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Roland SPD6

MIDI Percussion Controller
Published February 2002
By Paul White

We take a quick look at this low‑cost MIDI pad controller.

ROLAND SPD6 percussion controller.The SPD6 MIDI percussion pad features 113 internal drum sounds, with six rubber playing pads and can run from an optional power adaptor or from batteries, with a life of up to 20 hours. A sensitivity switch allows it to be played with your hands or fingers, and it comes with 16 preset drum kits and 16 user kits. You can connect two footswitches to trigger an additional kick drum sound and to switch between open and closed hi‑hat settings. The pads themselves seem to use piezo transducers and are more sensitive in the middle than at the edge, but they're reasonably forgiving of sloppy playing.

All the connections are on the rear panel. Here you'll find the sensitivity switch, volume control, a MIDI Out socket and a pair of audio out jacks. The kits are divided into acoustic, electronic, latin and special effects, and most of the sounds come from other Roland products. My only criticism is that there are too many silly special effects, such as creaking doors, thunder, and car skids. Many of the drum sounds are electronic, so if you're after rock, pop or jazz kits, the choice is pretty basic. You can assign new sounds to any or all of the pads (but not edit the sounds themselves) and change the MIDI note number output when a pad is hit. Additionally, the velocity response curves of the pads can be changed to suit your playing style, though some of these operations are pretty arcane.

It seems Roland assume that the SPD6 will be used only to trigger other sounds, because there's no MIDI In to trigger its internal sounds. Furthermore, the sound engine has only four‑note polyphony; you soon hear note‑stealing on fast fills. The lack of a MIDI In is a curious omission, but overall, the SPD6 succeeds as a compact, simple and affordable drum pad system that can be used live or to program parts into a sequencer.

Published February 2002