A powerhouse percussion pad poised to service the working professional’s needs…and then some.
Alesis’s Strike line of electronic drums is reserved for professional-grade products, such as the eleven-piece Strike Pro and eight-piece Strike mesh-head drumsets. In the multipad category, the company has previously focused on simplicity and affordability with the SamplePad Pro and SamplePad 4. With the introduction of the Strike MultiPad, Alesis pulls no punches, delivering a knockout product packed with unprecedented power, performance, and creative potential. And yet somehow Alesis has positioned this pad at an ultra-competitive price point ($699). Let’s see how it fares.
The Strike MultiPad features six 4″ square pads and three 1″x4″ pads that run across the top edge. Each pad is velocity sensitive and has an animated RGB light below it that can be assigned to different colors, and illumination functions to help you customize the visual organization of the kits. For instance, one-shot samples can be set to display a solid color, while loops can be assigned separate colors for when the loop is triggered versus when it’s stopped. If the pad triggering the loop is set to Fill mode, the assigned color will scroll continuously from left to right in time with the length of the audio file being played. This subtle yet practical function can help you keep track of phrase or song lengths when playing along to longer tracks or multiple loops. The lights are bright enough to guide your aim when playing in darker rooms, but they’re subtle enough to not be a distraction.
There are a handful of other design elements incorporated into the Strike MultiPad that make the playing experience easier for working musicians. First, the entire playing surface of the pad, including the recessed areas between the trigger pads and the left and right sides of the controls section, are coated in rubber. This is done so that you don’t damage the casing if you accidentally strike it.
The trigger pads have a soft but decently responsive feel that allows for plenty of rebound without sending excessive vibrations back into your hands. The main pads articulated detailed drum corps–style phrases with perfect accuracy. The upper three pads also responded well, but their limited playing area makes them most appropriate for use to control loops and tracks, apply and remove effects, or trigger single sample hits.
Alesis also placed the two headphone jacks (quarter-inch and eighth-inch versions) on the front side of the pad, which makes for much easier access than when the jacks are placed on the back of the module, especially when positioning the pad in more extreme and/ or crowded areas within a hybrid setup that might include acoustic drums, cymbals, percussion, and other electronics.
The control panel features a large 4.3″ display that’s bright and clear and allows for quick and easy kit changes, pad assignment edits, and sample cropping. You can even view the actual waveform of a chosen sample, which is especially helpful when chopping long audio les into shorter loops and single hits.
The main, auxiliary, and headphone outputs have separate volume knobs, and there are clearly labeled buttons for a variety of performance and editing functions, including metronome on/off, bpm, kit selection, kit effects, master effects, and two very important actions: Panic, which allows you to silence all sounds when things go awry, and Pad Cue, which allows you to preview the sounds assigned to the pads by momentarily muting the main outputs and routing the audio to the headphones only.
The back panel includes all the typical connections: MIDI in/out, USB memory, USB/MIDI, left and right audio inputs, and power on/off. However, the output and trigger input section of the Strike MultiPad has been beefed up considerably. There are two pairs of quarter-inch outputs (L/R Main and L/R Aux), which allow for routing flexibility when you want to send different elements of the kit to different destinations. For instance, you could send kick and snare one-shot samples to the left and right main outputs and then route loops or backing tracks to the auxiliary outputs.
The Strike MultiPad also includes a mono trigger input, three dual-trigger inputs, and jacks for a hi-hat controller and two dual footswitches. These extra inputs allow the Strike MultiPad to be expanded into a full electronic or hybrid rig by connecting up to five triggers or single-zone pads. Combine that with the pad’s 32 GB of internal memory space, and you can likely cover all your electronic needs—including a full show’s worth of backing tracks and kits loaded with multilayered samples—without using a laptop or computer.
The Strike MultiPad comes with over 6 GB of installed content, which includes a ton of high-quality samples of acoustic drums, cymbals, and percussion, melodic instruments, and electronic tones, plus a wide assortment of acoustic and synthesized loops. That leaves about 26 GB of space within the internal memory for uploading your own samples, loops, and tracks.
There are thirty preset kits in the Strike MultiPad, ranging from realistic acoustic drumsets (Good Ol’ Rock, Jazz Kit, Power Duel) to heavily processed sets (Pink Tom Phils, Hat Grease Kit), loop- and synth-based configurations (Cash Money Kit, Synth Loops), and percussion collections (Drum Circle, Marimba, Drum Corp, Bowed Celeste). What I found most appealing about the Strike MultiPad’s presets was that none of them consisted of dated, generic, or overused samples. Even the traditional drumset-oriented kits included sounds that I’d never heard before, or they were treated with effects in interesting ways that were unexpected yet musical and highly inspiring.
The samples included in the Strike MultiPad are some of the most authentic and three-dimensional I’ve ever heard from a stock drum module library. All of the kicks, snares, toms, cymbals, and percussion samples sounded as if they were being played live in a million-dollar studio, and the electronic tones had amazing depth and detail. I was particularly impressed with the hyperrealism of some of the less common drum sounds, like the Rototom and super-tight DCI-style marching snare samples.
Each kit can be customized by applying up to three effects to each pad, and master effects, such as reverb, EQ, and compression, can be applied globally to the entire kit. All of the effects are editable utilizing the A-Link knobs and A/B/C buttons on the control panel. There are a bunch of other editing tools that can be used to tweak each kit further, so even without sampling new sounds or uploading your own audio files into the Strike MultiPad, you have nearly infinite options for sonic sculpting at your fingertips.
Looping and Group Functions
There’s a lot going on under the hood of the Alesis Strike MultiPad, so to prevent this review from reading like a user’s manual, we’re going to focus on two of the most creative and practical functions: looping and pad groups.
When you’re in the effect view window of the perform mode, you can press the far-right button beneath the display screen to access the built-in looper. From there, you can set the length of the loop you’d like to record to be one to eight, twelve, or sixteen measures. Pressing the third button from the left once arms the recorder, and pressing it again cues a one-measure count-in before the recording starts. Once you reach the end of the cycle, your loop plays back continuously.
You can jam along to your new loop, or you can press the third button (F3) again to overdub additional ideas. If you’re happy with your loop and would like to save it for future use, you can do so by stopping the playback and pressing the F4 button. This converts the loop to a WAV file and sends it to the user sample folder. At that point, your original loop can be edited, trimmed, chopped, and assigned to any pad, just as you would do with an imported audio file.
The pad group function allows you to link multiple pads together to either trigger all at once, to mute previously triggered sounds within the same group, or to cycle through each pad either randomly or through a left-to-right or bottom-to-top pattern. The Mute group mode is ideal for triggering different loops or long samples at different points in a song where you don’t want the previous sample to carry through the next section. The Together mode is great for situations where you want to layer multiple samples via one pad strike, such as synth chords and bass drum/cymbal accents. The Cycle and Random modes will be most useful for more creative situations where you might want to play bass lines, melodic motifs, or hypnotic note cycles freely and in real time rather than as prerecorded loops.
We’ve just barely scratched the surface of what the Alesis Strike MultiPad can do, and more functions and features are being introduced with each firmware update. So your best bet is to get down to your local Alesis dealer, give the pad a go, and see if it gets your creative juices going. I was hooked from the get-go.