Since their introduction in the 1980s, electronic drum sets have made massive strides.
While they will surely never replace the feeling of banging away on a fat acoustic kick and snare, moving over to an electronic drum kit is a shift that every veteran or burgeoning drummer should be apart of, as there are many advantages.
For starters, electronic drum kits can offer a broader library of kit pieces and sounds, making it possible to dig into your creativity deeper than you may have ever thought possible.
Secondly, it can deter the angry phone calls from grumpy neighbors who don’t appreciate the jamming at 3 in the morning. Lastly, they can be great for those who are learning since they’re not as hefty of an investment as a natural kit.
That all being said, even at a low cost, an e-drums set is an investment. With manufacturers who have been marketing their products for decades, it’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the shiny, futuristic kits you see spewed all over the Internet.
What’s important is that you consider your needs, your budget, and your options, and that’s what we’re here to help with!
Types Of Electronic Drum Kits
Whether you’re new to the world of drumming or just getting started, it isn’t totally necessary to go full electronic if you don’t want to. While many drummers don’t mind diving into the electronic realm, some like to hold on to the classic feel and sound of real drum kits.
This is why some manufacturers have begun to make hybrids alongside their purebred electronic sets.
Let’s discuss the differences between the two:
Full Electronic Drum Sets
Like we mentioned earlier, e-drums sets have come quite a ways. They are now some of the most versatile, not to mention convenient, pieces of equipment out there. You aren’t just restricted to the classic sounds of kicks, snares, cymbals, and toms anymore.
Want to play some jazz?
Load up a jazz drum kit!
How about hip-hop?
Bust out that library of sweet 808s!
With trigger pads across a drum set-style interface, you can easily get the sounds you want and play them with true velocity! Just as you would strike a snare harder to get that *pop*, you can strike a snare pad harder to get the same thing.
Hybrid Drum Sets
Now obviously many great drummers have played on acoustic kits for years and can never find the same satisfaction with an electronic kit.
We agree that it can be a difficult transition, and so do many digital drum set manufacturers like Jobeky and Roland, as they’ve begun making hybrid kits that have the electronic processing power with the acoustic sound and feel.
These are great for expanding your style of playing and adding a bit of extra pizzazz to your acoustic set. We highly recommend these types of kits for players who are deep into playing acoustic kits already but still want to be part of the modern shift.
Drum pads are the fulcrum to every electronic drum set. Instead of having large, hefty acoustic toms and a fat snare, you have pads with triggers inside them as a replacement.
Generally, there are two different types of pads that you’ll find on electronic drum kits:
- Mesh Pads
- Rubber Pads
Mesh pads, as you probably could have assumed, are quieter than rubber pads, as they are made of softer material. If your primary goal is to have the least noise possible when you are playing, mesh pads are what you should look for.
As for how they feel, mesh pads seem to have a more natural appeal. They are softer and have more of a spring-like bounce than rubber pads. Overall, since mesh pads are patented by Roland, they are more exclusive and typically more expensive.
Rubber Pads are louder and can still easily be heard from a few rooms over if you’re rocking them hard late at night. While rubber pads have a thicker or ‘harder’ feel than mesh pads, it truly depends on the type of rubber that is used.
Many drummers note that playing on hard and thick rubber pads for hours can be very tiring, while softer and thinner rubber pads aren’t too big of an issue. As you may have guessed, rubber pads have always been pretty standard, meaning they are typically cheaper than mesh.
Unfortunately, you won’t get the true fulfillment of hitting an alloy cymbal with electronic drums, though as technology advances, these plastic, rubber-padded ‘cymbals’ are sounding better and better.
If you’re learning how to drum, you’ll need to get a kit with at least a crash cymbal, ride cymbal, and hi-hat. Getting the true playing experience without these kit pieces is tough. Some cymbals have more bounce than others for a more natural feel, though it’s a bit subjective and depends on the player.
For an even more realistic sound, it is necessary to have cymbal choke on your kit. If you’ve ever watched a live drummer, you’ve most likely seen them grab their crash to silence it after an extended jam. At the very least you’ll want one crash cymbal with choke. If you want to take it even further, there are electronic cymbals out there that provide muffling and pre-choke as well.
Triggers sometimes referred to as zones, are what send your *thwack* information from the drum pad to the brain of your electronic drum set (or digital sound module).
Some electronic drums have only one trigger on each pad or cymbal, meaning you can only get one sound no matter where you hit them.
When you begin looking at more advanced electronic drum sets, you’ll notice they are made with two or more triggers or zones on each pad or cymbal. Some examples of dual-trigger set pieces include:
- Snare pads that allow for rim shots or cross-sticking
- Cymbals that allow for bow, edge, and bell sounds
- Hi-hats that act as splashes too
Some drum sets even go as far as having positional sensing, giving you different sounds when different parts of the pads are hit.
Every piece of your electronic drum kit is wired to your module. The processing, sounds, and overall production come from this sound module.
There are a few things you need to look for in your sound module. Those things include:
- Quality of Sound
The Quality of Sound on a sound module is a subjective characteristic. It really depends on what you want in a kit. Some kits have more of an acoustic sound while others have more of a digital sound, so spend time testing them out or listening to presets online.
Some electronic drum sets have training features built in. If you’re just learning how to play drums, having training exercises, a metronome, or play-along tracks, can be very helpful in the whole process!
Connectivity is super important, especially in the age of computers. If you’re planning on using samples or VSTs, you’ll want to have a drum set with USB/MIDI ports to send out data to your DAW.
5 Best Electronic Drum Kits Compared
Best Overall Value
The Alesis Forge Kit is one of the best in value in the Alesis lineup. It’s an 8-piece electronic drum set that can be played by professionals and newbies alike and has a ton more flexibility than your typical electronic drum kit. Just take a look at the sound module on this bad boy.
With 50 drum kit presets, 20 user presets, 600 sounds, and 60 play-along tracks, you’ll never run out of ways to set up your drum set. It also means you can continuously update your set to make sure it never gets old.
As for the design, this thing is built like a tank. The chrome-plated rack lets you bang away without compromise and the rubber pads feel natural and dynamic.
It’s easy to set up and it comes with everything you need, meaning it’s good for beginners, though the customizable kits with rich sound quality and responsive drum set pads make it excellent for seasoned players.
Bottom Line: If your biggest concern is having a vast library of samples to play with and the ability to custom-build, this electronic drum set is perfect. For the price, the Alesis Forge truly has the best value for the money.
Best For Beginners
The Roland TD-1KV is easily one of the best electronic drum sets if you’re still in your phase of learning. It even comes bundled with everything you need including sticks, an ⅛ inch audio cable, and a polishing cable.
The design on the TD-1KV is user-friendly and straightforward and is excellent for people who want a no-frills set.
There are 15 different musical ‘styles’ built into the sound module that allow you to play everything from pop to rock to electronic and beyond, so even veteran drummers can have some more versatile fun.
Need some help learning? Check out the built-in metronome, the coaching function, and pre-set songs to get started. You can easily plug in your headphones to the module as well so that you don’t have to disturb your neighbors or the rest of the family.
Lastly, what we love about Roland is that they made this kit so that you can grow with it. Once you get better, you can easily add different cymbals, kick pedals, pads, monitors, etc. This greatly increases the longevity of the set.
Bottom Line: If you are a first-time drummer and don’t want to make a massive investment, you really can’t go wrong with this electronic drum set. It comes with everything you need and more and plays well, making it motivating to continue learning and growing as a drummer.
Best For Portability
There’s no question that Roland knows how to make a quality and affordable kit, though the biggest issue with most electronic drum kits is that they take up too much space in smaller homes and apartments.
Well, thank the drum gods for the Roland TD-4KP, as it comes with a practical foldable drum stand that takes just minutes to set up and break down. It does this, even without straying too far from your typical drum set design.
The module on the TD-4KP comes with 25 built-in kits, and you can quickly add your own sounds with the variety or Roland samples available online. Like the TD-1KV, the 4KP comes with a metronome, record/play functions, and a coaching function, making it great for learners as well.
Included in the kit is 1 rubber snare, 3 rubber toms, 2 rubber crashes with choke, and a kick pad.
Bottom Line: If you’re a drummer on the go or you live in a small space like an apartment or dorm, this is one of the best portable drum sets on the market. Beyond the portability, the quality of sound is high as the Roland standard and can easily be customized as you grow and learn.
Best Under $500
The Alesis Surge Mesh Kit comes complete with 5 mesh drum pads, 3 cymbals, a tough chrome rack, and pedals for your hi-hat and kick.
The drum pads are dual-trigger giving them more versatility with multiple sounds on each drum. The versatility doesn’t end there though. Because the pads are made with mesh, you can easily tighten or loosen them to give you the ideal feel, not to mention the fact that mesh responds far better to nuances in playing than rubber.
You also get 385 built-in drum and percussion sounds, 24 kits, and the ability to customize you sets and sounds.
The connectivity on the Surge Mesh Kit is also pretty solid with MIDI/USB to use virtual instruments and recording software, and an Aux input so that you can play along to your favorite drummers.
Bottom Line: With the sleek build and sound/feature-packed module, the Alesis Surge Kit is one of the best under $500. From a rich-toned library to USB connectivity to mesh pads, you’re getting some serious value for the price you pay.
Best Under $1000
As one of their pricier electronic drum sets, the Roland TD-11K-S V-Compact kit boasts some more serious features.
The sound module on this drum set, unlike the others on our list, uses the Roland SuperNATURAL sound engine and behavior modeling to give you realistic sounds that you wouldn’t be able to find on a cheaper unit. This is included in the 50 built-in kits and 190 instrument samples.
Newer students might want to make the long-term investment with an electronic drum set in which they’ll be happy to find out the Roland TD-11K-S retains coaching and recording functions of beginner sets.
As for the playability, the set features dual trigger pads, a dynamic mesh snare, thick rubber toms, and dual-trigger cymbals that can both be choked. All of this comes complete on a sleek chrome rack that is actually rather portable as well.
Bottom Line: With adjustable positioning, a high-quality sound module, and a compact build, the Roland TD 11K-S has everything you could truly want out of an electronic drum set for under a grand. The playability of this kit is so rewarding and seasoned drummers will love the realism and nuanced feel.
Drum Roll Please!
Your best bet when looking to buy an electronic drum set is to invest in something that you can grow with that is also within your budget.
It’s also critical to have a good idea of what you need an electronic drum set for. Is it to be quieter? Is it for a versatile sound library? Or are you just learning and need something that is easier to practice on?
In all, your choice should be well-rounded.
This is why we picked the Alesis Forge Kit as our electronic drum set for best overall value. It’s versatile, has a massive sound library, is built tough, and comes with everything you need to get started, all for a very fair price!
You can even continue to add and upgrade set pieces as you get better and better.
We hope that you’ve learned something today about the fascinating modern world of electronic drum sets and can use the information to create a new era of music!