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Roland’s new HPD-15 HandSonic Percussion Controller looks like some android probe from Star Wars. Its futuristic metallic silver finish, lights, knobs, and buttons give the unit a UFO-like appearance. The feature-packed HPD-15 is easy to use right out of the box with just the factory presets. Should you wish to delve deeper into its menu parameters and MIDI connections, you will find that it also offers a wide variety of control options.

The HPD-15 contains 600 internal sounds, 160 preset patches, 80 user-definable patches, multi-effects options, and an onboard sequencer. The sequencer itself has 99 preset patterns and as many as 99 user patterns. That’s a lot of stuff crammed into a six-and-a-half-pound box. We percussionists love our extensive instrument collections, but for those nights when we’d rather leave the congas, timpani, or gamelan at home, it’s nice to know that something out there can lighten our load substantially yet still get the job done.


The HPD-15 is housed in plastic and features a 10-inch circular pressure-sensitive rubber pad divided into 15 sections. These sections are arranged in groups of five to form three major pad sets. The A set consists of four large pads arranged around the fifth pad, which resides in the center. The B and C sets consist of smaller pads—left and right, respectively— that arc across the top of the A set.

Two ribbon controllers flank either side of the pads, and an infrared sensor, the D-Beam, is located at the top center of the unit. By waving your hand over the D-Beam, you can affect pitch and other parameters, as well as change sounds. The unit that I received for review came with the optional PDS-15 stand ($165), which proved handy for gigging.


The rear panel of the HPD-15 is simply laid out, starting with an on/off switch and an AC adapter jack, as well as MIDI In and Out/Thru jacks for interfacing with other MIDI devices. A trigger input jack allows the use of external pads, footswitches, or kick trigger pedals. Also included are a dedicated footswitch jack—for patch selection and sequencer control— and an expression pedal and hi-hat control jack. A stereo mix-in jack allows input from a CD player or other stereo mix source (this input gets sent to the stereo outputs). Stereo output jacks and a stereo headphone jack are also located on the rear panel.

The HPD-15’s controls reside on the upper half of the top surface. Four knobs are placed on the left side—the first controls volume and the next three, constituting the Realtime Modify section, allow you to modify the tone of a patch or sound. A button to the right of the array lets you select parameters from three banks. The parameters are adjustable with the three knobs, for a total of nine possible fine tunings. Set up like a grid, the first bank controls level, pitch, and pan. The second controls multi-effects depth, sweep, and color. The third adjusts rate, pitch, and the filter and amplitude of the low-frequency oscillator (LFO).

A backlit LCD screen displays patch as well as edit and system information; four buttons underneath the window facilitate save, parameter navigation, modification, and exit functions. A cluster of 12 buttons offers controls for sequencer play, record, and tempo functions; system edit control; multi-effects selection; and the D-Beam. A small graphic replica of the playing surface contains an LED to let you see which A pad you are currently striking or selecting for editing. The B and C pads have corresponding LEDs embedded around the rim to indicate which pad is selected.

The HPD-15 HandSonic offers a multitude of percussion sounds, a realistic feel, and many MIDI control options.


Inputs (1) 1/4" TRS stereo mix
Outputs (2) 1/4" L&R, (1) 1/4" TRS stereo headphone
Pad 10" rubber, divided into 15 parts
Sound Source 600 instruments, 160 preset patches 80 user memory patches
Effect Types reverb, multi-effects
Maximum Polyphony 64 notes
Patch Chain 10 chains, 32 steps per chain
Sequencer Patterns 99 preset, 99 user (maximum)
Display backlit LCD, 16 characters . 2 lines

Additional Ports MIDI In, Out/Thru; (1) 1/4" footswitch jack; (1) 1/4" trigger input

Real-Time Controllers
2 ribbon controllers
1 D-Beam
3 multifunction knobs
1 expression pedal/
hi-hat control input