Finding your best electronic drum set can open up a whole new dimension to your drumming.
An electronic drum kit isn’t just an acoustic kit turned quiet so you don’t freak out your neighbors. Instead, they can unleash your creativity. That’s why there even is a world championship in e-drumming.
Yet, when I started looking for my first e-drum set, the amount of options totally confused me.
I didn’t know whether I could use my double bass pedal with these kits – or whether I wanted cymbals with choke functionality or not.
So I tried and tested – and wasted quited some money. But eventually I figured out which electronic drum set is best for which purpose. And in this review I’ll give you the essence of it!
I’ll tell you which kit is best for beginners, for practicing, for the stage and for recording. Heck: I’ll even show you my best cheap electronic drum set for under $500!
The 12 Best Electronic Drum Sets in the World Today
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Apart from my 7 best electronic drum kits, I’ve reviewed 4 more e-drums which didn’t receive “best” awards. Please note that this doesn’t mean they are bad – but it does mean that they will be different in at least 1 respect and therefore not appeal to the majority of people.
But then again, you might well not be among the majority. That’s why you’ll find an overview of all electronic drum kit reviews in the table of contents below.
Finally, the electronic drum kit reviews are arranged by price – from most affordable to more expensive – for the fact that an e-drum kit is cheap doesn’t have to mean it’s bad. If you read on, you’ll find that sometimes it’s quite the contrary….
Table of Contents
- The 12 Best Electronic Drum Sets in the World Today
- 1. Alesis Nitro – Ex-Best for Beginners
- 2. Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit – Best for Beginners
- 3. Alesis Forge – Ex-Best E-Kit Under $500
- 4. Alesis Surge – Best E-Kit Under $500
- 5. Yamaha DTX400K – Least Noisy
- 6. Roland TD-1KV – Solid Beginner’s Option
- 7. Yamaha DTX450K – Best for Practicing
- 8. Alesis Command – Best For Playing Live
- 9. Alesis DM10 – Best Under $1,000
- 10. Roland TD-11K – Best All-Rounder
- 11. Alesis Strike – Most Affordable High-End E-Drum Kit
- 12. Roland TD-30KV – If Money Doesn’t Matter
- Carlsbro CSD130 Electronic Drum Set
- Carlsbro Electronic Drum Set CSD120
- Carlsbro CSD130 9-Piece Compact Electronic Drum Kit with Throne, Isolation Headphones, & More
- Carlsbro CSD 180
- Roland TD-17KV-S Electronic Drum Set Bundle
- Roland V Entry Electronic Drum Set TD-1DMK
- Vault ED-5 4-Piece Electronic Drum Kit
- Yamaha DTX402K Electronic Drum Kit
- Yamaha DTX432K Electronic Drum Ki
- Yamaha DTX522K Electronic Drum Set
- Yamaha DTX532K Electronic Drum Set
- Yamaha DTX542K Electronic Drum Set
- Yamaha DTX562K Electronic Drum Set
- What Makes The Best Electronic Drum Set?
- Previous Best E-Drum Kits
1. Alesis Nitro – Ex-Best for Beginners
- Cheapest useful e-drum set on the market
- 42 beats to learn with guidance
- Module easy to handle
- No advanced features (half-open Hi-Hat cymbal sound, triple zone Ride cymbal)
In 2016, the Alesis Nitro has officially replaced the Alesis DM6 as my best electronic drum kit for beginners.
It is now the best selling drum set on Amazon (1,000+ models / per month). And it deserves that title because it provides amazing value at an amazingly cheap price (it’s the only kit under 300 dollars in this review).
What the Alesis Nitro can do for you:
- Look professional – whether on stage or in your rehearsal room
- Provide you with 40 slots containing drum sets mixed together out of 385 quality sounds (jump to 0:40 to hear them in action):
- Plug-and-play home recording. You only need 1 additional cable and a laptop
- It will guide and motivate you in your practicing through built-in training functions (that is usually reserved for high-end kits at $800+)
So there you go: the Alesis Nitro is my ex-best electronic drum set for anyone buying their first ever e-drum kit.
Questions about the Alesis Nitro? I’ll answer them in my Alesis Nitro review.
2. Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit – Best for Beginners
- Great value for the price
- High-quality drum module, because the build is solid
- Sturdy rack holds the kit even if you’re a heavy hitter
- Relatively large footprint
- Drum module takes has some more detailed settings that you might have to get used to
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit is identical to the Alesis Nitro in module and hardware. Yet, as the name suggests, this one come with mesh heads instead of rubber-only pads – which is fairly incredible at this price point.
And if you thought the mesh heads would be poor quality because of the low price – well, think again. I found them to have a good response (the module picking up even very light strokes) and rebound (bouncing the stick / your wrist back into its default position, so you save energy and power) – so playing the Alesis Nitro Mesh feels more like playing an acoustic drum kit.
The second advantage of the mesh heads on the Alesis Nitro is that they are much quieter than rubber pads, so you’ll be able to play without your family or neighbors noticing.
As such, the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit has replaced its non-mesh version as the best beginner electronic drum kit on the market, because it’s really difficult to find anything wrong with this kit. The quality of the mesh pads and sounds within the module as well as the design of the Alesis Nitro Mesh result in visual appeal and a great drumming experience!
3. Alesis Forge – Ex-Best E-Kit Under $500
- Very professional design (chrome rack)
- Wide range of sounds (600)
- Can be used with double bass pedal
- No training functions (as with Yamaha and Roland kits)
Another one of Alesis’ electronic drums, and this time we’re leaving the beginner section and the confines of the practice room. From my experience, the Alesis Forge will also satisfy more advanced drummers on the stage, because…
- …with its chrome rack and the more elaborate module, the Alesis Forge looks very professional. And studies have shown that your audiences will judge your more by your appearance (including gear) than by your skills.
- The Forge comes with a library of 600 (!) sounds. And with 50 preset kits and 20 empty slots for you to fill, there is also more than enough room to make use of all the sounds. Taken together, this would allow you to change your sound multiple times during each song of a live performance. I’ve never done this, but perhaps you aspire to be the next Joe Clegg (Ellie Goulding’s drummer):
- If you’d want to use this kit for practicing too, there’s also a quieter version of it.
So the Alesis Forge is my ex-best electronic drum set for under $500!
I provide all the details and latest deals for this kit in my full review.
4. Alesis Surge – Best E-Kit Under $500
- Compact setup fits most indoor environments
- Good response time from the time of hitting the drum to when you hear it with headphones on
- Easy setup even for beginners
- Limited number of EQ options such as wood types, room sizes etc.
Just like with the Alesis Nitro and Alesis Nitro Mesh, the Alesis Surge is an upgrade of the Alesis Forge – with the important difference of mesh heads instead of rubber ones.
That means that the all-mesh drum heads of the Alesis Surge are quiet enough to not annoy your family or neighbors while drumming.
I found them to also feel great, which means that they threw my sticks back to me (rebound) after a stroke so I could play as fast as possible. And they also triggered the sound that the head is supposed to play without any noticeable time lapse.
And the best thing is: the Alesis Surge isn’t even much more expensive than its rubber brother, the Alesis Nitro. Therefore, I now recommend the Alesis Surge as my best e-drum kit under 500 dollars.
Find all my reasons for making that claim in my full Alesis Surge review.
5. Yamaha DTX400K – Least Noisy
- Yamaha’s high-quality sounds (297 ones)
- Beater- and padless kick takes away the biggest source of noise
- Module simple to handle
- Silent kick feels different from standard pedal (not for first-time drummers)
- Limited number of preset kits (10)
- Can’t choke cymbals by hand
The Yamaha DTX400K is the little brother of what to me is the best electronic drum kit for practicing (the DTX450K below). In contrast to that kit, the DTX400K is perfect for really quiet practice:
This kit is so quiet because it has no kick pad and no beater. This is good for people next door (family etc.), because…
- Beater and kick pad normally produce the loudest noise on an electric drum set. The DTX400K takes that out of the equation. (It still does produce the kind of noise I describe in the buyer’s guide below).
And the DTX400K will help you keep your neighbors happy, because…
- There aren’t any sound waves close to the ground that could be easily transmitted into the rooms underneath you.
On the downside, I wouldn’t recommend this as a first-time drum kit, because using this pedal will obviously feel different from using a standard bass drum pedal. This is okay for someone who has already learned to play on a normal pedal. But otherwise, I think it’s better to go standard first.
If you’re keen on quietness and okay with the different feel, this kit can make your practice more fun and effective through:
- plugging in your smartphone or mp3-player and jamming along to your favorite songs.
- 12 built-in training functions. A particularly useful one is called “Measure Break” and guides your playing through a click for a certain time and then pauses for exactly one bar. You play on and when the click comes back in, you’ll know whether you were keeping the time or not.
And here’s how the Yamaha DTX400K sounds when recorded:
So there it is: my best e-drum kit for neighbor- and family-friendly practice.
6. Roland TD-1KV – Solid Beginner’s Option
- Great price point to get into edrums
- Sturdy construction and small footprint
- Realistic and forgiving drum pads
- Foot pedals are fine for beginner and intermediate players but might frustrate advanced players
The Roland TD-1KV will get you into e-drums at an economical price with a great return of features, reliability, and a high fun quotient.
This kit has everything that any beginner or intermediate student could ever want and could be used in a pinch by professional players.
It’s very well constructed with adjustability for players of various ages and sizes. The pads have a forgiving rebound that is realistic and easy on the hands.
The Sound Module gives you 15 excellent drum sounds, options to record your playing, plus, you can even play along to on-board music as well as tunes from your external sound source. In addition, the Roland TD-1KV has a coach feature that will help you improve your playing.
I’ve had the opportunity to experiment quite a bit with this little beauty and it is simple and durable as a stand-alone unit. But the real strength of the Roland TD-1K lies in its MIDI functionality. For once you connect the TD-1K to your computer (see below for how to do that), you can add drum plugins from your favorite drum software and make this kit sound any way you like.
So the Roland TD-1K makes for my favorite cheap MIDI drums.
You can find more reasons why the Roland TD-1KV is a great beginner option here.
Now, we’re moving away from cheaper electronic drum kits (under 500 dollars) and will be looking at more powerful options and features:
7. Yamaha DTX450K – Best for Practicing
- Yamaha’s high-quality sounds
- Module simple to handle
- 12 training functions on board
- Limited number of preset kits (10)
- Can’t choke cymbals by hand
- Looks slightly odd (arrangement of drums, hole in the cymbals)
Yamaha is a widely recognized manufacturer of all kinds of quality musical instruments. And the Yamaha DTX450K is no exception.
This is my best electric drum kit for practicing for the following reasons:
- It comes with a very simple-to-handle module that simultaneously produces sounds as good as this:
- It lets you plug in your smartphone or mp3-player so you can jam along to your favourite song. And with its 297 sounds and 10 preset kits, you can record really nice stuff with it:
- But the best thing about this set are the 12 built-in training functions. The most effective of those is called “RhythmGate” and trains you to keep the time. Only the much more expensive Roland TD 11K (below) can do this too.
So the Yamaha DTX450K is my best e-kit for practicing!
You can see the training functions in action, find out about the latest deal, or learn how the kit can be made to sound like from outer space in my in-depth Yamaha DTX450K review.
8. Alesis Command – Best For Playing Live
- The two most important pieces (snare & bass pad) are mesh for excellent response and individual tension adjustment
- Chrome frame is sturdy and durable, plus it looks professional
- The entire kit sets up in about an hour out of the box
- Cymbals are single-zone only – so you won’t have an edge sound on the ride cymbal for example
I think the Alesis Command 8-piece electronic drum kit is best electronic drum kit for live performances for these reasons:
It comes with a solid 4-post chrome rack and a bigger overall size. Since most other e-kits in this price range are smaller, the Alesis Command looks more like a traditional acoustic drum kit. And that’s what people in the audience are used to.
Also, the tom pads – sized 9″, 9″ and 11″ – are larger than usual (8″ and 10″) so you have some margin for error in terms of your strokes. And on stage, when you’re playing and also performing, this can be very useful. Plus: one of the cymbal pads is chokeable.
Finally, the 70 digital drum kits and 600 sounds programmed into the sound module provide you more than enough flexibility to even play gigs where you’d have to cover a wide range of musical styles while on stage.
So for drummers who need an electronic kit for live performance, I believe that the Alesis Command is a near perfect fit.
See It In Action:
9. Alesis DM10 – Best Under $1,000
- Sound module provides plenty of features and flexibility
- Mesh heads feel realistic and rebound well
- Drum and cymbals pads are larger than on most other drum kits
- Some people report broken cymbal pads (hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve heard of it often enough to include it here)
Now we’re headed into professionalism. And again we’re looking at one of Alesis’ electronic drums.
With the Alesis DM10 MKII Studio and Pro Electronic Drum Kits you’ll look like a professional and be able to create a drum sound that will match just about any style of music either in the studio or performing live.
If you need to use your electronic kit to rehearse or practice in a small space where being quiet is paramount, the Alesis DM10 MKII Studio and Pro Electronic Drum Kits also fits the bill.
Adjustable mesh heads on all toms, snare and kick drum and larger drum sizes all mounted on a sturdy chrome 4-legged frame pack a punch and the pricing will get your attention. The sound module gives you plenty of tools and flexibility right out of the box.
Finally, I think the sound quality is pretty amazing, but please judge for yourself:
Before the MKII the Alesis DM10X was my best electronic drum set under 1000 dollars. Why I change this title to the MKII you ask? Well, read on here.
10. Roland TD-11K – Best All-Rounder
- Top-notch sound quality
- Control every nuance of your (live) sound (ambience, muffling, tuning etc.)
- 3 effective training functions on board
- Relatively high-priced
- No chrome rack available
- Limited sound range (190)
The Roland TD-11K to my mind is the best electronic drum kit across all use cases.
I’ve owned this kit for years and it does perform well in the studio, on stage and in the practice room! But there are also kits that do similarly well for less money. And here’s why:
In the studio the TD-11K scores through Roland’s “superNATURAL” sound technology which will product various different sounds when hitting one and the same pad in a different way or at a different spot.
And I think the sound quality, too, is second to none:
On stage, the Roland TD-11K will look professional and the 25 preset kits will be more than enough. Plus: you can muffle and tune each pad or increase reverb and echo with just the push of a button.
In the practice room you can profit a lot from the TD-11K’s coach mode. This comprises several features to train your timing:
For more reasons why the Roland TD-11K is the best electronic kit if you want a bit of everything (practicing, playing live, recording), see my full TD-11K review.
11. Alesis Strike – Most Affordable High-End E-Drum Kit
- The mesh heads on snare, toms and kick are super-responsive & have very realistic rebound characteristics
- Offers more than 1600 realistic-sounding drums, cymbals, percussion instruments (and more)
- Comes with one of the most solid racks I’ve seen so far
- Hi-Hat has issues registering / playing opening and closing sounds accurately. The previous firmware update has improved the situation considerably, but unintended sounds still can occur
When Alesis launched the Strike Pro, most people assumed this simply couldn’t be a high-end kit at such an affordable price. But the Strike came, saw and succeeded.
There simply is no other kit on the market that offers a similar range of sounds, a design as professional or sound modification options as intricate at such a low price. For this reason, the Alesis Strike is my best electronic drum set for recording at a fully professional level.
The only issue really is the HiHat which you can read more about in my review below. For me, though, even this “issue” has never limited my joy in playing the Alesis Strike in any way. And you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars more to find a similar range of features when looking at another brand (see Roland TD-30KV below).
So about this HiHat issue – and all other great things about the kit – see my full review of the Alesis Strike.
12. Roland TD-30KV – If Money Doesn’t Matter
The Roland TD-30KV is not available at the moment, so here is my recommended alternative.
- Multi-dimensional drum sound that feels organic
- Realistic and consistent trigger pad feedback
- Customize and modify the settings to your heart’s content!
- Not really for new players looking for a starter electronic kit
- This product does not come with a warranty
I didn’t even consider this kit in the comparison table, because it would – in all fairness – just be unfair to the other e-drum kits presented here. After all, the Roland TD-30KV is more than three times as expensive as the Roland TD-11K and the price of the other kits in this review don’t even compare.
BUT: neither can they compare in terms of quality. The Roland TD-30KV is a fully-professional set that you can take into any high-profile recording studio in this world – and people will be impressed. And this is because…
- It comes with Roland’s so-called “SuperNATURAL sounds” and “behavior modeling technology” which essentially means that no sound coming out of this kit is prerecorded. Yes, the kit does have sounds in its library (how else can it produce them), but each strike of yours will trigger the Roland TD-30KV’s module to synthesize an individual and unique sound each time. In other words, this e-kit produces sounds in just the way an acoustic drum set would.
- The Sound Module enables you to configure each and every aspect of your drum sound. Care to choose whether the kick should sound as if beaten with a wooden beater? Or do you prefer felt? The TD-30KV module gives you the power to switch with just the push of a button.
So there’s really nothing negative to say about the Roland TD-30KV. Quite the opposite: it’s a stellar electronic drumset and will bring you as close to acoustic sets as possible while preserving all the advantages of an acoustic one.
Only: it might not be for you. For the lots of room for customization that this kit brings with it, also mean that you need to spend a least a bit of time using those features. They are fairly easy to learn, but if you have absolutely don’t want to be concerned with tweaking the sound through your module – better save the money.
Also, when a legend like Jim Keltner gets excited about using this MIDI electronic drum kit and the drum sounds that it makes, I’m all ears. So while the Roland TD-30KV is the most expensive kit in this review, it also is my best MIDI drum set.
If you’re good with that, the Roland TD-30KV will take your breath away! Guaranteed!
Wanting to modify your shell depth, microphone positon, muffling and a dozens of other parameters? Discover how in my in-depth review of the Roland TD-30KV.
Carlsbro CSD130 Electronic Drum Set
The Carlsbro CD 130 electronic drum set comes complete with 8 pieces and features a realistic kick pedal for a great feel. Easy to sest up in minutes thanks to stereo outputs that connect directly to recording consoles, PA systems, and amplifiers, it is equipped with the Commander 120/130 drum module, which gives you 250 different percussion sounds and 30 drum kits – 20 are preset and the other 10 are user assignable. Full dynamic, sensitivity, and crosstalk adjustments help you create the sound you want.
- 250 high-quality percussion voices
- 20 preset drum kits
- Digitron display
Carlsbro Electronic Drum Set CSD120
Designed with brand-new players in mind, the Carlsbro CSD120 is an 8-piece electronic drum kit that lends itself to practice environments including bedrooms and apartments thanks to nearly silent components. Fully adjustable components include crash and ride cymbal pads with manual choke, kick drum foot pedal, pad sensitivity, and velocity response. A Commander 120/130 drum module is included, allowing you to enjoy the ultimate in control while easily connecting to other components for recording and performance.
- 250 different drum and percussion samples
- Preset with 20 drum kits & 10 user kits
- 20 songs preloaded
Carlsbro CSD130 9-Piece Compact Electronic Drum Kit with Throne, Isolation Headphones, & More
This is an upgraded version of the CSD130 8-piece set, with the same high-quality components, Commander 120/130 drum module, and realistic feeling kick pedal. It’s set apart by the inclusion of a pair of CAD audio Drummer Isolation Headphones, a set of Vic Firth American Classic 5A Drum Sticks, and a drum throne.
- Collapsible design for easy transport / storage
- 20 preset drum kits, 10 user defined drum kits, and 20 demo songs
- Recording and playback facility plus USB, MIDI, and Aux interfaces
Carlsbro CSD 180
This electronic drum bundle contains almost everything you need to get started including a Commander 300 sound module with 26 preset drum kits and 20 demo songs. The kit features three tom pads, a bass drum pad, hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbals, a kick pedal, and of course, the necessary drum rack and mounting hardware. Over-the-ear stereo headphones and drumsticks are included.
- Commander 300 Sound module with demo songs, preset drum kits, and more
- 458 percussion voices
- Recording and playback facility USB interface, MIDI in/out, and LCD display
Roland TD-17KV-S Electronic Drum Set Bundle
With realistic pads designed to mirror the acoustic drumming experience, The Roland TD-17KV-S is fully equipped with all the toms, and cymbals needed, plus a bass and snare. Foot pedals are included, as are a rack, many accessories, three pairs of drumsticks, a throne, and an audio cable that connects your phone to your drum set so that you can play along to any track. Full electronics round out this exceptional electronic drum kit.
- Roland TD-50-class sound engine
- TD-17 module imports samples, helps with mixing and layering, and more
- 50 premium drumkits built in, or create your own kit using onboard sound elements
Roland V Entry Electronic Drum Set TD-1DMK
The Roland TD-1DMK electronic drum kit features dual-ply mesh heads with adjustable tension for a realistic experience. A built-in metronome helps you improve tempo and timing, and 14 preset kits let you create unique musical expressions. The kit includes a kick, snare, hi-hat & pedal, 3 toms, a crash cymbal, ride, and the drum stand. This set is also available in a Roland V Drums bundle that includes a throne, drum sticks, and a double bass drum pedal.
- 256 notes of polyphony
- Compact setup for easy setup
- Preloaded module connects to Melodics drum training software (sold separately)
Vault ED-5 4-Piece Electronic Drum Kit
With a convenient pre-assembled rack, the Vault ED-5 4-Piece electronic drum kit offers quick, easy set up in minutes. The set includes a bass drum pad with a pedal, a snare, 3 toms, an 18” hi-hat with a pedal, a crash pad with a stop function, and a ride pad. The sound module is fitted with 3.5mm stereo jack inputs and outputs, USB, and MIDI. A metronome helps you keep time.
- 20 preset drum kits
- 184 sounds
- 50 songs for play along
Yamaha DTX402K Electronic Drum Kit
This is a great electronic drum kit for beginners thanks to a user-friendly design and an affordable price point. With ten built-in training functions, apps for iOS and Android, USB connectivity and more, it covers different genres of music that make practice sessions even more enjoyable. All toms, cymbals, and pedals are included, along with a snare, a bass, and a compact rack.
- Features 287 drum and percussion sounds
- 10 preset kits
- Customize additional kits using various sounds
Yamaha DTX432K Electronic Drum Ki
The Yamaha DTX432K electronic drum kit comes with everything you need to get started, including on-ear stereo headphones, an adjustable drum throne and four pairs of Vic Firth 5A drumsticks. Cymbals, a snare, a hi-hat, toms, and a bass are aall pat of the kit, along with pedals, a stand, and all the hardware needed for setup.
- 50 preset drum kits and 50 user kits
- USB ports to import custom sounds
- Laser-tuned trigger response for a natural feel
Yamaha DTX522K Electronic Drum Set
With triple-zone snare and cymbal pads for realistic performances, the Yamaha DTX522K drum kit includes 3 toms, 2 cymbals, a snare, a hi hat, a drum module, and a complete rack system with hardware. Bass and kick pedal are included, along with a foot pedal for the hi-hat. The module provides playing analysis to help you improve. On-ear stereo headphones and drum sticks are included.
- Yamaha DTX502 Drum module
- 50 preset kits plus 50 user kits
- Many convenient practice and recording features
Yamaha DTX532K Electronic Drum Set
The Yamaha DTX532K electronic drum set includes a 3-zone snare pad, three tom pads, a silent kick pad, a hi-hat pad on its own stand, a crash cymbal pad, and a 3-zone ride cymbal pad. The frame and hardware are included, along with a comfortable adjustable drum throne, drum sticks, and over the ear headphones.
- DTX502 module
- 691 different drum and percussion sounds
- Multiple functions for practice, performance, and recording
Yamaha DTX542K Electronic Drum Set
This five-piece electronic drum set features triple-zone snare and cymbal pads for superior voicing. The module offers multiple training functions, along with fifty onboard drum kits that enhance your practice and performance sessions. The frame and hardware are included.
- Full 8-drum kit on an easy-to-assemble five-piece frame
- Space-conscious design; hi-hat is integrated into the frame
- Kick pedals for bass and hi-hat are included
Yamaha DTX562K Electronic Drum Set
Offering more than 691 realistic drum sounds and a real hi-hat system with a pedal built in, the Yama DTX562K brings your electronic drumming experience to the next level. This kit includes three toms, a snare, a bass, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal, all this three zones and Yamaha’s exclusive 36-degree choke function for enhanced control. Rack and hardware are part of the package.
- Drums feature textured cellular silicone heads
- DTX502 module
- Many functions for practicing, playing, and recording
What Makes The Best Electronic Drum Set?
Now you know about the features of 7 very good electric drum sets. But what if you’re not sure which features you need – and which would be a waste of money?
That’s where this buyer guide comes in. I’ll show you what you should look for in your e-kit – and what you can safely ignore.
1. Checking for essentials
You value your money, right?
So the first thing you should consider is this: what will you get for the price?
I’ve never seen an electronic drum set pack that doesn’t include the actual pads and the “rack” (the mounting system). But quite often the bass drum pedal is not included. And even more often there’s no drum throne and the kit doesn’t include drum sticks or headphones.
So make sure you know what you get for your money – and what you have to pay for on top of the kit.
Tip: Even if drum throne / sticks / headphones aren’t included, Amazon will often give you a discounted package deal. Just look at the “Frequently Bought Together” section right underneath the product picture on Amazon.
2. Determining Your Purpose
There’s one thing to realize that makes buying an electric drum set much easier:
it doesn’t have to be very good in every respect. Not only would you have to spend thousands of $ to get there (as you saw with the Roland TD-30KV above) – but you’d also perhaps not make use of all you paid for.
So better determine whether you want to use your electric kit for practicing, playing live or home/studio recording. Do that now!
Now you can simply scroll to the respective section below and ignore all the rest. (If you want your kit for multiple purposes, add up the important aspects.)
Purpose #1: Practicing
An e-drum kit for practicing should:
- Have a useful setup
- Make little noise
- Have a few practice tools on board
In particular, this means…
This is paramount but often overlooked: an electronic drum set should be set up like a regular acoustic kit.
Because if it doesn’t, you’ll store motions in your muscle memory that you would have to change once you sit down on an acoustic set again.
And this doesn’t work instantly. It needs a lot of un- and re-learning and is truly boring. So don’t buy an electronic drum kit like this (Pyle PED041):
Because it doesn’t resemble a regular acoustic setup at all:
Even if you’re looking for portable electric drums, you’d do yourself no favor going for one with the above setup. For yes, it would be easier to fit into a car or under a bed – but I think the un-learning aspect is much more important. I think you can afford to spend 10 more minutes disassembling a kit, but hardly anybody can afford to spend 2 months un-learning useless data in one’s muscle memory.
Chances are this is why you’re going for an electronic drum kit in the first place: you want to practice without freaking out your family or neighbors. Honorable intention…
…but the problem is: electronic kits are not completely silent! Yet, depending on their pads some are more silent than others.
The crucial distinctions in terms of the pads (applying to cymbals, toms, and the kick) are between:
- Rubber pads
- Pads with mylar heads
- Pads with mesh heads
Rubber pads have a steel core that’s covered with, well, rubber and they look like this:
And hitting a rubber pad will produce peak volumes of about 70 decibels. That’s like hitting the pages of an open book with a stick. Not very loud, but potentially annoying if there’s a person in the same room or directly next door.
But judge yourself:
Pads with mylar heads:
Mylar is a material that’s used in real drum heads too. But of course, the mylar PADS won’t be as loud as real drums, because there’s no shell that amplifies the tone.
Yet, hitting a mylar pad will again peak at around 70 decibels (think open book hit with a stick).
Pads with mesh heads:
Mesh heads finally are the most quiet option as the sound waves are dispersed on the woven mesh.
Imagine the “noise” to be similar to hitting a sturdy cushion. It’s perhaps too loud to do when someone’s sleeping or watching TV right next to you. But usually, it won’t bother people next door.
Again, I’d like you to judge yourself:
And the “feel” of the pads?
Many people seem to be reluctant to go for electric drums, because they’re concerned the pads won’t feel like acoustic drums. And there’s really only one thing to say about this:
If you want something that feels exactly like an acoustic drum set, buy an acoustic drum set.
Don’t get me wrong: e-drum sets have become very advanced and the pads do mimic the feel of an acoustic drum set quite well (mylar and mesh better than rubber). But there will always be a slight difference. Emailing doesn’t feel exactly like writing a letter either, right?
The upside is of course that electric drums can do lots of different things that acoustic drums can’t.
They can help you practice effectively, change your drum set sound instantly on stage, record on a budget or make your drum set sound like a piano (see video below).
c. Practice Tools
This is the final cornerstone to watch out for in a practice kit: tools to help you make efficient progress.
The absolute essentials for this are:
- A metronome, so you can practice to play in time. (I haven’t seen a electronic kit which doesn’t have one built in, but be sure to double-check.)
- A recording function, so you can record what you are practicing:
Because as a beginner, you’ll be fully occupied with trying to get that groove in front of you right. You simply won’t have enough concentration and objectivity left to listen and recognize all the details that aren’t spot-on yet. So it’s invaluable to be able to push a button, have whatever you’re working on recorded and give it a listen afterwards.
- Plg for smartphone / mp3-player, so you can play along to your favorite music:
This is the real deal for practicing the drums. Nothing will boost your motivation more than being able to jam along to your favorite track. So make sure the electronic drum set has a plug to connect your smartphone/iPhone or mp3-player. (Mostly the plug is called “Mix-In” and has a ⅛’’ jack).
Finally there is one nice-to-have-but-not-quite-necessary tool for practicing:
- On-board training functions.
Some higher-priced electronic kits such as the Yamaha DTX450K or the Roland TD-11K have guided trainings built into the module. These programs would for instance play a groove for you to emulate and then drop the click for a few bars at some point. You’re supposed to play on until the click sets back in – at which point you’d know how well you’ve been playing in time. There are different exercises for different purposes of course, but the point is: it’s guided and it’s tracked. Both will help you make progress more easily and eventually maintain your motivation.
Finally, if you’re a beginner and operating on a budget, electronic drum pads can be a good alternative to an electronic drum kit when starting out.
Purpose #2: Playing live
If you want to take your electric drum set on stage, it should:
- have a decent range of quality sounds
- look professionally
- be expandable
a. Sound Range & Quality
With respect to the sound range, there are two crucial questions to consider:
- Can you import sounds into the module?
If so, that would make your sound range virtually limitless which is obviously a good thing. But it’s also expensive as only the higher-priced sets like the Alesis DM10 are able to import sounds.
If the kit you’re looking at can’t import sounds, you should google for the manua. In there will be a list of the sounds in the kit. If you want to play Rock or Jazz you’ll find appropriate sounds in any kit – but higher-priced ones will have more. If you’re into Latin or even Electro, it depends on the individual set whether it has some at all.
- Does the kit have enough presets for your gig?
A preset is a whole drum set compiled out of the individual sounds. Usually, that’s one sound for each pad, so 9 for a standard e-drum sets (3 tom, 1 snare pad, 1 kick, 1 Hi-Hat and 2 Cymbal sounds).
The number of presets can range from 10 to 100 and there is also a variable number of kits to customize yourself from product to product. I recommend you think about how many songs you’re usually playing/going to play on a single gig and how often you want to change the sound of your kit. Depending on your music and the level of proficiency, this could be every single song, once per gig, or never.
As for the sound quality of a kit, I can’t give any hard and fast rules, because taste is obviously subjective. The simple test would be to search for the electric kit you’re interested in on YouTube where you’ll usually find lots people playing this set for you. Just give it a listen and decide yourself.
It’s scientifically proven that audiences will judge you by how you look on stage as well as by your skills. So better make sure that you’re really reaping the fruits of your practice by having a professionally-looking set.
What this entails isn’t set in stone, but generally a kit that resembles a regular drum set will be familiar to an audience and thus look like it’s up there on stage for a reason.
Just think about what you’d expect on stage and I’m sure you’ll agree it isn’t this (DDrum Beta):
And that this Alesis Forge looks much more professional:
Purpose #3: Recording
Finally, electronic kits are a great and very affordable way to professionally record music at home (or in the studio).
And the only thing you really need to worry about for this purpose is if and how your electronic kit connects to a computer. Once that’s done, even sound quality and range don’t matter any more, because you’ll be able to modify them in any way you wish inside your music recording software.
How Does an Electronic Drum Set Work With MIDI?
Everything you need in order to use your electronic drums to a computer is a MIDI output at the back of your kit’s module.
Usually you’ll be using the MIDI-USB port, but with an audio interface (for more advanced recording) you might need to use the 5-pin outputs. With the Alesis DM10, for example, both are situated just below the Alesis logo at the back of the module:
Once you’ve connected the module to your computer, your electronic drums act as a MIDI trigger. That means, each time you’re hitting any drum pad, a MIDI signal is sent to your computer.
That signal doesn’t carry any sound information, which is actually a good thing. Because once you’ve opened your recording software (Audacity and Reaper are free; Ableton, GarageBand or Logic paid), you can match the signal with any sound in your library.
This way, you can make your drum set sound very, very good for any style of music. Or you can make it sound like something entirely different:
So choose an electronic drum set that has a MIDI output and you’ll be recording in no time.
Previous Best E-Drum Kits
- Module easy to handle
- Can be used with double bass pedal
- Bestselling electronic drum kit on Amazon (1000+ /month)
- 200 5-star reviews on Amazon
- Limited sound range (108)
- No advanced features (cymbal pad can’t be choked, no half-open Hi-Hat)
In my view, the Alesis DM6
is WAS the cheapest electronic drum set that’s actually useful. That is, until the Nitro (above) came along.
The Nitro has more sounds, more functions in its module and looks more professional in my view. That’s why I don’t recommend the Alesis DM6 plain anymore. Not because it’s bad, but because the Nitro is even better.
But I still have an in-depth review of the DM6 lying around. It covers all the tricky questions: from playing Rock Band for Playstation on it to connecting it to a computer.
I hope I could convince you that choosing an electronic drum set isn’t that difficult once you know what to look for.
I also hope you saw that an electronic drum kit isn’t just an acoustic set turned quieter, but that it can improve your practice, your stage performance or your recording – and even open up new dimensions to your creativity.
If you’ve got a question about any of the e-drum sets reviewed here, I’ll gladly answer them in the comments. And I’d love to hear about your experiences with any of these kits!