Roland has a simple idea: take digital drum pad hardware, and simplify it. What you get is fun and ready little boxes you can stamp with your foot, play with your hands, or hit with a stick.

Instead of one big unit with a bunch of features or a whole electronic kit, the SPD::ONE line is four different compact units with particular sets of sounds. There’s a kick, an “electro” unit, a “percussion” unit, and a “WAV” sample loader. All four also double as MIDI controllers for your computer.

I think people who never even thought they wanted a drum pad might suddenly decide they do. I’m not a drummer, but I like hitting stuff, and I sort of have rhythm. That counts, right?

Today’s news kicks off another batch of products Roland is announcing online via stream rather than a trade show. Now, if you were hoping for a Boutique series 808 (or 727!), you may be disappointed. But what we get instead, while showing Roland’s BOSS side, is also useful.



Let’s review:

All four units have some common features:

  • Super simple four knob controls: dial in a sound, tune, adjust volume. (Depending on the unit, you get some other basic parameter control – over effects and tuning on three models, or headphone mix on the WAV.)
  • Battery (4xAA) or plug-in power
  • Use them on a surface, or stick them into your kit, via a mounting adapter in the box (also works on mic stands)
  • USB MIDI support for use as a controller (transmits a single note and velocity from the pad only)
  • Drag and drop sample import – on all but the WAV, you get one slot for up five seconds, 44.1 x 16-bit mono. The WAV gives you 4GB, and includes more options.
  • Small and light: 2 lbs (900 g), and a sort of thick-ish palm-sized config, just 150 cm wide.
  • Nice pads. I’m told the feel should be similar to what you get from Roland’s PD-8 V-Pad. (In fact, someone should go DIY a rig with that and a Raspberry Pi. Just sayin’.)

The number of sounds (not including the WAV) isn’t immediately obvious. There are 12 banks, set by knob. The first 11 are presets, with each having a variation accessible via a small button on the front panel. The twelfth is your user storage. On the WAV, there’s a different configuration, but more on that in a bit.

Full retail list (street should be less):
255EUR (incl. VAT), or 309EUR for the WAV
US$250, $300 for WAV.

The price really says it all. Something like Roland’s own Handsonic is way more powerful, but it’s also less portable – and it’s $900. It’s a different beast. This is more like an impulse buy you can add to an existing rig.

Mounting hardware is included in the box.

Mounting hardware is included in the box.

Note the sensitivity controls on the side.

Note the sensitivity controls on the side.

The WAV is definitely the most versatile of the four, and because you can load your own samples, could well replace the others. Let’s look:

The three sound models

The electro comes with 808 and 909 sounds. Now, some CDM readers em>might opt for this over the WAV, just because there’s a built-in reverb/delay.

The percussion is a bit like the electro, but with more realistic sounds (well, since now an 808 or 909 sounds like an 808 or 909 to us). It’s got the full range of greatest-hits percussion. It also has the reverb/delay.

The kick is a bit of a misnomer – it’s more than just kick sounds. It’s more like a set of sounds you’d want to play from your foot. (You can do that with any of the units here, but this one is set out of the box with that assumption.) So of course there’s a TR kick, and some variations on acoustic kick drums. But there’s also a guiro, ankle bracelet, cowbell, clap, and cymbal.

Instead of reverb/delay, this is the one with reverb/distortion.

And the fourth one for custom sounds

Prediction: the SPD:ONE WAV PAD is about to become one of those pieces of kit you see in live electronic rigs and drum kits.

First, what you lose versus the other models: there’s no built-in delay/reverb, and you do pay another fifty bucks.

But what you gain is 4GB of internal storage and more flexible playing modes.

In place of the tune and delay/reverb knobs, you get a dedicated headphone knob and click/master mix knob. That means you have hands-on control over your monitor mix and can listen to a click if you want.

And then there’s the various ways you can make use of that 4GB of space. It’s a bit hack-y, but that’s somehow cool.

First, you bump up the hardware to stereo support in addition to mono.

There are three use cases here:

Click tracks. You can create a custom click and run that through the headphones, while playing at the same time.

Backing tracks. You have 4GB of space, so full backing tracks are totally possible. But the SPD:ONE WAV is restricted. Once you’re playing a backing track, you can’t layer anything else. (For that, Roland would prefer you buy something like their SPD-SX, which can do both simultaneously.) I’m guessing this might still be useful to someone – like keeping the unit around to play backing tracks on a couple of songs, then using the remaining slots for triggering live sounds. (It’s still a set of backing tracks you can trigger with a foot or a stick, but I don’t know if everyone wants to pay three hundred bucks for just that alone.)

Custom layered sounds. There are multiple monophonic, polyphonic, looping, and layered options here. Let’s break them down, since Roland’s info isn’t so obvious. You’re essentially the sound designer here, in that you’ll choose the mode based on the filename you enter for your sounds. (There’s a cheat sheet silkscreened onto the front panel, so you don’t have to go hunting for a PDF.)

One shot mono: each additional trigger stops, then re-triggers the sound.

One shot poly: each additional trigger starts a new sound layer over top. (Forgot to check the maximum polyphony; will do that.)

Loop alt: trigger to start a sound. Once the sound ends, it will loop from the beginning. Trigger again to stop the loop.

Phrase alt: trigger to start a sound. Once the sound ends, it will stop playing until it’s re-triggered.

Layering: Here’s where things get interesting. You can layer up to three sounds per patch, set volume for each, and even have certain layers trigger at particular velocities. (Betcha some intrepid hacker makes their own GUI editor.)

Watch this video for more on that advanced functionality:

And here’s a quick start on using this for click tracks:

Deja Vu

I was scratching my head for a directly comparable product. (There are more sophisticated options that do more, but this is unique in doing one task in a very particular way.)

It turns out, the brand that did this before is Roland / BOSS. And actually, their first effort looks nice – I like that one is a synth. (Maybe a Roland AIRA variant to go with the others is in order?)


Check out everything at Roland:

  • DMR

    It seems that they only have MIDI over USB? A standard MIDI port (either 5-pin or minijack) would have been nice to link with a hardware drum machine.

    • Yeah, my first reaction, too … especially now that minijack MIDI is becoming a thing. (MIDI DIN was definitely out, just looking at those case dimensions, but minijack.) Plus you only need out, not in.

      On the other hand, if you want a trigger, a standalone trigger is only $99 … (this whole article made me think again about the potential utility of those standalone pads)

  • itchy

    pretty cool i can dig it

  • Paul

    The Emu E-Drum came out around the same time as those old Boss pads I think too.

    I’ve been using the Akai mpx-8 which has the tuning/reverb/WAV playback like these do, in a similar setup to what you described. It’s kinda for finger drums only and not meant for sticks. It does have better MIDI specs though. Also it’s very cheap.

  • Robin Parmar

    This is similar to a device I specified a couple years ago… a WAV file player. Except mine has multiple configurable pads and infinite sounds thorough an SD card slot. Plus it’s programmable. By contrast, these boxes just look like a money grab to me. Someone at Roland figured “Why have one general-purpose device when you can sell multiple boxes that do exactly the same thing?”

    Oh yeah, mine is vapourware since I’m a software guy, not a hardware guy. But if anyone wants to partner…

    • Dubby Labby

      What kind of software? What kind of hardware do you need? 🙂

      • Robin Parmar

        Well, I was thinking of a Teensy with audio shield as a practical method, but my initial dabblings with the software encountered a few issues. Perhaps I should be looking into hacking an OWL pedal so that it has the storage.

        • Dubby Labby

          Why not go for raspi? Do you code python? Even if not, it could be possible do amazing things just with pd… from the hadware pov do you need something that doesn’t exist in any form atm?

          • Robin Parmar

            Yes, I code Python. Preferably I code nothing else! 🙂 I have found pd very limited compared with Max, but I guess I am spoiled.

            Raspberry Pi is indeed an option as are other hardware platforms that have since appeared (Beaglebone, Axoloti).

            The hardware I desire would support long-term audio playback. So, multiple channels that can be triggered and manipulated. But not short samples (a sampler does that), instead long stereo files. Updatable instantly through an SD / micro SD.

          • Dubby Labby

            Well python is the key. I pointed towards pi and pd due you were talking hardware desinging. It will be amazing max running in ARM machines but until it happens…
   could be another intetresting platform for you 😉

  • AH

    This seems like a rehash of the Boss Dr. PAD series, with lots of extras.

    • David McDonald

      Yeah! That’s what I thought! I’ve been dragging a set of DR-pads around for years since I bought them in a thrift store. But now they all seem to have mysteriously died! Open to tips if anyone has an ideas on how to fix them.

  • WetBoy

    Fail, especially at that price

    • Space Captain

      Have you thought of applying for CEO of Roland? Surprised they’ve been around so long with so many fails. I’m sure you could show them a thing or two.

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    I thought they’re brilliant, until I saw the price – I think it would be much cooler if this was a dead-simple device without click tracks, layers etc, for – let’s say – $50. You could than really combine a few of them into custom sets, still staying on the cheap side. While with current price, buying 3 or more gets you a similar price as Nord Drum or SPD-S… Still a cool idea, though

  • heinrich zwahlen

    The rebirth of the 80ties claptrap or synth drum. It would be a timely thing to do but the pricepoint with this product is too high.

  • R__W

    What is the trigger mechanism on these pads? I’ve been looking at other similar systems, like the Nord Drum 3. Do they all use the same triggering mechanism?

    Is it a standard piezo, covered with a pad of rubber? A custom piezo covered with a pad of rubber?

    Something else entirely?

  • fluffy

    oohh! glad was excited to see the .wav pad….until i saw the price.
    as an sp404 ex-owner, i miss triggering very long samples on stage, but dammit, 300€ for a sample trigger? honestly, you can buy a jamman solo xt for less than 120€…and you´ve stereo looping + more storage/space.

  • Gerold

    Could anyone point me in the right direction if I want to DIY the ONE:WAV pad? I’d mainly use it for the backing+clicktrack funtion.