Percussion instruments have been around for ages. The arrival of the modern acoustic drum kit created a whole new era of music, ranging from old-school rock, jazz, and funk. Fast forward a few decades, though, and we see a world in which drums have become a vastly popular instrument. So popular that people are looking for all sorts of ways to play them in their houses and apartments. Now, since modern acoustic drums are a pretty loud instrument you’ll have an issue calming down your neighbors if you live in an apartment building. This is why manufacturers like Zildjian, Evans, and others have created low sound cymbals, drum dampeners and all sorts of attributes which bring your overall volume down. Even with these inventions, for some people, the electronic drum set is the best apartment solution due to its compact size and low volume. Its popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years which made us create this article on the best electronic drum sets and what to look for when getting your first e-drums.
The Anatomy Of An Electronic Drum Kit
E-drums are in a way synthesizers/samplers which are designed to be an alternative to your acoustic drum kit or other percussion instruments for that matter. It consists of:
- Sound Module. This part produces the percussion sounds (through software conversion and sensors which trigger the sounds). It is the brains of the operation. It usually has a display which shows you all the available features such as different sound levels and drum presets. Here are located all the ports for USB/MIDI or ¼” cables. You can plug your amplifier, speakers, or headphones here.
- Drum Pads. These act as your snare and toms. They are usually made out of rubber and are mounted to a stand or a rack. Some snares are mesh-like which makes them feel way more authentic. They have tons of sensors inside them which are able to distinguish between stick strokes with different velocity and power, thus generating a different sound.
- Cymbals. Those are also made out of plastic and rubber. They have sensors in them as well, which trigger the cymbal sounds once you hit them. Cymbals on e-drums have adjustable cymbal stands just like with acoustic drum sets.
- Bass Drum. This Part is usually a small rubber circle mounted on a stance. It can be bigger on some models to boost authenticity.
- Pedals. Usually, you get a single bass drum pedal and a hi-hat one. In some cases, you might get a second bass drum pedal. Either way, if you need dual kick pedals you can configure the hi-hat one to be a bass drum pedal.
How Does It All Work?
If you are just now crossing over to “the dark side” you’ll surely be wondering how does this thing work at all. Well, let’s find out.
Whenever you hit any of the pads, cymbals or your bass drum, you basically trigger an electric signal which is then transmitted through cables to your module (or “brain” as some drummers call it). Once the signal reaches this module, it gets transformed into a sound with which it associates this specific trigger. For example triggers coming from the snare mesh/pad will generate snare-like sounds. Of course, with e-drums you are able to reprogram any of the pads to specific sounds of your choice, but we are speaking of the default settings now.
The sound signal which the module produces can be plugged into a PA system, your headphones, or an amplifier. You can learn more about electronic drum kit amplifiers on this article here. (LINK TO AMP ARTICLE) Some companies even sell additional files for your kit referred to as “drum kits”. What they do is basically change the sounds that your triggers will generate. For example you can buy a Rock Drum Kit, which will turn all your pads into an amazing 80s rock kit. There are countless of drum kits available for e-drums, but not all are compatible with every model, but we will cover that later.
You can even transform your drum kit into a MIDI-equipped e-drum. That way you will be able to trigger any sounds you preload on your DAW, such as pianos, guitars, or other instruments.
The Benefits Of Owning An Electronic Drum Set
If you still haven’t made up your mind on whether you need to make the transition from acoustic drums to electronic ones, here are few things that might help:
- Volume Control. One of the main issues of acoustic drum sets and cymbals is the insanely high volume output. It takes a true professional to be able to soundproof your drumming room well and even then there will be a significant amount of noise still coming out of it. Electronic drum kits make very little acoustic noise when played mainly due to the materials used. Most cymbals and pads are made out of rubber and plastic which dampens the sound created when you hit it with a stick. There are mesh-like snare drums which you can get which produce slightly more sound, but still not even comparable to the sound a real snare drum produces. Furthermore, you can control the actual volume of the drums when they are amplified (or even in your headphones). This makes electronic drums the perfect alternative for small gigs and venues, churches and home studios.
- Easy To Record. For the studio enthusiasts out there, this is the best quality of e-drums. They are super easy to record, because all you have to do is plug them into your computer and play/record! No need for expensive microphones and a well-sounding room. More on connecting your e-drums to your computer here. (LINK TO “HOW TO PLAY ELECTRONIC DRUMS” ADDITIONAL ARTICLE)
- Wide Variety Of Sounds. As we said, you can download different presets for your e-drums and play on all sorts of kits. Most of the electronic drums come preloaded with a lot of sounds and can change the way they sound with the push of a button. There are techno, hip-hop, rock, metal, electronic, orchestral, and other kits available. You can also download various sound effects that can be triggered by your pads as well.
- Practice And Play-Alongs. Roland and Alesis drum sets, for example, include nice play-along and practice features (as well as recording features which are built-in). All their models have a built-in metronome with an adjustable tempo and a mix-in jack if you want to connect your mp3 player or any other device. That way you can jam to your favorite songs.
E-Drum Buying Tips
There are quite a lot of things to consider if you want to get the best drum set but we will provide you the basic information you need to be able to choose the right e-drums for you.
Drum Pads, Cymbals, Triggers, And Mesh Heads
There are three variations of the trigger pads on your e-drums (or the mesh heads). Those are:
The ones with a single sensor can trigger only one sound through the module. The dual ones can get two tones, while the triple sensored pads can generate various tones depending on which part of the pad you are hitting. Let’s talk about the different pads now.
Rubber pads have the feeling and rebound of your practice pad. They are quite distant from the actual acoustic drum feel, but are good enough for practice. Furthermore, they have a similar feel from one pad to the next. This means that you won’t feel any significant difference when doing long fills on your toms for example. They are present in the cheaper e-drum models.
Mesh heads, on the other hand, have a response which is really close to one of the acoustic drum heads. You can even tune them to the desired tension with a drum key, just like you’d tune a regular drum head. They are a bit more expensive than the rubber pads.
Cymbal pads are shaped like regular cymbals (or a portion of them). Some cymbals have a swinging motion, others are static. You can also choke some of the more expensive electronic cymbals. There are dual- and three-sensored cymbals which have separate triggers for different hitting points on the cymbal itself. That way you can practice your cymbal hitting techniques.
There are all sorts of modules out there, varying in type, shape, quality of the sounds they include and the instruments and special effects they have. Some drum modules have independent sound levels for each of your pads which can allow you to create a live or a studio mix to your liking.
Here are the main module’s features you need to consider:
- Preset Patterns
- Feel and Sound
The module is responsible for the sound which your trigger will generate. This is why it is important for the module to be able to pinpoint exactly where you hit the pads (if they are multi-sensored). Also, the low latency will give a natural feeling to your play, because your ears won’t notice any delay from the stick hitting the pad and the sound produced.
lastly, here are some last things you need to consider about your new e-drums:
- Does the drum kit fit your space?
- What exactly is included in its price?
- Are the e-drums quiet enough for your space?
- Is the sound quality satisfiable?
- Can you load custom presets and samples onto the module?
- What do other people say about the product’s durability?
- Are there any external apps available?
- Is the latency good?
Now, let’s get into the drums themselves and see which ones can prove a great deal to you!
Electronic Drums Comparison Chart And Reviews
Best Kit Below 500$ – Alesis DM6
If we have to pick an electric drum set which is the best out of all drum sets below 500$, we’d definitely chose the Alesis DM6 electronic drum set. This version has actually had a rename. It is now called the DM6-USB drum kit since the module now has a USB output instead of a MIDI one. It also has a ⅛” mini jack for your headphones, a main output, and an auxiliary input. All the pads here will hook into your module with the included cable snake. This makes hooking up the pads super easy and quick.
One thing that we simply cannot ignore is the stereo snare pad. It is a pretty unique feature for a kit in this price range. Having a stereo pad, you can assign different sounds to the head’s surface and the rim.
The Front of the Alesis DM6 USB has the following controls:
- Master volume
- Click on/off
- Start/stop pattern
- Pattern select
- Drum off (for the times when you want to mute the drums of the pattern which is played)
- Kit Select
- Voice Select
- Volume (which allows individual controls of all the kits, patterns, metronome, etc.)
And yes, you guessed it right. It has a record mode. Of almost all the kits in this range, this kit is perhaps one of the few that lets you record without the need for any external device or software. It can record up to 5000 notes.
Find out how to record your electronic drums here.
- Good Looking Design
- Pads don’t wear out so easily
- Module is intuitive and has tons of options, nobs, and jacks
- Allows you to record
- Great price to value ratio
- Can be a little too expensive and complicated for a beginner
Final Words On The Alesis DM6 USB Drum Kit
If you are looking for a somewhat affordable electronic drum kit which has all the bells and whistles without sacrificing quality, this is the right model for you. It is extremely customizable and comes from a brand with an already established reputation. Alesis also have a huge online directory with a lot of downloadable content.
Best Kit Below 100$ – RockJam Electronic Roll Up MIDI Drum Kit
We are taking a step away from the traditional electronic drums to give you this cheap alternative. It costs not more than a hundred dollars Sure, the design is nothing you’ve seen before and it might seem weird at first, but it gets the job done. Also, this drum kit is extremely easy to carry around. It weighs less than 2 pounds and is compact enough to fit your backpack. The RockJam Electronic kit has built-in speakers in it, but to be fair with you, you might wanna get some other speakers hooked up to it for a more decent sound. Headphones work just fine, though.
- Thickly padded roll-up kit which features a total of 9 drums and cymbals with various sounds
- Two pedals
- Power supply
- Drum Sticks
This drum kit has both USB and MIDI connections. This allows you to connect it to your computer. It also has a recording feature which is something quite unusual for most electronic drum kits, not to mention the ones below 100$.
- Super cheap electronic drum set
- Good connectivity options
- Allows you to record
- Can be easily carried around
- Can be played without external speakers
- You get a pair of free sticks
- More cymbals and toms than usual (4 of each compared to 3 of each on other drum kits)
- Design isn’t great
- Feels cheap in the hands
- Limited warranty
- Pads wear out easily
Final Words On The Rockjam Electronic Roll Up MIDI Drum Kit
Overall, the RockJam Portable Rolling Drum Kit is an amazing set for any beginner who cannot afford an acoustic drum set, or simply lives in an apartment. The sound coming from this kit will surprise you pleasantly and will be the closest that can be to a real acoustic set for this price. All this while taking up no space at all or making any noise. It is just a good, portable solution. One more thing that isn’t mentioned anywhere is that this makes a great kid’s electronic drum set as well.
The Best Kit For Beginners – Yamaha DTX400K Electronic Drum Kit
Honestly, if you are now starting there is no better electronic drum kit than this one. It might be a little pricey, but trust us, it is worth the money. It comes packed with 10 preinstalled drum kits which can be all configured the way you want using any of the 169 built-in drum sounds. Another amazing feature that it includes is the option for your Hi-Hat pedal to become a second kick drum pedal. That allows you to play double kick if the songs require it.
You can download songs onto it via the USB connection it has, although you will get it with 10 preinstalled songs to play along to. Yamaha also gives you the option to upgrade your kit further down the road with their 3-zone snare and some other hardware goods.
It is important to note that the cymbal pads cannot be choked on this model.
- Great for both beginners and advanced drummers
- Good design
- Not as heavy as other electronic drums
- Hi-Hat pedal doubles as a kick pedal
- Module comes with a lot of pre-installed features
- All of the pads are single-zoned
- Lacks recording features
Final Words On The Yamaha DTX400K Electronic Drum Kit
If you are willing to spend a little extra, go for this kit. It offers a great amount of functionality in its module, with multiple play-along tracks and more than a hundred drum sounds to play with. One more benefit is that Yamaha is a well-established trusted brand on which you can rely that the quality of your kit will be outstanding.
Best Value For Money Winner – Alesis Forge Electronic Drum kit
This is perhaps the most feature-packed drum set for its price we’ve ever reviewed. Apart from us, thousands of other drummers and teachers are recommending it left and right. Adding a pair of good drumsticks is also a classy move from Alesis.
This electronic drum has the most pre-installed kits out of all other drums. It also has the most sounds out of the rest in its price range but this is really typical of Alesis. They have been dominating the samples world for over a decade now.
The natural response of the rubber snare and tom pads is an additional advantage of this kit. The chrome plated aluminum rack is really sturdy but still lighter than most other drums. On your kick tower you can use two kick pedals, due to its size.
Something else which is amazing is the fact that you can plug in a USB flash drive and load samples onto the kit. You can even record onto the samples themselves.
The Alesis Forge kit is equipped with 70 preloaded kits, which is more than 7 times than the industry average. It also has 600 sounds and 60 tracks to play along to (with practice modes).
- Best value for money
- Tons of tracks, sounds, and kits
- Good looking
- Lightweight and sturdy design
- Dual-zone snare
- Quality materials used everywhere
- Recording features
- Included drum key + sticks
- We can’t find anything that could be considered a downside or a disadvantage of owning this drum kit. Maybe just the fact the hi-hat cannot be choked, but how often do drummers do that anyway?
Final Words On The Alesis Forge Electronic Drum Kit
This kit deserves all the praise and attention it is getting as it embodies everything the perfect electronic drum kit needs to be. It has tons and tons of features, pre-installed tracks, sounds, kits. It has recording features, the design is amazing and sturdy. Materials are premium quality everywhere. Also, you are getting access to Alesis’ online directory which is one of the biggest in the world when it comes to samples and different sounds.
Best Value For Money Runner Up – Roland TD-1K
This kit is ideal for people who do not have enough spare space in their homes. It has more features than its competitors which makes it a great runner-up for our “best value for money” category.
An amazing feature here is that cymbals can be choked just like acoustic ones. Furthermore, the hi-hat acts really similar to a real one. All the cymbals are also dual-zoned and there is a velocity sensitivity option which lets you get a bell sound of them.
The built-in metronome and coach functions on it are just the icing on the cake, although all other drums in this price range have a built-in metronome.
Most importantly, this drum kit by Roland weighs almost twice as little as the others and takes up far less space. The possible downside of this might be that if you’re used to playing a regular sized kit, this one will seem minuscule.
If noise is an issue you’d love the beaterless kick pedal here. It basically produces zero noise, unlike all the other electronic drum sets. This takes away some of the authentic feeling of the kick pedal, though.
- Amazing value for money
- The Crash cymbal can be choked
- Bell sounds on cymbals
- Great coaching function
- You will have to adjust to the small size
- Takes away some of the authentic feeling
- Doesn’t have the greatest looking design
Final Words On The Roland TD-1K Electronic Drum Kit
When it comes to good drum kits, this one will always make this list, no matter it’s little flaws. It presents a great product for anyone who wants a drum kit for learning, practicing and maybe even gigging. It will be your companion from day one until the days you need something bigger or more sophisticated. Either way, it is one of the best drum sets in its price range.