Which are the best electronic snare drum pads for your edrum kit? There are more snare trigger choices than ever before, so the choice of the perfect snare pad can be a daunting one.
One problem when it comes to some drum modules is that the snare might have some proprietary components that lock you into just 1 or several choices. This is really limiting for the consumer and always a poor decision by the brand design team, in my humble opinion. I will also discuss this aspect of choosing the best snare pad during the course of this dedicated post.
Want some guidance on finding the best snare pad for yore drums? You have come to the right place. Put my extensive experience to work for you…or don’t. Remember, opinions vary, and yours might differ from mine. It is always a good policy to listen to all opinions before making up your own mind… At the end of the day, this is just an opinion piece.
Best Electronic Snare Drum Limitations
As mentioned above, some modules utilize proprietary technologies (or non-proprietary, but unpopular…lol) to power their snare pads. The most famous example are the many, many lines of Yamaha edrums that use a multi-zone, single-piezo, multi-switch pad trigger system instead of a multiple piezo setup. This basically forces users to choose one of the Yamaha snare pad choices if they want full and optimal trigger functionality from their Yamaha drum module. While the Yamaha system works flawlessly, the design is not organic feeling and forces the player to acclimate to a new way to do many traditional techniques, like side stick and rim shot, which can only be played on select areas of Yamaha pads. Fortunately, Yamaha does make several snare models and although expensive, they offer size and feature options for many price points.
A more recent addition to the snare pad limitation group is the odd duck Pearl Emerge kit. This set uses a proprietary snare made by Pearl and Korg and this pad is a primary component of the set’s feature list, meaning it basically can not be replaced.
Typical Snare Drum Pad Triggers
Most electronic snare drums use a 2 piezo system to provide rim and head trigger functionality. This set-up allows for upgrades of the stock snare pads on most drum modules. This is a great feature, since it gives the player more choices when it comes to what they want in a snare pad.
Roland is the best known of these pad makers, but many other companies use the exact same formula for their snares. This makes them basically compatible with Roland pads and other similarly constructed pads with a little bit tweaking of the module settings.
Virtually all custom pad makers, like Drum-Tec, will utilize a dual piezo approach that makes them compatible with Roland-style modules. This provides them the largest potential market share of consumers who can buy, use and enjoy their products. Maybe Yamaha can learn a lesson from this sentence… Ooops. They already did! The newest line of Yamaha edrum modules accepts traditional mesh style pads with dual piezo trigger systems. But not natively and not without some significant tweaking within the module settings.
My Choice for the Best Electronic Snare Drum
Ok, so this is what most of you have been waiting for in this post… My recommendations! Ok, let’s get on with it already… There are quite a few notable choices worth mentioning!
The King of the Hill is certainly the Roland PD-140DS. This heavy monster of a snare drum is the best looking and best performing pad on the market. It’s digital functionality, multiple sensors, ability to seamlessly transition between organically played sidestick and rim shot make it the best, hands down. Unfortunately, it is very expensive and can only be used by the Roland TD-27, TD-50 and TD-50X modules. However, there are workarounds that allow most of its functionality to be used with other drum sound sources with minimal effort.
ATV AD-S13 is a great snare pad. It feels awesome. It is a super size and has a nice (if not somewhat loud) sidestick trigger bar for flawless rim work. Best of all, it has 3 offset head trigger cones so no hotspotting! I used this snare on my own store kit for some time and loved it! I have not extensively tested the newer EF Note snares, but since they have a virtually identical design, they should perform similarly or identically.
Many acoustic conversion snares can be great. Drum-Tec makes some beautiful ones. The prices can be very high, but the triggering is superb for an acoustic conversion on the best models. Unfortunately, like all wide array of quality Roland snares (PD-128, PD-125), these pads tend to feature a single central mount head trigger cone that is extremely susceptible to hotspotting, which can make snare playing a traumatic experience!
Despite my above endorsement as best of the best, the Roland PD-140DS does not earn my top recommendation for best electronic snare pad. Surprise! This honor goes to the newer Roland PD-120L, with its 3 trigger cone no-hotspotting system, low weight and low price point. This snare works with all Roland modules and most compatible brands, as well. It is not the best of the best in terms of features, but wins this contest on the basis of availability to more drummers and compatibility with more modules. Congratulations Roland on the win. As an aside, this is the same pad I am now using on most of my studio sets for tom and even some snare applications.