Hi friend and Welcome!!
Today I will be outlining a couple of my favorite cheap midi keyboard drum pad options: The KORG padKONTROL, and the Akai MPD18. Before we get started, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Normally I would do each piece of equipment separately, but given that both are very similar in regards to function, I will instead outline the padKONTROL and compare it to the MPD18 where necessary. The rundown:
- Ease of use
- What you will need
- Similarities & Differences
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
The KORG padKONTROL
Where do I even begin. This little beast of a machine held up for me from 2007 all the way until 2015. Out of all the studio equipment I’ve ever had, the padKONTROL got by far the most use. The only reason I sold it was because the knob that you see pictured (under the 5.01), broke on a flight to Greece somewhere in luggage claim. Being that it’s such a rock solid piece of equipment, I can only surmise that reckless handling of my bag had something to do with it. I traveled with it quite a bit and it’s always been very reliable. Even after it broke, I continued to use it because it still worked! I was still able to make songs, although it was much harder because the knob that broke is what enables you to switch between keys and sounds.
I liked it so much in fact, that just recently I purchased another one! This time I chose all black, which looks great in my studio, and matches all of my equipment. I have to say that the white one looks pretty neat, but the black one is just too slick. 🙂
Ease of Use
Out of the box, it’s really easy to set up and runs off of USB. Just plug and play. To sync it up with your sequencing program is super simple as well and usually involves going into preferences/midi options, etc. and doing an “auto detect”. Each program varies slightly in it’s method. I’ve used Reason and FL Studio since I started making beats, and haven’t really desired to veer away from them. Over time, you will come to realize that it’s not the program that matters, but instead what you do with it, and how much time you’re willing to spend learning it. So choose one or two and stick with them. When I started out, I used Reason and then moved to FL studio because I enjoyed sampling more than making original beats. FL is more conducive to sampling, while Reason is great for originals. That said, to set up the padKONTROL for either is quite simple.
- Go to edit
- Preferences (at the bottom)
- Click the drop down menu where it says “page”
- Keyboards and Control Surfaces
- Click Auto-detect Surfaces
- If that doesn’t work, click Add
- Choose “KORG” from the Manufacturer drop down
- Click “pad KONTROL” from the model drop down menu
- For “In Port”, select padKONTROL 1 Midi In
- For “Out Port”, select padKONTROL 1 Midi Out
For FL Studio:
- MIDI settings.
- If you’re padKONTROL is working and recognized by Windows, it should appear under “input.” It will say padKONTROL1 MIDI IN, (generic controller), Active.
- Make sure “padKONTROL 1 PORT A, and padKONTROL 1 PORT B are both active as well! If not you won’t hear anything.
- Click “Enable.”
The padKontrol has 16 assignable pads, a scene selector, and a really nice knob to scroll through your sounds. To map them is really easy:
- Hold the scene button, and tap a pad.
- Press the setting button (to the left of scene)
- turn the knob to any key you desire (G, C, A, etc.)
Assigning sounds in FL Studio:
- Go to Channels > FPC
- Drag a sample from your folder onto one of the pads. If you have sound packs, they will be under your browser on the left hand side in FL Studio. If you’re dragging samples, refer to this guide on how to sample in FL Studio. The basic concept is the same whether you are using the MPD 18 or padKONTROL though.
- Click the pad that you assigned the sound or sample to.
- Press the same pad on your padKONTROL or MPD.
- Click next to Midi Note in the upper right hand corner. Whatever note you played will appear (C3 for example).
- A big rectangular box will appear. Go all the way to the right where it says “last hit.”
- Click the pad to make sure it’s assigned!
Check out this helpful video (saved my butt!)
The Cut by feature:
A really powerful tool inside FL Studio is the Cut by. After you’ve assigned sounds to your pad, they may overlap when you trigger them with your finger, leaving you in a heap of frustration. All you want to do is bang out those samples but if every time you hit a pad, the same note plays, then you’re in for a headache! The cut by allows for extreme flexibility and control. The solution is to change each of those values to 1. Voila! Now make some magic happen baby!
Assigning sounds in Reason
- Open up Redrum. Create > Redrum Drum computer.
- Click on a folder icon
- Find a Kick, snare or hat in your sound pack.
- It should automatically assign to the padKONTROL in Scene 16.
So basically, a great way to get rolling is to lay down a sick beat, and the build off of that. As far as sampling in Reason, you will need Reason’s ReCycle. I used it a lot when I first got into sampling, but wouldn’t recommend it. It’s kind of limited with what you can do. FL Studio’s Edison is my go-to. How to sample in FL Studio!
A video that really helped me out when I was starting with Reason:
This is what really sells me on the padKONTROL. Not only is it really fun to play with, but it also feels really great to the touch. 😉
Many will disagree, but the pads on this controller feel better, softer, and more sensitive than My MPD18’s do. I suppose this is personal preference, but I put more stock into softness and sensitivity than I do in size. The MPD18 is great, don’t get me wrong, and it’s pads are slightly bigger. But overall it has a more rocky, rougher feel than the padKONTROL. Some would say this contributes more to it’s durability. I can’t disagree there. It’s heavier and feels more solid, but the pads are rock hard. To remedy this, press the “full level” button. It does help a great deal with pressure sensitivity.
However, when I bang out a drum pattern on the KORG, I feel better about it. Does that make me sound like a hippie? 😀
I will take this to the grave with me. The padKONTROL looks amazing. It always has, and always will. There’s just something about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. When idle, the pads light up and go through a series of patterns, which looks really cool in the dark (for those late night sessions). The pads also light up every time you hit them, which is kind of a small detail but still nice.
The MPD18 by contrast has a more professional, tidy, and discrete look to it. It looks very slick in the studio. It doesn’t draw much attention to itself, but remains attractive enough in a more subtle and simple way.
Do not buy either of these for their features. You will be disappointed. I had a very specific goal in mind when shopping for drum pads. Convenience. That said, The padKONTROL has a great feature that I thought I would mention. The X-Y pad. Amazing. Some don’t think too highly of it, but when I was first starting out and experimenting, I wore this thing out. It’s great for just that: Fooling around and what not.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Looks beautiful.
- Pads are extremely responsive and feel great.
- Lightweight but durable.
- Pads light up, which is a cool effect at night.
- Reliable. Will stand the test of time.
- User friendly.
- There is a small learning curve, being that it’s just a simple MIDI controller, and doesn’t actually play any sounds of it’s own (What is MIDI?).
What you will need
- A basic understanding of how MIDI works.
- A PC that will support KORG drivers.
- A sequencing program such as the ones we discussed in this article.
Recommended but not mandatory
- An audio interface or preamp for better sound. Preamp vs. Interface.
- Studio monitors for mixing. JBL LSR 305 Review!
- Mixing headphones. Sennheiser HD 600 Review. The 600’s just happen to be the best. You could go with the Sony MDR V6’s and do just fine.
You could realistically just use your laptop and the pad and bang out beats that way. I did it for a long time with a pair of Sony MDR 7506’s and was happy. Just so you know, the MDR V6 and 7506’s are nearly identical, with just a few differences. Sony MDR V6 vs. MDR 7506.
Similarities & Differences
- Both work well with Reason and FL Studio. I really never used the MPD 18 with Reason, so I can’t comment on that; however a quick google search reveals that it’s a good pairing as well.
- Price. The padKONTROL is more expensive.
- Look. The MPD 18 is kind of ugly in my opinion. The pads on the padKONTROL light up. Not a huge deal, but cool nonetheless.
- Feel. The MPD 18’s pads are rock hard. It’s not as fun to play with.
- Features. The padKONTROL has a lot more.
- Homey. There’s something special about the padKONTROL. It makes me a bit nostalgic, and just really fits in well in my studio. It has a very comforting quality about it, and makes you feel at ease. 🙂
In 2007, the price tag of the KORG padKONTROL was $199. It has come down a little since then, but there is still such a demand for it that the price really hasn’t changed all that much. It’s such a great piece of equipment. For me, it’s the cream of the crop as far as simple and easy to use starter pads. It really is worth every penny and more, and will last you for a long time so long as you take care of it.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you enjoyed this article on cheap midi keyboard drum pads! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or Contact me!! I look forward to hearing from you..
Which of these cheap midi keyboard drum pads do you feel is the best value?? Let me know!!
All the best and God bless,