April 2, 2013

Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad Review

Its been close to a decade since we last saw a sampling pad from Roland with the SPD-S. The latest version in this sampling pad line, the Roland SPD-SX, is the combination of features from Roland’s own engineers as well as those requested by the public in terms of what they wanted to see on a sampling pad. Sampling pads are nothing new in the world of digital based percussion but with new crops of rock bands and electronic music makers using them in live scenarios, more and more drummers are starting to utilize the expansive technology within pad triggered sampling devices. For drummers looking to expand their pallet, this is a great tool which you can completely customize so you can leave the laptop at home.

So maybe you’re a DJ looking to add more dynamics to your live set, or maybe you’re a drummer who wants to launch samples or backing tracks into your performance with total control over those samples, or maybe you just want to expand your existing kit for an affordable price. Whatever the scenario, the Roland SPD-SX has a great set of sampling pads that you should take a closer look at, and we’ll tell you why:

Things We Liked


Cue samples included in the brain or load your own samples.

Cue samples included in the brain or load your own samples.

The pads on the Roland SPD-SX feel great. They have a fantastic response at varying levels of velocity, and have a nice rebound for performing even the most intricate of drum roll. The great thing about the pads when cueing samples is they will not bleed into the next sample or lag from the previous. So even if your hit is off, you will be in synch to the meter you have assigned within the module. This is especially useful for live performances so you don’t have to worry about cueing everything perfectly in time. A real standout feature is the ability to send audio to headphones without sending it to the front of house mix. You can preview samples with the headphone out and you can pump a click track, all without having anyone hear it but you. This is incredibly functional for performance applications.

You can sample in real time as Trevor shows off with an iPhone plugged into the SPD-SX, but what you will probably want to load your own samples on to the Roland SPD-SX with the included Wave Manager software. This software application allows you to load, name, and save a sample library which you can then import into the SPD-SX. There are 2GB of storage space on the module itself which should be plenty of space for a large one shot library or an average sized library of samples. The software is incredibly simplistic with many of the features being drag and drop, and there isn’t a whole lot in the way of options with Wave Manager. It works great as a tool for loading, organizing, and naming your samples and we were glad to see Roland didn’t try to do anything extra fancy in that regard. You can also connect the Roland SPD-SX to your computer via USB and use it for recording MIDI. Drummers who also work in the studio will find this exceptionally useful as a means of getting drum tracks recorded with a feel closer to drums than a keyboard or a finger drum, pad based alternative. The fact that it won’t take up as much space as a full electronic drum kit will be very appealing to those that work in a home studio.

Things That Could Have Been Better

The I/O is pretty solid but it would have been nice to see an XLR mic input too.

The I/O is pretty solid but it would have been nice to see an XLR mic input too.

While the SPD-SX has some great features that can accomodate the needs of nearly any style of drummer, there are a few things which we would have liked to see that weren’t included on this go round. The I/O on the SPD-SX is rather limited for our preferences. We would have liked to see more in the way of inputs. For instance an XLR input for live vocal sampling would have been a cool feature. A workaround for this is the audio in which once a microphone is connected to a mixer then run into the SPD-SX audio in should solve that problem, and should be a setup worth considering if you are looking to get an SPD-SX.

The SPD-SX is really built for you to load your own samples via the Wave Manager software. It was a bit of a disappointment to see that there were only 16 ready made kits included on the SPD-SX brain. In addition most of the kits are loaded with synth, guitar, and other instrument loops that in all honesty don’t really do the SPD-SX or Roland any justice. If the library was a little more extensive, the SPD-SX could lend itself to being more of an all in one drum sampling device in addition to a blank template for you to go in and load with sounds. Not a deal breaker, but a limitation to note nonetheless. In addition the menu functions when it comes to selecting and loading kits or manipulating it with effects is less than desirable. This is pretty typical on drum pad devices from various manufacturers where the internal menu selections are rather clunky and less than functional.

Bottom Line

The truth of the matter is that this is a much more practical tool for the DJ or percussionist who has more freedom when it comes to hunting down menu functions and triggering samples. This is not to say that a drummer won’t find this useful for many applications, but typically drummers with a full kit are focused on so many other things, and the SPD-SX has the potential to detract attention away from those other things. I wouldn’t recommend a drummer bring this out to a gig without first doing some extensive practice with the unit and how it functions practically for their stage applications. Trevor makes many of the functions look easy which are intuitive and very simplistic when operating, but that is of course assuming that you know what you want to do and you know how to do it. You’re not going to get the full potential out of the SPD-SX in a live setting without a fairly advanced understanding of the menu architecture and how all the functions operate practically. But you may not need to exploit all that potential but just need an easy to use sampling pad that takes up very little real estate. If that’s the case then the SPD-SX is one of the best sampling pads on the market.

If you are in the market for a pad to launch samples or a set of pads to add unique sounds to your performance, you really can’t go wrong with the Roland SPD-SX. The open nature of the Wave Manager software makes your potential sound pallet limitless so you won’t be stuck with the built in sounds like other pad triggered devices. In addition the I/O is extensive enough to make it practical in nearly any performance setting. After getting familiar with the Roland SPD-SX, you’re going to find it has some great features that you won’t find on any other comparable device.

Go to if you want to find out more information about the Roland SPD-SX, or if you want to purchase one for yourself.



Hey everybody my name’s Trevor Root. I am here from Roland hanging out with my buddies UniqueSquared. I am here to talk about the new SPD-SX sampling pad. This is a really hot piece on the market. It’s the only sampling pad on the market. It also has over 3 hours of sampling time right in this brain. Some really cool things about it: You get a Wave Manager software disk right out of the box. You pop it into your computer. All your samples pull up on the left side. You can drag and drop them, name your patches, and save them via USB. Some other great features is designated effects section. So now you can apply your own effects like a DJ on it. You also have a designated headphone out. So as you’re playing live you can hear a click and not send it to the front of house.
Now let’s talk about how great it sounds. We have some preset sounds in here that I am going to play for you. It’s really more used for you to upload your own samples but let me show you a little cool patch called S Wobble.
So there you go. You can see how I am playing live acoustic sounds in here but I am also triggering dubstep loops on the top pads. Now the next thing I am going to show you is how to sample into it from your phone in real time and split up a song as it’s playing. I really love this feature. So I am going into sampling, I am going to scroll over to multi sampling, hit enter, and now you’re ready to sample it. It’s as easy as that. I cue my song up. It’s ready to go. Hit my levels. Now as soon as I hit, strike the pad, it’s going to start sampling from that point. So here’s my tune. Now I am going to start sampling. Stop it. I have my nine samples split up on the pads. All I am going to do is save it. It saves it to the next available kit. Really simple. And now I can go back and manipulate the song in the way I want to. Done sampling. So here we go.
There you go. You can add effects to it after that. Manipulate it any way you want. It’s an awesome piece. Everyone is using it. Check it out. If you have any more questions go to