Gear recommendations for finger drumming in 2023

So you want to get started with finger drumming but you have no idea what pad controller to buy?
Here’s a list of the gear I recommend. Most importantly the pad controllers with the most responsive, sensitive pads that accurately react to soft and subtle touches, but all the other necessary components of a finger drumming setup are included in the recommendations as well.

My free beginner course deals with setting things up, including step by step guides for lots of different controllers and software, so make sure to check that out if you’re just getting started.

My current finger drumming gear recommendations

Latest update: June 2022. The ESI Xjam pad controller is a new pad controller released in June 2022 that might become my official recommendation for a budget controller, replacing the Presonus Atom. Check out the green box below to know more.

Check out the Equipment & Setup Category as well for all articles and (Youtube) video's related to gear and setup. Below you'll find the most basic summary of my findings so far so you can quickly make a decision.

(*) Make sure there's an option to return items and get your money back and test them soon after you get them so returning and trying something else is still possible.

The recommended, best value for money option to get the most out of the lessons here:
  • Maschine Mikro Mk3 ($250)

    ** When you buy this device second hand, please make sure the firmware is updated and you can switch midi-standalone mode on and off. When you don't own an official license to maschine software you might run into a problem otherwise.

  • Focusrite scarlett solo (3rd gen) ($100)
  • The (best) computer you currently own ($0)
  • The (best) headphones or earbuds you own ($0)
  • Steven Slate Drums FREE (Budget option) ($0)
  • OR Addictive Drums 2 Custom ($170)

    ** I recommend the Black Oyster, Fairfax 1 and Funk kits to start with (you can pick 3). I use these kits for basically all the drum presets on this website, so you'll have a great time playing along to the lessons with the exact same sounds I use.

Please note that in some cases with some mikro mk3 devices you want to lower the sensitivity of your Maschine mikro quite a bit (step by step guide included in my free beginner course over here. For example if you notice it's not responding well if you hit one pad with a blast of very fast hits. I found that in some cases putting the sensitivity slider halfway kept the pads super responsive to soft hits and at the same time made them more reliable.

At this point in time my suspicion is that the newer Mikro mk3 devices are more sensitive than the older ones, so where you had to set the older ones to the most sensitive setting the newer ones might get you the same thing if the slider is set halfway.

Cost with the SSD FREE drum plugin: $350,-
Cost with Addictive Drums 2: $520,-

The ESI / Artesia Pro Xjam ($150) is a new addition and a contender for the best budget option out there:

This device was released in June 2022 and I immediately bought and tested one of the first units that was for sale. The question with these newly released devices in the beginning is that it is not 100% certain that there is good quality control. So while I might have gotten a great unit, we'd have to wait and see until other people also bought one with drawing more definitive conclusions. Right now, this device looks very promising and if it holds up over time, it will replace the Presonus Atom as my recommendation for a budget controller.

You can check out a detailed video review over here on my Youtube channel.

A cheap option that's been around for a while and is still pretty good (but not great):

Estimated cost: $250,-

Better (and more) pads for only slightly more money:

Estimated cost: $300,-

The most responsive 4x4 pads for a price:

Hardware cost: $650,-
Hardware + Addictive Drums 2: $820,-

If you want a truly great 8x8 controller:

Hardware cost: $450,-
Hardware + Addictive Drums 2: $620,-

An alternative 4x4 option in case you really don't want a Maschine:

Hardware cost: $450,-
Hardware + Addictive Drums 2: $620,-

An alternative 4x4 option in case you really, really like AKAI (and really don't like any of the other options) and you have lots of money and you'd like to do some standalone beatmaking at least once in a while:

Hardware cost: $1300,-
Hardware + Addictive Drums 2: $1420,-

What I personally use (insane overkill for just finger drumming... I'm a music production professional):

I'm not going to calculate the price for this. Don't buy what I have... If you're not a studio pro you won't need it and if you are, you should buy the stuff that suits your needs and workflow. So yeah... I just put this here in case you're curious.
Also... it took me 15 years to accumulate this gear, sometimes waiting for a very long time to get a nice cheap second hand option (like with the ATC ACM-20 speakers).