The 7 Best MIDI Drum Pads (2023)

MIDI drum pads are now better and more affordable than ever and help you quickly add some extra spice to a beat or track!

My top recommended MIDI drum pad is the AKAI Professional MPD218. This is a budget-friendly, highly-popular MIDI drum pad with 16 drum pads and 6 assignable knobs.

My second recommended MIDI drum pad is the Korg nanoPAD2. This is a highly-affordable, simplistic MIDI drum pad with velocity-sensitive trigger pads.

The 7 Best MIDI Drum Pads (2023)

1. AKAI Professional MPD218
Top Pick - Budget-friendly, popular, and easy-to-use MIDI drum pad with high functionality
2. Korg nanoPAD2
Affordable Option - Highly affordable, simplistic MIDI drum pad with velocity-sensitive trigger pads and an X-Y touchpad
3. Ableton Push 2
Pro Pick - Professional, quality, 16-botton MIDI drum pad with a full-color display and great functionality
4. Novation Launchpad Pro MK3
Versatile - Feature-packed MIDI drum pad with velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
5. AKAI Professional MPD226
Popular - Very popular MIDI drum pad with a great and portable design
6. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3
Compact - Compact and user-friendly MIDI drum pad with a great included software bundle
7. Arturia BeatStep Pro
Great Design - Highly versatile MIDI drum pad with a stunning and functional design

And now onto the list!

1. AKAI Professional MPD218

Top Pick
Budget-friendly, popular, and easy-to-use MIDI drum pad with high functionality.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The AKAI Professional MPD218 is a very popular MIDI drum pad with 16 MPC drum pads, 6 assignable knobs, and onboard controls for high functionality. It’s great for live performances as well as studio use for quickly pumping out beats.

Pros

  • Velocity-sensitive pads
  • Easy to use, compact design
  • Excellent value for money
  • Great software and functionality

Cons

  • Rather lightweight construction
  • May be too small for some, jampacked controls and pads

The MPD218 is a classic and can be found in almost every professional studio out there. It features 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads, 6 assignable knobs, 3 control layers, and 16 configurable presets.

The design is very compact, maybe a little too compact for some as accidental pad triggering may be an issue for people with larger hands and fingers. However, high functionality is guaranteed, especially with features like the Note Repeat and Full Level. It even comes with a software package.

Pads16 MPC velocity-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x USB MIDI in/out
PowerUSB bus-powered
Bonus FeaturesNote Repeat, Full Level

By holding the Prog Select button, you can switch between different pad banks and you can go back and forth between control banks to control various other effects. Overall, the MPD218 is a great, affordable MIDI drum pad with excellent functionality.

2. Korg nanoPAD2

Budget Pick
Highly affordable, simplistic MIDI drum pad with velocity-sensitive trigger pads and an X-Y touchpad.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Korg nanoPAD2 is a no-frills and affordable MIDI drum pad for making beats and exploring different ideas. Its portable design is excellent for traveling or touring musicians who want to pump out ideas at any moment.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Compact, portable design
  • Velocity-sensitive pads
  • X-Y touchpad

Cons

  • Basic design with no assignable knobs
  • The X-Y touchpad can be weird and unusable for many

The nanoPAD2 is an excellent value-for-money purchase if you want something affordable to work with. It has 16 velocity-sensitive pads and a programmable X-Y Touchpad if you want to pump out some scales and arpeggios.

If you’re starting a home studio, this could be an excellent MIDI drum pad addition that comes with Korg Kontrol Editor software. Also, the Gate Arp function is a cool little feature for musical, tempo-synchronized phrases that adds creativity.

Pads16 velocity-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x USB MIDI in/out
PowerBus-powered
Bonus FeaturesGate-arp

All in all, for a very affordable price tag, you get a no-frills, simplistic MIDI drum pad that is great for small home studios and traveling musicians who want to jot down ideas.

3. Ableton Push 2

Pro Pick
Professional, quality, 16-botton MIDI drum pad with a full-color display and great functionality.
View Price at Amazon

The Ableton Push 2 is a pro-grade MIDI drum pad with Ableton Live integration for triggering drum racks. It is a highly popular option for Ableton Live users and live performers who want a feature-packed and highly-playable, quality tool.

Pros

  • Ableton Live integration
  • 64 high-quality pads
  • High-resolution, full-color display

Cons

  • Pricey

The Push 2 is a MIDI controller that doubles as a MIDI drum pad and is great for live performances and making beats. Its integration with Ableton Live is probably why this product is so popular, but it’s built for use with the session view.

With 64 pads at your disposal, plus a high-res display, the playability and effectiveness of this MIDI drum pad are top-notch. It also has 8 touch-sensitive encoders, making it perfect for creating music without the need to stare at a laptop screen.

Pads64 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs2 x Pedal inputs, 1 x USB MIDI in/out
Power12V DC adapter, 5V/0.5A USB
Bonus FeaturesDouble Loop, Quantize, Conver, Duplicate

In a nutshell, the Ableton Push 2 is a pro-grade MIDI controller/drum pad that is excellent for Ableton Live users and professional music producers.

4. Novation Launchpad Pro MK3

Versatile
Feature-packed MIDI drum pad with velocity and pressure-sensitive pads.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 is an all-in-one choice for all your needs. It has many useful features, a large number of pads, and a 32-step sequencer, and surpasses the once-popular initial model with a better design and functionality.

Pros

  • Velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
  • Live performance-friendly
  • Great design with high functionality
  • Can be used as a standalone sequencer

Cons

  • No display
  • No faders/dials

This MIDI drum pad comes with 64 RGB velocity and pressure-sensitive trigger pads, a software bundle of Ableton Live Lite and additional v-instruments and plug-ins, and advanced integration with Live Loops in Logic Pro X.

What makes this MIDI drum pad shine is its wide array of inputs and outputs, the Easy Start Tool for a quick start, and the custom modes. Granted, without a display and lack of faders and dials, the functionality is a bit compromised but it makes up for it with numerous other features.

Pads64 RGB velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x 1/8″ TRS Type A input, 2 x 1/8″ TRS Type A outputs, 1 x USB
PowerUSB bus-powered
Bonus FeaturesPolyphonic Aftertouch, Channel Pressure

Overall, the Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 is an all-rounder option with many great features and sturdy build quality that is ideal for live performances and creating beats.

5. AKAI Professional MPD226

Popular
Very popular MIDI drum pad with a great and portable design.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The AKAI Professional MPD226 is an upgraded model of the top pick, the MPD218, and features a better user interface, and more controls, and offers overall better functionality for live performances and studio use.

Pros

  • Added display for better navigation
  • Velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
  • Huge software bundle included
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • External syncing is a known issue
  • Shaky faders

This highly popular MIDI drum pad features a compact and easy-to-use design that is great for live use. The velocity and pressure-sensitive pads are highly responsive, giving way to an easier workflow. Plus, the display is a great upgrade from the MPD218 model.

It comes with a huge software bundle that includes Ableton Live Lite, Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion, and Big Bang Universal Drums. Additionally, the assignable Q-link knobs and faders offer much more tweaking options.

Pads16 RGB velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x MIDI in/out, 1 x USB Type B
Power6V DC adapter
Bonus FeaturesNote Repeat, Full Level

The AKAI Professional MPD226 is a well-priced, value-for-money purchase that has everything for live performances and studio use. With a great software bundle, control and pad banks, and many other useful features, it’s one of the most popular choices on the market.

6. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3

Compact
Compact and user-friendly MIDI drum pad with a great included software bundle.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 is a more affordable and portable version of the popular (full-sized) MK3 model. It is essentially a more compact version of its big brother without the two LED screens.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Easy-to-use design
  • Velocity-sensitive pads
  • A wide array of sounds and effects

Cons

  • Limited functionality with DAWs
  • Plastic casing

This MIDI drum pad is a great tool for beginner music producers and those who want to enter the world of MIDI drum pads. It has 16 velocity-sensitive pads, a Dual-touch Smart Strip, and a wide array of sounds and effects to play with.

It comes with a software bundle pack, most importantly the MASCHINE Essentials pack. It even has a step sequencer, automapping, and real-time recording, which are all sought-after features. However, it is quite limited when it comes to modern DAW integration, and the plastic casing is fairly susceptible to scratching.

Pads16 velocity-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x USB MIDI in/out
PowerUSB bus-powered
Bonus FeaturesDual-touch Smart Strip, Looper, Sampling Emulation

For the given price, the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 brings value to the table with many high-quality sounds and effects, velocity-sensitive pads, a software bundle, and sports a compact, easy-to-use design.

7. Arturia BeatStep Pro

Great Design
Highly versatile MIDI drum pad with a stunning and functional design.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Arturia BeatStep Pro is a versatile and beautifully-designed MIDI drum pad with high functionality in a somewhat portable design that doubles as a sequencer and controller. It has a wide array of controls along with pads, faders, and DAW integration.

Pros

  • Versatile and compact design
  • Excellent value for money
  • Good, reliable build quality
  • Dual-step sequencers

Cons

  • A bit too jampacked for some
  • Micro-USB power source

This MIDI drum pad brings value to the table with 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive backlit pads, Dual monophonic 64-step sequencers, and 16 assignable knobs. It’s USB bus-powered but requires a micro-USB cable connection which is not the best format.

It features a hardware sequencer that works with MIDI, USB, CV/Gate, and DIN Sync gear. Apart from that, it has dedicated controls like a looper function with a touch strip, a randomizer, swing settings, and more, meaning that versatility is not a problem.

Pads16 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
Inputs/Outputs1 x USB, 2 x 1/8″ TRS Type B in/out, 8 x drum gate outs, CV/Gate outs, 2 x 1/8″ Word Clock in/out
PowerUSB bus-powered (micro-USB)
Bonus FeaturesDual monophonic 64-step sequencers

If you want a MIDI drum pad that is also a sequencer and dedicated controller for a modest price, the Arturia BeatStep Pro is a choice to consider. With many useful features, an array of inputs and outputs, and portability, it’s a great value-for-price ratio purchase.

What is a MIDI Drum pad and how does it work?

MIDI drum pads are very similar to MIDI keyboards, but, instead of the classic keyboard layout, you use pads, faders, and encoders to create music. All the controls are connected to virtual instruments via sequencing software and you trigger samples, sounds, and effects either for live performances or studio use.

What are the benefits of using a MIDI Drum pad?

MIDI drum pads are versatile tools for making music. Plus, they are fairly more compact than the average MIDI keyboard controller setup. They all feature DAW integration, usable with PC and Macs, or can be used as a standalone in some cases.

You can use MIDI drum pads to bring musical ideas to life pretty fast. They are exceptional when it comes to live performances. You can also use them for quiet practice sessions via a headphone connection (typically included). They are modern tools for creating drum loops, and beats, and triggering one-shot sounds.

Should you opt for a MIDI keyboard controller over a MIDI Drum pad?

MIDI keyboard controllers are more versatile tools for making music. However, they do take up a lot of space and always require DAW assistance to produce sounds. In opposition to that, MIDI drum pads are more compact musical tools for quickly making music that can work as a standalone unit.

The question of whether you should buy a MIDI keyboard controller or drum pad solely relies on your preference and needs. If you want a beat-maker and have no need for a keyboard layout, MIDI drum pads are ideal tools for you. On the other hand, if you’re a music producer after more versatility, a keyboard controller is an essential tool for your studio.

MIDI Drum PadsMIDI Keyboard Controllers
Great for triggering one-shot sounds, drum loops, and making beatsVersatile music-makers with the added keyboard layout
Compact, portable designs that do not take up much spaceExcellent instruments for live performances and studio use
More affordable when compared to MIDI keyboard controllersSlightly more pricey than MIDI drum pads but offer value, nonetheless

What to look for in a MIDI Drum pad when buying?

There are many things to consider in a MIDI drum pad controller before purchasing one. This includes everything from the pads and knobs to the layout and compatibility, and naturally, the features you get, as well as the price for the unit.

As far as pads and knobs are concerned, you really can’t go wrong since most modern MIDI drum pads all feature velocity or even pressure-sensitive pads. In terms of knobs, you want assignable ones for a more versatile music-making experience.

The layout and compatibility are just as important. The layout is totally up to the person and what they prefer, whether they want compact designs and feature-packed controls, or something bigger and easier to navigate. For compatibility, however, you should always check the DAW integration as well as the inputs and outputs, depending on how and with what you’re going to use the device.

You should always check the features on MIDI pad controllers to see if they match what you’re after as well as check your budget. In terms of your skill level, for beginners, I’d advise a budget-friendly unit to get used to the ropes, while for professionals, get something versatile and high-end with high functionality.

Summary

MIDI drum controllers are frequently-used musical tools that are great for one-shot sounds, making beats, and utilizing drum loops for live performances or studio use. In this day and age, you will unlikely find a studio without a MIDI drum pad. There are many great options out there, suited for all skill levels and budgets.

My top pick is the AKAI Professional MPD218, a budget-friendly and very popular MIDI drum pad with 16 drum pads and 6 assignable knobs.

My budget pick is the Korg nanoPAD2, a very affordable and simplistic MIDI drum pad with velocity-sensitive trigger pads.

Emil Pachkovski

Emil Pachkovski

Emil Pachkovski is a drummer and filmmaker. He is an audiovisual artist that loves to create and explore the abstract art of music and visuals.

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