The Creality Sonic Pad is a 7” colour tablet that connects to your 3D printer with a USB cable. It takes over control of your printer and makes it faster and easier to use.
It’s based on Klipper which is a powerful open source 3D printing firmware. Klipper has advanced features that can significantly speed up printing, and the tablet has built in network connectivity so you can upload and monitor your prints remotely. If you plug in a USB webcam, you’ll even get a live feed of your print job and automatically recorded timelapses of your prints.
Klipper is notoriously difficult to set up for most people, but Creality have attempted to provide everything in one package to get you up and running quickly. Although it’s worth pointing out at the outset, that this is only if you have one of their short list of supported printers. Theoretically you can connect most 3D printers, not just from Creality. But there’s a lot more work involved and the advantages of a product like this might not be so clear.
I’ll run through setup and all its features, and I’ll test just how well it performs. It’s not cheap at £160 here in the UK, but hopefully I can help you decide if it’s worth the money. So let’s take a closer look.
Inside the box, you get the Sonic Pad itself, a 12V 3A mains adapter, the sensor cable, a braided USB to micro USB cable, a mini USB and USB-C adapter for this cable, a memory stick and an accelerometer. There’s also a decent printed user guide that should get you up and running. My box was missing the screw pack for attaching the accelerometer which I’ll come back to. And the silica gel pack had split, which was a relief since I’d feared the rattling noise was a broken screen.
The pad has a 7” 1024×600 resolution display but with all its ports it’s a fair bit larger than that at 222 x 130 x 40 mm (W x H x D).
It has folding feet but there are also mounting holes for a more permanent fixture. The folding feet and base of the tablet are rubberised so it doesn’t move around.
The right side of the unit has two status LEDs and the power button.
On the left there are 2 USB ports and around the back there’s the power socket, 2 more USB ports, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 port for attaching the accelerometer.
After powering on the Sonic Pad, it guides you through setup. With a supported printer, setup is fairly straightforward. I’ll briefly discuss adding a non-supported printer later. Choose your language, connect to your network – I’m using a wireless connection. Then choose your Creality printer – currently the pad only supports the Ender-3 S1, the Ender-3 S1 Pro and the Ender-3 v2. Hopefully more will be added soon. I’m setting the pad up with the Ender-3 S1 Pro I reviewed a few months ago.
You’ll then be prompted to insert the supplied USB stick. The Sonic Pad will copy across the Klipper firmware for your chosen printer which you then need to insert into the printer with the power off. The S1 Pro doesn’t have a USB port, so I copied the firmware folder to the root of an SD card and inserted this. Considering this is a critical step, it’d make more sense to include a USB SD card adapter so the files could be written directly.
Connect the printer to the Sonic Pad with the supplied USB cable and appropriate adapter – the USB-C adapter in my case, and power on the printer. The printer firmware will be flashed with the Klipper firmware replacing its stock firmware, and with any luck the Sonic Pad should be connected to the printer to continue setup.
The following self tests check the hotend and cooling fan spin up ok and then guide you through levelling the printer. In the case of the S1 Pro, you’re prompted to get manual levelling as close as possible using the bed screws. Tap through numbers 1 to 4 to adjust each corner. You can skip this if you’ve done this before.
Then you’re prompted to set Z-height which I set with a piece of printer paper. I prefer to do this with the nozzle and bed heated up, since any hardened plastic will make this adjustment inaccurate, but that’s not possible at this stage. Finally it’ll perform the 25 point automatic levelling procedure. Here you are prompted to heat up the bed since temperature changes will affect this measurement. I set the bed temperature to 60°C.
You can visually see the deviation in your bed with numerical values and an interactive 3D view. If it’s way off in one corner you can adjust the bed screws to improve your result and run the auto-levelling again. For instance if the rear left corner shows a larger positive value, you’ll want to lower that corner slightly with a quarter to half turn of the bed screw anti-clockwise. I tried to get the deviation less than ±0.1 mm but that’s not entirely necessary.
With that you’re ready to control the printer via the Sonic Pad. I’d recommend setting your Z-offset again, but with the bed and nozzle heated up. From the home screen tap on preheating and heat up the nozzle and bed, then go to configure, probe calibration. After confirming this new Z-offset Klipper will restart and you can tap on print, and choose a file off the USB stick to print. I’ll show how to get thumbnails of your prints shortly.
The Sonic Pad now shows the printing screen where as well as checking the print progress you can adjust the Z-offset, speed, flow, temperatures and fan speeds during the print. It’s all very nicely presented.
You can use the Sonic Pad exactly like the printer’s LCD screen, which is now redundant and won’t show anything.
You could remove the screen if you wanted to, but I’ve left it attached in case I want to go back to the default firmware – perhaps to use the laser module which can’t currently be controlled by the Sonic Pad, or for another reason. I’ll show you how to do this shortly.
The Sonic Pad has a 64-bit CPU, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of on board storage and it feels quick in operation. There is a slight delay prodding the screen which feels exaggerated with key tones turned on which I’ll turn off shortly, but browsing files is pretty fast. And actions like restarting Klipper takes less than 10 seconds, faster than say restarting OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi 4B. The full colour touch screen is bright and sharp, and the layout is much more intuitive than on the S1 Pro’s own sceen. You can get to most features with a couple of taps.
When idle the main section of the home screen shows the current hotend and bed temperatures numerically and graphically. On the right there’s the move and preheating icons which are self explanatory. And you can see the sub icons you get tapping on the control icon. You’ll only get the macro and console icons if you’ve enabled them in advanced settings as you’ll see shortly.
The configure icon lets you adjust levelling and Z-offset which we’ve already seen, configure the network settings and check you current IP address which I’d recommend taking a note of, setup a webcam, and in other settings it’s again self explanatory but here you can turn key tones off or change their tone, upgrade the firmware using your network connection and reset the pad. In advanced settings you can choose to show macros and the console, measure resonances with the accelerometer which I’ll discuss shortly, and automatic detection will take you back to the self tests we went through earlier.
The big red stop icon is basically a kill switch – the printer will terminate all tasks immediately and Klipper will restart.
You can add a webcam to the Sonic Pad very easily. Turn the pad off and attach your webcam to any USB port, but I used the connection with a webcam icon around the back. Turn the unit back on and tap configure, camera and tap the webcam icon and then the tick box to confirm a webcam is attached. If the webcam is supported you’ll see a live feed from your webcam.
Tap on the settings icon and enable both connect automatically after startup and enable timelapse photography. Now you’ll be able to monitor your prints remotely and timelapses of your prints will automatically be saved on the Sonic Pad to replay later. I tried four webcams and three worked perfectly. My Logitech C270, C920 and surprisingly an Anker PowerConf C300 all worked without requiring any configuration. I ultimately left the Anker connected and upped its resolution to full HD in this webcam.txt file. I tried the 4K Insta360 Webcam I reviewed a few months ago but that didn’t work.
Now everything is set up, you can type the IP address you just noted down in any browser on your local network and you’ll see the Klipper web interface and your webcam feed if you set one up. By default there’s no username and password to login – any user on your local network can access this webpage, which works fine on a mobile device too. For the more techy readers, I couldn’t SSH into the Sonic Pad – I wasn’t able to guess the username and password.
With the built in LED strip on the S1 Pro it’s handy being able to easily check on your prints while watching TV in another room for example. But there’s no Internet remote access so you can’t monitor your prints away from your home network – not without some extra work anyway.
You can upload files to print from the web interface manually. But more conveniently I downloaded the Moonraker Connection extension in Cura to send prints directly from Cura after slicing, which is probably one of the most useful ways of using any 3D printer controller. Moonraker is a web server that sits between Klipper and the Fluidd front end user interface.
To configure the extension, go to Manage Printers, Connect Moonraker and type in the IP address of the Sonic Pad in the Address URL field. In the Upload tab under Format choose UFP with thumbnail. If you have a webcam attached, under the Monitor tab enter the address of the printer with this text afterwards, “webcam/?action=stream” which will let you see a live stream of the print right in Cura in the Monitor tab.
To enable thumbnails which look good and make it far easier to ensure you select the correct prints, go to Extensions, Post Processing and Modify G-Code. Click on Add Script and select the Create Thumbnail script. The manual shows you how to do this in other slicers. When you slice a model, you’ll have an option to upload to the printer directly, and you’ll be prompted to allow the print to start immediately if you like. Or you can do this afterwards from the web interface or the Sonic Pad. On the Sonic Pad you’ll find the file under local, with its thumbnail. If you want to save the file to a USB stick, you need to make sure you select the file type as UFP or Ultimaker Format Package. Again this is in Cura, you can see instructions for other slicers in the manual.
You can use Creality’s own slicer Creality Print – the latest version has built in support for the Sonic Pad. This has got a lot better than it used to be.
But I prefer Cura with Creality printers, and Creality have helpfully provided Cura profiles for using their supported printers with the Sonic Pad. I’ll provide a link in the description. I’d also recommend following their instructions in that link to set up your printer, otherwise the profiles might fail to import correctly.
There’s a normal and fast profile for PLA, PETG and ABS. For PLA on the S1 Pro the fast profile bumps the speed up to 160 mm/s, around 3 times the speed of a typical print on the S1 Pro. But it also bumps up the acceleration to 2500 mm/s² which is just as important for actually obtaining the faster print times. This might be a little conservative but is a good start.
Before printing at the higher speeds I’d recommend running the resonance test under Other Settings | Advanced Options | Measuring Resonances.
This is a brilliant feature of Klipper that can use an accelerometer you attach to the print head to measure the printers’ resonance frequencies. Klipper uses these results for so-called Input Shaping, which sends a signal that cancels the printers’ own vibrations.
Think of it a little like active noise cancellation in headphones. This should reduce the ringing or ghosting you get when you increase print speeds and acceleration.
The Sonic Pad includes the accelerometer and the cable that attaches to the PS/2 port. Crealty includes 3D models of mounting brackets for the supported printers which you need to print yourself. There should be mounting screws too but none were included in my box so I had to source my own. I used 2 M3 x 8 mm bolts to attach the mount to the hotend, and two M2.5 x 8 mm bolts to attach the accelerometer to the mount.
With the S1 Pro the accelerometer attaches to the side of the hotend. After securing it, start the resonance test and Klipper will vibrate the machine at varying frequencies. You’ll see it vibrate more at the resonance frequencies.
It doesn’t take long and after it’s finished Klipper will automatically configure optimal values , save these values and restart. You only really need to do this again if you adjust belt tension, or move the machine.
Since the S1 Pro is a bed slinger printer with a moving bed, you really need to do this measurement on the Y axis. Attaching it to the hotend only does the X axis. There’s no mention of this in the manual, but I also stuck the accelerometer to the bed with strong double sided tape and did separate X axis and Y axis measurements. At some stage I’ll mount it more securely, perhaps using the bolts that attach the front handle on the bed. But I got very acceptable results with the tape.
If you want to do the same, run this command from the console with the accelerometer attached to the hotend: “SHAPER_CALIBRATE AXIS=X”. I used the web interface to do this. Then type “SAVE_CONFIG” which will write the correct values for the X axis to Klipper’s printer.cfg file and restart Klipper. The printer.cfg file is the configuration file for the printer. Then run “SHAPER_CALIBRATE AXIS=Y” with the accelerometer attached to your bed and again type “SAVE_CONFIG” to write the correct values for the Y axis to printer.cfg. After Klipper restarts you’re good to go.
I then ran the ringing test model that Klipper provides sliced at 80 mm/s, changing the acceleration every 5 mm starting at 1500 and finishing at 7500 mm/s². I did change the maximum acceleration in the printer.cfg from 5000 to 7500 mm/s² beforehand. You can see the results – pretty impressive with very little ghosting. Look at Klipper’s excellent documentation if you want to try this yourself.
I ran multiple tests to try out Creality’s profiles together with input shaping and the results were impressive. Just for consistency I used Creality Print to print the exact same calibration cube with the printer firmware and then with the Sonic pad. It took 32 minutes to print with the stock firmware and 17 minutes with the Sonic Pad and the quality is pretty close. And using Cura 5.1 it printed in just under 13 minutes and the quality was better.
I even tried pushing these profiles a little further to see just how quickly I could print a 3D Benchy following the rules of the #SpeedBoatRace challenge.
I turned off acceleration control in Cura and had the max acceleration in Klipper set to 7500 mm/s² . It’s far from perfect but certainly acceptable for the challenge and took just over 21 minutes which isn’t bad with just minimal tweaking of Creality’s fast PLA profile. And I’m sure a lot faster is possible with a little more effort!
Testing Creality’s PETG fast profile I printed this print in place halloween pumpkin from Fab365 which took just over 4 hours compared to a 10 hour predicted print time with the stock S1 Pro. Although this was a useful reminder that you’re unlikely to get the tight tolerances required for a print like this with live hinges printing at these fast speeds, at least without some more tweaking.
But even without pushing it, using Creality’s normal PLA profile the printer is still usually around twice the speed it was before, with results that look at least as good as those printed far slower.
You will notice slightly bulging sharp corners with some of these prints, but activating Klipper’s pressure advance feature makes a dramatic difference. The bulges all but disappear. There’s no mention of this in the Sonic Pad documentation, and pressure advance is deactivated by default, I guess since it really needs to be tuned with your choice of filament.
But it’s easy to implement following Klipper’s excellent documentation and makes a dramatic difference as you can see. I’ll provide a link to the instructions below. After printing their square tower, I got a value of 0.053 for eSun PLA+ and added this line of code: pressure_advance = 0.053 under [extruder] in the printer.cfg file to turn the feature on. I would definitely recommend activating this feature.
You probably won’t want to go back to using the original firmware on the printer, but if you do it’s fairly easy to switch back and forth. Download the current firmware for the printer – I’ll have a link down below for the S1 Pro. Copy this .bin file to the firmware folder on the SD card, insert the SD card into the printer with it turned off. Unplug the USB cable to the Sonic Pad and turn the printer on. The printer will be flashed back in its original state. And to go back to Klipper again, just complete the same procedure with the Klipper .bin file.
I wanted to briefly look at adding a non supported printer. I’ve set up my FLSUN Super Racer with Klipper before but it was not easy and I missed the use of the screen so I reverted back pretty quickly. Creality do provide some instructions on creating firmware for a non-supported printer, but it’s only a starting point and there’s still a lot to figure out yourself.
And although the Sonic Pad supposedly supports connecting multiple printers, when you tap the One touch change in “other settings” it wipes your current config and takes you back to the initial start-up screen where you can choose “other printers”.
You’ll then need a printer.cfg file for that printer on the USB stick. The remainder of the setup is the same as before.
I had to start from scratch to get back to my S1 Pro, again choosing the One touch change, but instead of running all my resonance tests again I just restored the automatically backed up printer.cfg in the web interface under configuration. As far as I can tell none of your other settings are lost.
If you don’t have one of the few already supported Creality printers, I would think very carefully about getting the Sonic Pad, unless you’ve already had experience setting up Klipper and know what you’re in for!
But the Sonic Pad is a significant upgrade for the S1 Pro, and no doubt the other supported printers. The S1 Pro is a very capable printer but pretty slow out of the box. Together with the Sonic Pad it’s way quicker and far easier to use. Speed-wise it’s now comparable to my delta printer which is not currently running Klipper.
And if you’ve never used a 3D printer with Octoprint before, you’ll love being able to send and monitor prints remotely. Plus you get the screen with the very attractive and user friendly interface. Although if you’re limited for space, you do need more room for the Sonic Pad which with my current setup is a genuine challenge.
I’d love to see a cheaper lite version of the Sonic Pad for under £100, perhaps with half the USB ports, no Ethernet and maybe a smaller screen. But even at the retail price, and considering the current cost and availability of Raspberry Pi’s for a DIY setup, I imagine even this version will prove very popular. Not just for hobbyists, but for those running small 3D printing businesses. Especially if it can support multiple printers.
I hope to provide an update after I’ve spent more time with it – there’s so much tweaking you can do with Klipper. And I should be getting FLSUN’s competing product very soon – the Speeder Pad, which I’ll use to upgrade my delta Super Racer.
Don’t forget to take a look at my YouTube video at the top of the page, and subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’m releasing videos every week on the latest technology and how to get the most out of it. If you tap the bell icon when you subscribe you’ll get a notification as soon as I release a video, and there’ll be a link to my site here for the written article. YouTube is also the best place to leave a comment. I read all of them and respond to as many as I can!
21/10/22 Update V220.127.116.11.121 – added Ender-3 v2 Neo to supported printers
31/10/22 Update V18.104.22.168.85 – added Ender-5 Plus, Ender-3 Max, CR10 Smart, CR10S Pro V2, CR10 V3. SSH now open: username: creality, password: creality. Ability to generate custom printer firmware. Added Mainsail web interface – use IP address with port 8819 eg 192.164.1.XX:8819 (no port number for default Fluidd). More details: https://www.creality.com/blog/…