best electronic drum sets

Best Electronic Drum Sets | 2021

Introduction

Nowadays it’s not as easy to pick the best electronic drum sets as it once was since there’re so many great options to choose from.

They have evolved so much in the last couple of decades that they’re getting closer and closer to the experience of playing an acoustic kit.

I’m pretty sure you can’t distinguish some of the best e-drums from an acoustic kit if you closed your eyes for a few seconds.

The hardware got better and the pads shifted from rubber to mesh, which means you can even adjust the tension to match the one on your acoustic.

The trigger technology improved so much you can even play ghost notes or rimshots on the pads, and choke, crash, ride or hit the bell of your cymbals.

Electronic drum sets are today, what electric cars will be in the future. Electric cars started as awkward and expensive alternatives to petrol, but they will soon take over the future. E-Drums already did that, though.

It doesn’t even matter what your budget is since they range from $300 to $6000, so there’s always a drum set for everyone.

Some drummers just want to practice but can’t, because drums are way too loud. Others just want an easy and reliable way to record drums.
An electronic drum kit can take care of everything as they are great for low-volume practice, useful as a teaching tool, and a reliable recording tool.

Before I start listing the best electronic drum sets on the market, let’s dive into a few things you should consider before picking the right one:

Mesh vs Rubber pads

mesh vs rubber pads

Both have their pros and cons, so here’s most of them:

Rubber pads:
  • Price: most budget/entry-level electronic drum kits include rubber pads. That’s because they lower the overall cost of the kit, as mesh heads are more expensive to produce. So, the only positive thing about them is the fact that they’re cheaper than mesh.
  • Feel: they feel way worse to play than mesh heads. You can adjust the tension of a mesh head to match the one on your acoustic drum kit, but you can’t do that with rubber pads. They don’t rebound as much and thanks to the nature of the material they feel hard and might hurt your hands/wrists if played for too long. I like to compare a kit with rubber pads, to playing a drum set made of practice pads.
  • Design: rubber pads are usually more compact, which can be a good or a bad thing. It can be good because it takes less space and can be easily packed away once you’re done practicing. They can also improve your accuracy since they’re considerably smaller. That can be seen as a downside because if you’re a beginner, hitting something so small can be quite a challenge.
Mesh Heads:
  • Price: mesh is usually more expensive than rubber, thanks to the material itself and the technology. However, the quality of the experience you get while playing with mesh heads is way higher than the one with rubber pads.
  • Feel: mesh heads are closer to a real drum head in terms of response, rebound and feel. Most can even be adjusted tension-wise to match your preferences.
  • Design: mesh heads are always bigger than rubber pads, which makes them, once again, closer to acoustic drums. Mesh can be found in medium and high-end electronic drum kits that can capture every nuance of your playing in a detailed manner. That means you have an easier time translating your skills to an acoustic drum kit in the future.

Does an electronic drum kit need an amp?

The short answer is no. The long answer is… it depends.

To hear more than a drumstick hitting rubber or mesh you’ll need an amp or a pair of headphones.

Every drum module includes a headphone output. They might be 1/4” while most headphones are 1/8”, but that’s nothing a cheap adapter won’t fix.

That means you don’t necessarily need an amp to hear your electronic drum kit, as a pair of headphones work just fine.

Plus, with headphones, you can isolate some of the rubber/mesh sounds and play with a lower volume than when you use an amp.

A gig is the only place where an electronic drum kit does need an amp because you’re playing for someone other than yourself and therefore, a pair of headphones won’t work.

Can you learn drums on an electronic kit?

Sure, but some electronic drums are way better than others to learn with.

First, the kit needs to have a drum tower with a real drum pedal instead of a trigger drum pedal. What you learn with a trigger type of pedal doesn’t translate well to a regular pedal.

Second, as we’ve seen before, get a kit with mesh heads instead of rubber. They feel more natural with a closer rebound and feel to the ones you get on a real drum head. That’s important to practice things like rudiments where you need to notice the difference between a regular hit and a ghost note.

Every module features USB/Midi ports. That means you can record yourself with a simple cable and a computer. That makes them great learning tools, as you can record yourself and find out what you need to improve next.

Finally, every drum module includes a giant library of sounds. That might help your creativity as you explore the vast world of percussion sounds.

How loud are electronic drums?

Electronic drums with rubber pads are louder than the ones with mesh heads. An acoustic kit is way louder than both. 

Rubber pads sound like hitting a practice pad, so if you plan to annoy as few people as possible, get a drum set with mesh heads, but beware – they are not silent either!

If you want to get an even lower volume you can:

  • Swap your bass drum pedal beater with a “silent” one;
  • Place your kit on a “tennis ball riser” – two sheets of wood with tennis balls in between them;
  • Buy a Roland “Noise Eater” bass drum pedal.

Here’s a video with the sound of an unplugged electronic drum kit:

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s explore the best electronic drum sets on the market.

The kits are listed by price in ascending order, so you can easily spot the one that fits your budget:

Best Electronic Drum Set Under $500

Specifications:alesis nitro mesh kit

  • 8″ Dual-Zone Mesh Snare Pad
  • 3 x 8″ Single-Zone Mesh Tom Pads
  • 10″ Hi-Hat Pad 
  • 10″ Ride Pad
  • Kick Pad Tower 
  • 10″ Crash Pad w/ Choke
  • Bass Drum Pedal 
  • Hi-Hat Trigger Pedal
  • Nitro Drum Module
  • 4-Post Aluminum Drum Rack

If you’re looking for a cheap electronic drum kit that doesn’t lack any of the basics, this is the best kit for you.

First of all, you get three 8” Single-Zone Mesh Tom Pads and one 8” Dual-Zone Mesh Snare Pad. 

Ignore the fact that all the tom pads are Single-Zone, the snare drum pad is actually Dual-Zone and every pad from either the snare or the toms has mesh heads.

Most budget electronic drum kits come with rubber and Single-Zone pads, which makes the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit a better alternative as mesh heads have a more realistic and natural feel.

If that isn’t enough…

… you also get a Kick Pad Tower, which means you can use a regular bass drum pedal (also included).

Once again, most budget electronic drum kits come with a bass drum trigger pedal that’s closer to the one on the Guitar Hero kit than to a real one.

On top of that, you get a 10” Hi-Hat Pad, 10” Crash Cymbal Pad, and a 10” Ride Pad. Every pad is Single-Zone and the crash one can be choked.

The sound module has 25 preset kits, 15 user kits, 385 sounds, and 60 play alongs. You’ll also find a metronome, audio jacks to connect speakers or headphones, USB-MIDI to directly connect to a computer (you can’t load your own samples), and two stereo jacks for an additional tom and/or cymbal pad.

Overall, if the price is your top priority and you don’t want to spend much, while also not giving up on the most basic features, this kit got you covered.

Price
Build Quality 74%
Versatility 53%

Best Electronic Drum Set Under $1000

Specifications:roland td-1dmk

  • PDX-8 Dual-Zone Mesh Head Snare Pad
  • 3 x PDX-6A Single-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pads
  • Crash Pad w/ choke
  • Ride Pad w/ choke
  • Hi-Hat Pad
  • Kick Pad
  • Hi-Hat Trigger Pedal
  • TD-1 Drum Module
  • Four-post rack stand

Roland V-Drums are the world’s most popular electronic drums and thanks to the TD-1DMK, pretty much anyone can now afford a full mesh electronic drum kit with Roland’s quality stamp.

Let’s start with the module, as it’s usually the weakest link in the low-end electronic drum kits.

This one brings 15 preset kits, a USB port for MIDI connections, 15 play-along tracks plus an 1/8″ aux input to rock along with your favorite songs, and a metronome for a more efficient practice.

There’s also an extra input in case you want to add another cymbal pad later on.

You get three 6” PDX-6A tom pads with 2-ply mesh heads but unfortunately, only a Single-Zone trigger (the head, obviously).

The snare is an 8” PDX-8 with 2-ply mesh head and unlike the toms, it’s dual-zone (head and rim).

All the toms, plus the snare can have the tension adjusted with any basic drum key.

The Kick and the Cymbals

The Kick Pad is wide enough for any double bass drum pedal and thanks to its position in one of the rack legs, it won’t move as you play.

Since it’s a rubber pad instead of mesh, it’ll be noisier, so if you plan to use this kit in an apartment, you might have to look for something else.

For the Hi-Hat, as well as the Crash and the Ride, you get a CY-5 rubber pad. It’s a dual-zone pad, which means you can get two sounds out of it if you hit the bow or the edge. You can even grab the edge of the pad to choke it, which is a nice feature for this price range.

A trigger pedal controls the Hi-Hat and allows you to switch between open and closed hat sounds.

The downsides of the TD-1DMK are the small pads and the lack of a Hi-Hat Stand, as the trigger pedal doesn’t feel quite right (at least for me).

If you want a budget electronic drum kit with all the basic features and the reliability Roland provides, this kit is everything you’re looking for.

Price 9%
Build Quality 82%
Versatility 67%

Best Electronic Drum Sets Under $2000

Specifications:alesis dm10 mkii

  • 12″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Snare Pad
  • 2 x 10″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pads
  • 2 x 12″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pads
  • 8″ Mesh Head Kick Pad
  • 12″ Hi-Hat Pad
  • 2 x 14″ Dual-Zone Crash Cymbal Pad w/ Choke
  • 16″ Triple-Zone Ride Cymbal Pad
  • DM10 MKII Pro Module
  • 4-post Chrome Quick-Lock Rack with Clamps & Arms
  • RealHat Pedal
  • Snare Stand

This is an Alesis mid-range kit with six drums and four cymbals. Every single drum has “silent” mesh heads that offer an amazing rebound and high triggering accuracy.

The “tom-toms” are both 10”, while the “floor-toms” are 12” each. Pretty decent sizes so you can play an electronic drum kit without feeling like it’s just a toy.

All the four tom pads are Dual-Zone, and so is the snare one. That means you get a sound out of the head and one out of the rim. Speaking of the snare, the pad is also 12” and could simply be another floor tom pad, since there’s no difference between them.  

Unlike the budget electronic drum kits, you also get a fully adjustable snare stand for optimal positioning of your snare pad.

Every single drum pad comes with an adjustment knob so you can match their response to our playing style.

Your cymbals will be a 12” Hi-Hat Pad, two 14” Crash Cymbal Pads, and a 16” Ride Cymbal Pad.

Unfortunately, the Hi-Hat doesn’t use a real Hi-Hat Stand as it’s controlled with a simple trigger pedal. That’s probably the biggest flaw of the DM10 MKII Pro Kit.

Both crashes are dual-zone while the ride is the only triple-zone pad in the whole kit, providing you the ability to play the bell, the bow, and the edge. All three cymbals can be choked.

The Kick, the Module and the Rack

Just like every other pad on the kit, the kick drum pad rocks an 8” mesh head, big enough to handle a single or a double bass drum pedal if that’s your thing.

You’ll need a bass drum pedal to play the kit, as it’s unfortunately, not included with the DM10 MKII Pro Kit.

The module comes with 50 preset drum kits made out of the 700 sounds available, and 30 user kits.

It features a USB port on the back to import custom samples from a memory stick, MIDI in/out, 150 preset songs to practice to, and if that’s not enough, you can even jam along to your favorite tunes thanks to the auxiliary input.

To accommodate all of that gear, Alesis provides a 4-post chrome rack with all the clamps and boom cymbal arms needed.

Overall, this is a magnificent kit for a little over $1000 as it includes larger pads, ten pieces, and a drum stand for the snare pad.

The only downsides are the Hi-Hat having a trigger pedal instead of a real Hi-Hat stand, and the fact that it’s single-zone. Plus, the bass drum pedal not being included with the kit.

Price 16%
Build Quality 77%
Versatility 74%

Specifications:Yamaha DTX6K3-X

  • XP80 Triple-Zone Snare Pad
  • 3 x XP70 Single-Zone Tom Pads
  • KP90 Kick Pad
  • RHH135 Dual-Zone Hi-Hat Pad
  • 2 x PCY135 Triple-Zone Crash Pad
  • PCY135 Triple-Zone Ride Pad
  • HS650A Hi-Hat Stand
  • DTX-PRO Drum Module
  • RS6 Drum Rack

So far, I haven’t listed a single Yamaha electronic drum kit, because I didn’t feel they offered anything better than the alternatives from Roland or even Alesis.

On contrary, this one is probably one of the best, if not the best electronic drum kit you can buy for less than $2000.

It’s a regular 5-piece drum kit with four cymbals, and every tom plus the snare features TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone) heads to achieve a more natural feel and rebound.

All the crash cymbals and the ride itself share the same 13” PCY135 pad, which is Triple-Zone with a distinct bell, bow, and edge zone to better emulate the feeling of a traditional cymbal. Every single cymbal can be choked or muted for an extra layer of realism.

The Hi-Hat is the 13” RHH135 Dual-Zone Pad that will be supported by the (also included) HS650A Hi-Hat Stand, for a classic response, as it’s the same stand you use in any acoustic kit.

For your kick, you’ll get a 7.5” KP90 which is made of a rubber head with a multi-layer cushion. It’s large and strong enough to accommodate any double bass drum pedal.

The worst parts of the kit are the 7” XP70 Single-Zone Tom Pads, as for this price range, I would expect them to be Dual-Zone and a few inches bigger.

The snare and the module

On the other hand, if the tom pads are a disappointment by being Single-Zone, the snare pad is a pleasant surprise as it’s Triple-Zone just like the crashes and the ride.

The XP80 Snare Drum Pad has 3 different zones for headshots, rimshots, and cross-sticks. That, in combination with the TCS heads designed to feel more natural, makes it as close as possible to an acoustic snare when it comes to electronic drum kits.

The DTX-PRO module features 30 preset kits, 200 user kits, and over 400 sounds. If that’s not enough for you, just turn one of the knobs in the Kit Modifier (Ambience, Compression, Effect) to create your unique sounds.

The USB port can send and receive MIDI data as well as audio data when connected to a computer, so you can import additional sample sounds.

There’s also a regular MIDI Out socket, a programmable metronome, and a recorder function (internal memory or USB stick), a useful aid for your daily practice.

If the DTX6K3-X tom pads were Dual-Zone and two or three inches bigger, this wouldn’t be one of the best electronic drum kits for less than $2000, it would simply be the best. Think about it, Yamaha.

Price 22%
Build Quality 87%
Versatility 76%

Specifications:roland td-17kvx

  • TD-17 Drum Sound Module
  • PDX-12 Snare Drum Pad
  • 3 x PDX-8 Tom Pad
  • VH-10 Hi-Hat Pad
  • 2 x CY-12C Crash Cymbal Pad
  • CY-13R Ride Cymbal Pad
  • KD-10 Kick Drum Pad

This is Roland’s mid-tier electronic drum kit with premium features at an affordable price.

The sound module uses the same Prismatic Sound Modeling engine you can find in Roland’s flagship, the TD-50KVX, where you can edit the sound with virtual tuning and muffling, virtual snare tension, compression, EQ, and reverb.

It features 50 drum kits and +310 drum/percussion sounds. If needed, you can import custom samples via SD/HC card (not included) and save them to any of the 50 user kits. You can even use the same SD card to record your drum performances.

Onboard Bluetooth 4.2 allows you to stream music from your phone and the MIDI over USB can trigger virtual instruments with your favorite DAW. The MIDI over Bluetooth lets you send signals to any compatible device.

The module also includes two additional 1/4″ dual-trigger inputs for an additional crash and an extra pad in case you need to expand the regular kit.

For the toms, you get a trio of 10” Dual-Zone mesh pads, which means you can have two different sounds in each, usually for head and rim shots.

The snare is a PDX-12 Snare Drum Pad with a tension-adjustable 2-ply mesh head. The 12” and the fact that you can adjust the tension provides a natural feel and a smooth transition from acoustic snares. It’s also Dual-Zone, just like every tom.

The Hi-Hat, the Crashes and the Kick

The VH-10 Hi-Hat is designed with a single cymbal and needs a regular Hi-Hat stand, which is not included with the set. It captures pretty well the different sounds from open to closed as you press the pedal, and since it’s Dual-Zone, striking the bow or the edge will provide different sounds.

For the crashes, you get two Dual-Zone 12” CY-12C pads, and for the ride, the 13” CY-13R, which is the only Triple-Zone pad in the whole kit. It features an enlarged bow area, and the three zones are the bell, the bow, and the edge.

Finally, the KD-10 Kick Tower will be your bass drum. It absorbs most of the noise, due to the combination of a cushion with rubber, while still responding like an acoustic bass drum head. The KD-10 works great with both single and double bass drum pedals.

Everything I just mentioned will sit safely in the Roland MDS-Compact Drum Stand with boom arms for every cymbal and mounts for every tom and snare.

If you want a professional electronic drum kit for less than $2000, the TD-17KVX is probably your safest bet.

Price 24%
Build Quality 89%
Versatility 75%

Best Electronic Drum Sets On The Market

Specifications:alesis strike pro special edition

  • 14″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Snare Pad
  • 8″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • 10″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • 12″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • 14″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • 20″ Mesh Head Bass Drum
  • 14″ Dual-Zone Hi-Hat with 2 Pads (needs a Hi-Hat Stand)
  • 3 x 14″ Dual-Zone Crash Cymbal Pad w/ Choke Function
  • 16″ Triple-Zone Ride Cymbal Pad w/ Choke
  • Strike Performance Drum Module
  • Premium Black 4-post Steel Rack
  • Black and Gold Rack Mounting Hardware
  • Double-braced Chrome Snare Drum Stand
  • Cable Snake / Cable Wraps / Drum Key / Drum Sticks / Power Supply

Alesis Strike Pro SE is Alesis’ flagship electronic drum kit. It features 11 pieces, including 6 drums and 5 cymbals.

Every piece is Dual-Zone, besides the bass drum and the Triple-Zone ride. The three distinguishable zones in the ride are the bell, bow, and edge. Every single crash and ride has a choke option.

The dual and Triple-Zone pieces simply mean you can enjoy two or three different sounds in each piece. The ride for example, produces a different sound for the bell, the bow, and the edge.

All four toms and the snare are made of hybrid wood shells that match the full-size 20” kick drum.

The four toms range from 8” to 14”, to match the sizes of an acoustic drum kit. That and the hybrid wood shells make the transition between an acoustic and an electronic drum kit smoother than ever.

The drums’ finish is a beautiful red sparkle with black and gold hardware.

The latest-gen tunable mesh heads respond pretty well, and fully  capture everything from subtle ghost-notes to accents.

The Module

The drum module features a 4.3” color LED screen, 136 complete drum kits, over 1800 drum and percussion instruments, and mind-blowing 45 000 sample sounds.

If that isn’t enough for you, the module also includes onboard sampling capability and 16GB external card storage for you to load your sounds.

The mixer faders give you complete control of the mix that goes into your speaker, or headphones.

There’s also an aux input so you can play along with your favorite music, MIDI in and out ports, and a USB midi port for a simplified way to connect your drum kit to your favorite DAW.

Unfortunately, the biggest downside is the fact that the bass drum pedal and the Hi-Hat stand are not included with the kit.

Plus, some of the sounds included in the module are not something you expect from a flagship drum kit and should’ve been replaced.

The cymbals are also not on par with some of the other flagships either, like the one up next.

With that being said, it’s still an impressive value for the money and besides a couple of small details, you won’t even notice it isn’t an acoustic drum kit.

Price 31%
Build Quality 91%
Versatility 82%

Roland TD-50KVX V-Drum Set

Specifications:roland td-50kvx

  • PD-140DS 14″ Digital Mesh Head Snare Drum Pad
  • PD-108-BC Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • 2 x PD-128-BC 12″ Dual-Zone Mesh Head Tom Pad
  • KD-220 22″ Mesh Head Bass Drum Pad
  • CY-14C 14″ Dual-Zone Crash Cymbal Pad
  • CY-15R 15″ Dual-Zone Crash Cymbal Pad
  • CY-18DR18″ Digital Ride Cymbal Pad
  • VH-13 Hi-Hat
  • MDS-50KV Rack

If you’re someone that only aims for the best of the best, this one is for you. It’s without a doubt in my mind, the best electronic drum set you can buy today.

Some things that stand out are the 22” Maple Bass Drum, regular-sized digital snare and ride, and the Prismatic Sound Modeling engine.

The Prismatic Sound Modeling engine brings detailed realism to electronic drum kits as it allows you to customize your kit for a particular performance.

It lets you control each drum shell’s depth and overtones, each cymbal size/thickness, and even the “virtual mics” placement. Insane, right?

The kit features a 14” digital snare, and an 18” digital ride.

The snare includes 8 sensors around the head and rim to better simulate what a real snare drum would sound like.

It captures everything perfectly from rimshots, to ghost notes or even brush sweeps. 

Plus, it’s 14” which is the most common snare size, and has 8 lugs so you can easily adjust the tension to the one that suits you the most.

The 18” digital ride is the closest thing you’ll get to a real cymbal, at least for the next few years.

It has multiple sensors so every zone merges instead of having a distinct bell, bow, and edge zone, like in most electronic cymbals. 

Those sensors are also great when choking the cymbal, or simply softening the cymbal attack with the touch of a finger.

The Kick, the Hi-Hat and the Module

The kick is a 22” maple bass drum (yes, real wood). It looks and feels like an acoustic bass drum.

Advanced trigger technology captures every single and double stroke for accurate playing without the risk of false triggering additional hits.

The Hi-Hat is 13” with a top and bottom cymbal pad like acoustic Hi-Hats. It’s as natural and as smooth as an acoustic one and it also needs a Hi-Hat stand, unlike cheaper kits.

The module hosts 50 kits customizable with Roland’s Prismatic Sound Modeling engine like we saw before.

It also features balanced left and right XLR master outputs, 10-channel USB audio outputs to record multitrack at home, straight to the computer without an interface.

You can also use SDHC cards to add custom sounds to your drum kit through the card slot or change the existing ones with one of the 30 types of built-in FX (reverb, saturation, multiband compression, EQ, delay, etc.).

There are also two additional models: the TD-50K is the base model and the TD-50KV is similar to the TD-50KVX but without the 22” bass drum.

The only downside I could find is the fact that it’s expensive for the regular folks like us.

Sadly, even though it’s expensive, it doesn’t even include neither a hi-hat stand, a snare stand, a bass drum pedal nor a drum throne.

If the price was a bit lower or it included everything I just listed, it would be the perfect electronic drum kit.

But… we can’t also expect groundbreaking technology at an affordable price. Many great electronic drum kits don’t bring anything unique to the table, like the previous ones.

So, it’s isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as it gets for now.

Price 100%
Build Quality 94%
Versatility 87%

In the end…

…it doesn’t even matter (!!) what your budget is. The market is flooded with great options from brands like Roland, Alesis, Yamaha, Pearl, or even Gewa, so there’s always something out there for every wallet.

If you’re a beginner or someone on a tight budget, the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit has everything you need to start learning drums the proper way.

In case you’re not a beginner, or you’re but want to spend a little bit more because you know how much you love drumming, anything from the Alesis DM10 MKII Pro Kit to the Roland TD-17KVX should go you covered for many years.

If you’re a professional or an intermediate drummer with a big wallet that wants to make the jump from an acoustic to an electronic drum kit, both the Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition and the Roland TD-50KVX make that transition as smooth as possible, with the Roland being a few miles ahead of the competition.

I hope this article clarifies what the best electronic drum sets are for each budget and you end up making the best decision for yourself.