10 Best Electronic Drum Sets in 2020 (Review)
For a long time, electronic drums were a far second to acoustic drum sets—not anymore. With advances in technology, e-drums are becoming better and better. Not only has the physical feel of electronic drum kits improved, but they’re also the perfect way to experiment with different tones and sounds.
Most kits come with modules that can replicate many drum samples and can even sound like other individual instruments or sounds. E-drums kits are also very versatile, and newer options have improved materials and construction, giving them a great feel, similar to acoustic drum kits.
These days high-end kits are used in live performances, where they offer a superior drumming experience. Their versatility and variety ensure you can find the perfect drum kit for your needs, but there are so many options it can be intimidating to choose—that’s where we come in. We’ve rounded up the best electronic drum sets in 2020, along with a comprehensive buying guide to help you out.
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The Best Electronic Drum Sets
1. Alesis Nitro Mesh Electronic Drum Set
The Alesis Nitro Mesh electronic drum set is probably the best electronic drum set for beginners. It comes with many features often found in higher-end sets, such as a realistic kick pad and pedal, as well as multiple inputs and outputs. The mesh heads also feel similar to acoustic heads, allowing novice drummers to switch between the two with ease while learning.
Another excellent feature of the Nitro drum set is its sound module that focuses on training and learning. It has a wide range of songs to play, and the built-in metronome is essential for building up a feeling for rhythm and pace. There are also over 40 drum kit sounds to choose from, allowing you to find the perfect match for your style.
The affordable cost of Alesis Nitro makes it an appealing choice for beginners as well as intermediate drummers who are looking for a practice kit to hone their skills.
2. Alesis Surge Mesh Electronic Drum Kit
The Alesis Surge Mesh electronic drum kit is a step up from the Nitro kit. It is packed with more features and goodies that will keep serious drum players happy.
The built-in sequencer is excellent for recording your drum track or playing along with your favorite songs. The sequencer has multiple inputs and outputs, including MIDI and on-board USB. It also has an output jack for in-ear monitors.
While not explicitly designed for beginners, the Alesis Surge also comes with 40 drum lessons from Melodics. The lessons range in style, technique, and skill level, so no matter how skilled you are, you’ll still find something to learn.
Another draw of the Surge is that it’s relatively small and compact when you consider the components found in the kit. The size is especially attractive to professionals who want a full set without having to move a full acoustic set. We consider it the best cheap electronic drum set you can buy.
3. RockJam Mesh Head Kit Electronic Drum Set
The RockJam Mesh Head Kit aims to satisfy the needs of the entry-level market. It is a full nine-piece drum set made with velocity-sensitive pads that respond and adapt to a player’s style.
Unlike most entry-level kits, the Rockjam comes with mesh heads, which helps keep the noise down and also presents a more realistic drum feel. The hard-wearing metal pedals and reliable mesh heads mean that it can take a pounding or two without breaking.
The kit also comes with multiple input/output options. Not only can you plug in your headphones or an amp, but you can also connect it to MIDI-based audio recording equipment. It even comes with drumsticks and headphones so you can get started with minimal fuss.
The sound module features numerous demo songs for you to play along with while practicing. It also has 30 sound presets to help you find your perfect playstyle.
4. Roland TD-1K Entry-level
The Roland TD-1K Entry-level electronic V-drum set provides a compact drumming space for novice and experienced drummers alike. This four pad set is also a good option for parents looking for the best electronic drum set for their kids.
It has the same quality V-Drum mesh heads found in all other Roland products, giving you high-quality sound and feel. The kit is upgradable with extra inputs for cymbals, a better snare drum or kick pedal. It represents the ideal starter set where you can expand as your skillset becomes more advanced.
The compact rack system is customizable and can fit into even the smallest space. The small size, combined with the high-quality mesh pads, makes this an excellent compact electronic drum set. It also comes with Roland V-Drums training software integrated into the sound engine.
The V-Drums Tutor program combines in-depth practice and education with a fun, dynamic platform. You can even record your session and share it with V-Drums users across the world.
5. Roland TD-17KVX
The Roland TD-17KVX is a professional electronic drum set at a mid-range drum set price. It has an excellent snare that closely matches what you’d expect to find in a traditional acoustic kit. All the heads are made with Roland’s high-end V50 technology, adding an extra layer of nuance to your playing.
The kick drum pad has space for two beaters, which means you can upgrade to a double bass pedal or double kick pedal if you want.
Finally, the 17KVX comes with a vast array of sound options ranging from ‘fat rock’ to ‘speed metal,’ ‘acoustic,’ and everything else you can imagine. If you aren’t able to find the right sound from Roland’s library, you can import your own sample by using the audio interface. You can even mix your sample with the internal 17KVX sounds to create your own style.
6. BEHRINGER XD80-USB
The BEHRINGER XD80-USB set is a small electronic drum kit well-suited to novice and beginner players. The pads are made of rubber and are robust, durable, and easy to play.
It comes with a proprietary module that contains ten factory presets and five user-programmable sets. The kit also comes with drumsticks and cables, so you have everything you need to get set up quickly.
Overall, the large LCD, customizable set-up, and presets along with rubber pads, make this a suitable product for people looking to dip their toe into drumming without spending a fortune. While it may not be ideal for professional use, it’s good enough for practice and learning and will make a great introduction to the electronic drumming family.
7. Pyle Pro 9 Piece Electronic Set-Electric Kit
The Pyle Pro 9 Piece Electronic Set-Electric Kit is an excellent introduction to the world of drumming. It has everything a budding drummer needs to learn how to drum. The rubber toms and snares have adjustable sensitivity and volume so you can play as hard or as softly as you want.
The Pyle Pro features several connectivity options, including USB and MIDI, allowing you to record and export your sessions. The 3.5 mm jack is perfect for your headphones, and the kit can even plug into a small amp.
8. Alesis DM10 MKII
The Alesis DM10 MKII is ideal for a studio recording environment for intermediate and professional drummers. The sound module has over 650 sounds, and 54 drum presets to start. Users can add another 20 presets that they’ve mixed themselves.
The mesh pads incorporate a unique dual-zone design that allows for a realistic and natural drumming feel. The sensitivity of the heads can be fine-tuned to match any player’s style, no matter how hard or soft. The pads are also velocity-sensitive, which means that the sound will vary depending on how hard or softly you hit the pads, adding to the realistic feel of the kit.
The Alesis MKII Pro software has features that are useful in studio sessions, such as the ability to record up to 6,800 notes per song and store up to 99 songs on the module. Users can add up to 99 samples onto the module in addition to the existing 671 sounds. Overall, if you’re looking for one of the top electronic drum sets for studio use, start your search with the Alesis DM10 MKII.
9. Carlsbro CSD120XXX
The Carlsbro CSD120XXX aims to introduce novice players to drumming. The kit is collapsible, portable, and compact, making it the ideal choice for students or other people who move frequently and live in small spaces.
The rubber pads mimic the feel of real drums by having a dual-zone on the snare, which responds to pad and rim triggers differently. The module also has an anti-crosstalk function, which can help heavy-handed players reduce the amount of noise generated by neighboring pads.
It includes 250 drum and percussion samples, 20 preset kits, and allows for 10 user kits. With selectable reverb and 20 practice songs, the sound library is also more than adequate.
10. Roland TD-11KV
The Roland TD-11KV represents the mid-range kit of the TD11 series of drums. The heads are made to the same high-end specifications as the flagship TD50 range, meaning you get an impressively realistic and comfortable drumming feel.
Roland’s module has a diverse sound library, and several presets for various types of music. The module also contains several professionally recorded backing songs to practice along to, no matter what your skill level.
The Roland TD11KV offers a compromise between the feature-packed TD11KVX and your budget. If you’re looking for a kit that comes highly recommended by professionals and that comes with many high-end features, this may be a good option to look at first.
5 Features to Consider When Buying an Electronic Drum Set
Choosing the ideal electronic set can be tricky, particularly if you’re a new player. There is such a variety of options available that it can be easy to either overspend or end up with a kit you’re not happy about in the long-term.
Since your electronic drums should last you a long time, it’s better to do your research and read up on electronic drum set reviews thoroughly before committing to a single product. It’s also important to note that each person is different and will have different needs.
While it’s easy to generalize between beginner and advanced players and make recommendations for these different groups, you still need to make sure you take your individual needs into account. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five features that you should consider before taking the final step and buying your kit.
Electronic drum kits will vary widely in what they include. Some drum kits will come with everything you need to get set up, including amps, bass drum pedals, and drum thrones. Others will come with the bare minimum that you’ll need to get started.
The initial buying process is where you seriously need to consider your needs. If you’re a beginner, an electronic set with a seat is more than enough to get you started. While it may be tempting to buy a full kit that would make a professional jealous, you’ll quickly find that you don’t need all of that to learn how to play. Instead, focus on buying the basics and adding on accessories later.
Once you start getting comfortable or are already an experienced drummer, you’ll want much more from your kit. While there are preset kits for professional electronic drummers, you may be able to find the same components at a lower price. Either way, you should be comfortable enough to know what you need for your practice sessions or when you play live.
When looking at drum sets, it’s important to consider where you’ll be using your kit. Drum kits are usually geared towards certain functions, such as touring or home and studio sessions. Tour drums are lighter, while studio kits are heavier but more compact.
Home electronic drum sets tend to be heavy and compact, which can make them difficult to move. If you’re touring, you’ll want a kit that is lightweight and easy to assemble and disassemble. If you’re planning on using your electronic drums at home or in the studio, you can opt for heavier models.
Just as with weight, you need to consider the dimensions of your electronic drum kit before you buy it. If you live in an apartment, you’ll want a compact set that will fit in a small space. If you live in a larger area, you can spend a bit more and get a more substantial and heavier kit.
Unfortunately, the price will always be a factor when looking at electronic drums. You should always have an idea of what you’re willing to spend before you go shopping.
A good rule of thumb is to get the best quality product that you can afford. While it may be tempting to go cheaper, especially if you’re a beginner, it’s better to spend a bit more and get a higher quality product.
Many brands will make affordable products that sacrifice build quality to be as affordable as possible. Stick to reputable brands and find a product that is more towards the top end of your budget. That way, you’ll get a good product that you can rely on, without breaking the bank.
User reviews are an excellent way to get a feel for the quality of a particular kit. It’s important not to fixate too much on one review. Instead, pay attention to the general trend. If all the reviews say that the drum sounds terrible, then you know it’s a product to avoid. If most reviews are favorable, but one person complains about the recording function not working, it is probably still a product worth considering.
What Type of Electronic Drum Sets are Best for Beginners?
When you’re first starting, simpler is better. Many electronic drum kits come with lesson plans, built-in metronomes, and other useful learning tools. You should be looking at drum sets made for beginners with a price point to match. You don’t want to spend lots of money on something that you’ll never use once the initial enthusiasm has dried up.
A good example of a basic starter kit would include:
- Standard four drum pads (one snare and three toms)
- Cymbal pads
- Two drum pedals
- A solid drum rack made of aluminum or other robust material
- A drum module that contains training aids such as songs to play along with for practice
You should also look at drum kits that come with expansion options. These consist of extra input jacks where you can plug in extra pads or even a double pedal—perfect for when you start expanding your drumming horizons. These additional accessories can make for appealing gifts for drummers if you’re stuck on gift ideas.
Do You Need to be Careful Buying Cheap Electronic Drum Sets?
Yes. An electronic drumming experience consists of many different factors, including the feel of the drum heads, the tones you can achieve, and the build quality of your kit. Cheap electronic drum sets are made up of cheap materials and will often give a poor experience.
Not only will you lose out on the tactile sensation that high-quality heads give, but you’ll also find that the drum and percussion sound worse. You’ll also find that you’ll need to replace the kit earlier than you’d like. Many cheap sets use flimsy racks that can feel unstable, which makes them unusable for heavy hitters.
Cheap sets also contain poor quality sound modules, which can result in latency and poor sound quality. Latency is the time it takes for the signal to travel from the trigger to the sound module and get processed into a usable sound.
If this takes too long, you’ll notice a delay between your hit and when the sound is produced. Latency is a huge deal-breaker for drummers since you need to get both tactile and aural feedback as soon as you hit the head. As technology improves, latency is no longer an issue for most well-known drum manufacturers, but it may still be a problem if you’re aiming to get the cheapest kit possible.
That said, many beginner drum kits are affordable at under $500. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at a wide range of electronic drum kit reviews and stick with reputable brand names such as Alesis, Roland, and Yamaha. There are many drum kits specifically aimed at beginners, and they’re usually reasonably priced when compared to professional drum kits.
Once you’ve decided to take your electronic drumming to the next level, you should look at electronic drum kits around $1,000, which offer the best quality and range of products.
What are the Different Types of Heads Available for an Electronic Drum Kit?
There are two main types of drum heads—rubber and mesh. In general, rubber is a lower-quality option than mesh, though there are instances where the rubber pads are the better option. We’ll take a quick look at both types and list their pros and cons, but we still recommend you try out both and see which one you like best.
Mesh pads are constructed similarly to traditional acoustic mylar heads with a mesh stretched over a structured frame.
They offer a soft, acoustic sound and are much quieter than rubber heads. If you’re looking for a completely silent drumming session, you’ll have more luck with mesh pads than with rubber pads. Many drum manufacturers make their own type of mesh pads, such as Yamaha’s Textured Cellular Silicone or Roland’s V-Pads.
You can tune some mesh pads by adjusting the tension on the head. You can get a whole range of sound responses from these heads and can even produce different sounds by striking different parts of the head.
The main drawback of mesh heads is that they tend to be more expensive than rubber pads. Luckily, this appears to be changing as mesh head technology becomes more advanced. Even some high-quality beginner kits have incorporated mesh heads instead of rubber pads.
Rubber pads are economical, compact, and produce consistent sounds. They are common in beginner kits, where the consistency of sound quality they offer is a great bonus for learners.
The main advantage of rubber heads is that they offer an identical response and bounce between the different heads, which means that as you move from pad to pad, you get a consistent tension. There are even some professional situations where this consistency presents valuable creative opportunities, such as triggering sustained tones or loops.
Why Sensitivity is Important on an Electronic Drum Set
Each drummer is different and has a different style. Some drummers attack their drums aggressively, while others play with a softer touch. Being able to account for this different playstyle is crucial since it results in varying drum sounds and effects.
Sensitivity in electronic drums is about how the sound module receives information from the pads. Essentially, it’s how much force you need to exert on the head to trigger a signal that then produces a sound. A higher sensitivity means that a light touch is enough to trigger the module. A lower sensitivity requires a more forceful hit to produce the same trigger.
Most electronic drum kits come with a dynamic sensitivity setting to change your pad settings on the fly. Soft players can increase the sensitivity of their drum heads to pick up lighter taps, while hard players can decrease their sensitivity to require a stronger stroke to trigger the head. You can set your desired sensitivity on your drum module and play around with the settings until you find a sensitivity you’re comfortable with while playing.
It’s also important to note that unlike on a regular acoustic drum kit, head tension and sensitivity are two different things. Head tension relates more to the feel of the kit, with how bouncy and responsive the heads feel. Sensitivity is all about how much force you need to trigger a sound.
Can You Customize a Drum Set to Produce Specific Sounds?
Yes. Unlike acoustic drums, electronic drum sets can be programmed to produce a huge variety of sounds, because of the sound module.
This module controls the sound output of an electronic drum. It is the brain of the drum set that controls the output and input of an electronic drum kit. It’s a very similar principle to an electronic guitar, where the original signal is taken and processed before being sent out.
What this means in practical terms is that you can program your electronic drums to produce almost any sound you want. Sound modules contain a library of tones ranging from loose hip hop booms to precise heavy metal beats. The ability to control the sound of your drum set translates into a consistent sound regardless of where you are, which makes electronic drums an excellent choice for live tours.
If you’re wondering where this library of sounds comes from, that will depend on the brand of kit you buy. Roland’s library of sounds, for example, contains a mix of pure digital as well as analog drum sounds. Many of the sounds come from acoustic drums that were recorded in a professional studio.
These sounds were sampled multiple times with hits of varying strengths and playing positions. Once the sound engineers collected enough samples, they merge them into a representative sound that reflects the original drum. These samples give you a range of preset drum sounds optimized for whatever genre of music you play.
Many high-end modules also contain other instruments and special sound effects in addition to drum samples. These sounds can range from bells, woodblocks, and even non-percussion instruments. If you’ve ever wanted to play piano on your drums, you can now do so with relative ease. Some modules will even let you import your own sounds, so you can let your imagination go wild.
How to Correctly Set Up Your Drum Set
No matter what electronic drum kit you buy, the set-up process is approximately the same in each case. Your first step will always be to assemble the rack and connect each drum and cymbal pad. Once you’ve built the rack and attached the pads, you can connect everything to the module and then set the module up for a specific drum sound.
Assembling the Rack
Assembling the rack may feel intimidating at first, but it’s easier than assembling an Ikea product. Just refer to the owner’s manual, take it slow, and avoid over-tightening any screws.
Mounting the Pads and Cymbals
Your kit will come with several drum clamps and mounting arms. To install the drum pad, start by installing the clamp on the rack and making sure it’s tight and secure. Then place the drum pad onto the mount and tighten it down as well. Repeat the same process to install the cymbal pads, remembering to tighten the top wing nut to hold the assembly down.
Once you’ve mounted all the pads, sit down and adjust them to your personal preference.
Connect Everything to the Module
Most drum modules use a breakout cable that is located at the bottom or back of the sound module. Each cable is labeled, and you plug the right cable into the corresponding pad.
We do recommend using cable ties or Velcro to keep the set-up clean and neat. Once you’ve connected everything, hit each pad to ensure that it’s triggering the right sound. If it’s not, check your wiring. If it is, move onto the next step.
Set Your Drum Pad Settings
While the factory default settings are a good place to start, you will, at some point, make adjustments to how your drums sound. There are many settings that you can play around with to fit your style. The first is sensitivity, which is how hard you have to hit the pad to trigger a sound. You can also play around with the velocity curve, which controls the overall response of the pad.
If you play heavily, also take a look at the crosstalk setting, which controls how the module responds to vibrations detected from pads near the one you’re hitting. If you hit very hard, you can find that you get additional signal noise from neighboring pads. You can prevent this by increasing the crosstalk setting.