ROland SPD-SX Pro Review (Bought and Tested)
Verdict and Review Summary
Easy sampling, tons of control, plenty of memory, and more onboard sounds than you'd even know what to do with give you your money's worth in the SPD-SX Pro. The sensitivity of the touch pads is also extremely well programmed.
I want to get my disclaimer out of the way first.
My specialty is guitar and not drums or percussion.
I'm also an avid bass player and my mind is extremely rhythmic. My lead guitar ability is terrible because I'm always thinking in terms of time and beat, which has led me to an interest in percussion and a keen ability to keep time.
That said, I did the best I could testing this sample pad, so please go easy on me if I didn't use it to your liking. My goal was to give you an overview of the onboard sounds and cover some basic functionality.
In my demo I don't really focus on loops or recording, because that stuff is pretty straightforward. Instead I just kind of tinkered with the pad and went through the loops and the sounds that are loaded onto the device.
It's an out-of-the-box kind of thing.
But in my full Roland SPD-SX Pro review, I'll go over the sounds and functionality to give you an idea of whether or not it's a good fit for your situation.
We'll cover pricing and value as well.
To write this review, we tested the Roland SPD-SX Pro sampling pad in-house, while also using some secondary consultation for the aspects of sampling that we're less familiar with. If you have questions about our review process, feel free to jump in to the comments section below. Also note that we use partner links to support ourselves. If you make a purchase through one of our orange buttons, we might earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Roland SPD-SX Pro Price Guide
Roland SPD-SX Pro price up-to-date as of Wed, June 07th, 2023.
Pricing from Sweetwater
Price Alert Tool
Price History for Roland SPD-SX Pro Sampling Pad
|Current Price||$1,199.99||June 2, 2023|
|Highest Price||$1,199.99||November 23, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$1,199.99||November 23, 2022|
Last price changes
|$1,199.99||November 23, 2022|
IDEAL FOR: Ideal for the studio, electronic music styles, new age rock and metal, live performances, and click tracks.
We do not provide category ratings for percussion gear or sampling pads.
For most of our product reviews we take our own photos, in-house. Thank goodness for portrait mode. For those interested in using these photos, that is completely fine with us as long as you give us credit and don't claim the work as your own. Simply linking to guitarchalk.com near the photo is totally fine.
Bonedo's Video Demo
My Tinkering/Testing Demo
My demo is basically just the tinkering and testing process I went through. I tested the onboard kit sounds and loops while cycling through most of the pad groupings.
There's a ton to explore here so I was just trying to get familiar with the pad. I messed around with the delay effect (there are a bunch more) and figured out how to do some basic EQ and volume control between pads.
Again, I'm not a drummer so take it for what it's worth.
Sound quality of loop tracks and single hit sounds
For the demo, I recorded straight into a Focusrite audio interface connected to my wife's MacBook (which needs to be replaced at this point). GarageBand was my DAW of choice just because it was simple.
Everything sounds great, especially the heavy boom sounds and the kick drums. I didn't love the high hat tones as much because they just seemed a lot quieter than the other sounds. But I'd be splitting hairs to take points off.
I guess I'm just a big fan of bass, and everything bass on this pad sounds great.
The only weird thing I noticed was that volume seemed to be kind of all over the place. In the demo you can see where I was adjusting it through the menu, which is a little bit tricky the first couple of times as there are several steps.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll talk functionality later.
There's a lot of variety within the onboard sounds and I didn't feel like there was anything I needed to add. Here are some of the things that really stood out in terms of audio quality:
- Kick drums
- Electronic rhythm sounds
- Vocal tones
- Bell-like sounds
- DJ scratches
A lot of times I would just run a loop and add the kick drum. Part of that is because I'm not a drummer and just wanted to do something simple, but I do think a lot of the sounds stand well on their own, even if you're not playing the pad like a full kit.
More on volume issues and touch sensitivity
I mentioned the volume variance, which is loosely connected with sound quality, though should be considered in light of the pad sensitivity as well.
If you hit the pad harder, you're going to get a proportionate increase in volume, which is expected (more on that below). But what I kept running into was an inordinate difference in volume as it was set by default, particularly between loops and single hit sounds.
It's far from a deal breaker, but something you might have to tinker with if you're recording a sample or trying to use loops.
Studio monitors and direct recording quality
I tried the Roland SPD-SX Pro through the following outputs:
- Mackie Studio monitors (I think they cost $150, so nothing special)
- The Focusrite Solo audio interface (into GarageBand)
- Audio-Technica headphones going straight into the SPD-SX
- A Mesa Boogie Rectoverb tube amp (used for my guitar)
Yes, I used a guitar amp as a monitor. To be honest, I didn't notice a ton of difference between that and my Mackie studio monitors. But just disregard the lack of professionalism involved in using a guitar amp with a drum pad.
What I was more interested in was the recording quality.
If you watch the demo with headphones on, you'll hear the final result, which I added to the video without any post-production editing.
That's just going straight into GarageBand and recording with minimal EQ tinkering.
No noise issues that I could tell. Bass sounded full and highs sounded crisp.
There was very little to complain about.
Control and Functionality
There are 21 master effects and 20 kit effects, which I messed with more after I did the video. Again, it's tricky to learn how to assign these but the simplest way is to just use the MASTER EFFECT knob, which applies it right away and changes the intensity while the knob is turning.
You can easily cycle through kits, which are assigned different sounds for each pad. I'd recommend using the pad view, which can be engaged with a single button.
This shows you the function of all nine pads.
From there you can see a short description on the display of what each pad is assigned to.
All the menu controls sit to the right of the LED screen, along with the page selector (the VALUE knob). Master value, headphones, and click track controls are positioned to the left of the display and are pretty self-explanatory.
Digital controls on the LED screen are controlled by the buttons below the screen, and the menu controls to the right. It's tricky at first - like I mentioned - with basic functionality like adjusting volume. Though it's certainly possible that I was just going about it in a very inefficient way.
I should add that throughout the process, I only tinkered with different settings and EQ changes, but didn't really find the need to change much.
It's just so much fun to play with the pad as-is.
And since it sounds good, my only reason for tinkering around with those controls was to see what it was capable of.
The main pieces of functionality include the following:
- Volume and EQ control
- Effects control
- Changing/navigating the LED screen view
- Setting volume levels for pads
- Putting together set lists
Getting through the menu is a bit tricky at first.
You need to use multiple buttons to get in to make adjustments to settings for each pad and to change effects. It's going to be a combination of the pad edit knobs, the buttons underneath the display, and the arrow buttons on the right side of the front panel under "pad select."
Pad view, set list, and click track selection can all be set under the main display.
It takes some time to find your way around, but once you do it moves pretty quickly. Since I'm a bit limited when it comes to my percussion abilities, I was kept plenty busy with the onboard sounds.
But the functionality allows more depth with setting up kits, set lists, triggers, kit patches, presets, and a lot more.
Touch pad response
The touch pad can respond to fairly soft hits, though you'll feel like you have to hit a good bit harder with your hands. Because of the heaviness of the pads, this unit is designed to be used with drum sticks as opposed to finger hits, like you might see when people are using these things more for sound effects.
Typically those pads will be smaller and have much softer pads.
You can see a pretty good example of this in DJ Hahn's (Linkin Park) solo from back in 2014.
You can use your hands with the SPD-SX Pro, but you can tell from the heaviness of the pads that it was intended for drum sticks.
Either way, you'll notice that the pads respond really well to the velocity of your shots, getting softer until you're not hitting hard enough to trigger a sound. Harder hits seem proportional as well, and can get really loud.
Value and Price
Older versions of the SPD-SX Pro drop lower in price, seemingly dependent on the following factors:
- Number of onboard sounds
- Amount of internal memory
It appears retail follows memory the same way it would in a computer. Nothing runs up the price of a MacBook quite like adding more RAM or SSD hard drive space. That seems to be the same situation with Roland sampling pads.
The lower tier models drop down to 16 or 4 GB and 900 onboard sounds.
I think the pricing for all these pads is very fair. For lower-level recording and performing, past versions of the SPD-SX might be enough.
But if you plan on banking a lot of material onboard, the 32 GB storage might be worth the upgrade.
In any case, I have no complaints about the price range.
Ideal Fit and Context
The SPD-SX Pro is for mid to pro-level percussionists. I would also add bass players to the mix since you can control a ton of low-end sounds and effects, especially if you're in the new age metal or new age rock space.
Think the following bands:
- Nothing More
- Bring Me the Horizon
- Pop Evil
These bands - among others - add a lot of digital effects, synth sounds, and booming effects. The SPD-SX Pro lets you get in on those sounds, making it a good fit for live performances, recording, and any situation where you want to quickly create percussion loops or unique sound effects.
The Roland SPD-SX Pro is a lot to digest.
And it certainly has a learning curve if you haven't worked with these before, at least if you want to take full advantage of its capabilities.
But what I found is that this percussion pad is just a lot of fun, especially in a time when music is becoming more distinctly electronic. It sounds great and gives you a ton of percussive flexibility.
Now, if you have questions about our Roland SPD-SX Pro review, or even our review process, hit me up in the comments section below and I'll help out as much as possible.
I'll see you there.
Written by Bobby Kittleberger on Recording and Pricing
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