Roland SPD-SX Pro review: What is it?
Sample pads have become the must-have accessory for drummers and can be seen expanding acoustic and electronic setups alike, from the humble pub gig right through to major stadium tours. With similar offerings from competitors such as Yamaha and Alesis, the Roland SPD-SX has arguably been the most commonplace since its release in 2011 (when it replaced the original SPD-S). In late 2022 Roland announced its latest incarnation, the SPD-SX Pro, which retains everything from the SX while implementing a boat-load of extra features.
Among the new features for the SPD-SX Pro electronic drum pad are the new programmable LED light strips which not only help in differentiating between pads under low-light but also allow for the colour coding of individual pads, making it easier to remember where samples have been assigned. Finally this means no more gaffa or glow-in-the-dark tape required.
A large 4.3” colour screen is another welcome addition, allowing smooth navigation of the updated menu system. In its default view, the screen displays a grid representing each pad (plus external pads on a second page) complete with the filenames of assigned samples plus realtime playback progress. This allows an instant reference during performance which will be more welcome news to existing SPD-SX users struggling to remember what they’ve programmed within each kit.
Other notable upgrades include full desktop control via the new SPD-SX Pro app, four external trigger input jacks plus hi-hat control or expression pedal, four direct outputs, 32GB internal memory, a more powerful multi-FX engine, a step sequencer (with a max of up to 16 steps) and a maximum of 200 kits which is double that of the SX.
Roland SPD-SX Pro review: Performance & verdict
The new SPD-SX Pro is supplied with 43 factory preset kits which showcase the new features exceptionally well. The first handful of kits are home to some seriously engrossing loops with genres spanning dance, hip-hop, funk and more. One of the new functions that jumps out during our exploration is the ‘alternate’ pad function which allows a single pad to play back and forth between two different samples. These A and B samples can also be layered, faded or switched by velocity which is a feature previously found only on Roland’s dedicated electronic drum set modules. This comes in particularly handy for using a separate sample for quieter notes, resulting in a more dynamic and realistic playing experience.
Another standout is the ‘Sidechain Comp’ kit which wonderfully shows off the new compression option built into the multi-fx. On this preset, playing the kick sample ducks the volume of the looped bass line, allowing it to cut through and create a huge pulsing feel.
For the remainder of the presets Roland’s focus seems to be on showing off the playability of the SPD-SX Pro as a kit in its own right. These include lots of acoustic kits from rock to jazz and a handsome offering of percussion kits including timbales, conga, bongos, cajon, djembe, timpani and more - perfect for small busking type gigs as a compact alternative to a full percussion setup. There are of course also a smattering of electronic kits such as Roland’s famous TR-808 and 909. The total number of individual sounds built-in to the SPD-SX Pro is actually over 1,550 which utterly dwarfs the 210 of the SPD-SX.
Connecting an external pedal such as the Roland KT-10 to input one works straight out of the box in triggering the bass drum sample on each kit preset. Connecting to the other inputs requires sounds to be assigned manually but setup is fairly straightforward. By the time we’d finished hooking up as many pads as we could lay our hands on, the SPD-SX Pro was happily running the vast majority of our e-kit, including the hi-hats! The maximum number of external pads is actually eight when using splitter cables plus a separate input for hi-hat control or an expression pedal. When combined with the nine inbuilt pads this makes for some powerful setup options.
In terms of outputs, the SPD-SX Pro has been treated to four direct output jacks with extensive routing options. This allows separate outputting of individual pads, effects or click tracks - super handy for recording or on stage.
We’re also incredibly impressed with the new computer software which allows control of every editing parameter the SPD-SX Pro has to offer. From renaming kits to assigning audio and effects, the real game changer is that the sample pad remains fully functional while connected via USB, making it a much more convenient option for quick edits or deep customisation alike.
Roland SPD-SX Pro review: Hands-on demos
Roland SPD-SX Pro review: Specification
- Key features: Up to 8 external pads plus hi-hat control or expression pedal, 4.3 inch LCD, 4 direct outputs, multi-effects including side chain compressor, programmable LED lights,16 step sequencer, balanced L&R output jacks, fully software controllable via USB, physical power switch, custom screensavers, audio files assignable as click tracks, increased pad sensitivity without crosstalk, setlist function allows up to 32 kit chains
- Storage: 32GB internal storage
- Audio: 16bit 48 kHz samples with auto conversion from WAV, AIFF, MP3
- Kits and samples: Over 1550 factory samples, 43 kit presets with room for a total of 200
- Contact: Roland