Our review of the 8 best electronic drum kits
Electronic drums are quickly becoming the standard for musicians who want to plug in, play, and record at home or in a DIY studio.
With responsive drum pads, quality trigger technology, and flexible drum stands, today’s e-kits deliver impressive sound—plus, they keep the neighbors (or your housemates) happy.
But with so many new options on the market, how do you separate the diamonds from the duds?
In this electric drum kit review, we provide some tips to help you find the best option for you, as well as a list of the best kits on the market right now for every level and budget.
What to look for when shopping for electronic drums
Unlike a digital piano or guitar, shopping for electronic drums can be particularly stressful, because there are so many pieces in a single set. Electronic drum kits are made up of a number of parts, including the trigger pads, pedals, hardware, and cables. Let’s review what each one is for, so you can use this info to narrow down your selection.
Acoustic drum kits typically feature toms, cymbals, a snare, and a kick drum. With an e-kit, the electronic drum pads are designed to emulate each of these sounds normally heard in an acoustic setup. These can either be rubber trigger pads, which are more affordable but produce more ambient noise, or mesh, which deliver less ambient noise at a higher price point.
Most mid- and high-range e-kits come with a kick drum pad and a bass drum pedal, which mimics the ‘kick’ motion found on an acoustic drum. You’ll also likely have a pedal if your set includes a h-hat. However, if you’re concerned about budget, you might swap these out for an electronic pedal, which is cheaper but offers less range.
Think of the drum module like the ‘brain’ of the electronic kit. This module comes with a number of different settings, so you can mix up your drumming depending on your playing style. You can easily switch from a heavy rock sound to jazz, electro, percussion, and more—plus, each drum module comes with a variety of preset sounds for you to experiment with. With some modules, you can even upload your own sounds, access preset patterns, play along with practice songs, or even use the in-built metronome to stay in time.
Drum modules are so diverse that it’s possible to write an entire post on this subject in and of itself. However, when you’re just starting out, the key is to find a user-friendly option with enough presets, easy-toggle buttons, and a few songs to play along to.
Be sure to check the connectivity and expansion options as well to ensure they’re compatible with your instruments, laptop, and digital audio workstation (DAW). This is particularly important if you want to add more pads and triggers in the future.
Other must-have items for your electronic drum kit
Beyond the trigger pads, drum module, and pedals, there are a few other must-haves to keep in mind when shopping for an electronic drum kit:
- Drum throne. You’ll be sitting on this for hours on end, so be sure it’s comfortable. Some drum thrones even come with an adjustable backrest or leg base for extra support while playing.
- Drumsticks. Nylon sticks are generally the best bet for e-kits, as they’re quiet and offer more bounce. While you can technically use your acoustic drumsticks for your electronic drum kit, it’s best to get a separate pair.
- Headphones. A pair of quality headphones is crucial, particularly as noise is the main reason many drummers practice on electronic drum kits. Ideally, you want to invest in over-ear headphones that drown out ambient noise and allow you to hear yourself playing. Just remember to check that your drum modules have the right plug-in, or buy an adaptor to make it work.
There’s no way around it—there are a lot of different parts that go into an electronic drum kit. Thankfully, almost all kits these days come as a bundle deal, so you can simply plug and play straight out of the box.
The 8 best electronic drum kits
Best tabletop drum kits
If you’re starting out and want to test the waters, it’s worth considering a tabletop drum kit. As the name suggests, these drum kits are incredibly compact and portable. You can start playing as long as you have a flat surface and some drumsticks. Tabletop drum kits are also perfect for recording in a home studio, live streaming your music, or playing at gigs.
However, bear in mind that what you get in affordability and portability, you sacrifice in quality. Tabletop drum kits often compromise on sound samples, which means you won’t be getting a sound that’s as authentic and accurate. The touch sensitivity on these kits also aren’t as good as their more expensive counterparts, so you might find that occasionally you’ll have a ghost note where the pads didn’t pick up on the sound.
Pyle USA specializes in audio equipment and portable instruments, with an impressive musical instrument collection that includes a portable electronic keyboard and portable drum sets. While Pyle creates a number of different tabletop drum kits (including a roll-up one), the PTED01 is by far the best option in their range.
The PTED01 comes with seven pads, two digital foot pedals and a set of sticks, so you can get started straight away—plus, you have access to a number of pre-recorded drum kits and songs out of the box. The USB cable allows you to plug into both Mac and PC devices, and the LED screen comes with a ton of different audio configuration controls.
As an added bonus, this drum kit can even function as a MIDI controller for your favorite computer software for extra versatility. Last but not least is the portability. You can plug and play your PTED01 anywhere at any time using the included A/C adapter, or pick up some C-cell batteries and go completely wireless.
Alesis CompactKit 4 ($89 USD)
Alesis is one of the big names in the electronic drum kit space, so it’s no surprise that they also have a portable option. This portable 4-pad tabletop set comes complete with velocity-sensitive drum pads to capture every strike in your performance, while the 70 on-demand electronic and acoustic drum kits, effect voices, and 50 play-along songs are great for honing your technique any time, anywhere.
Like the PTED01, the Alesis also supports power from the included A/C adapter, as well as power from 6 C-cell batteries. The kit also comes with drumsticks and pedals—however, be warned that the pedals are incredibly lightweight, which can be difficult to use.
Best entry-level drum kits
As a beginner, you’ll most likely be using your drum set in a home environment, rather than busting it out at a live show. The most important things to focus on at this stage are developing fundamental techniques and working on your timing, so any e-kit with pre-installed songs or training programs will be incredibly beneficial at this stage.
There are a slew of beginner electronic drum sets in the market today, but as a budding drummer, you can’t go past these tried-and-tested options.
Roland TD-1K ($699)
When it comes to drum kits, Roland is one of the best out there. As one of the experts in the electronic drums space, Roland has a solid reputation—and the TD-1K is a solid pick for beginners.
The TD-1K boasts the highest quality mesh heads in the entry-level price range, as well as a sturdy kit and a stellar sound engine based on Roland’s flagship TD-30 set. There are also a number of backing tracks included, which give you a taste o wfhat it’s like to drum in a band, and the kit comes with Roland V-Drums training software to help you lock down essential drum techniques.
If you want a user-friendly option, this beginner electronic drum set by Roland is a great choice. However, it does lack a little bit in the customization department, so it’s best to opt for a different one if you’d like more freedom and flexibility while learning.
Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit ($379)
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit is often regarded as the best drum kit for beginners thanks to its usability, customization options, and value for money. Like the Roland, this kit has all-mesh heads and comes with a real foot pedal, which offers a far more realistic playing experience compared to some other entry-level sets out there.
The Nitro Mesh also packs in more drum kits and sounds than most budding drummers know what to do with, so you can unleash your creativity and experiment with your music. This drum kit also offers more learning material than the Roland: you have access to over 60 backing tracks, a metronome, and Alesis’ built-in learning software.
Yamaha DTX452K ($700)
Looking for a drum set that helps you learn while you play? The Yamaha DTX452K definitely hits the mark on this one. This drum set includes everything you need to start playing, from the usual toms, cymbals, and pedals to the 10 customizable kits and 287 expressive sounds. However, what sets this one apart is the Yamaha Touch App: a free tool that comes packed with a ton of training functions.
The only downside for some drummers is that the DTX452K comes with rubber toms, as opposed to mesh. While these are definitely still high-quality pads, they leave a little bit to be desired—especially when compared to the softer mesh heads of the Alesis and the Roland. The kick pedal is also electronic, which means you don’t get the same range as a real pedal.
Best mid-range electronic drum kits
Once you’ve mastered the basics, chances are you’ll be looking to upgrade your drum kit to an option that’s more versatile and delivers better sound quality. Intermediate and pro drum kits often also have wooden drum shells with an electronic pad, which makes them look more like acoustic drum kits—and it delivers better reverb and richer sound quality.
Alesis Strike Pro Kit ($2,499)
The Alesis Strike Pro is the brand’s flagship product, and it shows. With 11 pieces, including real-sized drums and cymbals, you’ll feel like you’re playing on a set of acoustic drums with this impressive kit.
In addition to its dual-zone drums, which deliver outstanding sound quality, the Strike Pro also comes with a state-of-the-art module with a 4.3” screen, on-board effects engine, and built-in sampling capabilities. You can even use the recorded samples to create your own custom drum kits.
If you’ve been drumming for a while, chances are you’ve heard of Pearl. This best-in-class acoustic drum manufacturer has been making quality sets for well over 75 years, and their instruments have been used by the likes of Tico Torres from Bon Jovi, Eric Singer from KISS, and Jason Bowld from Bullet For My Valentine (to name a few).
The e/Merge is the brand’s first foray into the e-drum kit space. Developed in collaboration with legendary synthesizer brand KORG, this 5-piece drum kit features fusion-sized Pearl shells and 6-ply tuneable PUREtouch pads for incredible control and response, as well as a life-sized cymbal trio. On top of this, the MDL-1 Module features 35 kits and 700 sounds, sampled from vintage and modern Pearl drum sets.
While the Pearl e/Merge is definitely priced at the higher end, it’s worth it if you’re looking for a quality drum kit that combines the best from the acoustic and electronic worlds.
Best top-of-the-line drum kit
Roland TD-50KVX ($8,099)
The Roland TD-50KVX retails for around $8,000, so it’s no surprise that this one is the absolute top of the line. For the price, you’ll enjoy unparalleled dynamics, accurate directional positioning, and incredible sound thanks to the new Prismatic Sound Modelling engine, as well as the upgraded digital ride and snare.
The TD-50KVX also comes packed to the brim with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, with 50 kit presets, balanced L/R XLR master outputs, and a new routing engine. If you have the budget, Roland definitely has the goods.