In the portable pad controller market, the Korg Nano Pad and Akai LPD8 have recently dominated the battle for the spare space in your laptop bag. Affordable and transportable, these diminutive slabs have been welcomed into the luggage of travelling beat-makers and DJs alike.
Now Vestax has become the latest manufacturer to fight for those drumming fingers with the launch of the PAD-One controller. Retailing at £130, it wears a much higher price-tag than the competition but with the promise of superior build quality. We unleash some furious pad-bashing on this solid slab of kit to see if it’s really worth those extra well-earned notes.
Immediately from its weight it is obvious that the PAD-One is built like a brick. The chassis is constructed of solid die-cast aluminum, designed to counter the risk of warps and cracks associated with plastic housing. The unit feels solid, looks great, and at 750g feels surprisingly heavy. It’s a fair bit larger than the competition but remains sufficiently svelte to be labelled portable.
Like the Korg Nano Pad, the 12 pads on offer here are complemented by an XY touch-pad. A set of buttons are dedicated to drum rolls, and a central selection displays midi information and allows pad settings to be saved. Finally, the device sports a single knob that is tasked with selecting and inputting midi values. All in all it doesn’t take us long to understand exactly why the PAD-One costs more than its plastic cousins. In terms of build quality, this thing is in a different class.
As is fast becoming the norm, set-up is hassle-free and simply a case of plugging the included USB cable into your laptop. Once connected, the pads glow green when dormant and orange when hit. The silicon pads themselves feel absolutely fantastic. Deeper than the competition and offering much more in the way of travel, they’re incredibly satisfying to hit and feel like they should survive a long-term barrage of whacking. Previously, Akai’s LPD8 had set the bar for portable pad quality but the PAD-One hops and skips over this benchmark with ease. Pads are not only velocity sensitive but also respond to after touch, which allows a greater degree of expression to be achieved during performances.
Further expression can be achieved through the use of the ‘roll’ and ‘chromatic’ buttons that are dedicated to producing, not surprisingly, drum rolls and fills. When enabled, the roll button sends continuous midi messages at the tempo set by the tap button or sequencer. This results in the samples and sounds that are being controlled to constantly repeat whilst the pad is held.
The volume and the timing of these repetitions can be controlled via the XY pad, with the chromatic button introducing different multiples of the roll tempo. What this means in practice is that you can whip up Fatboy Slim-style vocal repeats, glitchy fills or even progressive house-style drum intros, in an instant. It’s great fun to jam with and pretty intuitive. If you want to witness this and other features in action, check out producer Teezva’s funky hip-hop set on Vestax’s website. And if that isn’t enough, as always YouTube is awash with videos of PAD-One users proudly dropping beats, DJing and remixing.
It’s probably true that most people will end up using the PAD-One exclusively with their laptop. However, if you’re lucky enough to own a stack of vintage drum machines, synthesizers or effect units, the PAD-One will happily play ball via an included five-pole midi connection. This is a welcome addition that will widen the appeal and potential market of the controller to include a range of music producers.
Midi settings can be easily edited using the only rotary found on the unit, which is the parameter select knob. Midi note and Continuous Control (CC) data — together with individual pad velocity — can all be altered, with a three digit LED displaying the relative values. Finally, the PAD-One provides four banks to allow pad settings to be saved and recalled later.
In a world of budget portable controllers, Vestax has delivered a premium product with the PAD-One. Whilst the price-tag is considerably higher than the competition, every penny contributes to delivering a robust controller that will endure the rigours of live use. The lack of knobs may deter some users but if that’s not an issue for you — and your budget can stretch to those extra notes — then the PAD-One represents a very wise investment and one we would certainly recommend to any travelling beat junkie.
|Ease of Use||8.0|
|Value for Money||8.0|
Superb build quality with pads that are a real pleasure to play. Midi cable connection is a surprise addition on a device this size and will be welcomed by hardware purists.
Much more expensive than the alternatives available. The lack of controller knobs may be an issue for some users.
A solid slab of aluminum delight that radiates quality and durability. Would make an ideal purchase for any flush producers wanting to inject some expression into their mobile beats.