Our pick of the ultimate drum controllers

Our top Picks Drum ControllersNot everyone can have permanent access to beautiful live rooms with high-quality drum kits, heck – not everyone can have a drum kit! But what are you meant to do when you want that ‘live’ feeling of a drum kit actually being played when each hit isn’t snapped to the grid with metronomic precision?

With the release of Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 3, we thought long and hard on how best to use it without having a drum kit at your disposal; these are our top picks on some alternative drum controllers to ensure you get the most out of your virtual drums…


Roland SPD-SX

I’ve seen this pad crop up in so many unexpected places that you wouldn’t believe half of them… As well as a trigger pad to compliment acoustic drum kits I’ve seen the SPD-SX being used in the studio, rigged over keyboard setups, and even take a place of pride inside of DJ booths as both trigger pads and drum performance pads! The SPD-SX does come with a price tag, but for that you are buying a piece of Roland equipment – potentially the most reliable manufacturers for e-drums, let alone everything else they do, ever! The perks of the pads? Three multi-effects engines, audio capture features, velocity sensitivity, 2GB internal memory, MIDI connectivity, and Wave Manager Software.






Maschine Studio / Maschine Mikro Mk2

Every EDM producer will have come across Native Instruments Maschine. This will be the perfect performance pad for those already working with NI products, and are looking for an all-in-one mobile studio to create music and perform with. With whole suites of virtual instruments and drum kits, lots of virtual wiring options for your favourite DAW, and visual feedback for live performances, the Maschine family will serve you well when you’re looking for the all-in-one production/performance tool.





Roland HandSonic HPD-20

Finger drumming with a difference. The Roland HandSonic HPD-20 gives percussionists and performers 13 ultra-sensitive pads to trigger onboard sounds, and MIDI controlled sample libraries. The HandSonic comes armed with a Roll button and D-Beam for hand motion FX control, as well as dynamic pad assignments for performance articulations such as dampen, mute, and tuning percussion such as congas and tabla. If you are looking for an expressive, low footprint instrument, then this is your best bet.





Midifighter 64 / Midifighter 3D

Slightly left of field, DJ Tech Tools founder Ean Golden was one of the pioneers of ‘controllerism’ inside of the DJ communities. Utilising MIDI protocols to make buttons on digital Traktor controllers do things they absolutely shouldn’t be doing (check out this video from the original Traktor S2 release). Looking for another way to use the features in Traktor, DJTT set out to create a controller that was insanely responsive, but also built to last – The MIDI Fighter brand is born. Authentic Japanese arcade buttons gives you what the other controllers wont – 1mm of full movement and the capability to do drum rolls with your fingers. The 3D comes with tilt sensors which was be assigned to FX with MIDI controls, and 16 buttons. If you’re in the market for a few more buttons, then the MIDI Fighter 64 should have you covered nicely…



These controllers will take you from the studio to the stage, and every place in between. From the consummate professional drummer to the novice beat maker, one of these controllers will fit your setup perfectly. For the rest of us, well there’s always the pencil tool in the DAW…

What do you think? Do you own a drum controller or have a particular one on your wishlist? Leave a comment and tell us!

Posted by Garrick Wareham

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