We took a look at the Mandala drum controller last year: it’s a multi-zone drum controller you can play with sticks. Different zones give the device extra expression, packed into a compact area. And the manufacturers know something about controller design, having worked on the D-Beam IR controller for Roland (among other things). Check comments on our last post: the combination of the finely-detailed zones, smart MIDI configuration, and quality pads have made people fall in love with playing this thing.

That’s good enough as-is. Make the Mandala really cheap (US$349 list!) and add a USB plug for use with a computer, and you’ve really got something interesting. (It’s now purple instead of red as pictured here.) “But wait, there’s more!” These guys also bundled 4 GB of samples, including some 3,000 snare drum samples. That makes it arguably a better deal than some soundware libraries that lack hardware. I like the way they describe it: “It’s a synthesizer with drumsticks, with a drum pad so sensitive it responds even to a fingertip touch.” If they’re halfway there, this could be a must-have.

I have to get one of these in for review. Shipping in December, apparently just in time for the holidays. This one could rise to the top of our holiday list.

Mandala Drum Product Site

  • I'm glad to see hardware developers understanding two fundamental things about their business that seems to escape so many people:

    1) make it send midi, as software is so useful yet hardware is the only way to play expressively easily

    2) make it cheap, so that enough people buy it to bring the price down – video game controllers are so cheap because tons of people use them, bringing down the manufacturing cost

    Which brings me to my greatest wish: sell a midi wind instrument that's cheap, and they'll fly off the shelves – please!

    I was really intrigued seeing this in the musiciansfriend catalog and immediately wanted it, but it was too expensive. Now it seems a great deal.

    Maybe the maker of the similar product with 2 ribbon controllers will take the hint, too.

  • As far as ribbons, we've heard the PAIA ribbon controller is on its way back … stay tuned.

  • yeah that looks cool. But so does the carpet or rug. anyone know where to buy one?

  • deb

    um, what similar product with 2 ribbon controllers?

  • poopoo

    The 128 position rings is interesting. That would be difficult to do with piezos or FSR. Any ideas what the technology behind it is?

    @runagate.. "hardware is the only way to play expressively easily", "midi wind instrument…fly off the shelves". Seems to me that you don't understand some fundamental things about hardware.

  • This is awesome. Wake up Roland! They were the default midi drum stage solution with the SPD range but those are so long in the tooth it isnt funny. Definitely grabbing one… unless Peter, you want to get us an early xmas present?

  • samu

    I think the DrumKat outranked the SPDs…

    Didn't these Mandala things used to be incredibly expensive? This new version looks… well, necessary. Shame you can only zone it concentrically, though. I'd like quarters, ideally.

  • samu

    Ah… no extra inputs for hh/kick?

  • Very cool. Eagerly awaiting some reviews of this thing. If I can play it doumbek-style ('cause I am crap with sticks) they might have a sale here.

  • corporation

    if this allows for finger tip playing (ala congas), i want some!

  • Yes, supposedly fingertips work just fine!

  • chris

    I like to play snare with brushes as well as hand drums– doumbek and cajon. Am looking for an electronic drum that'll be easy to set-up and transport, that'll work for full band performances and can duplicate the (touch sensitive) sound of kit with brushes,hand drums and other effects. (cymbals, timpani, etc)

    Have narrowed my selection down to the Mandala 2.0 or the Roland HPD20. What do you recommend?

  • chris

    has anyone tried playing the Mandala 2.0 with hands? and brushes? if so, how's the sound and response?

  • Tim

    Could anyone advise me what the playability of the Mandala 2.0 is like, that is does the surface have a lot of give? I ask this as I know a lot of piezzo pads are quite hard surfaces. This makes them jarring on the wrists. It also means they produce a clear audible 'thwack' noise when struck with sticks. Thanks in advance for your advice on this matter.

  • Ryan

    I currently have the Mandala 2.0 IN MY POSSESSION!

    Here's the good and the bad.


    *It's USB, thus it cuts down the need for converters.

    * It is IMMUNE to X-talk. A serious problem for those of you (like me) that use electric and acoustic drums simultaneously. You can smack the back of the Mandala and it won't make a sound.

    * 7 Zones per drum, 5 drums supported… totals 35 samples.

    * Can make tons of presets and use various effects.


    *Currently, unable to trigger two zones simultaneously. I'm talking to tech about this to confirm if it's supposed to do this or not.

    * Rewire isn't playing nice with Ableton 7 right now (also working with tech on this).

    *Software is a tad buggy at the moment. Sometimes have to restart to get things to stick. Luckily, it loads quickly.

    *When hit hard, the samples seem like they're overdriven or clipping even when they aren't in the yellow or red. Could be due to the distortion effect used.


    The pad feels harder than a Roland PD-8. The PD-8 feels rubbery, but the Mandala had a very hard feel to it. This is probably due to the spiraling sensor just below the surface (you can feel them a little if you rub it). It will react to fingers, but it doesn't really work with a palm. So, you can't play it like a hand drum.