I bought my first electronic drum set in 2002. Back then, these things were freakin’ expensive (1000$+). And when prices started to decrease shortly after that, quality more often than not decreased as well.
Now, the Alesis Nitro is one of the newest electronic drum kits on the market. It’s incredibly cheap for what it looks like and the question is: does it do well in terms of quality? And what about the Nitro compared to the DM6 the older but best selling electronic drum kit by Alesis?
I’ll answer both questions in this Alesis Nitro review. I’ll also tell you about the module, and explain how well the Alesis Nitro is suited for home recording and practicing.
With this information you’ll be less likely to spend your money in the wrong place. And you’ll know what you can expect (and what not) from this newest and budget electronic kit by Alesis.
- 1 Alesis Nitro review at One Glance
- 2 Current Deals
- 3 Unboxing, assembling and plugging in
- 4 Sounds in the Alesis Nitro drum module
- 5 Recording with the Alesis Nitro
- 6 Playing to your favorite music?
- 7 Practice made fun with the Alesis Nitro
- 8 Alesis Nitro vs DM6
- 9 Alesis Nitro vs. DM6-Nitro
- 10 Feel and Noise of the Pads
- 11 Buyer Feedback
Alesis Nitro review at One Glance
Sound quality8.5 /10
Sound range8.0 /10
Price / performance ratio10.0 /10
- 42 beats to learn with guidance (
- Module easy to handle
- Can be used with double bass pedal
- Great rack (sturdier and better looking than other sets for this price)
- No advanced features (half-open Hi-Hat, triple zone Ride)
Since the Nitro came out in January 2016, it has never been at its list price on Amazon – so I began to think this purely is a marketing strategy (yet, the price meant amazing value for the money). But oh boy…an additional discount just came in, making the Nitro – in my opinion – a no-brainer Christmas present for any beginning drummer.
Read why below and get your hands on this discount here.
Unboxing, assembling and plugging in
The basics first. What’s in the box and how do you set it all up?
The Alesis Nitro comes with everything you see in the picture:
- The drum module (more about this in a minute)
- Five 8” drum pads functioning as snare drum (1 pad), toms (3 pads) and kick drum (1 pad with stand)
- Three 10” cymbal pads (Hi-Hat, Crash, Ride cymbal)
- 1 Hi-Hat controller
- 1 bass drum pedal. The kick pad is also big and sensitive enough to accomodate a double bass pedal.
So the Alesis Nitro is ready for you to play right out of the box. And setting up isn’t very difficult either (this video shows how). It took me 45 minutes, and it shouldn’t be much longer for first-time assemblers.
Once the Nitro is set up, it’ll take up a space between 5′ x 3′ and 6′ x 4′ depending on your size and preferred positioning. That makes it the largest kits in that price range, but also the sturdiest.
Finally, in order to hear yourself play, you need either headphones, speakers or an amp.
If you’re using headphones for your daily dose of music anyway, you can connect them to the Nitro through a 1/8” to 1/4” adapter. If not, you can check out what I consider to be the best headphones for electronic drumming.
After plugging in headphones, speakers or an amp, you’re good to go. But will your ears like what they hear? That’s up to the module…
Sounds in the Alesis Nitro drum module
The Alesis Nitro comes with 385 drum, cymbal and percussion sounds on board, and out of those Alesis has built 40 preset kits. That’s the largest quantitiy of sounds and presets in this price range of electronic drum kits.
And it should provide more than enough flexibility for any live gig, as you could change your drum set sound for 40 consecutive songs.
And do the presets sound good? Jump to 0:40 to hear some of them in action:
Want even more flexibility? You can modify any of the presets. That used to be possible only with much more expensive Alesis kits such as the DM10.
Recording with the Alesis Nitro
Quality recording on a budget is what electronic drum kits are good at, and the Alesis Nitro is no exception. There are 3 ways to go about recording:
- Hit the module’s record button while you’re playing. You can then listen to this recording through your headphones or speakers. But you cannot export it from the module.
- Connect the audio output(s) on the back of the module to a recording device (could be as simple as your smartphone), hit record and lay down your track. This way you’d have basic recording quality with minimum effort.
- Connect the module to your computer via the MIDI outputs or the MIDI-USB (to the left) and use the Alesis Nitro as a MIDI trigger. (You’ll need a recording software for this and for a beginner I recomend the free and awesome Reaper – but you can also use Logic, Ableton, Garage Band etc.) This way you can achieve good sound quality – even out of your practice room:
Playing to your favorite music?
I think there is nothing more exhiliarating than playing one’s favorite songs (this can replace your next workout too). And with the Alesis Nitro this can be done with the push of a button.
Just connect your smartphone / iPhone or mp3-play to the the module via this adapter, hit play on your phone and you’ll hear the music through your headphones or speakers – as well as your drumming.
And if you have mastered all your favorite songs, you can move on to tackle the 60 play-alongs the Alesis Nitro has on board. They range from Pop to Rock to Jazz to BigBand, Dance and more and sound like this: (jump to 0:45)
What’s cool here: you can mute the drums on the play along so that it’s just you and the music. Note: that doesn’t work with the songs on your phone unless the’re using drumless tracks (some of which you can find on Youtube).
Practice made fun with the Alesis Nitro
Yes, I think playing along to music counts as practicing. But you still need to work on those beats and grooves. And sometimes it’s hard to get yourself to start practicing them.
From that perspective, the Alesis Nitro‘s “learning mode” is the most useful new feature. “New”, because so far only much more expensive sets like the Yamaha DTX450K and the Roland TD-11K have built-in training functions. And “useful” because it’s much easier to practice when there’s someone to guide you (the module) and when it’s made into a challenge.
And “learning mode” does just this. It either asks you to…
- play along to a rhythm or pattern after a count-in
- or plays you the rhythm or pattern without the drum part, which you’d have to supply.
In both cases, your playing is recorded for you to listen to later. And you’ll receive a score for your accuracy. This is objective feedback and it’s challenging. Both has increased the motivation of my students quite considerably.
What rhythms and patterns does the Alesis Nitro have? Here’s a quick overview from the manual:
Alesis Nitro vs DM6
Shopping around for Alesis kits you’ll surely stumble upon the DM6. It has been a best seller on Amazon for years and is a really good kit for amazingly little money. So you might wonder: why go for the Alesis Nitro when the DM6 is so well tested and trusted?! Well…
An Alesis sales rep confirmed to me that the Nitro is meant to successively replace the DM6. And while that doesn’t mean it’s better, it means that the Nitro is newer and that there are differences between the two. Those are:
- The Nitro kit has 385 sounds and 40 preset kits on board. The DM6 has 108 sounds and 15 slots for presets.
- The Nitro kit has “learning mode” while the DM6 doesn’t have built-in training functions.
- The Alesis Nitro can be expanded (+1 tom and +1 cymbal) by buying those pads and simply plugging them into the side of the module. The DM6 doesn’t have additional ports and the only way to add 1 more pad to this kit is by purchasing this cable snake.
Alesis Nitro vs. DM6-Nitro
Meanwhile, Alesis has recognized that the Nitro has even topped the Alesis DM6 in terms of sales…
In case, you’re neither into the Nitro nor the DM6-Nitro, I recommend you take a look at another similarly-priced quality drum set, the Behringer XD80USB.
Feel and Noise of the Pads
Whenever I browse around the web for electronic drum set news, I find that 2 myths keep being told over and over. So be prepared for some (factual) news:
- Electronic drums are not quiet. They are more quiet than acoustic drums, but the pads still do make noise. In the case of Alesis Nitro, you’re dealing with rubber pads (as opposed to the more quiet mesh heads on an Alesis DM10).
Those will peak around 60 decibels and that’s like hitting a page in a book with a stick. Most likely this won’t bother your neighbors but it can be annoying to a person inside your appartment / house.
- Hitting the pads of electronic drums does not feel like playing an acoustic kit. And that isn’t a bad thing either. It’s just logical, since acoustic drum heads are not made out of rubber or mesh.
So when playing the Alesis Nitro, you won’t get the exact feel of an acoustic kit (although it feels pretty similar to me). But still you’ll get different dynamics depending on how hard you hit. And you’ll get different sound nuances depending on where you hit.
And you can vary your drum set sound in 40 ways, record your playing, switch on the metronome, or have the module direct your training – all with just the push of a button. So let’s acknowledge: an electronic drum set doesn’t feel like an acoustic one, but it can do loads of things that the acoustic can’t.
Gabriel has shared his experience with the Alesis Nitro, so that you don’t have to rely on my opinion alone. Thanks, Gabriel, for making this a better Alesis Nitro review!
You can read his / his son’s experience with the Nitro here in the comments.
Do you own the Alesis Nitro too? Or do you have a question about it?
Then please drop me a comment below. I respond 100% of the time!
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