REVIEW: Donner Starry Pad MIDI Drum Pad Controller

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Best Music Keyboards & Synth Pads, Buying Guides

We hate to keep comparing things, but since our go-to pad controller in the studio is the PreSonus Atom, it would be dishonest to say we didn’t draw comparisons when testing out the Donner Starry Pad. For reference, this comes in about $50 cheaper than the PreSonus unit.

For starters, both sets of 16×16 pads feel great. The Donner is no slouch even though it’s about 2/3 the price. While it may not offer up as many tactile DAW controls as the Atom (many of which are only super useful if you’re in the Studio One world), it does provide a fair amount of transport buttons, assignable rotary knobs and two special faders (the Atom doesn’t have any faders, though in fairness does feature two additional rotary knobs). For such an affordable unit, the knobs, pads and buttons all feel good, and everything connects to your rig over a standardized USB-C connector.

BUT! And here’s the big selling point for us, it also features real MIDI output, which means through an adapter you can physically connect it to your other hardware over MIDI to control external synths, drum machines, samplers and more — which is much more complicated with the Atom, that features no such MIDI output. In order to control an external synth or device with the Atom, you’ve got to route it into your DAW first, then route the MIDI from your DAW to an external product either over USB or through your interface’s MIDI ports (if you’ve got them). So in that regard, we give a big thumbs up to the Starry Pad for allowing more control out of the box without configuring more DAW settings.

Playing the velocity-sensitive pads and controlling drum sounds, samples and triggers in an MPC-like fashion was a breeze, and the Starry Pad is just fun to play around with and make beats. You also get some easy-to-use program editing software in the bundle.

If you’re looking for grid controller and the flagship MPC offerings are outside your budget, try your hand at the Starry Pad and begin making beats without any fuss right away.


plays great, true MIDI output, gives the Atom Controller a run for its money.




under $100 USD