Best MIDI Drum Pad Controllers

For those starting out or making music in a home studio, MIDI keyboards are the way to go. They let you totally control synths and other instruments for precise results. MIDI is great for at-home music producers who can control other instruments and synthesizers with a single platform. It was basically designed to make things easier for them.

MIDI controllers were around for a while but then people realized how useful they were and started using them more. That’s when MIDI pad controllers came to be, almost like an afterthought. Nowadays, they’re seen as essential pieces of technology in any MIDI controller setup. MIDI drum pads have come a long way since they first came onto the scene.

We used to only be able to tap out a 4-beat pattern, but now we can arrange, compose and sequence instruments with our drum pad controllers. MIDI drum pads are really hot right now and quite easy to use. But, with so many different brands and models out there, it can be overwhelming for a beginner to know which one is best for them.

About the MIDI Drum Pad Controller

A drum pad controller is basically a type of midi interface (which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) that lets you send data to generate sounds. You can send midi messages from your sequencing software (like Reason, Ableton or Cubase) to the virtual instruments in it.

You can make a huge variety of beats, whether on stage or in the studio, with either sticks or your fingers. These controllers do the job perfectly! A bonus of a lot of controllers is that they come with pre-loaded sounds, like full sets, so you won’t need to connect with any other virtual instruments when making beats!

Top MIDI Drum Pad Controllers Review

With so many MIDI pad controllers out there, it can be tricky to pick the best one. More and more bedroom producers have been emerging recently, and all the manufacturers are trying to cash in on this trend for drum pads.

Midi drum controllers are similar to midi keyboards, except instead of keys, you use pads that you can play with either sticks or your fingers. You’ll commonly find these controllers in home recording studios, used for sequences and samples. They’re useful for creating beats and triggering sounds with virtual instruments in sequencing software.

To help you out, we’ve made a list of the best MIDI pad controllers that you can find in 2023. No matter what kind of music producer or performer you are, each controller has something to offer.

1. Akai Professional MPD218

Akai Professional’s MPD218 is a great tool if you want to mix classic beat making with the latest computer-based music production. It connects via USB, and comes with 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads for maximum creative expression.

To start off, the hardware is superb. It features 16 velocity-sensitive MPC pads to trigger beats, samples, one-shots, effects and basslines. There’s also classic MPC controls such as ‘Note Repeat’ and ‘Full Level’ for added authenticity.

You can assign up to 48 pads for volume, tone and automation with dedicated controls for three pad banks. Software-wise, you can’t go wrong. You get the MPC Beats, jam-packed with all the features of their most famous MPC’s. Plus, SONIVOX drums and big bang drums and cinematic percussion come as part of the package.

The Akai MPD218 is a great option if you want something portable and lightweight. It’s compatible with any Mac or PC, and can even be used with an iOS device when paired with a camera connection kit. And the best part? It’s wallet-friendly!


  • Creating beats with ease, thanks to the USB connection

  • 16 thick, fat velocity-sensitive MPC pads

  • Get the classic MPC sounds with the MPC Beats Software and complete it with the SONiVOX drum suite for those old-skool vibes

  • Superb value for money


  • Get a backlit pad instead of one with a full light; it’ll be easier to view in dim conditions

  • It’s hard to switch between 3 banks mid-performance even though there are 48 settings available.

2. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3

Native Instrument’s Maschine Mikro Mk3 is the slimmed-down version of their MPC-influenced beat production suite. It’s a combination of hardware and software made for creating beats. Their ‘bigger brother’ was the best of the bunch until now and is pretty much unbeatable among midi drum controllers. It offers most of their Studio series features plus an audio interface and touch-strip, making it even more useful.

The Maschine Mk3 is all about facilitating quick, creative music production. It lets you create beats and melodies and add effects to them on the spot – really good for sparking ideas and layering grooves! The hardware is great. The pads are excellent for finger-drumming and it’s USB powered, so you don’t need additional mains power.


  • Super helpful for coming up with ideas and quickly getting them down on paper

  • If you’re into finger-drumming, then high res pads are a must-have – they work great!


  • No adjustable legs when you’re trying to use it at a desk

3. Korg nanoPAD2

The Korg nanoPAD2 makes music production fun and easy. You can use it to come up with melodies, harmonies, beats and rhythms all in one place. This bad boy has 16 velocity-sensitive pads and four switchable scenes, giving you a nice 64 unique pad configurations altogether.

It also comes with an X/Y touchpad to manipulate various synth settings which, combined with ‘touch scale’, makes it possible to play songs and melodies easily (very similar to a Kaossilator).

You don’t have to break the bank to get it, plus it’s lightweight and user-friendly, so it’s ideal for any musician who wants to come up with new music concepts while on the go; and best of all, you can fit it perfectly in front of your laptop.

If you’re looking for something that offers a wide range of pre-set options and great control, then this isn’t it. It’s more of an all-rounder than a professional piece of equipment.


  • Affordable

  • You can really make great music with this, for melodies, harmonies and even beats.

    Works with Macs and PCs


  • The pads don’t light up

  • Not many sample choices and not a lot of control

4. Alesis SamplePad Pro

Get ready to have some serious fun with the Alesis SamplePad Pro! It’s packed with 200 built-in sounds and has the capacity to trigger samples from your computer. Not to mention, you get 10 full kits to choose from. Plus if you ever feel like adding more sounds, all you have to do is plug in an SD card.

This device has eight velocity-sensitive pads that light up in blue when you use them. Plus, it has inputs for adding extra pads. Additionally, the Alesis SamplePad Pro has inputs for foot pedals, letting you control your bass and hi-hat sounds just like you would on an actual drum kit.

This midi drum controller has multiple outputs, like a headphone jack and can be connected to your computer either through USB or by using the AC adapter. It works with both PCs (Windows) and Macs. This is great news for drummers – you can connect foot pedals to it, so it’ll feel like your regular electronic kit and you can use your drumming experience to bring something new to the party!

If you’re looking for something basic or need it to be powered by USB, this isn’t the best option for you.


  • You can customize this kit with pedals to make it sound like a genuine drum set

  • Ready to stand up to whatever comes its way, whether it’s a stick or something else

  • You get 200 built-in sound options which means you can start playing the instrument right away


  • Needs to be plugged into the mains

  • This is mainly for drummers who are already semi-proficient to expert at playing the instrument

  • It’s a bit pricey.

5. Akai Professional LPD8

The Akai Professional LPD8 is a great device to use if you’re looking for something easy and efficient. It has 8 pads and 8 corresponding dials that help with playing around and controlling sound. You get four banks here that store settings and allow you to switch between them quickly, so you don’t have to re-create your favorite kit or sample selection each time. Pretty handy!

This USB powered pad has LEDs that light up the pads so you can immediately see which ones are being used. A great bargain, especially for someone just starting out as it comes with a Reason download, meaning you don’t have to spend much money at all.

The nanoPad isn’t ideal for people who need the most ultra-sensitive performance and the highest number of pads. It may sound like it’s pro-level, but there are actually better options available if you’re looking for a more professional product.


  • There are 8 dials that let you easily control the 8 pads, making it really intuitive and simple to use

  • Bus-powered by USB

  • Budget-friendly


  • Pads are illuminated just enough so that you can easily make them out in dark settings – no need for fully lit up rooms

  • Changing the eight buttons between all their functions on stage isn’t very practical

6. Ableton Push 2

The Ableton Push 2 is great for electronic musicians as it’s equipped with 64 pads, enough to load lots of samples at once. You can easily manipulate samples so that they stay in sync with your music – whether you want to shorten, stretch, or slice them. Instead of having to find your own samples, you can play around with the vast library of built-in sounds that are conveniently accessible via a separate screen.

Plus, these samples will be affected by how hard/soft you press on the pads – and you can even adjust them afterwards. This music-making software also has recording capabilities, so you can capture all those creative ideas before they escape. If you’re an electronic musician who needs precise control over their samples, the Ableton Push 2 is perfect for you. It won’t be as helpful if you just want a simple, quick way to make beats.


  • You can easily trigger various samples with the help of the 64 pads that light up!

  • Pads that are velocity-sensitive and feature aftertouch along with vibrato effects


  • Very expensive

  • If you’re new to midi controllers, all the features might be a bit daunting

  • You can use it to trigger several samples at once, which is ideal

7. Arturia BeatStep Pro

Arturia’s BeatStep Pro is more than your average midi controller. It gives you pitch-sensitivity on 16 light up pads, plus the ability to store up to 16 unique projects. Further, you get 16 customizable dials – all with great convenience. The tap tempo control, drum fill generator and dequantize option help to create a more organic sound. And you can easily get creative with the multiple-scale settings that are transposable to all keys.

You can connect this thing to a Mac, PC, or pretty much any midi-compatible contraption like a synth or drum machine with its USB, Midi or gate ports. It’s got an internal drum sequencer and two melodic sequencers which you can use to make beats and tunes directly with the hardware. Plus, it’s able to capture the velocity of each note whenever you hit them.

The Arturia BeatStep Pro is great for people who perform with drum machines, synths and VSTs. It seamlessly connects them all together and can take your live performances to the next level – making them more enjoyable and exciting. It’s robust and thin, so you can easily fit it in a laptop bag. Plus, you can power it with your laptop through USB.


  • It’s packed with loads of features and has really good connections, so it’s suitable for most purposes – it’s both versatile and creative

  • This one comes with an anti-theft Kensington lock

  • Includes a randomizer.


  • Having so many features can be intimidating for someone just starting out

  • The USB cable that comes with it is really weak and too short

  • It’s not the easiest thing to use; you’ll need to check out the user guide

8. QuNeo 3D

The QueNeo 3D Midi controller is pretty modern and sensitive. It’s equipped with 16 drum pads and 9 touch-sensitive faders that work depending on where they’re touched – even each corner has distinct functions! The QuNeo lights up in reds and greens when the pads and faders are in operation, giving it a really visual appeal that makes it easy to use even in dark environments.

It’s just the size of an iPad, but it feels solid and robust! And the best part is, it runs on USB power, so it’s easy to take with you anywhere you go. If you’re looking to jam with some of the older Midi instruments, you’ll need a Midi expander. That said, this controller has no audio inputs or outputs and is made to be light and portable for connecting to your laptop.

This is perfect for DJs and electronic music producers who wanna travel light but don’t want to compromise on features or quality. Not great for musicians who require audio or Midi outputs – to use this controller for Midi synths you’ll need extra, separate hardware.


  • Small, lightweight and USB powered

  • These pads are really responsive to your speed and offer various pressure points

  • It’s the same size as an iPad


  • This pad controller isn’t as versatile as some of the others since it only produces a single output

  • Those who prefer knobs may not find the touch sensitivity to their liking

  • The red and green light colors can be a bit of a blur when there’s too much going on – like during a disco or stage show

9. Novation Launchpad Pro

The Novation Launchpad Pro Grid Controller is a great way to create beats with its colorful, 64 pressure-sensitive pads. You can make expressive, natural-sounding beats with ease. When crafting melodies, certain notes are highlighted to ensure that they fit correctly into a key and mode. At the same time, the chromatic notes stay accessible but aren’t as bright. This lets you compose appropriate tunes quickly and easily.

Not only do you get a USB connection to power the device, but there are also midi ports that let you hook up older synths. This product was designed with Ableton users in mind and it comes with Ableton Live as well as lots of Loopmasters loops, so you can instantly start crafting electronic music.

With its advanced features, the Ableton Push is perfect for electronic musicians who perform live with it. It allows you to trigger audio and video samples, create tunes and beats, and more. That said, if you’re looking for a more straightforward instrument, then this might not be the right choice.


  • Pads are super vibrant, can do a lot and are really sensitive

  • You’ll get Ableton Live and Loopmasters loops included in the package to kickstart your creativity

  • This can be used to make awesome light displays as well as some totally sick tunes


  • Using it isn’t the most natural thing to do. You will need to take some time to learn how to use it by reading the instructions, and having tech knowledge is also a plus

  • It can work with different programs, but it’s best used with Ableton

  • This one’s a bit bulkier than the others

10. iK Multimedia iRig

iK Multimedia’s iRig is designed to be compatible with phones, iPads, and PCs. It’s the only option here that can connect with certain Apple products. This MIDI controller comes with 16 velocity-sensitive, multi-colored pads, two customizable knobs, two programmable buttons and a midi controllable slider.

The hardware comes with special software and sounds so you can start right away. It’s perfect for those who use Apple products, as it’s easy to get going when you add this to a device you already know. This isn’t the best choice for those who need it for long-term studio usage since it’s mainly made to be compatible with portable devices and is designed with portability in mind.


  • Super easy to transport and really lightweight

  • It’s equipped with software and lots of samples to help you get up and running

  • Drum pads are really cool; they light up depending on how hard you hit them and even react to your speed!


  • Sorry, but Android can’t use this

  • You don’t get the best bang for your buck

  • If you’re a beginner to creating Midi music, it may take some time to get accustomed to the controller and the software

Buyer’s Guide: Factors to Consider When Buying a MIDI Pad Controller


You’ll come across tons of MIDI controller pads out there, and most of these are velocity-sensitive. If you want to gain more control over your pad, then you should go for something that’s pressure sensitive too. Pressure-sensitive pads give you the opportunity to show your creativity and get the same expressiveness that regular keyboards offer with their “aftertouch” feature.


Most people who buy a controller want it to be part of their Digital Audio Workstation. This helps increase productivity as the workflow is smoother and faster. A good controller helps you achieve that. When looking for a controller, pick one that has great controls so the process is smoother for you.

When picking a controller, make sure you get one with all the necessary buttons like tempo and transport. It should also have faders and knobs for controlling effects as well as easy-to-control mixer parameters on your DAW.

Software Compatibility Issues

Before you buy a controller, think about software compatibility too. Usually, manufacturers include an editor application with the controllers they sell. You can alter the features of controllers like MIDI mappings with this. Plus, some of these controllers come with DAWs as well.

Before you buy a controller, always double check that it’s compatible with your digital audio workstation. That way, you can avoid any mistakingly purchasing controllers without the right software. Read the specs to make sure it comes with the appropriate bundled software too. Plus, make sure the software that comes with it works on both your tablet and computer.


Sure, lighting might not be your main priority when it comes to choosing a controller. But wouldn’t it be fantastic to have some clear lighting cues to help make your workflow smoother and more efficient? Without proper lighting, you’d miss out on an important feature of modern controllers.

The lighting feature on MIDI pad controllers is really cool – it responds to your touches with a visual light cue. Most of the time, this takes the form of an LED that lets you know if you’ve pressed the pad correctly.

There’s a feature that provides a variety of light bars with many different digital audio workstation effects, like drum kits, samples, voices and more. Controllers with more lighting options offer a wider range of possibilities, but can be harder to master. The tradeoff is that the upgrade comes with a steeper learning curve.

Dimensions and Weight

Controller pads come in different shapes and sizes, usually determined by the number of buttons. If portability is a priority for you, it’s worth looking for one that’s designed to be used with your tablet, phone or laptop. That makes it easier to carry around with you wherever you go. It really depends on your needs and wants when it comes to controllers – if you need a lot of functionality then you should go for a bigger one. But at the end of the day, it’s all up to what works best for you.

Main Benefits Midi Drum Pad Controllers


Electronic drum kits are super portable – much more than other types of drums. They often don’t take up much more space than a laptop and for those who don’t have much room, are a great alternative to acoustic or electric drums. No extra plug socket needed since these bad boys run on USB power – easy peasy!

Ease of Use

Drum pad controllers make creating drum patterns much easier than midi keyboards. Plus, they have buttons that light up when pressed and make making music a more accessible experience. If you’re tech-savvy, using these programs can really help you reach your desired sound quickly.


Choosing which drum midi pad controller is best for you comes down to the type of music you play and how much money you’re willing to spend. Electro musicians looking for the best Ableton controller will love the Ableton Push 2 or the Novation Launchpad. Both are pro-level and offer up to 64 samples per performance, so you can bring your electronic music to life in a live setting. The price tag of these products indicates their level of professionalism.

For those on a tighter budget, the Akai Professional LPD8 or Korg NanoPad 2 are great choices. The Akai Professional is better for percussion sounds and the Korg NanoPad is perfect for creating melodies and harmonies quickly and easily. The Akai Professional MPD218 is a step up from the other inexpensive options. It comes with all the software you need to produce Midi music, so it’s perfect for beginners.

Musicians who need something more portable should check out the Alesis SamplePad Pro. It’s designed to be played with sticks and has a foot pedal option to use your drumming skills the same way as you would with a real kit. If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad, the ROLI lightpad and the iK Multimedia iRig are probably looking like great choices for you. The iK Multimedia iRig is like the Akai controllers while the ROLI has a touch-sensitive response system and magnetic expansion capabilities that set it apart.

iPad fans might be happy to hear about the QueNeo 3D Multi-Touch Pad Controller! It’s just the same size as an iPad and can easily fit into any iPad-sized space. Plus, it’s very responsive – each pad can perform up to four functions all at once. The Arturia BeatStep Pro has become a favorite among musicians who want to plug into instruments, drum machines, and computers (or phones). It stands out with its plethora of input/outputs, making it the most connected device in its class.

Looking for an ‘all-in-one music-making playground’? Check out the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 – you’ll get lots of options and it’s super easy to use. Regardless of whether you’re an iPhone user or a musician looking for something portable, we hope that this has been useful to you and provided the information you were looking for.

FAQ for Best Midi Drum Pad Controllers

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