HD-3 Review

Can Roland’s latest electronic kit satisfy the appetite while also being kind to the wallet? Brian Madigan investigates.

When you purchase through affiliate links on MusicTech.com, you may contribute to our site through commissions. Learn more

Here’s a tip for you. If you want a nice lunch out but don’t want to spend a fortune, choose a pub that has a restaurant attached and go for the bar menu. While the choice of dishes may be relatively limited by comparison, you’ll be assured of good, fresh ingredients, properly prepared by a chef who knows what he or she is doing. And you may want to apply the same approach when looking for budget equipment for your studio.

Enter the Roland HD-3: an electronic drum kit that is aimed largely at the domestic market but which is actually a more well-equipped and serious piece of kit than it at first may appear. As with the bar menu, the choices have been limited for you but are well selected and beautifully implemented by a manufacturer with a long pedigree in this field.

Style And Substance

The HD-3 is like the iMac of electronic drum kits: Roland has reconsidered the whole concept of e-drums, creating a setup that is compact, stylish and elegantly functional. Out of the box there are relatively few pieces to put together; the wiring is already in place – ready to plug in – and adjustment of the pads and cymbals is quick and painless. A major innovation is the incorporation of hi-hat and bass drum pedal within the stand construction –this leaves the player without positioning options, but actually, the placement is sensible and presents little problems in use, the only quibble being the lack of the bounce you’d get from a physical drum head.

Similarly, the cymbals are attached by fixed arms that can be adjusted in height but not angle or lateral distance. Again, this isn’t as much of an imposition as one might imagine.

The drum ‘brain’ sits atop the main stand unit, angled towards the player, and attaches to the triggers by way of a multi-pin plug, saving the need to locate and configure multiple cables – another welcome design innovation. The interface couldn’t be clearer, with dedicated buttons for the various kits, each labelled according to its musical style or genre, with an alternative to each kit available via the ‘variation’ button. At the bottom of the unit is a metronome button, with dedicated keys to increase/decrease the tempo.

Finally, there is an aux in at the side of the unit for external sources such as a CD player or iPod, a headphone socket and a separate output for connection to an amp – all by way of stereo mini-jacks. You can also trigger external hardware or software via a MIDI out.

Treat Me

So do these ingredients add up to a tasty treat? Actually, yes. Whereas first impressions may be that this is a rather expensive domestic toy, it turns out that the small mesh-covered toms and tiny cymbal pads do a remarkably good job, responding quickly and accurately to your input and triggering some cleverly layered samples. The ride, for example, will give a ‘bell’ response when struck hard, and the edge triggers a crash-like tone. The hi-hat pad and pedal also integrate superbly well to give a similarly realistic playing experience.

The crowning glory, though, has to be the snare: a fully fledged V-Drum, very responsive and natural to play, with great samples for each kit and more than capable of picking up the finer points of your performance.

Taste Test

This kit really is fun to play, providing limited but well thought-out choices within a robust, high-quality package. If you’ve been wanting to give Roland drums a try but can’t afford the company’s ‘a-la-carte’ menu, you may find that the HD-3 Lite is the best way to get a taste.

Compact, elegant design
Simple interface
Great Roland samples
Cleverly layered sounds
V-Drum snare
Small footprint

Few positioning options
Bass drum pedal won’t suit all
Small tom pads
Tom samples often very boomy
No play-along tracks included


A surprisingly sturdy and playable kit with limited but well chosen sounds that really rewards and responds to your playing. A great introduction to Roland e-drums.



Get the latest news, reviews and tutorials to your inbox.

Join Our Mailing List & Get Exclusive DealsSign Up Now

The world’s leading media brand at the intersection of music and technology.

© 2024 MusicTech is part of NME Networks.