Although the first commercial electronic drums were released as early as the 1980’s, only recently have they been gaining widespread popularity as a versatile and powerful musical tool set. The amount of options that you get with an electronic drum set/kit is limitless. They are capable of producing hundreds of different notes and rhythms, while also being much easier to set up and operate.
Electronic drum sets can directly plug into the synthesizer at your studio, eliminating the need for complicated microphone set up sessions, and they can send MIDI data directly to the synthesizer or mixer for spontaneous editing, so no more need to spend hours of time editing, converting, and cutting those recorded sound files. Not to mention the fact that purchasing an electronic drum set saves you from the wrath of your angry neighbors and house members, since you attach a headphone to the kit while practicing.
Also, it much easier to manipulate and control the loudness on an electronic drum kit compared to an acoustic drum kit, which lets you maintain optimum volume levels at smaller venues, such as churches or local events. If you are looking to purchase a brand new electronic drum kit then there are a few things you need to take into consideration, since there are simply too many brands and models floating around for you to make an easy decision, unless you are highly accustomed to using and purchasing electronic drum kits, in which case this article is probably not for you. But if you are a beginner looking to purchase his/her first drum kit, or if you are transitioning from acoustic drums to electronic ones then make sure that you buy the kit that suits your needs best.
How to choose your electronic drum set?
Always remember – the best drum kit doesn’t have to be super expensive, nor will you get a good one for super cheap. Ask yourself this question before going out into the market – are you new to drumming, an intermediate level drummer, or a professional drummer who will use this kit to record albums and perform live? If you are new to drumming, then an entry level six-piece electronic drum set with 8″ snares and toms will be great to learn drumming basics. You can add more instruments later such as extra toms, snares and cymbals.
Make sure to get a nice pair of headphones as well in order to make the most out of your rehearsals. If you are an intermediate drummer looking to use this electronic set for amateur recording and rehearsing silently at home, then get a set which has a good drum module with lots of preset notes and rhythms as well as a bunch of expansion ports for the future.
If you are a professional, then get a drum set with a great drum module that has the capacity to hold and download a lot of predefined kits and notes. Also, focus on getting the best and most natural drum heads, such as the V-heads from Roland. Mesh pads make the transition from acoustic to electronic really easy as they react like a real drum head, instead of the damp, lifeless reaction you get when you hit a rubber pad. Also, look for trigger pads with 2 or 3 sensors mounted underneath to accurately reproduce the sounds you should get while hitting different regions of the drum or cymbal.
Now that you are familiar with the important features you need to check before buying, let’s take a look at the top contenders in the electronic drum market, divided into 3 different price ranges. We thoroughly researched and examined the specifications of numerous models as well as the customer reviews from multiple sites and forums, and ended up with amazing electronic drum sets for beginners as well as advanced users.
Best affordable drum sets/kits UNDER $500
Alesis DM6 USB Eight Piece Electronic Drum Set
Hard to find anything better at this price range, because there are hardly any competitors that give you an electronic drum set for less than $500. And when they do, the drum sets sound awful or suffer from cheap build quality. On this Alesis set however there is no such problem, on the contrary the feel and response of its natural rubber pads are actually almost as good as the pads of sets priced twice as much. It comes with headphone and amplifier jacks on the module, so you can go loud in front of an audience, as well as practice silently in your room with a headphone. The traps have dual zone sensors which allow you to generate two distinct sounds when you hit the center and the rim, just like a real trap drum.
Although an included drum throne and a pair of headphones would have been nice, we really can’t ask for more at this price. Most modern homes have chairs and headphones in them, so if you are an aspiring drummer looking to get a super affordable, yet really fun-to-play drum set that will last for a couple of years then this set is what you need. It does have some issues with the firmware that cause the cymbals and traps to malfunction, but you can resolve it in a few minutes by connecting the module to your PC and downloading the updated firmware. Did we forget to mention that the module also has a MIDI output for super easy synthesizing and mixing?
Yamaha DTX 400K 10″ Electronic Drum Set
A full 10 drum kits are included in this bad boy’s drum module, and as you learn to create your own beats, you can customize the ten kits that are factory loaded and set your own velocity, reverb, volume, etc. to each drum. The set includes large 10″ hi-hats and crash cymbals, with a surprising feature that is rare under $500- a 3-zone trap drum. The three zone trap drum produced incredibly realistic sounds, with variations as you hit the central area, middle area, and the rim. Thus it covers all three zones and the rubber pads although a little stiff and dull, are quite good for beginners who want to practice drumming so that they can upgrade to an acoustic set or advanced electronic set in the future. A 3.5mm jack allows you to connect the drum set to an amplifier, or external speaker system, you can also use it to connect the headphone provided along with the package, which is a rather okay headphone.
Invest in a better headphone if you really wish to enjoy hearing yourself play, and make the most out of your practice sessions. Some customers reported that if the sound output is not connected to an amplifier, then the volume appears to be low, and the bass sounds rather hollow. But that depends on the quality of your sound system, and whether or not you wish to use an amplifier. What’s good though, is that this model comes with a proprietary Yamaha drum throne and a headphone. The DTX400K is cheap, compact, fun to play, and easy to set up, making it is a great buy for beginners and hobbyists.
DDRUM DD1 Complete Electronic Drum Kit
If you are an intermediate level drum player or a person looking for something that accurately reproduces sound, then this drum set is not for you. But, if you are a beginner and want to learn how to play a drum set in the most fun way possible, this is the set you need. It has 30 editable drum kits in the module, letting you switch from rock and roll to country music with a simple press of the console button. And once you are experienced enough to create your own kits, you can replace the default kits with them. Setting up the entire drum set is really easy, and it comes with a drum throne, sticks, connector cables, and an earphone, meaning it is ready to be used right out of the box.
The DDRUM DD1 comes with a hi-hat controller pedal and a kick drum stand along with a pad. The module can output your music in MIDI format through the USB port, and it also has a 3.5mm jack to connect speakers and headphones. The lack of a multi-zone might be disappointing for some users, and the crash does not have the loud, shrill response that other, more expensive sets have. But neither is this set expensive, nor is it meant to be used by advanced users.
Roland V-Drums TD-4KP Portable Electronic Drum Set
While the lack of a bass drum pedal and drum throne can be mildly annoying to some, the Roland TD-4KP is still an amazing deal for the price. It is the first budget electronic drum set on this list until now that is actually good enough to be used by advanced drummers. That is because of Roland’s renowned V-pad drums that are super fun to use, extremely responsive and provide great feedback as you strike on them with the sticks. On top of that, some professionals might need to use a compact and portable drum set while moving from one place to another, or if they are stuck in a small house. This is the perfect solution for them, as they can practice on this super compact set, and when done they can fold it away and store it in a couple of bags.
The triggers and drum heads are miles ahead of similarly priced competitors, and the module is loaded with several drum kits and training features designed to help newbies practice. One issue reported by some customers was that the cymbals tend to slide down the stands after a few minutes of usage, apparently a few batches of these sets were manufactured with defective cymbal stands. Just one call to Roland and they will replace it, or you can use your creative mind and find a temporary fix for the sliding tubes.
Alesis DM10 Mesh Studio Kit Ten-Piece Set
With the Alesis DM10, you set your first foot into the world of studio grade electronic drum sets. No, it doesn’t feel or play like an acoustic drum set, it never will. But if you compare the DM10 to some of the kits priced twice as much, you will not notice a significant difference in performance, especially the sound quality when you connect this drum set to an amplifier. Yes, it does fall behind the Roland sets in terms of drum head quality, but that is an issue which is easily resolved by replacing the drum heads or adjusting the tensions pins to achieve a level of kickback feels alright to you. That’s it, the only big issue with this set. It is really compact, includes a sequencer and the brain stores 1000 factory installed ample kits for you to explore.
The kit is really well built, the aluminum stands are very sturdy and it packs 6 drums and 4 cymbals. The size of the cymbals is bigger than the ones on competing Roland models and all cymbals feature 3-zone trigger pads. You can mix inputs from mp3 players for practice and connect your module to the computer or synthesizer unit with the USB interface that also supports MIDI. Sound outputted to stereos and amplifiers is super crisp, editing allows you change the sounds response based on the stick attack velocity, you can fine tune the pitch, delay and many other factors.
Yamaha DTX522K Electronic Drum Kit
As far as sub-$1000 drum kits go, this is perhaps the best… except that its drum heads are not evenly designed, and that may set off some people who prefer a consistent feedback from all their drum heads. While the snares are equipped with the air-bubble layered silicone drum heads that feel extremely fun to play on, the same cannot be said for the crash, ride and tom. The 3-zone trigger pads in both the snares and the cymbals allow you to get three different sounds depending on how far away from the center you strike.
The brain of this electronic drum set comes with 691 preloaded instrument sounds, and 50 drum kits. A ton of customization is possible on the module, and the cymbals can be choked while playing, and include a Yamaha DTX exclusive “mute” function. Fortunately, for all of you who want to purchase this set for night practice sessions, the drums as well as cymbals have a very low noise profile. You can import music files and play your favorite songs from your iPod or iPhone by using the built in iOS app function which lets you sync up your DTX522 to any iOS device. Unfortunately, there is no Android support for the other 90% of the world.
Alesis DM10X Mesh Studio Kit
If you didn’t notice, this is the big brother of the Alesis DM10 set, and is priced at about $200 more. The “brain” on both sets is the DM10 module, with the ability to edit your sound response and playback media from external devices during practice. Like it’s cheaper cousin, the DM10X comes with 1000 factory-loaded sound samples and included dynamic articulation, mixer, and a sequencer. There seem to be only two differences between the two- the DM10X features a larger floor tom and cymbal, and its stands are chrome, compared to the aluminum stands on the DM10.
Both suffer from a rather stiff drum head, that is not suited to hard hitting unless you turn down the tension. And, compared to the Yamaha models, the DM10X cymbals are noisier which might be an issue during night time practice in your home. Despite all these little flaws, the DM10X stands unbeaten in sound reproduction and quality as it is solidly built and will last quite a while. At this price, it is definitely one of the best electronic drum sets.
Yamaha DTX532K Electronic Drum Set
This model is an improvement over the DT522K, it features a real hi-hat stand with trigger and is great to develop and sharpen your drumming skills. Also, the snare drum head is a unique silicone pad, with air bubbles placed strategically to significantly improve the drumming experience. Every stroke you make with your stick rebounds perfectly, and places less stress on your hands and wrists then a rubber or mesh drum head.
Just like the 522K, this one also comes with a 3-zone cymbal and snare. The cymbal can be choked and muted, while the sound reproduction is quite similar to what you will find on an acoustic set. Module is the same DTX502 module that is found on the 522K, features dynamic articulation and a built in voice guidance system to teach beginners. You can playback music from external media and use the USB MIDI interface to connect your set with synthesizer software on the PC. The only cons to this set are that its footprint is sort of large compared to its competitors and it lacks a kick pedal, which you will have to buy.
Roland TD-11 KV-S V-Compact Series Electronic Drum Set
Featuring the best cymbals and snares that you can find at this price along with a killer module, the TD11KV is truly a electronic drum set that does not compromise with functionality or user experience. Roland is known to make the best drum heads in the business, the V-Heads. The snares and toms are equipped with V-heads, tightly woven mesh that can be easily adjusted for tension. The drum head response is simply put, as close as you can get to an acoustic head on an electric drum set. The brain of this drum set allows you to choose from a library of included music samples.
You can also create your own drum sounds and tune them by adjusting a dozen different sound parameters. A coach function is also built in, which can be used in combination with an external mp3 player to let you train your drum beats to any song of your choice. The cymbals as well as the rides can be choked, and both come with three zone triggers for realistic feel and sound. Nothing more to explain, if you are a professional or serious drummer who is looking to transition from acoustic to electronic, then this is the best entry option on the market, period.