Best electronic drum set: Reviews and buying guide

As a musician, you may want to try things that go beyond the norm to find a sound that’s uniquely yours. Whether it’s a new riff or a new tone in the right place, guitarists and vocalists have a lot of tools at their disposal to make unique music.

As a drummer, however, you’re going to be a bit more limited on a standard acoustic drum kit.

Sure, you’ve got your standard bag of tricks, but at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do for any given style of music.

What you really need is a way to mix in more percussion sounds to your music; maybe a steel drum sound or a timpani, or even something as simple as a regular snare with a warmer sound.

Fortunately, there’s now a way you can have your choice of hundreds of percussion instruments all in one kit, all completely adjustable and all affordable. What you really need is an electronic drum kit.

What is an electronic drum set?

For all that they do, electronic drum kits aren’t terribly complicated to use.

At its most basic level, they are a set of electronically sensitive drum pads that, when struck, send a small electric signal to a control box that produces a set sound.

This control box is actually where most of your magic is going to happen; inside your control box (or your drum kit’s “brain”).

You’ve got a library of sounds that you can associate with each drum pad’s strike. With just a few changes on the interface, you can set your electronic drum kit’s sound to either a factory preset standard, or simply mix and match your own.

Even though the idea is fairly simple and the basic concept of an electronic drum has been around since the 80‘s, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds since.

One of the biggest innovations that’s now a hallmark of good electronic drum kits is the ability to not only detect when a particular drum pad is struck, but exactly where.

Using mathematical models and a wider array of sensors, the brains of these electronic drums can alter your sound to act just like a real drum, giving you the ability to play rim-shots, let your cymbals ring and dampen as you choose, and even to slightly distort the sound of your snare depending on exactly where on the pad you make contact.

Far from being like a button pressed on a computer, today’s electronic drum sets are really brains that think and act just like the real thing.

Another feature that is perfect for the studio and the stage is the ability to assign different outputs to different soundboard channels, letting you balance your drums in a way that would be much more difficult on an acoustic set.

Because all the inputs are running through your electronic drum kit’s brain, balancing them is as easy as adjusting volume channels.

Like most good electronics, the best electronic drum kits have evolved to do some clearly incredible things and, in the right hands, can make your music sound even better than before.

Read: Steven Slate 4 Drums Review

Why Choose The Best Electronic Drum Kits?

While there still isn’t a perfect substitute for the real thing, the best electronic drum sets do have their own perks that you just can’t get on an acoustic set. There are also some minor disadvantages that an acoustic set has over an electronic version.

Advantages of Electronic Drum Kits:

Noise Control

For starters, an electronic drum set can be played at a much quieter level than traditional drum kits, which already alleviates a few drum-related problems.

With a headphone jack, you can practice inside your home or even your apartment at any time without disturbing your neighbors.

Without headphones, the volume can be controlled with the turn of a knob, making it an ideal fit for churches or a small stage.

While doing shows, this is a huge help as well, especially in tight quarters.

Not only are electronic drums smaller and easier to transport, but on an electronic setup, you (and the other members of your band), won’t have to fight to be heard while playing next to the drum kit. Not only does this make hearing everyone else easier, but it’s a great remedy to the age-old problem of tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears that’s an unfortunately common problem in long-time drummers.

Sound Variations

Whatever your style of music may be, the right electronic drum can give you a percussion sound that works with it.

Since all of your sounds are programmable, it’s possible to pick out and refine a wide variety of sounds that will all work on the same setup, turning your one drum kit into an entire closet full of percussion instruments.

It’s entirely doable on most drum models to adjust the sound profile, so you get exactly the sound you and your band are looking for. If you’re using one of the higher end models, it’s also possible to adjust individual sounds; you could have a kick drum with a warm, full sound paired with an incredibly sharp snare, if that’s your preference.

They don’t warrant extremely high end microphone for recording like acoustic drums do. The sound can be received through line-out or MIDI connections. It makes electric drums a practical buy for education, practice, studio recording, or real performance uses.

Space and Maintenance

In general, electronic drum kit versions are slightly more compact than their acoustic drum competition, making it a good fit for tight quarters.

Electronic drum sticks, brushes and mallets are likely to retain their use longer than the instruments used on acoustic drum kits because of the use of rubberized rims that don’t allow metal contact.

Fine tuning an electric drum set will never occur as well.

Disadvantages of Electronic Kits

One of the gripes you’ll hear is that even the best electronic drum sets can’t duplicate the sound you’ll receive with an acoustic drum set.

While in some cases this is true based on the repeated exposure to the drums (and sniff test), the technology behind electric drums is improving. The general consensus is to stay away from the extremely cheap electronic drum sets (unless purchasing for a baby or toddler) because the inexpensive ones use very cheap rubber and single triggered rubberized hard pads (or not real drum pedals).

In a large setting, these kits need some sort of amplification to be heard well, which is the opposite reason why they are ideal in smaller settings.

Who Are the Big Names Behind the Drum Sets?

With drum kits, you’ve got a big advantage in knowing who the best names are. Because the technology is relatively new, a lot of your best models are going to come from well-established instrument companies, many of which you’re probably already used to using.

Yamaha, for example, was one of the first companies to produce electronic drum kits back in the 80‘s, and they’re still going strong today with a line of kits for every budget. The DTX400-K is a popular, affordable Yamaha version.

In the same vein, you’ve got Roland, one of the pioneers in electronic instruments, offering a serious list of electronic drum kits that continue to push the envelope and blur the lines between acoustic and digital sound.

Finally, you’ve got the original innovators who made the first affordable electronic drum set, Alesis. Not surprisingly, they’re still making some of the top electronic drum kits on the market today, such as the Alesis DM10.

Whatever your style, whatever your budget, and whatever your skill level, we’ve collected some of the best electronic drum kits on the market here for you to check out. Take a look through some of our high-quality selections. Do a little research, and let us help you find the perfect kit for you.

The Top Rated Electronic Drum Sets

With the heap of electronic drum sets available in the market today, it’s hard to weed through what is worthy of your investment and what can be ignored. These choices will certainly leave you satisfied.

#1 Alesis DM6 USB Set

best electronic drum setWhat you’re getting with the Alesis DM6 isn’t just a great affordable electronic drum set, but a great affordable platform for your electronic drumming.

What’s the difference?

Well, to start off, you’re getting all your basic pieces done up in a soft rubber that’s both velocity sensitive and delivers a realistic response, as well as a two-zoned setup for your snare pad. This way, you can do all the standard tricks that you could do on an acoustic snare, or even a few new ones exclusive to electronic drumming.

The brain on the DM6 gives you a wide library of sounds, all fully interchangeable for your own preset kits, as well as the option to play MIDI sounds through a simple USB to grow your library even further.

But what truly makes this module a great platform is the fact that most of your upgraded Alesis pieces will work through the DM6 setup. You can build your next Alesis drum kit one pad at a time, a real plus for the musician on a budget.

Get started the right way with a DM6, and you’ll have a solid framework you can use for your entire drumming career.

#2 Yamaha DTX400K Drum Package

electric drum set reviewsStarting off in electronic drumming without any gear at all can be a real pain.

Fortunately, the Yamaha DTX400K kit has everything you’ll need to get started right out of the box.

Not only do you get a drum throne, a set of Vic Ferth 5A wood sticks, and a set of full size JVC headphones, but also the DTX400K electronic drum kit (duh) that’s got every feature a new drummer would need and nothing they wouldn’t.

You’re getting a five pad setup that covers all your basics, all done in velocity sensitive hard rubber, as well as pedals for your kick drum and your hi-hat, all fixed into place for easy assembly and breakdown.

The brain on this Yamaha electronic drum set gives you just enough options to be useful without so many as to be overwhelming; with ten preset kits ranging from rock to R&B and even to miscellaneous percussion, all with the options to set volume, panning, and reverb (all of which are easily explained in the manual). This means you can balance well with other players without a control box.

It’s your basic all-in-one setup with a sound that sounds anything but, and it’s a perfect buy for any new drummer.

#3 Alesis DM10 Studio Kit 8 Piece Drum Set

Whether you want to get more functionality out of your existing electronic drum kit, or you’re an acoustic professional looking to branch out, the DM10 has you covered and then some.

Fans of the DM6 will find that all the pieces are there, but they’re also the best possible versions of themselves.

You’re getting Alesis’ dual-zone Realheads for all your drum pads, done in real mylar with a triple flanged hoop that can be tuned with a drum key, giving you an incredibly realistic feel with every strike.

You also get Alesis’ signature Dynamic articulation. Now, not only will your volume change with harder strikes, but the actual timbre of the sound changes as well, just like a real acoustic set.

The brain that you’re getting on the DM10 is equally impressive, giving you over a hundred preset kits, a hundred spaces for you to design your own kit, the option to load new sounds via USB into the brain, and the ability to change each and every characteristic about each and every one.

For a truly jaw-dropping amount of control, clarity, and absolute professional quality from an industry leading company, the DM10 is the first, last, and only word.

#4 DDrum DD1 Complete Kit

For the new drummer, having a comprehensive kit right from the get-go is important This way, you can learn on an electronic drum kit without losing anything you could do on an acoustic. That being said, the DD1 Complete kit from Ddrum has absolutely got a new player covered.

Not only do you have a standard four pad setup set on a super sturdy aluminum frame, as well as your crash, ride, and hi-hat complete with pedals, but each of these pieces really goes above and beyond to give you a realistic drum experience.

Instead of just a pedal on the floor for your bass drum, you’re getting a real bass pedal and a striking pad, just like an acoustic setup.

For your cymbals, you’re getting a choke feature that stops your cymbal sound cold when you press it; once again, just like an acoustic setup.

However, the DD1 doesn’t just emulate an acoustic model drum kit, but improves on it with the DD1 brain. You get over 215 unique sounds spread out over twenty presets and ten user created kits, all entirely customizable.

On top of that, you also get MIDI inputs to give you a completely unique sound. Once you start playing the DD1, you’ll know that the only thing about it that feels cheap is the price.

#5 Roland TD1-1KV-S Compact Series

If you’ve already got a bit of drumming under your belt, or you just want to buy one kit that will last for most of your drumming career, you’ll easily find a friend in the Roland TD11 KV-S Compact Electronic Drum Kit.

It is a mid range workhorse that gives you some incredible features.

For starters, your pads are all as realistic as possible, thanks to mesh-head dual-trigger pads; this way, even players used to the rebound of acoustic kits don’t lose anything switching over to the KV-S.

In the same vein, your cymbals have a natural swing to them, unlike your standard fixed pads. Not even your timing suffers when switching over to this wonderful mid range kit.

But, by far and away, the big star on this model is the TD11 brain. Built from the ground up with Roland’s SuperNATURAL setup, including a huge library of presets and custom kit options, as well as a USB option to expand even further, the TD11 brain gives you pretty much complete control over your sound.

It feels real, it acts real, and it plays to whatever real is real to you.

#6 Pyle Pro PED04 Electronic Drum Kit

If you’re looking for the best beginner drum set that’s a little more versatile, the Pyle Pro PED04 is a fairly solid choice.

You’ve got your basic drum pad setup with pads that have a much more familiar response than other similarly priced models. This way, even acoustic players can play electronic drums without needing to change their style.

To help out beginner drummers and acoustic veterans even more, all of your pads are force sensitive. Every hit of the snares, toms, and cymbals will be just as loud as your strike.

No matter how loud you play, though, you can always plug in your headphones and practice without disturbing your neighbors, a great point for anybody who lives in apartments or other close-quarters areas.

With all the basic responsive pieces on board, the Pyle Pro PED04 proves itself to be a fairly solid electronic drum set for beginners.

In addition to your drum pads, the brain on the PED04 gives you plenty of options to mix up your sound. With eleven presets and four variations apiece, you can easily find the right kit for your music’s signature sound.

If you find that’s not enough, this kit is also MIDI ready, so you can easily plug it up to your computer and access a much larger library of tones to suit your needs.

Even with all the features, the PED04‘s control module is easy to access, easy to understand, and robust enough to do everything a new drummer would need for it to do, making it one of the best electronic drum set for beginners.

#7 Alesis DM Lite Review

From Alesis, the company that essentially designed affordable electronic mixers and kits, comes a scaled down version of one of their most popular lines that’s perfect for new drummers. We’re talking, of course, about the DM series for the former and the DM Lite for the latter.

Right out of the box, almost everything should already be in place, including your four drum pads, three cymbals, a hi-hat pedal, and a velocity sensitive kick drum pedal that gets louder the harder you press the pedal down.

All you need to do is open the arms up, move the pads where you want them, plug up the single cord (not a rats-nest of confusing cables like on other models), and you’re ready to go.

The brain of this unit is simple enough to understand, but comprehensive enough that you still have some features to play with. On the DM Lite, you’ve got ten presets that cover all your classic drum styles, as well as a few eclectic ones to add a little twist to your music. If you’re feeling up to it, you can also connect the DM Lite to your computer via USB and use it just like a MIDI keyboard, giving you a much larger sound library to work from.

But the real draw, especially for new players, is the host of on-board coaching programs that come with this electronic beginners drum set.

These little trainers range from simply keeping on a steady tempo to the more intricate tasks, like playing changing rhythms at increasingly faster tempos, and they’re all accessible right on the DM Lite module.

While they’re not a substitute for a real teacher, they do offer a lot of opportunities for new drummers to keep their skills sharp and avoid any bad habits. 

Ready for a minor step up? Try the Alesis DM Lite electronic drum set to up the ante.

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