Best MIDI Pad Controllers

Over the span of a decade fewer people have felt the need to get an MPC or groove box, instead opting for digital step sequencer and a MIDI drum controller. This is due in great part to what we’ll call the FL Studio generation. With the cost of entry to music production hitting an all-time low, the rise of the drum pad controller was imminent. Everyone from Ableton to Akai has tried their hand at gaining market share in this ever-growing crowded market. So where do you start?

Here at Audio Assemble, we’ve got you covered for every situation! From the road to the radio, here are the best midi drum pad controllers on the market!

On the Go

So you’re just dipping your fingers in the musical pond and you don’t know how deep you want to go or you’re on the go and you don’t want your creativity stifled by hauling your rig around? Here are 10 compact midi drum pads that will make drum programming wherever you are a breeze!

iRig Pads [$149.95]

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iRig Pads

Pioneers in the “making music with iOS” category, IK Multimedia has a host of midi controllers for iPads or iPhones. One highlight in its iRig collection is the iRig Pads. The iRig Pads is a fully-functional pad controller with a 4×4 layout with multiple programmable peripherals.

Features:

  • 16 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity-sensitive
  • Programmable slider
  • 2 Assignable Push Buttons
  • 2 Programmable Knobs
  • 1 Assignable Push Rotary Encoder
  • USB Port to use with non-iOS devices
  • Expression/Sustain Pedal Input

Arturia Beatstep [$129.99]

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Arturia Beatstep

Vintage synth enthusiasts, Arturia, stepped into the drum game in 2012 with the Spark. Capitalizing on its success, Arturia expanded their sample libraries and drum-focused offerings with its first drum pad controller, the Beatstep. Unlike most of the other controllers in this list, the Beatstep highlights Arturia’s sleek design sensibilities, bringing out a highly functional controller with an extremely straightforward approach.

Features:

  • 16 Programmable RB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 16 Assignable Encoder Knobs
  • MIDI Transport Controls
  • 1 Data Encoder Knob
  • Built-in Step Sequencer
  • MIDI Out
  • CV Out
  • Gate Out
  • USB Midi Enabled
  • iPad Compatible

Livid Instruments Minim [$129.00]

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Livid Instruments Minim

Newcomer Livid Instruments has a completely portable offering in its Minim, which is small enough to fit in your pocket. Other being a producer’s iPhone-sized companion, the Minim is totally wireless!

Features:

  • 13 Assignable Push Buttons
  • 8 RGB Backlit “Expressive” Trigger Pads
  • 2 Side Switches
  • 1 Programmable Touch Fader
  • Wireless MIDI

Novation Launchpad Mini [$99.99]

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Novation Launchpad Mini

Every decade or so there is a modern device that is a “must” in every producer or hobbyist’s home studio, that device is Novation’s flagship pad controller, the Launchpad.

Originally designed to “launch” clips in Ableton Live, Novation’s Launchpad series has become the ubiquitous tool for seamless integration in DAW that saw rapid growth at the onset of the completely unique controller. Touted simply as a “grid controller, the Launchpad is as much a tool as it is the spectacle with its programmable RGB backlit pads. Though smaller the Launchpad Mini includes the same innate features as its siblings in an 8 x 8 format.

Features:

  • 64 Multi-color Backlit Trigger Pads
  • MIDI Transport Controls
  • Fully Integrated with FL Studio’s Performance Mode
  • Daisy-chainable to Other Devices in the “Launch” Series
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station, and Novation V Station
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • iOS Compatible

Akai MPX8 [$99.00]

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Akai MPX8

The irony that the creators of the drum pad come so far down the list isn’t lost on me, but Akai has found a way to keep its prices low while maintaining its quality, which far surpasses anything within a hundred dollar range.

For MPC-truests, the MPX8 is a familiar machine, for those not familiar with the iconic Music Production Center the MPX8 will be a lesson in musical exploration. Both a midi pad controller and sampler, the MPX8 is the perfect pad controller for performance since it can play samples loaded onto an SD card or trigger your favorite drum plugin.

Features:

  • 8 Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity and Pressure-sensitive
  • Reverb Engine
  • 2 Balanced 1/4″ Outputs
  • 1/8″ Headphone Jack
  • SD Slot for Sample Storage
  • 30 MBs of onboard RAM
  • Built-in Library of Popular Sounds and Samples
  • Drag & Drop Sample Editor for Mac and PC
  • Access to Akai Pro’s Loop Library
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • MIDI In / Out

If you need more pads just jump up to MXP16 for the double the playability for $199.99

Akai LPD8 Wireless [$99.00]

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Akai LPD8 Wireless

For producers that find the MPX8 a little daunting, or just overkill, Akai’s solution is the LPD8 Wireless. Boasting the same quality trigger pads found on other MPC devices, the LPD8 Wireless is the perfect companion for producers on the go that want to bring quality on the road. The LPD8 also comes in a wired version for $69.

Features:

  • 8 Assignable Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity-sensitive
  • 8 Programmable Knobs
  • 4 Programmable Memory Banks
  • Battery or Bus Powered
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • iOS Compatible
  • Wireless MIDI

Korg nanoPAD2 [$59.99]

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Korg nanoPAD2

Korg long ago stepped into Akai’s territory building in drum pad controllers into their most popular MIDI devices during the “Kontrol” series. Born out of the laptop DJ and mobile production era, Korg’s “nano” series created the modular micro production design that is now used by every major MIDI device manufacturer. Though the pads on Korg products pale in comparison to those of Akai’s LPD, there is still reason to give the nanoPAD2.

Features:

  • 16 Trigger Pads
  • Velocity-sensitive
  • Mappable XY Touchpad
  • Korg Kontrol Editor for Device Programming
  • Bundled with Ableton Lite, Reason Limited, Applied Acoustics Instruments and more.
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • iPad Compatible

If you’re looking for a slightly more “pro” and mobile solution, check out Korg’s “nanoKEY Studio,” which not only has wireless capabilities but key pads and programmable knobs.

Beat Pads on a Budget

Being a gear enthusiast can get expensive, here are the best drum pad controllers for building beats on a budget. Each one of these controllers is perfect from production to performance.

Native Instruments Machine Mikro [$349.00]

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Native Instruments Machine Mikro

Want the power of Native Instrument’s original hardware controller in a compact-size? Say no more. The Maschine Mikro debuted in 2011, featuring the same powerful Maschine software bundle and built in the same sturdy design as its namesake older-brother.

Features:

  • 16 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 1 Push Encoder Knob
  • 28 Programmable Buttons
  • LCD Display
  • 9+ Gigs of Maschine Content
  • Bundled with Maschine 2 Software, Drum Synth, Perform FX & Komplete Select 11
  • USB Midi Enabled

If you need a little more, the Maschine is the perfect step up for $599.

Arturia SparkLE [$299.00]

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Arturia SparkLE

Side-stepping from the creation of the Arturia Spark, the SparkLE is basically the “lite” counterpart to the former. Without really losing any of its functionality, the SparkLE’s somewhat confusing design allows producers to step into a heavy hitting world of Arturia’s Spark 2 virtual softsynth.

Features:

  • 8 Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 16 Key 64-Step Step Sequencer
  • 3 Assignable Encoders
  • 1 Jog Wheel
  • XY Pad
  • TAE Sound Engine
  • Bundled with Spark 2 and TAE Instruments.
  • USB MIDI Enabled

Novation Launchpad Pro [$299.99]

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Novation Launchpad Pro

Like its pocket-sized counterpart, the Launchpad Pro is a trigger pad built specifically for full control over Ableton Live. Unlike its smaller relative, the Launchpad Pro brings the full-size power and control to its users with quite a few additions.

Features:

  • 64 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 32 RGB Backlit Mode Buttons
  • LED Feedback
  • Fully Integrated with Logic Pro
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite
  • Bus Powered, Power Supply Needed for iOS Devices
  • MIDI In / Out
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • iOS Compatible
  • Rubber Slip-mat

Akai MPD226 [$199.00]

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Akai MPD226

For the second generation of Akai’s MPD line, the Japanese company took a sleek design approach. Leaving behind the very bulky and noticeably plastic feel of its original pad controllers, the new MPDs are not only just as durable as their predecessors but there about one-third of the size making them one of the best pad controllers on the market.

Features:

  • 16 Thick RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 4 Assignable Faders
  • 4 Assignable Q-link Knobs
  • 4 Assignable Q-link Buttons
  • MIDI Transport Controls
  • 36 Assignable Controls Spread Across 3 Banks
  • Classic MPC Note Repeat
  • MPC Swing
  • Tap Tempo
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Universal Drums
  • MIDI In / Out
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • iOS Compatible

For the Pros

So you want to take your production workflow to the next level? These next drum pad controllers go beyond standard drum triggers to dynamic sample editing and sound creation. Every one of these pad controllers brings a unique perspective to MIDI drum programming.

Native Instruments Maschine Studio [$999.00]

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Native Instruments Maschine Studio

The brainchild of Native Instrument’s 2 most innovative products, the Maschine Studio is the most powerful Maschine in the product family. Equal parts Kontrol and Maschine, the Studio can work in tandem with or independently of the Maschine software.

Features:

  • 16 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 8 Touch-sensitive Encoders
  • 1 Jog Wheel
  • 1 Volume Knob
  • 58 Programmable Buttons
  • 8 Multi-Color Group Buttons
  • 2 Color Displays
  • NKS Support
  • Collapsible Stand
  • 9+ Gigs of Maschine Content
  • Bundled with Maschine 2 Software, Drum Synth, Perform FX & Komplete Select 11
  • 1 MIDI In / 3 MIDI Out
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • Ableton Link Enabled

Ableton Push [On Sale $639.00]

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Ableton Push 2

For the Live enthusiasts, Ableton left the confines of the screen with the Ableton Push, an all in one solution for triggering Live clips, sampling, editing waveforms and more. Though previously useless for anything but Ableton users, a company called nativeKontrol created a driver that detects the MIDI signals sent by the Push and can map the with its PXT General app for OSX.

Features:

  • High-resolution Color Display
  • 64 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 10 Touch-sensitive Encoders
  • 2 Pedal Inputs
  • 1 Touch Strip
  • USB Midi Enabled with PXT General from nativeKontrol
  • Ableton Link Enabled

Akai MPC Touch [$599.00]

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Akai MPC Touch

Not to be outdone by Native Instruments, the MPC Touch brings the MPC to a new era with a built-in touch screen.

Features:

  • 7″ Multi-touch Display
  • 16 RGB Backlit Thick Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 2 Balanced 1/4″ Inputs
  • 2 Balanced 1/4″ Outputs
  • 1/8″ Headphone Jack
  • MIDI In / Out
  • USB Midi Enabled
  • Ableton Link Enabled

Native Instruments Maschine Jam [$399.00]

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Native Instruments Maschine Jam

Debuting in 2016, the Maschine Jam was Native Instrument’s answer to the ever growing trigger-based production community. With the Jam came support for Ableton Link, allowing all Link-enabled devices to sync seamlessly. With the inclusion of Native Instrument’s proprietary Smart Strips and their dual-touch technology, succinct parameter attributes can be controlled on a highly tactile level. The Smart Strips can also act as a keyed, for playable instruments.

Features:

  • 8 Dual-touch “Smart Strips”
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 1 Touch-sensitive Push Encoder
  • 1 D Pad for Navigation
  • 64 Multi-color Click Pads
  • 31 Click Buttons
  • 8 Multi-Color Group Buttons
  • 8 Multi-Color Scene Buttons
  • 9+ Gigs of Maschine Content
  • Bundled with Maschine 2 Software, Drum Synth, Perform FX & Komplete Select 11
  • USB Midi Enabled
  • Ableton Link Enabled

Novation Circuit [$329.99]

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Novation Circuit

The first of it’s kind, the Novation Circuit brings the power of the Launchpad Pro to a groove box that includes an impressive sound engine with 2 Nova synths and a 4-part drum machine. The routing of the Circuit alone allows for some amazing MIDI capabilities as a drum pad controller.

Features:

  • 32 RGB Backlit Trigger Buttons
  • Velocity-sensitive
  • 28 RGB Backlit Function Buttons
  • 8 Endless Encoders with RGB Indicator Lights
  • Filter Knob
  • Sound Engine with 2 Nova Synths & 4-Part Drum Machine
  • Volume Knob
  • Reverb Engine
  • Delay Engine
  • Sidechain
  • 2 Balanced 1/4″ Outputs
  • 1/8″ Headphone Jack
  • Speaker
  • Bundled with Ableton Live Lite
  • Battery or Power Supply Powered
  • MIDI In / Out
  • USB MIDI Enabled

M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro [$199.99]

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M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro

Though often hit or miss when it comes to the pads used in M-Audio products, the Trigger Finger Pro excels in the company’s weakest area. Not only does it use an MPC-styled 4×4 set of trigger pads, there is also a built-in 64-step sequencer at the bottom of the controller. Throw in a fader bay, encoder knobs and a slew of programmable buttons with an LCD parameter display and the Trigger Finger Pro is a formidable controller.

Features:

  • 16 RGB Backlit Trigger Pads
  • Velocity & Pressure-sensitive
  • 12 Assignable Controls
  • 4 Fader Ports
  • 4 Assignable Encoder Knobs
  • 1 Data Encoder Knob
  • 4 Banks
  • LCD Screen
  • Independent 16-Key 64-step Step Sequencer
  • Bundled with Arsenal, AIR Drums, Hybrid 3 and One-shots.
  • Mackie Control & HUI Support
  • MIDI Out
  • USB MIDI Enabled
  • Metal Stand