Roland’s venerable SPD range just keeps getting better...
Roland certainly have an illustrious history in electronic percussion. Many of their products have achieved iconic status and, like the original Octapad percussion controller, released in 1985, have set the design template for many more over the subsequent decades.
November 2020 saw the introduction of their Octapad SPD‑20 Pro, a new twist on the SPD‑20. The latter was first introduced in 1998 and (fun fact) became one of the most successful percussion products on the Indian market, due to its exceptional range of classic drum and world percussion sounds. But with technology moving so fast, and hi‑tech products being superseded by the ‘next big thing’ almost daily, is there still a place for a product that was conceived 22 years ago?
In the unlikely event that you’re unaware of the SDP‑20, it could be described as a self‑contained portable electronic drum kit. Usually played with sticks, it can also be a great way of adding a huge range of drum and percussion sounds to an acoustic kit. The new Pro incarnation has an almost identical physical form to the original unit, with the majority of its surface occupied by the eight cushioned rubber pads used to trigger the 900 internal instruments. With such a long history in electronic drums, I would imagine Roland use the same rubber formulation as the pads found on their older kits, which gives them a firm feel and a nice rebound. The pads sit a good centimetre proud of the body of the unit and are spaced around 5mm apart, which reduces the likelihood of accidentally striking the casing or an adjacent pad.
Above the pads, and spanning the entire width of the SPD‑20 Pro, is the control panel. The simple numerical LED display of the original SPD‑20 is retained, but is augmented by a small backlit LCD, alongside a KIT button that instantly returns you to the main kit screen and two large + and – buttons for data entry and scrolling through presets. All three buttons are brightly illuminated, making them easily visible on a dimly lit stage.
The right‑hand section of the control panel includes dedicated buttons for Instrument selection, Layer Type, Level, Pitch, Multi FX and Ambience, with additional parameters accessed using the left/right navigation buttons below the LCD display. There are also dedicated buttons accessing System functions, Pad features and global Kit settings such as Copy and Exchange.
The rear of the SPD‑20 Pro sees small but significant changes from the original unit. The phones socket, volume control, Main Left/Right outputs and Mix Input sockets remain, as do the MIDI In, Out and footswitch socket. The last can be used to control a number of different features, from stepping through kit presets to turning individual effects processors on...