octapad1

A lot of the music tech industry involves incremental improvements and fairly routine hardware. Amidst the crowd, certain devices are special. They might not even appear so to a general audience, but they have a special place in someone’s music making.

For whatever reason, some Roland percussion controllers fit in that category. As electronic musicians ponder how to make live performance work, the handful with adept percussion skills can pick up one of these boxes and play hard.

So, while it was overlooked by most folks, I think one of the stars of the new gear announced this week at NAMM may well prove to be the Octapad SPD-30. It’s a long-awaited improvement on the SPD-20. (As it happens, I was just talking to an SPD-20 owner about how he wanted a new version.) Specs on the new model:

  • Updated triggers, based on the current-gen V-Drums. These really are quite amazing, in the ballpark of the kind of response you get from high-end, custom hardware, but in a pretty affordable box.
  • New phrase looping features that turn this into a real performance instrument. The previous Octapad worked as a controller and a sound source, but now it can be a self-contained performance tool, which could also nicely complement a laptop setup. And as you can see in the demo, it can loop effects changes as well as notes, getting you into Korg KAOSS category — only with a serious percussion instrument.
  • USB for MIDI, backup connectivity. Standard on newer Roland hardware, but new to the Octapad.

I normally hate demos, but the Roland rep demoing the SPD-30 was great:


And this is in addition to layering features and drum trigger inputs familiar from the Octapad. It all makes me want to practice my percussion chops. Also, unlike the original Octapad – and updated from the most recent SPD-20 – you get a bunch of internal sounds on this instrument, too. Now, that said, I’m not a seasoned Octapad/SPD owner, so I’ll be curious to hear from SPD-20 (or earlier) models if this addresses what you wanted out of a newer year — or not. Be honest and tell us what you really thi– uh, okay, judging by recent comments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s easy to complain about the iterative nature of gear shown at NAMM, but some hardware is worth revising over time.

Pricing: Already seeing US$699 from a couple of outlets.

SPD-30 Product Info [Roland]

octapad2

  • lematt

    ok but why not putting some sample slots in it ? (like in the SPD S )

    what if want to have a laptop-free rig ? it's ridiculous.

    usb midi is not a really innovative feature… and a lot of laptop musicians want to play their laptop-made tracks, but without the laptop (bugs, crashes, and so on is not really good on stage)

    that year at NAMM is not a really creative year for Roland !

  • myfriendtheZebra

    What a fun demo!

    I think all exhibitors at NAMM should have been this fun. I get sick of the same virtuoso robotic shit that happens at every booth.

    This looks like a welcome addition to the Octapad. I'm not a percussionist, but this seems really expensive for most of my friends, who would rather get a Controlpad from Alesis and use laptop sounds.

  • Jonas Delfs

    I really want to like this – I've been wanting a more up-to-date take on an electronic percussion instrument for quite a while.

    But the problem with this one is: you can't load your own samples onto it! I know, the Octapad never meant to be a sampler, – and I think it's fine that it comes with a lot of sounds – but preloaded samples doesn't cut it, and $699 is way too expensive if you end up using it just as a MIDI-controller.

    Sigh.

  • Mastah Lee

    Nice, that's how you do a product demo! After all the videos of vendor reps man-handling their gear while sheepishly muttering "Well, I'm not very good…but you get the idea…" its refreshing to see a guy that can really show off a device. If Roland just put some dude there who hit each pad one at a time to "demonstrate its abilities", I wouldn't think twice about this thing. Now I want one, even though I could never make it sound that good.

  • http://fallsastar.com Foosnark

    For the price, I am much more intrigued by the new Korg Wavedrum.

  • http://regend.com regend

    I'll go out on a limb and say the SPD-S is probably a better instrument that is more geared for professional musicians even though

    the construction of it may not be as robust as it needs to be. Whilst the SPD-20 and 30 had nice pads and some interesting features

    the drummers I've played with complain that the construction is for home and studios and not road worthy. Mainly it's because accuracy counts

    with the SPD-20/30. The SPD-S has pads on the edges and the center pads go closer to the edge. The SPD-S samples. That's key. Although the Memory Card

    is outdated and USB would be welcome when a drummer needs to wail on a set of pads the SPD-S just seems like a better design.

    There's a great drummer out of LA named Cesar Ventura who uses it. Check out the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN70PGMRoFI

  • atari5200

    I agree with Jonas, this is a cool thing, but the lack of user samples and the price makes it much less appealing. I'm not a percussionist by any means but I have an old SPD-11 that I use to add some humanization to my drum parts and I love it. But I could care less about Roland's stock sounds, so aside from the pattern recording there's little to justify the price.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Nope, I hear you — I think if you want samples, you need to go to the computer. That said, my understanding is that these are higher-quality triggers than what you get out of the Alesis. So it could still be worth it for some. I like the idea of an SPS-30-S with custom sampling capabilities, though.

    Of course, if you're unimpressed, this could mean it's a good time to go shopping for a good-condition, used/refurb/overstock SPD-20. MIDI only, but odds are you've got MIDI DIN's on your audio interface.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    as a drummer/percussionist/programmer (both acoustic & digital) going back to the mid 80's with the Alesis HR-16 and an SPD-20 a few years later, and current owner of an Alesis Controlpad, i can say that the construction quality/durability of this thing appears to be far superior to these older products. on the roland website, you can see the same dude doing demo's and he's pounding away (with no cross-triggering messing up the picture), and that IS a big deal if you play acoustic drums, and don't want to have to play percussion with kid gloves.

    also, thank goodness they also lifted the pads way up off the base of the machine, so you really CAN"T hit the high-impact plastic unless you're really physically retarded. (a simple but profound design decision)

    i could definitely do without the gimmicky synth patches, but having access to a very large library of percussion instruments is definitely a big turn-on for a percussionist. Also, you appear to be able to do a fair amount of tweaking to the sounds, and then you can use FX to further sculpt your own sound.

    but like others have mentioned, why on earth wouldn't you include simple sample uploading???!!!! i mean, it even has a USB key plug for easy upload of your favorite samples (if they'd included the functionality), that right now only stores rhythm phrases (and it's unclear if these phrases are actually MIDI files that could/should be transferrable to your PC)

    i really don't get how these big instrument makers can be so tone-deaf to the world's embrace of sampling. it would certainly extend the instrument profoundly, and judging by previous comments, also make it appealing to a much larger group of consumers. really kinda blows my mind— like who the F**K are these retards (i know they're probably smarter than me) designing a high-quality electronic drum pad in the year 2010 without sampling capability?!?!? (at least the ability to upload your own samples) jeeeeeeeeeezzus!

    i would have to play one in person and feel it in action to make an honest judgment about the pricing — likely (hopefully) it will be available in the high $500's. if it had sample-using / sampling capability, yeah, it would be worth that for sure

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k – PS

    i bought my Controlpad intending to trigger my stormdrum2 sample library, but found out that the latency makes it impossible to "play" the stormdrum sounds —- extremely disappointing, frustrating. my workaround: dial up a simpler, or drum rack in LIVE (that has acceptable latency) with a sound close to what i want, record, and then play back the stormdrum samples via midi clips.

    the mystery to me (can anybody help/shed some light??) : why is there no appreciable latency triggering stormdrum from midi files, but ridiculously unplayable latency when triggering via live midi??? obviously these audio threads are processed at different priorities, but the gap in live midi performance latency when using a plug-in (the stormdrum) versus internal LIVE instrument adds up to suckiness.

  • lu

    I can only agree with the majority here. It's ridiculous without sampling capability in 2010.

    And the SPD-S is way too outdated (CF-Card, no USB).

  • http://shaneking.com shane

    That seems like a nice addition to the line. The price is unfortunate considering how much a low-end v-drum system costs. Having an Octapad with nice pads would be a change. I have an original Octapad (still going strong) and the Pad-80 (some minor problems that I'm sorting out) and they are indispensable to me. I use one onstage for melodic synth (and sample) lines, never for drums actually. Being an electronic act I find it more fun and more visually appealing to play some of my songs on drum pads.

    For the price it does seem that it should have sample play back ability. That is a curious omission.

    On a related note, I tried the Ax-Synth and absolutely hated it. Roland made a dog with that thing.

  • http://www.noisetheorem.com Tony

    I was initially very intersted, but for my money, the new Yamaha unit has all of this plus sample memory and USB storage. And they are going to street for about the same price? I think Roland missed the game on this one.

  • http://www.prospectmusic.com Jonathan F

    I was about to bust out the credit card and pre-order.

    However no sampling makes this thing a slightly overpriced drum controller. With a USB connection you'd figure they would have a neat application for your PC/Mac where you can build your instrument kits and quickly dump them in the unit.

    So close but yet so far. Thoroughly bummed.

  • http://www.sunnyzipcodes.com Sunny Zip Codes

    As Regend said the SPD-S($450)is the way to go, It has both sampling and midi controller capabilities.

    Peter – I have a SPD-S using a Midi Din adapter to USB,(25 bucks) hooked to a macbook, using Live with NI Battery and it is all what you should need. Roland again is not listening to customers and trends. In that regard I think Akai and Novation are really doing a great job.

  • PooPoo the Korruptah

    yes, but like everything it needs the ability to load your own sounds or others samples into it.

  • http://ideletemyselfbitbyebit.blogspot.com/ ideletemyself

    I really really like this for some reason… Maybe because it's WAY awesome!

    There's just SO many new pieces of music equipment coming out or out already that I NEED!!! LOL.

  • kev

    That was a cool video, but Yamaha has a unit out called the DTX-Multi12 that kills. You can do everything that the updated roland can do as well as load your OWN samples! Check out the videos on their site…

    http://www.yamahasynth.com/products/electronic_dr

  • Cubestar

    I don't care about the octopad, I just want that dude in my studio making me all excited about my mundane shit!

  • lu

    thanks for letting know about the yamaha

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john k

    @cubestar: that's hilarious! (because it's true)

  • http://www.dartanyan.com Dartanyan

    Maybe someone out there can cite the layer/split capabilities of this Roland box. Something tells me that there are some talents built into it that the more curious among us could create some magic with. For me, being able to smoothly trigger Battery on the MBPro with it is a godsend. I suspect the better percussionist you are, the more you'll appreciate this thing. flam-a-diddles anyone? Version 2 will have the sample/load capability–if this one sells. =-)

    Again, thanx peter for the forum.

  • Polite

    Loved the demo.

    I'm considering picking one of these up anyway. I have been wanting to add the 20 to my set up for a while. I'm sure I can trigger samples off of one of my samplers if I really need to.

  • botypoker

    i think the yamaha is more interesting, and capable and better designed. more sensitive too,

    http://www.yamahasynth.com/products/electronic_dr

  • Divarre

    The yamaha looks more interesting because of the 12 pads, the ability to use your own samples… but the factory sounds really sound like it comes from some kind of toy…

    The roland sounds great, even without loading your own samples. And it looks more robust.

    I was considering getting an SPD-S one of these days. I need to try both the SPD-30 and the DTX-multi12 before, but I'll maybe stop waiting and end up getting a SPD-S after all !

  • velocipede

    I am embarrassed to say how many times I watched this guy do the demo. His performance/demo really was a highlight of the show for me. I was inspired to uncover my Handsonic when I got home.

    I tried the SPD-30 a couple of times. It was fairly intuitive and I could figure out how to do most of what he was doing. In the process I realized that in the right hands, it is a great device. I can understand complaints about lack of sampling, but if you consider what you can do with all the built in effects, you basically have a percussion synth with a huge capacity to generate "electronic" sounds. This is similar to the Handsonic 15.

    After much consideration, I realized that I really enjoy playing with sticks, but that I would be better starting out with something like the affordable Alesis Control Pad. If I played live or had lots of cash, I would certainly consider the new Octapad.

    The new Yamaha percussion device also seemed quite capable, but I could not grok its capabilities without a manual. There was no one providing a demo in the hall either to show it off. A percussionist who I saw spend at least half an hour with both of these devices (even brought his own brushes!) said he preferred the Yamaha over the Roland. One data point.

  • Zombloke

    Ok, so it's not a sampler, but it's got a load of sounds, all pretty customisable and the range of effects and the ability to crossfade would give a huge array of options for each pad. Also, I've owned an SPD-S and I found the task of finding or making suitable sounds (and I'm mainly talking about single, percussive hits) to be a bit of a labour intensive pain, time that could have been spent actually playing. “Making do” with the (potentially vast) library of on-board sounds and effects from the SPD-30 has got to be far quicker and easier than questing for that elusive perfect sound. I suspect most people using such a module will just want fairly standard percussion or drum kit samples which this should be able provide in spade fulls (I've also owned a Mandala drum and found it far too avantgarde for practical use). I can't help thinking that when it comes to percussion pads less actually may be more.

    The SPD-30 can also stack different sounds on top of each other (not sure how many yet) and crossfade between them according to the velocity at which it is played, whereas the SPD-S just switches between two with no crossfade whatsoever. I think this is a big advantage the SPD-30 has over the SPD-S, making it a far more expressive percussion instrument.

    The really good thing about it having usb, to my mind, is it's ability to easily upload what ever new sounds, OS and bug fixes Roland may choose to release in the future (unlike Korg's Wavedrum, which is unable to do this, a fact that ultimately led to me not buying one). I only hope it means you can export/import your own custom made patches and kits.

    From my point of view (live drummer looking to augment accoustic kit) the SPD-30 is currently the best choice in it's price range and maybe even beyond it.

    And if you really need a sampler, just plug one into the midi port. The pads alone on this are worth having (from a drummer's perspective) even if you never use the onboard sounds.

  • http://www.charlesmartin.com.au Charles

    I've had an SPD-20 for 5 years and taken it to a lot of gigs. I used to use the SPD-20 and some extra pads as my only instrument on tour with a band. I currently use it with a pedal and pads plus real snare drum and cymbals to make a hybrid drumset.

    SPD-30 looks cool! I like the size, looks smaller than the yamaha instrument, certainly smaller than my SPD-20 which doesn't fit into any normal kind of bag.

    New pads are interesting, the SPD-20 pads don't work at all with hands, unlike my malletkat for example. I'd like to try one out and see how good they are.

    Updated sounds and the looping feature could make this a lot of fun to play.

    SPD-S is so hard to program it's not worth the effort. I find the 9 pads kind of an awkward arrangement as well.

    I thought about buying a Korg Wavedrum recently but I felt the interface was just too dated and difficult to consider given that programming interesting sound is the core of that instrument.

    + even though it doesn't make sense for the wavedrum to have MIDI. I want MIDI. Actually, I want OSC. The wavedrum should have an Ethernet port to send OSC.

    Roland seems to have put some effort into making a new interface for the SPD-30 and in thinking about people who might want to buy it – probably DJs and Percussionists. All the knob twirling and button pressing makes it seem a bit fiddly for drummers who would need to keep three other limbs going while pressing record.

    I might buy one if it's impressive in person.

  • SWITCHEESE!

    So, in simple ways,

    what does sampling capability mean?

    We can only use the sounds provided in itself only?

    or, we can also program it from pc/mac then put it in the box?

  • daemo

    I believe its a case of the right tool for the right job.

    I'm sure the will eventually do a firmware update for loading samples once enough people purchase the spd 30 and moan about this lack of asset. I don't think i would use the loop function much, but as stable all in one i feel its quite phenomenal. The only better option is the much more expensive Drum Kat and a midi sound device.

    As a portable power house to grab random sounds to add to a live gig for a drummer or percussionist, it is perfect…. Thank god the wife is lending me the dosh to get it.

    My main use for it is to trigger a better sound than all these shitty backline kits in england, and trigger some guitar samples via a macbook.

    Done and dusted i say

  • cubbi

    I almost thought that Roland's Octapad SPD-30 was a God send … it is pretty amazing … but SO SO unbelievably frustrating that you can't load your own samples… RIDICULOUS…

    I would definitely buy the SPD-30 if it had if you could load up just a few samples… BUT -

    It's looking like it'll have to be the less glamourous Yamaha dtx-multi 12 … purely because I can load up my own drum samples.

    SORT IT OUT ROLAND!

  • nes

    i need roland spd30 connect with pc and setting pad with pc i

  • TF

    The fact that Roland missed the sample upload is completely ridiculous. Yes, it shoild've been the SDS-S Mark 2 or SPD-30S or something like that. I too want to be laptop free on stage…man, we drummers have enough stuff to bring to gigs…That's why a few months ago I bought the Yamaha Multi-12 and guess what? It sucks. I returned it within a week. I spent hours with it. I have owned countless pieces of gear. Yamaha RX 5, Roland TR707, KORG S3, Roland R8, Roland PAD-80, Roland R-70, Yamaha DTS-70, Roland TDK-12K V Drums, etc…The DTX Multi 12 has THE worst, least intuitive operating system on earth. The LCD screen size is the SAME size as the RX5 from 1987…seriously. The pads are good if your killing them, but careful cuz they'll crosstalk at 120 velocity and up. The Multi 12 has all the specs but no show.

  • Selas

    Anybody know if it's possible to trigger my redrum or kong drum designer (reason 5) directly through the octapad?

    Really want to know this before buying one…