Roland Intros HandSonic HPD-20 Electronic Percussion Instrument

handsonicRoland has introduced the HandSonic HPD-20, the latest in its line of drum synths.

Key Features:

  • The HPD-20 offers 850 sounds, plus the ability to import your own custom sounds via USB flash memory.
  • 13 pads provide sensitive response and flexible control options for playing onboard sounds and external MIDI instruments.
  • The HandSonic pad interface can also be used for playing virtual instruments, recording MIDI and audio performances in DAW software, and more.
  • Trigger inputs can be used to expand the HPD-20 with a Roland pad and hi-hat controller to build a super-compact percussion set.

Here’s the official intro video:

Pricing and availability are TBA. See the Roland site for more info.

13 thoughts on “Roland Intros HandSonic HPD-20 Electronic Percussion Instrument

    1. The Handsonic 10 and 15 have been around for a something like 10 years now and do also have MIDI in and out. To me this upgrade seems to be mostly about extra interface possibilities (USB).

    2. Do you know if after recording to midi on a computer, I can quantize the midi notes and then play it back using the HPD-20 sounds? Or do I have to record to audio if I want the HPD-20 samples in my song?

  1. Finally a Handsonic for the 21st century! Doesn’t have as many controller knobs or the ribbons of the original, but being able to use your own sounds and better interfacing with software are probably more than a fair trade.

  2. Roland seems to be aggressively pursuing that part of the market that is running through subways and city streets, eager to pass the unit to another hipster without missing a beat.

    I don’t think this is comparable to the Korg Wavedrum. It seems more like a simple drum trigger but with some CC pressure sensors built in.

    The ability to load your own samples and play what looks like 13 zones seems pretty useful. If I could name my dream price for a rig like this it would be $200. But I bet it will be much more than that.

  3. The HPD-15 retails at $1299, so I’d be surprised if this thing wasn’t at least $1000. It depends on what they saved on manufacturing by ditching the cool side ribbons of the 15. If they reallocated that processing power to user samples, its certainly going to be useful, but it removes a small dimension of playability from the intent of it as a hand drum. Does that mean I wouldn’t take one? Hell no! 😛

  4. I’ve got the HPD 10 and 15 so I had high hopes for an updated version thatallowed ofr user samples, but sadly, and almost inevitably for Roland, for me this misses the mark again… taking away the controller pads is a mistake, I love using both my pinkys to modify playing parameters on the fly.

    Also I don’t think the price is in any way realistic when you look at buying the whole volca series a Nord drum and a pad controller for the same cash.

  5. Hi everyone, OV from Roland here. I just received a video from one of our product specialists from Belgium and drummer for EDM artist Netsky. I guess my point here is to show how to import your sounds into the HandSonic. I’ll be checking in, let me know what you think. Here is the video:

  6. Hey guys! I’ve recently acquired the HPD-20 Handsonic and also have the Korg Wavedrum Global Edition. I’d like to take a moment to address some of the comments and questions here with my own impressions so people don’t have to speculate as much. 🙂

    First of all, the Handsonic and Wavedrum are completely different instruments starting from the most fundamental aspects of their functioning. Though they may look similar on the outside, it’s an apples-and-oranges difference once you get inside which I will try to explain.

    I’ll start with the easy one: the Handsonic. The HPD-20 (and all previous Handsonics, as far as I know) are “traditional” electronic instruments where a control surface (in this case, a round pad with multiple strike zones, external trigger inputs, and some knobs) are paired with a sound-engine (in this case, a sample-playback engine which is loaded with tons of sounds from Roland, but can also be loaded with your own WAV samples). What this means is that the control surface generates signals (in this case, MIDI Notes from striking the surfaces and CCs from applying pressure to the surfaces) which are transmitted to the sound engine, and the sound engine responds to the messages it receives. It is for this reason that the Handsonic can have a MIDI interface, just like synthesizer keyboards where the keyboard communicates to the sound engine via MIDI. You can therefore capture all aspects of your performance on the surface as MIDI, and then play that MIDI back to the sound engine to hear the original performance. So, yes, you can play in your performance as MIDI, quantize it, edit it, etc., and then play it back to the Handsonic to trigger its original sounds.

    The HPD-20 does also add the ability to record the audio of the Handsonic directly into your DAW if you want…maybe this is important for capturing a Handsonic with custom samples in case you loose them? Or maybe you’re concerned about loosing a bit of your performance timing due to USB MIDI jitter? It’s perhaps useful, but I really like the fact that you can use the Handsonic as an audio output for the computer. You can play your DAW back through the output, or just play a media player (for when you want to jam along). My current usage involves feeding the output of Addictive Drums 2 to the Handsonic output…those drums sound WAAAAAY better than what is in the Handsonic’s sound library (which is no surprise). This does require the computer to be attached, but you can still use your own WAV samples without the computer attached (they all get stored in the internal memory of the Handsonic).

    I haven’t ever been a big fan of Roland’s digital drum sounds. I had a TDE-7K kit way back in the day, and that sound module was loaded with the same drum sounds Roland kept reusing in all their synths and grooveboxes. Very thin sounding…very unnatural. The HPD-20’s built-in sounds at least appear to be an upgrade to the typical Roland sound I’m familiar with (which is a good thing). The percussions sound new, though the real drum kit sounds aren’t that stellar. But it does sound pretty good, and you can definitely get very expressive with some of the conga and cajon patches.

    Having never used the earlier Handsonics, I can’t say if the omission of the ribbon controllers is that much of a let-down. I can imagine they may have been useful for some things, but I don’t find anything lacking when playing the HPD-20. You still have Pitch and Effect control via a knob, and a D-beam if you wish. If you’re not going for a full drum-kit experience, you can hook up an expression pedal to the HH input and modulate parameters that way (which seems better to do with your foot rather than fingers on the ribbons…but that’s just a personal opinion).

    Now let’s talk about the Wavedrum for a moment. The Wavedrum doesn’t use the same design as the Handsonic–it doesn’t use a control surface which sends messages to a sound engine (other than pressure at the center of the drum). The Wavedrum is a different beast altogether. It uses acoustic pickups under the pad and rim to pick up the SOUND of what you’re playing. The DSP inside the Wavedrum then does two things with these audio signals: 1) it performs physical modeling of various drums and percussions _using the played audio as the “seed” for the model_, and 2) it can trigger PCM samples when certain audio conditions are met (i.e. the audio level exceeds a certain threshold). While the second part is very much like the Handsonics (simply triggering samples), it’s the first part that makes the Wavedrum unique because the sound that comes out of it is entirely dependent on how you play it and even WHAT you use to play it (fingers, fingertips, fingernails, sticks, etc.). Since the Wavedrum is actually listening to what you play (rather than just feeling what you play), it responds like an acoustic drum. You can even slide your hand across the drum head and hear it. It’s pretty crazy to experience it, but also extremely natural to play.

    It is the fact that the Wavedrum DSP is listening to the drum surface that makes it incompatible with MIDI. The only way you could insert a DAW between the drum surface and the sound engine (as you can with the Handsonic via MIDI) would be to record the actual audio picked up by the Wavedrum head, make audio edits in the DAW, and then feed that audio back to the Wavedrum DSP. That’s definitely nowhere near as powerful or useful as editing MIDI, so it totally makes sense why Korg didn’t add any sort of “audio tap” feature for this purpose. Instead, the Wavedrum must be played by a skilled player, just like a guitar, saxophone, or other acoustic instrument.

    So while the Wavedrum is more expressive and realistic than the Handsonic, the Wavedrum doesn’t offer the same number of sounds “at your fingertips” the way the Handsonics do. If you want a drum that is going to give you instant access to drums, cymbals, bells, and whistles all from a single patch (like a full drum or percussion kit), then you want the Handsonic. If you need to record and edit your playing as MIDI, then you want the Handsonic. If you want ridiculous expressiveness when playing, you want the Wavedrum. If you want a device that can be played with hand or sticks, the Wavedrum would probably be better.

    I hope this comparison helps some of you find the instrument that best fits your needs.

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