April 8, 2013

Roland SPD-30 Octapad and BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad Review

The last video in our series of Roland electronic drum videos has Trevor Root showing off the Roland SPD-30 Octapad and the Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger. The SPD-30 Octapad is similar but also very different when compared to the Roland SPD-SX. The looping features are similar but you get a lot more sounds inside the Octapad. The main difference between the two are that the SPD-SX is meant for loading in your own sounds, while the SPD-30 Octapad is loaded with tons of its own percussion and FX sounds. The BT-1 Bar Trigger pad is a simple trigger for either expanding your existing electronic drum or drum pad setup. It can also function as a simple solution for adding electronic elements to your existing drum kit. Here is our review of both the Roland SPD-30 Octapad and the Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad.

Roland SPD-30 Octapad

We had a lot of fun with the dual sound layers and phrase loop features.

We had a lot of fun with the dual sound layers and phrase loop features.

Things We Liked

The first thing you’ll notice about the Octapad are the sounds. As opposed to the Roland SPD-SX we reviewed, the included sound library on the SPD-30 Octapad is way more expressive, expansive, and

useful. While it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges (the SPD-SX is meant to be loaded with your own sounds), one of our hangups with the SPD-SX was that the sounds were rather limited and frankly subpar at best. With the Octapad however, you get a large library with some really great percussion sounds and effects.

The pads have a really nice sensitivity to them. They can even be played with your hands instead of sticks and still react with all the velocity sensitivity that comes from stick dynamics. When the pads are struck, there is no bleed between sounds so you can strike between all 8 of your preset sounds without worrying about suddenly stopping a sound from decaying naturally. The pads have 2 layers of sound based on how hard you strike the pad. Lighter strikes will give you the selected sound but heavier strikes will give you two sounds simultaneously. To give you an example, when you strike the cymbals at a high velocity in the Groovin’ Drums preset you will get a kick and a cymbal sound. In addition the X-Fade feature will make for a more natural tone by fading out one sound and bringing up another as you increase the velocity at which you strike the pad.

For us the staple feature on the Octapad has to be the Phrase Loop. Not only can you build your own live performance based loops, but you can also mute and un mute specific parts of that loop to create dynamic performances all from the SPD-30. This may have more appeal to a DJ or percussionist than a drummer as many of these functions are difficult to execute without two hands and on the fly. The SPD-30 is a lot of fun to play around with as there are so many options for sounds and you can create some really cool loops with tons of drum parts layered on top of one another. While the Roland SPD-30 does have some great features, there are a few things that we felt were lacking.

As with most drum pads and sampling devices, the I/O is rather limited.

As with most drum pads and sampling devices, the I/O is rather limited.

Things That Could Have Been Better

One thing to note about the SPD-30 Octapad is that the pads themselves are rather loud when you strike them. In fact a typical drum practice pad is going to be quieter than the Octapad. This may not make any difference to you if you are going to be using this in strictly a live setting. If you are someone who will be using this in the home as a practice tool, or perhaps preparing the Ocatapad for your gig, it is worth mentioning that the pads do put out substantial noise on their own.

The knobs that Trevor uses to control the FX parameters in the videos feel nice and have a good response, but they are spaced rather close together making the performance aspect of using the knobs a little on the clunky side. It’s not impossible to have tight control with the knobs, but it would have been nice to have them spaced a little more appropriately nonetheless. It did seem rather limiting that you could not store your own sounds on the SPD-30 like you can on the SPD-SX, but then again they are separate devices with separate functionality for a reason. With that said, it would be nice to see the next generation of drum pads or samplers be more of an all in one design with a great sound library and the ability to load in samples with ease.

BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad

Great for launching samples or expanding your electronic kit.

Great for launching samples or expanding your electronic kit.

In addition to the SPD-30, Trevor showed off the new Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad. The BT-1 connects via 1/4 inch jack into a module like the SPD-30 or really any drum module you have. Its perfect for those looking to expand on their existing electronic drum kits, but its also great for the drummer that wants to trigger samples or keep it simple when adding electronic percussion to their existing acoustic setup. The pad has a nice response but its not really meant for vigorous playing and you would be hard pressed to do any significant rudimental techniques outside of single stroke methods. Its very small coming in at around 6 inches wide and weighing just under a pound. Its a great tool for throwing in your gig bag and taking with you and its universal applicability makes it very appealing.

If you are looking for a set of pads with some great built in sounds then the Roland SPD-30 Octapad is definitely worth looking at. For a trigger pad that can be concealed, on a stand or mounted to a drum, respond well to hits, and at an affordable price, I highly recommend the Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad.



Hey Everybody. My name’s Trevor Root. I’m from Roland and I’m hanging out with my buddies at UniqueSquared, and I’m going to show you the new SPD-30 Octapad. We also have a new bar trigger pad called the BT-1 so be looking out for that at First thing it has over 600 expressive and dynamic sounds built into this thing. You can expand this into a full electronic drum kit with a hi hat control pedal, you know kick drum pad, ride cymbals, snare drum. And then my favorite feature is the loop phrase feature and I am going to be showing that to you in just on second.
Ok so lets talk about the sounds. Here is a little symphonic percussion sound. Let me play it for you. Extremely dynamic. Snare, timpani. Check it out. So you can see all the dynamic range that’s built into here. Here’s some timpani. Check this out. This is called Mysterious. It has some huge, fat, special effects sounds. Very cool stuff there. Sitar. All dual layered pads here. So if you play it pianissimo you can get one sound and if you play it fortissimo, you can get another sound or two sounds layered together. Very cool.
Now let’s jump to my favorite part, the loop phrase section. I am going to go ahead and select my bass line and kick of a 4 bar loop. So I’m going to hit standby, hit click. Now I got three sections to work with. Here’s my first part. Now I am going to pick a drum beat. Let’s get something fat and electro. Bam. Alright how about part three. How about we do like a tabla. Alright now I got all three parts going at the same time. Now let’s do a little bit of editing. I am going to go and mute some parts out so let’s grab our drums and take out our drum part. Bam. So I got my percussion and my synth track going. Now let’s take out the percussion part. Back to my bass line. Just groovin. Alright now lets add the kick drum. Maybe bring the hi hat back in. Snare. Just building that groove. Bring everything back in. Let’s bring the percussion back in. Maybe use a little BT-1. Ok now the last thing I’m going to do is my designated effects section, I’m going to apply to my drum kit sounds. So I hit my effects button, now I’m just going to tweak it out. Now I’ve tweaked it out with the effects, I got all kinds of stuff going on. It’s hot.
There you go. I dare you to go and be creative and make your own loops. If you have any more questions about the SPD-30 or the BT-1, please go to