The Alesis Performance Pad may look very similar to the company’s Control Pad (albeit with an inverted colour scheme), but rather than simply being a MIDI controller, it also contains its own drum sounds.
There are 50 kits in total, with space for you to create 50 more presets by assigning any of the 233 sounds in whichever way you fancy. There are simple stereo outputs and a line input (so you can connect an iPod, for example) and also the option to add hi-hat and kick drum pedals (though these aren't included).
Alas, the pedal inputs are simply switches and so not particularly great for playing anything other than simple patterns.
The pads feel comfortably similar to other eight-pad triggers – and give you a reasonable sense of realism – though there's sometimes a bit of accidental cross-triggering, whereby one pad triggers another’s sound. However, this is something that can happen with many piezo-style triggers; it generally occurs when the sticks hit away from the centre of the pads.
On the plus side, the pads feel like they could stand up to sustained long-term use. In fact, it's only when you get to the built-in sounds that the Performance Pad starts to disappoint.
Alesis seems to have simply included the guts of the old SR16 drum machine, which is massively outdated. This puts the unit in a very weird place: it feels like a device that’s aimed neither at beginners or pros, with the mixed feature set feeling just a bit uncomfortable in the studio.
The Performance Pad is certainly great fun, and the fact that you can use it without a computer makes it a potentially valuable accompaniment to a real kit, or a useful device for perfecting your paradiddle on.
When it comes to production work, though, the tired built-in drum sounds mean that the Performance Pad is best thought of as a MIDI trigger. Then again, it’s nowhere near ﬂexible enough for proper studio use, with no separate outputs for individual drum elements and no MIDI In. There's not even the standard MIDI-over-USB connection for hooking it up directly to your computer.
All of which means that it's hard to recommend the Performance Pad when, for the amount it costs, you could buy an SR16 and the Alesis Control Pad (and save a few pennies for a rainy day).