MnG TasteLabs Episode 2: Donner DPD-16 Starrypad (hands-on review)
Let's take a closer look at Donner's compact USB drum pad, the "Starrypad". How does it fare in terms of build quality, learning curve, features and use?
Its sturdy construction and weight give a fair amount of confidence that the device can withstand heavy use. The body plastic, buttons and pads have an excellent sense of touch and good "bounciness". The horizontal faders however could use a little more resistance.
Taking its low price point into account, the Starrypad feels like a pretty good bargain quality-wise, and when talking about drumpads, quality is more important than features. The rotaries protrude quite enough though, so they may be easily broken if crammed carelessly in a bag. They do however feel sturdy, have a very decent grip and tactile feedback.
Starrypad is the perfect fit for any travel bag, making it a great beatmaking companion on your journeys or commute to work.
Starrypad's connectors are conveniently placed at the top back, allowing you to place it next to other gear without wasting horizontal space.
Connectivity options are great as well, USB-C and MIDI, with a USB-C cable provided so that it can be connected to a PC, and a USB to USB-C adapter so that you may connect it directly to a mobile phone (that supports USB OTG).
The manual is 4 pages long, well written, well layed out and easy to read. On the device, the buttons are clearly titled and self-explanatory.
However there was no mention of the download URL for the Editor app in the manual, so it was hard to find it in the download section of Donner's website.
Starrypad has lots of features that make it very flexible as a midi controller, such as the ability to map all buttons, faders and knobs to any MIDI note/CC you want, a Full Level button, and 3 pad/fader/knob bank change buttons.
The default velocity curve of the main pads is rather hard, but that can be fixed with a simple adjustment in the Starrypad Editor application. However even the softer velocity curve could have been a bit easier on the fingers - let's hope that a future update will improve that.
The note repeat function is one of the main drawbacks of Starrypad as its usefulness is limited by the fact that all sounds are repeated at exactly the same rate. It would surely make more sense to repeat the first note hit (eg the kick drum) and allow any subsequent notes to be played freestyle.
Octave and Transpose functionality is not very useful in drums but may come in handy when using the Donner for anything other than drums.
Donner's STARRYPAD is a pretty decent little gizmo that you can play around endlessly with. The main drawback is the rather stiff velocity curve of the pads and the limited note-repeat function, but all in all it is a decent little beat maker that is definitely worth your consideration and could easily outperform other competitors at this price point.
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