In 1985, Roland launched their pad range with the Pad 8, Octo-pad percussion pad. Since then, and with the emergence of pad-based samplers and V-Drums, Roland have remained at the forefront of innovation and technology.
The Roland SPD-SX was introduced in 2012 and is incredibly versatile. At the time, it was one of the most popular drum sample pads around. The SPD-SX is the follow-up to the 2003 SPD-S and improves upon that unit. The SPD-S was a roaring success in its own right but was eclipsed in 2012 by the Roland SPD-SX.
It’s the perfect way for any drummer to take advantage of electronic elements without feeling like they have moved away from the more traditional kits. For the drummer who is serious about adding a sample pad to their rig, this would have been unbeatable back in 2012.
So, let’s see how Roland improved on the SPD-S in our in-depth Roland SPD-SX Review. Is it still one of the best electronic drum pads out there? It’s time to find out…
The Roland SPD-SX has a striking black design with a combination of red lights, which illuminate in relation to the duration and amplitude of samples. The unit weighs 2.5kg with measurements of 363mm x 331mm x 94mm. The perfect unit for playing on a dark stage.
The nine pads it comes with feel really solid, with three smaller pads located at the top of the unit. The pads are impressive and responsive, with samples stored in the large internal memory. Furthermore, the SPD-SX is very much a plug-in-and-play unit. This makes it very easy to get set up and running quickly.
The crystal blue backlit menu and navigation screen are simple and quick with intuitive categorization. There are three volume knobs to the left of the screen, which allow control of master volume, click levels, and headphones.
The sampling screen has six options to choose from. Chop, perform and record, along with FX, multi, merge, and basic. Furthermore, it’s all set up in such a straightforward fashion that makes it very easy to get your head around quickly.
The silver knobs below the volume allow the real-time control of master effects. The real-time effects include an EQ filter, a short looper, and a delay. Your inner DJ will love the versatility of the FX outlay.
The SPD-SX comes with 2GB of internal memory, which should be good for about 180 minutes of stereo sampling at 16-bit/44.1khz. The SPD-S only came with a few minutes of storage, so this is a huge improvement. Likewise, the SPD-SX is used by many DJ’S as a controller because of its ability to store large amounts of kits and samples.
The unit comes with the Wave Manager software, which allows you to import audio from your computer. The drag and drop function makes configuring samples to your pads such a pleasure.
There is the ability to store 100 pre-programmed kits. Strangely, the SPD-SX only comes shipped with 16 kits. Stranger still, the first six of these presets are filled with stuff like vocal clips, guitar loops, bass loops, etc. Rather than well-known percussion kits.
Splitting up your tune…
Being able to sample intros, verses, or choruses onto pads as you listen through is great and allows you to remix your song instantly. Simply hit those pads at the appropriate start/end, and they will be truncated and placed on the designated pad to trigger your song parts in whatever order you choose.
Connect an audio source to the SPD-SX, and hit the multi-pad sampling function. Therefore, when you start hitting some pads, samples will instantly get chopped to those pads. You really have to try it to appreciate it.
The idea here is really about giving you lots of memory to build and customize your SPD-SX to suit your needs. As a result, you get all your favorite kits laid out in a position that suits you perfectly.
Roland SPD-SX – Specifications
- Pads: 9 built-in.
- Max Polyphony: 20 voices.
- Sampling Time: 360 min in stereo and 720 min in mono.
- Data Format: 16-bit linear PCM(WAV/AIFF).
- Sampling Frequency: 44.1 kHz.
- FX: 21 master effects.
- Kits: 100.
Roland SPD-SX Review – Pros and Cons
- High-quality, sturdy build.
- Custom sampling library.
- Large internal memory.
- Easy to use.
- Two FX knobs.
- Beautifully responsive pads.
- A little expensive.
- Limited preset kits.
- The Wave Manager software is a bit limited.
- Newer and better technology is currently available on the market.
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Roland SPD-SX Review – Final Thoughts
The Roland SPD-SX was a superb choice when it was first released. However, there’s a lot more options with more modern technology available on the market today. Likewise, the addition of a ‘huge” 2GB internal memory doesn’t seem like much these days, but it sure did back in 2012. That alone made it one of the best sampler pads you could buy at the time.
It was definitely a slick little unit for the time, but in the eight years since it was released on the market, technology has moved on exponentially. We wouldn’t say it is a completely old hat. However, the market price for second-hand units is still high and would suggest continued demand.
Even though the Roland SPD-SX was sold as a high-end professional unit, we never once, in all our years in professional studios worldwide, saw one of these being used. The go-to unit was always the MPC 3000. That said, we can see where they would have been a useful addition.
However, it stands head and shoulders over its predecessor. Not only is it a total pleasure and fun to use, but it is a good tool for both the world of DJs and audio production.
Until next time, may the beat go on.