Alesis Strike Multipad Review – first impression and thoughts
DISCLAIMER: this review is not ment to be a full check on all the functions or sounds of the Alesis Strike Multipad – this review is mainly paying attention on it as a MIDI controller with Ableton Live not in stand-alone mode and to make some comparison with similar products on the market like the SPD-SX from Roland.
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Always when a new e-drum product comes out, the whole (internet) scene is raving about it, a lot of people (like myself) are getting excited and everyone wants to know about the functions and especially if there are new functions which you don’t find with other controllers. I was lucky to be travelling the US at the moment and having some time on my hands to just walk into a Guitar Centre and to check it out. The staff was really helpful and even let me set up my computer, so I was able to check MIDI connections, notes and MIDI – clock with Ableton Live.
You can get it at Guitar Centre here!
Overall look and feel
The pad makes a quite stable impression, still mainly plastic like the most of its competitors (except a few like the Drumkat and Nord Drum 3P) but the pads have a really nice feel and re-bounce.
I was able to compare the playing feel to SPD-SX, Octapad, DTX 12, Alesis Pads and a few more other e pads and I have to say the Strike Multipad felt the best. – BUT this is obviously very individual and depends on playing style and technique.
The overall handling of presets is quite well made – the LCD screen and the UI makes sense and for me was more access-able then all other e-drum stand-alone pads which I have used so far. Of course there are things which would take a little bit of time to understand and fully explore in detail – but if you are used e.g. the SPD-SX you should find your way through very quick.
One interesting thing is the A + B sample function for every pad – meaning you can have 2 samples per pad, they could play together or alter between the two in different modes. Still as this is a cool feature compared to other stand-alone e-drum pads it is dated compared to what you can do with drum VSTs or with Ableton Live (the limit there would be 128 samples per pad). When you hook up an e pad to a computer or Mac and you are able to trigger and multi-sample regarding to velocity and not only having one sample e.g. of an acoustic snare drum just being re-sampled louder and quieter
MIDI from and to the Alesis Strike Multipad
To cut a long story short – the MIDI Note side of things are very Roland SPD-SX like, that means you have a nice translation of velocity, you can adjust threshold and sensivity, you get different velocity curves to pick from and you can set a pad to a fixed velocity as well – I used the 5-pin MIDI in/out and latency values were cool for that. What I really like about the pad is that you can adjust the colour of each pad and of course when you send MIDI notes from Ableton Live to the pad they will blink up – this way you can set yourself visual feedback cues + count-ins or a visual metronome – very cool feature.
MIDI Clock – similar (for my needs unsatisfying) results like the SPD-SX – I wasn’t able to receive a MIDI clock from the Alesis Strike Multipad so I guess it is not sending one. It will receive a MIDI clock with some limitations e.g. only up to a certain BPM (I think it was 280 BPM). I tried to start the metronome with bar count synced but for some reason wasn’t able to do that, so the metronome is in sync but I couldnt get the starting point at the same count. When changing the tempo to drastically the Alesis Strike Multipad got out of sync – which might be a general MIDI clock problem and I guess to get this whole MIDI CLock problem out of the way it is time that e-drum companies start to implement Ableton LINK – which has become a standard for electronic music making.
For MIDI remoting things meaning controlling functions like play,stop, tap tempo etc. the Alesis
Multipad works fine as Ableton Live just needs incoming Midi notes for this. If you want to go more advanced on this e.g. scrolling through scenes and tracks, setting up your own remote presets you might want to check out a collection of Max for Live devices for electronic drumpads I created which now has a device for the Alesis Strike Multipad as well.
What makes the Alesis Strike Multipad stands out to its competitors is that you get 32GB on board storage and you get a nice coloured screen where you can edit samples and loops. It has an in-build audio looper and a few more specials like various trigger inputs etc. CHECK FULL LIST HERE!
What can I say, I am an ‘Ableton Drummer’ – meaning I have samples, sound/sample editing, sound effects, multi-sampling, velocity to sound effects, live looping etc. already on my hands to a far better and bigger extend, so of course the Alesis Strike Multipad will not convince me for my personal use for this price (around 700 USD/Euro) – but there are a few things I like about this pad and makes it a great competitor to the SPD-SX (and other similar products out there) for drummers, who want to use this as a MIDI controller:
*the design of the user interface – plus one for the coloured display!
*the adjust-able pad lights – I love getting visual feedback from Ableton Live without looking on the screen, this could be used for that
*the playing feel of the pads