Best Electronic Drum Controllers in 2020

Alesis Strike Multipad | 9-Trigger Percussion Pad with RGB Backlighting, Sampler, Looper, On-Board 2-In/2-Out Soundcard, Sample loading via USB Thumb Drives and Radiant 4.3-Inch Display Review:

I've had my Alesis Strike for about 2 weeks now, and I have used most of the key features. The quality of the sounds and loops is amazing! This is a really impressive machine and is very rugged. I also ordered the stand attachment to attach it to a cymbal stand which is very sturdy as well. The preloaded kits sound great, and I like the ability to copy a kit to my user collection to edit. The custom lighting options are more than cool - They are useful, especially when tracking the length of a loop with the progress light - or if the bass drum is always blue to find it easier. There are thousands of high quality sounds and loops, and they are editable in several ways. Recording custom sounds is simple. I thought the volume of my samples was very low until I found the "normalize" option in EDIT mode which brought them back to loud and clear. Recording loops is super fun and simple! If you download a karaoke track (mp3) and import it into Audacity, you can export it as a .wav file to USB and assign it to a pad. This allows you to sing live and "jam" on the other pads with a great sounding background track - Really fun and super high quality. Kudos to Alesis for this fine product!!

Akai Professional MPC Studio Black Music Production Controller with 7+GB Sound Library Download with AmazonBasics 4-Port USB Review:

I wish Akai & the DAW “Reason” could seamlessly work together. Been using both since the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
And you CANNOT upgrade the MPC software to 2.0 with this purchase. Unless you buy it from a verified dealer such as Guitar Center or Sweerwater, you must pay $99 for the software upgrade. This comes with the MPC 1.9 software. I tried to upgrade, but couldn’t. So I paid Akai $99 for the upgrade on their website. The 2.0 software definitely works better, & more features.

ddrum DDTi Drum Pad and Trigger Interface Review:

This works perfectly as my home e-kit trigger module. It's easier to set up than my old Alesis DM5 thanks to the responsive buttons. You just have to go through each trigger input individually and tweak each setting until the responsiveness is right. Up to 10 triggers can be used. Powered over the USB connection? Yes please!

I use my extra Ddrum Dominion kit with triggered mesh heads, and my cymbals are just plastic frisbees with piezos attached. This ultra cheap setup works great! I run it into Sonar X3 session drummer and have almost no latency. Any issues with latency are probably computer and/or software related. If you have that problem, try using ASIO4ALL as your audio driver. Between that and adjusting buffers in my Sonar settings, I got this setup to work perfectly.

Also, you can download Cakewalk Sonar Platinum for free now that it was purchased by Bandlab so that saves you money too 👍

Roland Electronic Drum Controller (HPD-20) Review:

Works for me! Has a lot of sounds I won't use, but it has a lot that I will and do! Easy to learn, configurable, and awesome velocity/sensitivity. I can also play some melodic instruments like bells, gongs, santoor, crotales, etc -- all tuneable to whatever notes/scale(s) you want. Pretty much something for everyone with this and has the Roland quality. You can also set your MIDI to be master or slave so it can synch with any of your other devices. Generally better than the Korg Wavedrum, but honestly they have different enough sounds that you could have one of each and get a lot more options. If I had to only choose one, then the HandSonic would be my pick for sure (I bought both and sent the Wavedrum back after trying both out for a week.)

Nord Drum 3P Modeling 6-Channel Percussion Synthesizer Review:

Indisputably beautiful, well-designed, deeply functional modeling synthesizer. It's what you would expect from Nord. However I'm seriously missing independent 1/4" inputs triggers for each of the available 6 channels. This can be addressed with an unfortunately complex midi configuration, but independent ports should have been included in this price category.

Roland Tabletop Synthesizer (INTEGRA-7) Review:

The Roland Integra-7 is the culmination of a few decades of sound generation talent at Roland, combining the best of all their major past synths, especially the JV and XV lines, + all the expansion cards loaded in and included.

I've used this unit heavily since it came out and already realize that, no matter what sound I'm looking for, it will be in this unit. With thousands of sounds, there a so many of each type of sound, that you can't help but find exactly what you want. The newest sounds that Roland added, which Roland calls "Supernatural", have a little more clarity and treble end than the previous generations' units. I suspect they have been sampled at a higher spec. They have also added some realistic performance controls, such as auto-strumming chords on acoustic guitars, adjusting the growl of each sax note, adding lots of guitar effect sounds on the far left keys of distorted guitar patches, playing horn notes differently if you play legato than not-legato, etc.

I was initially concerned (and there has been some criticism on forums) that you can only load 4 expansion modules at one time. However, every major type of sound is already exhaustively covered in the unit's base sounds so I have found I wasn't using the expansion sounds as much as I thought (I found nearly everything in the base sounds), and the expansion modules are specialized, so you would be unlikely to need more than 4 more modules at one time anyway. For example, if you're in a cover band, you probably won't need the African instruments of the World expansion module, or the woodwinds of the orchestral, or the film scoring sound effects expansion. And there are already many of all the sound categories in in the base sounds. With 4 expansion modules loaded, there are so many sounds that it can be almost overwhelming anyway. Fortunately Roland has always had a "tone finder" button which lets you audition all the sounds in a category. So don't worry about not loading more than 4 expansion modules--trust me that you will never think to yourself that you need more sounds to choose from!

The sounds are really excellent, as has always been the mark of Roland products. They are very usable. While it's fun to hear synths that can make a 30 second sound of exploding alien landings, where Roland excels is in top quality usable sounds--pianos, electric pianos, brass, strings, synths of all types, drum kits (the same kits from their well-respected V-Drum line), and tons of usable electronic and hip hop. The expansion boards add more depth in specialized categories exotic world instruments, sound effects, full orchestra, numerous brass instruments, acoustic, distorted, and electric guitars, and hundreds more electronic/techno/hip hop sounds. So if you're in a cover band for example, you'll add different expansion sounds than if you're doing film soundtracks. It's easier (for me at least) to quickly audition many sounds in a category and find the perfect sound on this unit than with a bunch of software synths.

The new sound engine allows all the effects, including their complex "MFX" effects, to be applied to all 16 MIDI channels, whereas previous generations only had enough power to do that for 1 or 3 channels.

The unit has 128 voices, which in theory could run out if you use many channels with very complex sounds, but I have not heard any dropouts except once when I intentionally made it happen by holding the pedal down and then playing a glissando down the whole keyboard.

A couple of criticisms of the unit:

1) there is no good software editor. The iPad editor works okay, but you can only edit the newer Supernatural sounds, not the older sounds, so is pretty limited. There is also a VSTi plugin but it adjusts surround localization only. I used a software editor with my previous XV-5080 and gave up on it eventually because, in my experience, it is just faster to edit or audition sounds on the synth itself. I position the Integra in a convenient place at eye-level, and can turn a dial or push buttons with one hand and play notes with the other hand to hear the changes almost instantly. Software editors, in my experience, have just enough lag when you make a change to get aggravating after a while. Of course, I'm used to editing Roland synths so editing on the unit goes very fast for me, whereas a new user will take a while to learn their system. I still would like to see a full software editor though, as it is handy for scanning all the parameters at one glance and learning how they made their sounds, or just experimenting, and would make learning the synth easier for many, so if anyone from Roland is reading this, you need to make a full software editor now! In reality, most people will find the available sounds nearly always have what they are looking for and will not have much need for a lot of sound editing anyway.

2)The front panel knobs and buttons are actually not as robust as on the older XV-5080. Presumably to save costs, the screen shows a little less information, and the 8 buttons under the screen from the XV-5080 are gone. In practice, this doesn't slow me down more than a few seconds here and there, but it takes a few more button presses sometimes. Not a deal-breaker, but more of a head scratcher. I guess the other option would have been a higher price.

BOTTOM LINE: The unit is like having Roland Corporation's entire sound generation history in your hands. With thousands of great, top quality patches, the sound you are looking for is in the box. The new "Supernatural" sounds are numerous and are especially clear and detailed sounds. The "tone finder" function helps easily locate that sound you need by having them already sorted by category. While not really designed for heavy editing, sounds can be edited quickly on the unit once you learn it. You can add even more sounds--if you dare!--by loading 4 expansion sound sets, which are included in the unit, to add tons more sounds in the specialty of the type of music you are playing. Perhaps the single word to sum the unit up is "Usable"--Roland has a great track record of making synths and sounds for working musicians. I'm very happy with the Integra-7 and can't imagine anyone would regret getting it. Happy giggig!