I remember when I first opened up that present from Santa Claus containing my first electronic drum set of my life. I was a young child then but knew how to drum quite well; although different from a “normal”, real acoustic set of drums, the size, versatility and overall feel had me in love the moment I put my sticks to the pads. Not to mention I was quite shy, or wanted to drum late at night, I was able to quickly plug-in my headphones to bypass the “rules” of drumming — mind your neighbors. I had a portable set as well, so bringing it to my friend’s to jam was never a problem. Today we research the 10 best electronic drum sets in the market to help you with your shopping endeavors.
Benefits of electronic drums
When I was younger, one of the biggest concerns I had when learning how to play the drums were my neighbors. Not only could I not play past 8:00 PM (their request), but I was also just a bit…shy. I wasn’t very good, needed practice, and was all-around self-conscious. Although this doesn’t hold true to everyone, all drummers can agree that if we could, we’d play at all times of the day. With a real set that isn’t much of a reality (unless you live in a remote area or have your set in a well sound-proof studio), but an electronic drum set allows you to plug-in those headphones and drum away whenever you please. To us, this is one of the biggest benefits.
Most of these electronic drum sets are also (technically) portable, being that their racks can fold and fit a bit more snug in your car than a real set (having to pick a part each piece and stand). You can also store it away easily as opposed to keeping it up in your garage, room or studio at all times.
Lastly, and definitely not least, the flexibility we get in terms of drum sounds, recording, and other technologically advanced features that come with the set’s module is priceless. Just like drum machines, as opposed to having one sound out of your set, most electronic drums give us multiple choices in terms of sounds. These range from jazz, rock, marching, and even hip-hop. What’s even better? Some of these sets even allow you to import your own sounds, which gets me so excited being that I’m a sample junkie. The versatility and possibilities with electronic kits are endless.
How to choose your electronic drum set
- Your budget. With electronic drum sets, you’re getting a wide variety of price points. As assumed, you’re getting what you pay for. There are some sets at a few hundred bucks, but also some that cost over a thousand. How much cash do you have to drop?
- How many pieces? Most have 5-pieces; being that you get a snare, hi-hat, crash, a few toms and a kick. However, others have some additive pieces, such as giving you a ride cymbal, a floor tom, and more. This all depends on your preference, and although we tried to cover a variety of models that give you different pieces, the standard is indeed 5.
- Rubber or mesh pads? There’s a bit of a difference, and to simplify it, the mesh pads are a lot nicer. They’re responsive, more realistic sounding and can be tuned. We wouldn’t say this comes down to preference, either — it is what it is, and mesh pads will obviously cost you a bit more (sometimes, a lot more). Not that rubber pads don’t work, however. They still give you a consistent sound and do what they’re told.
- The drum set’s module capabilities. This is where your budget also comes in to play, and the bigger you go the better the technology the set will have. Some of these models include MIDI in\out, auxiliary ports to plug-in your smart device and play MP3’s, practice games, the ability upload your own sounds, and more. Perhaps you want just the bare minimum? In that case, grab a cheaper set that doesn’t have an advanced module. Otherwise, we’ll highlight which sets have modules with features that are worth looking at.
For more information, we love Sweetwater’s useful electronic drums buying guide.
The top 10 best electronic drumsets
The following is our list of the top 10 best electronic drum sets in the market. Don’t forget to keep our checklist into consideration when shopping for your own set. Let us know in the comments which model you bought, or if you think we left any out!
To start off our list, Alesis is one of the best brands out there when it comes to percussion gear. This is our pick for the one of the best electronic drum kits in the market today if budget isn’t a factor in your decision (not that it’s too expensive, but it’s not cheap either). It is one of the most complete sets we’ve come across, first being that it comes with 385 sounds (drums, cymbals and percussion) and 40 ready-to-play kits. You can assign the sounds very easily to any piece you’d like, and the dual-zone (8 inches) toms (four of them), snare, as well as four cymbal-pads (10 inches) give you the above-standard setup when it comes to an electronic kit.
To control it all, you get the module in front of you. The LCD screen is relatively standard we’ll admit, but you don’t really need a fancy screen since all you’ll be doing is switching around the sounds. But you can also set the tempo and have a metronome play. Here’s a video on the DM7X module for more information. This electronic drum set is one of the most complete we’ve seen. The rubber drum and symbol pads are also of suitable quality. This is an upgrade of the popular Alesis DMX6 Drum Kit. Although that is still one of the highest rated sets in the market and has been for quite a while, the DM7X is an overall better kit in terms of quality and additive features. However, if you do want to save some money, you can still go with the original Alesis DM6 (it’s a 5-piece) if it is still available. It was tough to choose between the two, but we went with the fresher model (and because it’s highly rated as well).
Another brand we’re all pretty familiar with is Yamaha, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have at least one piece of gear created by them. When it comes to the DTX400K, it’s not only one of their most popular sets, but most rated because of the overall quality of the set. You’re getting 10 drum kits in one, ranging from jazz to full on marching. The sounds aren’t as many as the DM7X, but you get 23 snares, 21 kicks, 31 cymbals, 36 toms, and 42 percussion. The kick unit is silent. You’re getting a crash and ride cymbal, two toms, a floor tom, hi-hat and snare — the pads are the same size as the DM7X (pretty standard for all sets). What justifies the price of this is the additive features in the module — there are routines built-in for warm ups, groove tools, and even “drumming games” that make it fun to practice with. Whether that’s important for you isn’t up to us, being that we know drummers who only need some pads and sounds to slam, while others want to work on their craft. In our opinion, it never hurts to have these features, but at the same time, it’s all up to your budget. It’s only a few bucks more than the DM7X.
This is our choice for one of the best budget-friendly electronic drum sets in the market. Pyle Audio is known for their affordable gear within the lower price point. Some highlight features of this set: MIDI in\out (huge plus for us, always!), a stereo line-in, headphone jack, built-in metronome, a reverb switch, adjustable rack, and more. You’re getting 5 drum pads, a hi-hat pedal and the standard crash cymbal. Although not crazily advanced, the module works as intended with some decent modules built-in. You’re getting just enough sounds with 11 pre-set kits and 4 variations, so it’s not too mind boggling in terms of that sounds but it gets the job done. We’re a huge fan of this set because of the affordability and jam-packed features it gives the drummer.
Great for beginners or those who need a simple set. The velocity sensors of the drums are responsive enough to not give you too much fuss, although those playing a more metal style or perhaps quicker may experience double hits while recording MIDI. But other than that, this set is the right model for you if you’re looking for a budget-friendly solution. Highly recommended.
Here’s a brand you probably haven’t heard about, but a quality electronic set you’ll definitely want to keep in mind if you have the money. It’s not a household name, but Ddrum basically paved the way for the electronic drum revolution a few decades ago. At first glance we love the fact that it has USB and MIDI compatibility and an aux input for MP3 playback. You have the standard rack: crash, ride, hi-hat (as well as a hat controller pad, which we love), four single zone drum pads and a kick drum stand\pad. It’s highly reliable and won’t break down on you — it’ll be a long-term investment if you take care of it properly (that’s probably why it’s more recommended for children and beginners). But one of the coolest features is the aux hookup — you can jam out to any song imaginable for practice, fun, or to plan your new track out.
It works well with double pedals, too. We will warn you that reading some of the reviews on this from others is that it’s better for beginners or children, so if you are semi-pro or professional, go with one of the first sets we spoke about in this article. Here’s a video of the DD1 in action.
Another Alesis model, but this one is one of their most popular if budget wasn’t a concern. The drum pads are nothing short of good quality – ‘RealHead’ make, the cymbals are made of real alloy (just check the picture, they actually look real) along with an ‘ErgoRack’ mounting system. The module is also a lot more advanced than others we’ve reviewed thus far. It basically has a mixer built-in and also has sampled drum sounds included, but that’s not what’s important here — You can load new sound sets via USB! I’m a huge drum sampler (I like to use real drum breaks from the 70’s of course), so this feature is awesome in our opinion. It’s also a MIDI interface, and the module has a sequencer built-in. Extremely impressive.
The pads are dual-zone (8 and 10 inch) so you can get some stick sounds in your mix if you hit the edge, giving it a great emulation of a real set. A super realistic feel here. Again, one of the best electronic drum sets out there if budget wasn’t a part of our decision. If you grab, you’re definitely going for the gold. Here’s a short introduction video of the DM10.
Here’s another model out of Yamaha’s DTX series of electronic drums sets. This particular set is like the Alesis DM10 in terms of price point and quality score. You’re getting 7 pieces here with an additive ride cymbal and floor tom. You plug it in via USB and use VST’s with this bad boy, which in itself separates it from other sets dramatically. If you use a digital audio workstation and have some sounds you want to incorporate, this set is basically a drum MIDI controller. The snare pad is also super slick, being that you can use it as an open rimshot, closed rimshot along with the traditional snare sound. The module is also high-tech with some practice tools and song recorders built-in.
The look is also awesome, although that isn’t a make or break. The snare is of different color to resemble the traditional style, as well as the cymbals giving a nice vibe. A super high-quality for semi-pro and professional drummers, but if you don’t label yourself in terms of ‘pro-rating’, we wouldn’t be mad at you either. It’s all just a label, and if you grab this it’s just a greatly built electronic drum set with top-notch features. It also made it into MusicRadar’s best electronic drum kits and pads article. Not a bad solution if it fits your needs and you have the cash.
Ion Audio Redline
This is another one of our favorite affordable sets out there. With over 200 sounds built-in, a drum coach with play-along patterns and exercises, it’s great for not only beginners but somebody who merely wants a set that works. You of course get your 1/4″ outputs so you can connect your MP3 player or smart device to play along any song you’d like. It also has USB connectivity, MIDI function, and of course a headphone out.
A huge plus is that it comes with headphones and drumsticks, so if you’re looking for a complete package that isn’t heavy on the wallet, this is a model to take a serious look at. What’s also cool is that they “illuminate” when played, so you’re getting some visual feedback as well as a fancy look if you’re on stage or showing off to friends or band mates. It made our best electronic drum set for beginners article for good reason.
Here’s another set to add to your watch list. A big reason we like it is because it’s compact and easy to travel with. The quality is also pretty high considering the price point, it’s just above the Pyle Pro we mentioned earlier. There’s a total of 327 different instrument sounds on the module and you get some built-in mixing to adjust levels of each one. The pads are rubber, so keep that into consideration but they’re still great quality for the price. Decently built frame that’s adjustable (angle each pad how you like).
To name a few more additive features, there’s some built-in reverb and chorus effects, a 1/4″ headphone jack (of course), and it’s USB compliant for plug and play. Nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary, but if you’re looking for a more affordable model that is compact and you travel a lot, this is a great electronic set to look at.
Now we’re talking high-end. Roland is synonymous with drumming, and this is definitely one of their nicer electronic drum sets. The snare in particular is mesh-head V-pad which means it’s dual-triggering to imitate the natural distance between the snare rim and head. The tom’s are rubber but they’re 8.5″ big and also have very accurate triggers. The cymbals are 10″ with natural swing movement as well. So in sum, it’s some of the nicest quality sets in terms of make.
The module is also pretty impressive. Aside from the natural sounds, you get some additive features, such as a COACH function, record and play capability, and a MIDI\AUDIO data storage. It’s a set we’d recommend you get if you know what you’re doing, or if you merely want the best of the best and cash isn’t an issue.
OSP DD-502 MKII
To cap off our list, here’s a bit less known of a set in terms of the brand-name realm, but it’s rated highly on Amazon so we had to give it a look. There are 3 cymbals, 3 toms, a snare, kick and hi-hat (with control pedal). Only 215 voices (if you want to call that only), but there are also 50 preset songs to play along to. If it didn’t have a MIDI function we wouldn’t have even included it here, not to mention the aux in and headphones jack. Just a standard electronic drum set to be honest, but what stands out with it is the fact that it’s one of the best-selling on a few websites due to the stability and solid features it presents. A safe buy here.