Hope you’ve been practicing your paradiddles. Synesthesia today unveiled a new digital drum pad called the Mandala. Compromising the drum trigger itself and a “brain” that handles MIDI configuration and produces sound, the Mandala lets you play either internal sound presets or external MIDI devices and soft synths on an 11″ circular playing area. Pick up some sticks, strike away, and you get 7 independent zones of MIDI data, so you can assemble a very sophisticated performance with this device alone. TOOL’s Danny Carey was involved in the instrument’s development, and the company Synesthesia has a background in building sensors for musical applications, including the D-Beam IR sensor found on many Roland products. This appears to be their first end user product.

Synesthesia’s site has some great video clips of the drum in action, plus complete specs and documentation:

Synesthesia Mandala Drum

Digital drums aren’t anything new, but this does look like it might be a top-flight instrument, particularly in terms of its performance specs (response time and sensitivity to velocity and position). The configuration options are unusually advanced. There are extensive options for people who want to use the Mandala as a standalone instrument (hence, lots of presets and even a full effects and modulation section), but there are also lots of options for creating zones and other settings for controlling other instruments via MIDI — I imagine some people will pick it up as a front end to their computer.

For an entirely different take on how to approach digital drum instruments, see the Zendrum covered here previously. (That instrument uses your hands instead of sticks. I’m sure some of you would love to have both in your studio. I hope to revisit the Zendrum soon, so stay tuned.)

The whole thing would fit easily in a bag (only a few pounds for both units). Price: US$995.

  • Joakim

    I don't get it?? What can this thing do that the Roland Handsonc pads can't??

  • Looks awesome, haven't you seen the demos at their website or heard 10,000 days as examples? seems their extensibility with MIDI is a strong point..

  • My sense is that this is more customizable than the Handsonic, certainly . . . I think they're likely using higher-quality components, but to really know whether this is worth the extra cash over a Handsonic, you'd have to try the thing out. (I'm a big fan of the Handsonic, too.)

  • to me, this dates back to the machine the Handsonic threatened to destroy: the DrumKAT and its cousins.

    much higher quality FSR's, multiple pads, the thing is indestructible and does nothing but MIDI I/O – no audio.

  • Yes, the DrumKAT is truly terrific!

    I don't know what the best options are these days, as I'm not a drummer. Anyone?

    And, of course, there are the great mallet controllers of yore like the MalletKAT (though I think that's now going back into production somehow?)


  • Dan S

    I remember way way back that korg had something similiar: a drum pad coupled with some kind of acoustic simulation engine. Does anyone remember this, has anyone used it?

  • Hello Dan,

    I think you’re referring to the Korg Wavedrum.

    I still love mine a lot. I have however found the Hand Sonic to be limiting.

    The pads sound pretty good if you’re doing basic Percussion work, but for soft, subtle, and ghost notes the device falls short.

    I do think that the Mandala Drum will replace my Hand Sonic within a month. (As soon as I could order one is more like it.)


  • i have purchased the Mandala one week ago and let me tell you its no hand sonic Rolland presets that every one has heard a thousand times never will this drum MANDALA be even comparable to the handsonic if i hand to tell you the best way to describe it, is you wasted your money on a hand sonic now shut up and save some cash invest in the future sucka

    im going to play mine right now you have any questions about anything let me know i will be honest with you cool


  • also the best drum i have played yet

    im going to have some recordings

    that i can attach a file of the mandala if you havent seen or lissten to the mandala just go to

    synesthesiacorp.com and take a look or just ask me



  • Just got my Mandala Drum. It's in a class all its own. I have used it already on two recordings that'll be out later this year.

    Everone needs at least two of them.


  • Unpacked mine last night. Very cool, very sensitive and the MIDI implementation will be very versatily. "I'm excited"! expect to have some recordings done very quickly. But I agree, I really could do with 2 or 3 of these…

  • metopia

    Why hasn't anybody mentioned that the Mandala essentially has 128 zones!! That's my favorite thing about it. It knows which ring I am hitting down to the freakin' millimeter and can change its sound ever so slightly for each ring on some of the cooler presets. As I play and move my sticks from the center to the edge it sounds like I'm working a controller pedal putting out wah or pitchbend or even bringing in reverb or delay sometimes. This thing rules!

  • vast expance

    your comparing a mandala to a roland handsonic? your kidding right?

  • my manager just suprised me with one last week. honestly hadn't given it much thought before that…..MY MISTAKE. It has already brought me and my bands performance up a notch. Just sent in an order for another one. THIS IS THE FUTURE OF DRUMS!!!!

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  • silly question . . . apart from the awesome sounding samples it comes with, can you use it as an MIDI input for cubase/logic etc to create realistic sounding drum grooves. i.e. MIDI input rather than audio input. (Although I admit that once the MIDI info is in there I'd probably output the info back to the samples that come with the Mandala)

  • Not a silly question, Simon — short answer, yes you can, quite a few people using it exactly that way.