Roland Handsonic HPD-20 Review – Buy or Not?

Did the music industry need a new digital percussion instrument? Was there any glaring or unmet need? Well, it turns out Roland saw one.

It is for this reason that Roland responded to this need by bringing us the Roland HandSonic HPD-20. They were right; there was an unsatisfied need.

When playing most digital percussion instruments, you can only do so using sticks. Only the somewhat limited Korg Wavedrum was the exception.

Playing a digital percussion instrument, the right old way, i.e., using your hands and fingers, can be exciting. As such, we can all agree that the HPD-20 digital hand percussion instrument is a solid winner for Roland.

There is a lot to love about this pad. Admittedly, you may not dig some of its features. Most probably, those that also appear from the previous HPD-10 and HPD-15 models.

In this article, we will review Roland HandSonic HPD-20, explore its features and see what makes it stand out.


Roland Handsonic HPD-20


Things we liked

Has a better appearance than the HPD-10 and HPD-15
Improved playing surface
Excellent technology to make the sounds more realistic
Incorporates WAV import
Pads are ergonomic and soft
Wide range of custom-made sounds
User-friendly and portable design

Things we didn’t like

Lacks some looping and sequencing options
Slightly pricy for someone dabbling in percussion

Roland presented the HandSonic idea in the form of the all-dancing, all-singing HPD-15. 

This model came with 15 pads, ribbon controllers, and an onboard sequencer. It also included a host of buttons and knobs alongside a reasonable price tag.

After a few years, the more inexpensive HPD-10 came along. Besides its new set of percussion and drum sounds, it also had a more streamlined format.

The two models now welcome the later HPD-20. It boasts of 850 new percussions, melodic, and drum sounds. Also, it has Roland’s SuperNatural Sound Engine and three independent multi-effects processors.

To keep up with modern standards, it also features USB connectivity to your PC or Mac. By this, it allows you to import your WAV files.

Roland HandSonic HPD-20 Review

This electronic percussion instrument is applicable in several music contexts. It’s a unique piece ideal for on-stage performances and studio recording to boot.

Being an upgraded version, it displays a lot of innovative features. Take, for instance, its wide range of new sounds, including ready-made electronic dance music loops.

Also, its build quality and design are things we cannot ignore, among other vital features.

Who Does The Roland HandSonic HPD-20 suit best?

Well, the answer is simple. Percussionists, right? Yes, that’s right.

However, being a pad controller, this instrument is not your ordinary one-trick pony. It includes incredibly handy tools. For this reason, it’s a stage performer’s dream and similarly in the studio.

Remarkably, it boasts of high sound depth and adaptability. For this reason, it’s ideal for drummers, DJs, EDM producers, among others.

HPD-20 use in Drum set
HPD-20 use in Drum set

It is a digital instrument. Like any other, it faces the same problem of mimicking the experience and feel of realistic acoustic versions. It executes various hand percussion instruments as naturally as possible.

With confidence, I believe it delivers a much realistic playing experience. Thanks to its circular playing surface. The surface features tactile and velocity-sensitive rubber pads alongside a bolt fastening rim.

Its electronic control panel doesn’t interfere with its rubber pads surface. But also, it’s within quick reach of the player. In other words, the setup is pretty much intuitive for any specialist.

What’s inside the box?

In all honesty, the Roland HandSonic HPD-20 is worth the price. The package includes the following accessories:

  • Owner’s manual 
  • AC adapter
  • 850 ready-to-play sounds
  • 13 silicone rubber pads
  • USB Computer port for MIDI/audio communication with computer software
  • Hi-hat and Roland pad controller connecting inputs
  • Three independent multi-effects engines
  • Roll button and Realtime modify knob
  • 3-band Kit EQ
  • D-BEAM
  • Graphic LCD 64 x 128 dots
  • Ribbon controllers

Features of the Roland Handsonic HPD-20

This percussion pad from Roland can enhance your performance by far. Other than that, it delivers a platform for you to perfect and record your rhythm ingenuity.

Even so, the HandSonic’s features are the major drivers towards its success. Let’s have a detailed outline of its features.

Onboard Sounds

This digital hand percussion instrument boasts of sounds abundance. I’m pretty much sure; it can satisfy all sorts of drummers.

It features 850 sounds from various percussion instruments. It doesn’t matter if you want traditional drum patterns or more specific choices such as bongo and conga sounds. The Roland HandSonic HPD-20 has them all.

Further, it includes a wide range of electronic beats and combinations. This feature makes it very appealing to sound engineers and DJs to boot.

HPD-20 using with computer
HPD-20 using with computer

As a professional drummer, you want a drum pad with excellent connectivity. Remarkably, this electronic instrument delivers just that.

 It allows USB flash driver connectivity. By this, you can transfer your audio files and samples from the memory to its memory. It’s possible to store up to 500 WAV files in it.

As a result, it adds a personal touch to any of your stage performances. Most DJs praise the Roland HandSonic HPD-20 because of this feature.

Also, you can add your samples to achieve a wide range of sounds in your collection. Besides USB, you can generate your files through its D-BEAM control and its sensors as well.

These features are convenient in making live performances more exciting and versatile. DJs can express themselves through their vast collection of live improvisations and pre-recorded patterns.

The previous models, such as the HPD-10, have lesser sounds to pick from, unlike the HandSonic Roland HPD-20. The sounds even include orchestral and acoustic samples you aren’t familiar with.

Besides, the soundbank is straightforward and highly navigable. The reason being, all the 850 onboard sounds are in groups. Just to mention a few, it includes Orchestral, Latin, Kick, Hi-hat Snare, Asia, among other groups.

The HandSonic also integrates Roland’s SuperNatural sound engine. By this, it’s able to power all the 850 sounds seamlessly.

This technology samples acoustic sounds instead of having to recreate them. In other words, it makes the work even much effortless. It’s sampled sounds are not only realistic but fuller and crisper to boot.

Forget about long decay times and high pitch of acoustic instruments. The device’s sound engine fixes it all. The independent multi-effects allow you to do deep editing and to tweak, layer, and process tones.

Pad Responsiveness

Roland also incorporates its SuperNatural sound technology in its pads. By this, it’s able to translate the input into an excellent electronic output.

After hitting a beat, the SuperNatural technology enables the electronic device to respond automatically in a natural sound. Consequently, it keeps unnatural breaks or velocity oscillations between samples.

What’s more, it’s possible to adjust the instrument’s settings. Thus, you fine-tune the sounds to meet your preferences.

The Roland HandSonic also includes three different engines. Each of them applies a different effect. As a result, it provides an option to edit your tones.

About the solid rubber pads, they are nothing less of adaptable. You can mute them, dampen them, or tweak them to maximize your playing performance.

Unlike the HPD-10, the HandSonic HPD-20 has additional pads; 13, which are two less than the HPD-15.

Roland HPD10 Handsonic Percussion Pad
Roland HPD10 Handsonic
Roland HPD-15 HandSonic

You’ll notice its outstanding pad arrangement design. It has two large pads at the bottom. At the center is a smaller one circular in shape.

Directly above are two more. The rest eight finger pads feature on the top half around the upper edges. The rubber playing surface is very comfortable.  

Furthermore, these rubber pads are velocity-sensitive. They allow professional users to play fancy tricks to express themselves.

It’s also possible to assign two instruments to a single pad. Then you’ll choose whether to play them together, to layer them or switch as you want.

All the 13 pads are independent. As such, you can have your favorite instruments precisely where you want them.

Instrument Size

The Roland HandSonic HPD-20 weighs slightly over five pounds. As for its dimensions, it’s 12.2” long, 15.9” wide and 4” thick.

As an added advantage, you can pack it in a rucksack. This feature ensures minimal setups; hence, it’s an ideal pick for percussionists who travel a lot.

Roland CB-BHPD-20 Black Series Carry Bag for Handsonic HPD-20
Bag for Handsonic HPD-20

Many drummers find it to be highly practical. Some plug a pedal into it and play kicks from it (as a side drum). It also includes a hi-hat input.

Both the hi-hat and side drum inputs make this instrument compatible with Roland drum components. So, it’s possible to turn the HandSonic HPD-20 digital hand percussion instrument into a mini drum set.

Instrument selection

You can also adjust the Roland HandSonic HPD-20 digital hand percussion device to create several melodic instruments.

If, for instance, you like Indian music, it’s possible to play the santoor on the Roland. Those who love ancient British songs would enjoy the sound of crotales.

As a bonus, you can also play bells and gongs. Then again, fine-tuning your instruments to a specific key is possible.

More importantly, the HPD-20 digital hand percussion device can act as a MIDI controller. This feature can be exciting to producers and DJs. It enhances any gigs that may use MIDI technology either on stage or in the studio.

Build Quality and Design

Remember, we play the Roland Hand Sonic HPD-20 digital hand percussion instrument using our hands. With that in mind, the instrument’s design is nothing less brilliant.

As we have seen above, it is a compact option. As a result, the screen, knobs, and buttons are within quick reach. Roland were keen on paying maximum attention to detail.

The volume knob being on the left favors right-handed people like me. That ensures you don’t affect your performance much as you play.

An Informational YouTube video

Other Alternatives you can consider

Roland SPD-SX Percussion Sampling Pad

Also, from Roland, the SPD-SX is an excellent alternative option. It features 4 GB internal memory. As such, it’s able to sample mono for around 720 minutes without needing an external memory.

Moreover, it features two dual-trigger external inputs and nine velocity-sensitive rubber pads. Through its Multi-Pad Sampling feature, it’s convenient in capturing and assigning audio data.

It also comes with individual pad dynamics indicators. By these, it displays pad audio level and status. It’s also a cheaper option than the HandSonic.

Alesis Strike Multipad

Alesis is a reputable company in making top-performing musical electronic instruments. Their Strike Multipad is no exception.

It features 9 RGB lit velocity-sensitive pads. Other than that, it also includes a 4.3” display for rapid editing and ultra-intuitive relaying of information.

Remarkably, it boats of 32 GB storage with more than 6 GB of content. It includes drums, percussions, melodic instruments, and loops for any style.

You can read the article 9 Best Electronic Drum Pads in which he will find reviews of both products.


What I didn’t like about the Roland Handsonic HPD-20

Firstly, Roland HandSonic HPD-20 is a beautiful and inspiring digital instrument. In all honesty, it’s not perfect and has a few obvious drawbacks.

For one, it’s Quick Record feature is reasonably convenient. However, the pad uses RAM only for onboard storage. Resultantly, as soon as your power off, your recorded compositions vanish.

Therefore, consider backing up your compositions and kits to a USB memory stick. Otherwise, you might lose them for good.

HPD-20 Connection

Probably that’s asking too much from it. Nevertheless, it would have been excellent if you could just edit then loop the pieces.

Another thing, it includes a new vast soundbank. However, its look varies from that of the previous models. Because of this reason, this digital percussion pad alienates old users.

Also, it doesn’t include some of the old sounds. Most people will miss Bell Tree, Ghatam, Thunder, and other plays from the previous HPD-15. Roland should consider offering a patch with the missing old sounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to add my samples?

Yes, you definitely can. Add your samples using a USB memory stick. Assign a sound to any part of the pad. Hitting the section would play the loop while tapping it again would stop.


Or, you can use the gate mode. As long as you place your hand on the pad section, the loop keeps playing.

Can I use the Roland with other drum amps? 

Yes, you can. It features line outs. 


Therefore, it should be able to work with your amp. I’ve seen some users using the HPD-20 alongside the Simmons DA50 and DA200 drum amps.

Can you use sticks to play the HandSonic HPD-20?

This instrument is ideally for fingers and hand percussion. However, you can use sticks. Just make sure you play gently.


Finally, after this review, I believe the Roland HandSonic HPD-20 is pretty much impressive. It’s an excellent device able to enhance your stage or studio drumming sessions. 

It displays high levels of versatility. You can use it as a standalone instrument. Alternatively, it’s also a typical supplement for a bigger electronic drum kit.

For most users, it’s one of the best digital hand percussion instruments. It’s compelling and sophisticated as well. It might take you some time to understand all you can achieve with it. 

Nevertheless, this instrument is worth the effort, time, and money. I would advise you to give the pad a try.