi Drum Pads on the Market
There are several MIDI drum pad models to choose from. Unfortunately, you can’t expect top-tier rhythms from everyone. Because of this, we have researched and evaluated the best midi drum pads available on the market. Here are our top picks!
1. AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
Overall Best MIDI Drum Pad
- A new and upgraded keybed
- A brand-new OLED display for real-time parameter feedback
- MPC velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads with after touch
- Continuous rotary controls
- Excellent software collection
- We didn’t find any issue
You won’t find a better digital controller than the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 on the market, whether you’re just starting or are an experienced musician. Moreover, the device comes with a wide variety of voice commands and a library of sounds from many genres and is the overall best mini drum pad on our list.
We found that in addition to hundreds of virtual instruments, it also includes over 1500 different sound effects. Moreover, it also has 8 illuminated, velocity-sensitive pads, and it works with the standard MPC layout. With this, you’ll have unprecedented power over your digital audio workstation (DAW) or synthesizer software, whether you’re looking to play drums, trigger samples on demand, or do anything else.
The OLED screen is a particularly eye-catching new feature. Despite not showing the data produced by the keyboard, this little panel is quite helpful for real-time feedback on controller data, MIDI channels, arpeggiator settings, and more. Additionally, we did not find it lacking when we put it through various tests.
In conclusion, the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 is a feature-rich electronic MIDI controller ideal for students starting. The keyboard can play various sounds, and you can program a drumbeat in seconds. The AKAI MPK Mini Mk3 is a superb product made by an even better business at a price that other midi controllers cannot beat.
View on Amazon: AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
2. AKAI Professional MPD218
Best MIDI Drum Pad for Professionals
- Great responsiveness
- Portable design
- Potentiometers can control several parameters
- Class-compliant bus-powered unit
- Comes with reliable and versatile software
- Lightweight chassis
- Knobs are somewhat small
AKAI Professional MPD218 is for DJs, producers, programmers, and artists. Its use of MPC controls and technology, together with a USB connection, mimics the process of making beats old-fashioned in computer music creation.
We discovered that while keeping the original MPD18’s velocity-sensitive feel and dynamics, the AKAI Professional MPD218 adds 16 new “Thick Fat” MPC-style drum trigger pads with LED backlight feedback. The MPD218 has 48 assignable pads over three pad panks, allowing you to map a wide variety of virtual sounds to them for use in live performance or a digital audio workstation (DAW).
We found the pads are large and cushiony. The rotary knobs feel solid in your hands. If you twist them firmly enough, they will provide sufficient resistance. The sleek black body with a flash of red is a terrific design choice. The lighted pads seem appropriately futuristic when switched on in the dark.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for the best midi drum pad controller that emulates the old MPC experience without breaking the bank, go no further than the AKAI Professional MPD218. It’s easy to pick up and use, offers a full suite of music-making applications, and is the best midi pad for professionals on our list.
View on Amazon: AKAI Professional MPD218
3. PreSonus ATOM Production and Performance MIDI Pad Controller
Most Intuitive MIDI Drum Pad for Professionals
- Has a compact yet sturdy design
- Excellent integration with Impact XT
- Note repeat function
- Sufficient buttons to allow you to disregard the mouse
- Sequences of patterns
- May take you some time to get familiar with the functionalities
The PreSonus ATOM Production & Performance MIDI Pad Controller is your reliable sidekick in a live or studio setting. It’s worth noting right off the bat that it is for use with Studio One, which is multipurpose, meaning you may use it in the studio, on stage, or in a live setting.
Let us tell you about some of its features. There are 16 pressure and velocity sensitive pads, which you can utilize inside eight pad banks that you can swap mid-song. You can attach a drum rack to a pad bank and swap mid-song if necessary. There are 20 assignable buttons in Studio One; however, you may configure them to control various things in other apps.
The pads can be programmed to play loops, allowing you to create a whole soundscape and mix a track without pulling out your laptop. It is useful for both live performances and MIDI recordings.
Additionally, four rotating knobs may be programmed to control variables in your DAW or virtual instruments. They won’t be an automated setting, so be prepared to map.
In conclusion, PreSonus ATOM Production and Performance MIDI Pad Controller is an excellent choice for recording or performing in a band. Unexpectedly robust for its low cost, this machinery is a steal. If you’re willing to map this to the software you use, you’ll be able to fully use all it offers and speed up your music creation process, as it is the most intuitive MIDI drum pad for professionals on our list.
View on Amazon: PreSonus ATOM Production and Performance MIDI Pad Controller
4. Alesis SamplePad Pro
Best MIDI Drum Pad for Live Performances
- Affordable and effective drum set
- Extensible with four External trigger inputs
- Integrated SD card storage
- 8 illuminated dual-trigger sensor pads
- We did not experience any issues
The Alesis SamplePad Pro is an adaptable eight-pad percussion and sample-triggering device. If you want to include electronic drums into your setup, this pad is a wonderful deal and provides endless sound possibilities, as in live performances.
It has over 200 different drum and percussion sounds that you can use in various contexts and sound very authentic. These tones provide a solid foundation from which to explore the realm of hybrid drumming. The Alesis SamplePad’s unique selling point is that it can be programmed to play any custom or one-of-a-kind samples you create.
The device can read SD cards up to 32GB in size. Because of this, the possibility for the sounds it can produce is almost endless, allowing you to compose and perform any music you can imagine.
The Sample Pad has 8 dual-zone, velocity-sensitive pads, and 4 extra trigger inputs, allowing you to connect a kick trigger, hi hat trigger, and 2 external pads. As a result, you may add more electrical components to your system. In the context of today’s live performances, this is invaluable.
In conclusion, when it comes to making music, the Alesis SamplePad Pro gives you a ton of room to roam. It is a very functional piece of equipment that can be used in various situations and is also quite simple to use. It’s a great option for the budget-minded drummer because of its adaptability, user-friendliness, and performance.
View on Amazon: Alesis SamplePad Pro
5. Kat Percussion KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad
Best Compact MIDI Drum Pad
- Fantastic value for the money
- Compact and lightweight
- Playable with hands or sticks
- Comes with 50 high quality sounds
- USB provides MIDI connectivity
- Has no sequencer
- No internal storage or recall function
- Has to be plugged to play
Kat Percussion KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad is a four-zone electronic drum pad with fifty preloaded sounds, including drum hits, percussion instruments, and more. One may alter the sound by changing the pitch, amplitude, sensitivity, pan, and reverb. You may use your hands or drumsticks to play the KTMP1, which you can outfit with triggers for both hi-hat and bass drums.
Because of its small size and low weight, KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad are very easy to bring to practice sessions and performances. It makes it appealing for gigging drummers who want a wide variety of sounds without carrying around too much equipment.
The KAT drum pad is divided into four sections, or “zones,” where users may play drums while listening to a different sound sample. You may also use the same sample to populate the playing areas if you’d like. Finally, the playing surfaces are created from a rubbery substance that provides a fair amount of bounce and responsiveness.
In conclusion, we can’t speak highly enough about the Kat Percussion KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad, especially at a price. Moreover, it is a portable and reasonably priced alternative to an electronic drum set that provides various functions.
View on Amazon: Kat Percussion KTMP1 Electronic Drum and Percussion Pad
6. Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line USB MIDI Pads
Best Budget MIDI Drum Pad
- Great value for money
- Good design and build
- Small footprint
- Ultra lightweight
- Built-in new performance modes
- Velocity sensitivity of the pads is somewhat spotty
- No aftertouch (AT) on the pads
Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line USB MIDI Pads efficiently uses your precious studio space while being portable enough to accompany you on any creative excursion at a price point you cannot beat.
We found that the Korg nanoPAD2 is a small USB MIDI controller with 16 responsive pads and an X-Y touchpad, making it ideal for musicians on the go. To produce ultra-realistic drum parts and patterns in any virtual instrument, a digital audio workstation, plug-in effect, or digital jukebox, you can tap into your percussion performances while preserving their dynamic feel.
Its 16 velocity-sensitive pads respond well to your fingers and accurately transmit the sensation of playing to your sequencer or digital audio workstation, giving your drum parts a genuine sense of energy. You can try out the 64 possible pad configurations by navigating the four scenarios.
In conclusion, Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line USB MIDI Pads is a fantastic option if you want to start into finger drumming and are ok with less than-ideal force detection. The nanoSeries of Korg comes with several useful features, and the new design is a step in the right direction at a great affordable price.
View on Amazon: Korg nanoPAD2 Slim-Line USB MIDI Pads
7. AKAI Professional Fire
Most Versatile MIDI Drum Pad
- Well-made and reasonably priced
- Excellent for manual sequencing
- Equipped with state-of-the-art technology and features
- Pads and knobs are completely customizable
- Excellent price
- Only two velocity levels
AKAI Professional Fire is a powerful device. It’s a stunning sight to see. It would be an enormous understatement to say that the red lines provide an amazing, graceful touch to the black finish, which brings out the best in the RGB pads. It is probably one of the best midi pad controllers available and is worth every penny.
We found that it’s constructed from sturdy materials, so it should last you a long time—with regular upkeep, of course. The fact that the Akai Professional Fire is preloaded with so many high-end extras is only one of the reasons why it is the controller of choice for so many experts. The main characteristics of this Studio controller are the MIDI controller, the vivid OLED display, and the accompanying software.
The Fire FL Studio controller has four rotary knobs that you may program for different functions. Their defaults control the volume, pan, filter/EQ, and resonance. This knob is fully adjustable and may be set to your specifications. Performance-wise, Akai’s Professional Fire is very versatile. You can use it for anything from fooling around with your first tunes to performing as a professional DJ at the fanciest events.
In conclusion, when it comes to controllers, the Akai Professional Fire is among the most well-designed, flexible, and feature-packed options available, at least until a new wireless controller becomes available. So if you’re in the market for a workstation emulation, you owe it to yourself to take a look at this one since it’s reasonably priced, complete, and a bargain.
View on Amazon: AKAI Professional Fire
Frequently Asked Questions About MIDI Drum Pads
Yes, it is possible to play drums on a MIDI keyboard; you will, however, need to program it. More high-end MIDI keyboards come with drum pads.
If you want to make your beat-tracking process easier, drum pads are worth your money. However, it is far simpler to record drum parts performed on a MIDI drum pad than to manually input them into a piano roll editor or on-screen keyboard.
MIDI drum pads feature no keys. Instead, you use them by hitting them with your fingers or a stick since they have padding to protect them. You can use these devices with various virtual instruments and sequencing software.
We created this detailed guide to assist you in selecting a MIDI drum pad. If you want our recommendation, go no further than the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3, which has everything you need to make killer beats.
Be careful and choose a drum pad most suited for the kind of music you like to create. You’ll be able to maximize your return on investment this way.