Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Drum Sets

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 69 Models Considered
  • 40 Hours Researched
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 221 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best drum sets

    Last Updated August 2018

    From Keith Moon to Dave Grohl to Meg White, if you want to take up drumming, you're in good company. The first thing you'll need, however, is a decent drum set.

    Finding the best drum set — or "drum kit," if you prefer — isn't easy. Acoustic or electronic? Mahogany or maple? Four-piece or eight-piece? You'll be faced with a range of decisions, and it can become overwhelming, especially if you don't yet know your rack tom from your ride.

    If you need some assistance to cut through the jargon, you're in the right place! At BestReviews, our mission is to help you, the consumer, find the right products for your needs. We test products in our labs, gather opinions from existing customers, and consult experts — all to bring you fair, thorough, and unbiased reviews.

    Read on for our full guide to drums sets, and you'll soon be bashing those skins like a pro.

    If you're looking for a drum set for a child, you can find some very good, scaled down models that are smaller versions of full-size kits, rather than toys.

    Types of drum sets

    You can find two main types of drum sets: acoustic drum sets and electronic drums sets. Here we take a closer look at each.

    Acoustic drum sets

    Acoustic drum sets are what most people would consider "normal" kits, with wooden shells and metal cymbals.

    Pros:

    • Acoustic drum sets are ready to play — you don't need speakers, amplifiers, or headphones to hear yourself play.

    • The vast majority of drummers use acoustic kits on stage, so if your goal is to join or form a band, an acoustic kit is your best option.

    • Acoustic drum kits have a more dynamic sound. You can make different noises with different brushes, and by varying how hard you hit you can alter the tone, as well as the noise level.

    • It's easy to add to your acoustic drum kit, or swap out one part for another as you progress.

    Cool Kid Instrument

    The Gammon Complete 5-Piece Junior Drum Set is available for purchase in glossy black, blue, green, pink, and red. Chrome rims accentuate the "cool" factor of this child's drum set. This product is more like a child's semi-sophisticated toy than a musical instrument. However, for a decent price, it can serve as a learning tool, and be a source of inspiration for aspiring musicians under the age of ten.

    Cons:

    • It's no secret that acoustic drum kits are loud — your neighbors won't thank you for disturbing them with your new hobby.

    • Acoustic drum kits are big, heavy, and difficult to transport.


    Price: You can find basic full-size drum sets from as little as $200 to $300. High-end kits can cost in excess of $5,000.

    EXPERT TIP

    Acoustic drum sets are far more versatile than electronic kits, and are the obvious choice, unless you'll really have issues with space or noise-level.


    Electronic drum sets

    Electronic drum sets are essentially synthesizers that create drum sounds from samples when you strike the drum pad with sticks.

    Pros:

    • You can plug headphones into an electronic drum set, making it virtually silent, other than the quiet thump of your sticks hitting the pads.

    • Electronic drum kits are generally light and compact, thus easy to transport.

    • You don't have to tune electronic drum sets, or worry about changing the drumheads.

    • Electronic drum kits can produce a range of sounds to suit various musical genres.

    Electronic Durability

    If you want a drum set that will last you a good long time, consider the Roland TD-11K-S. Roland uses technology to the musician's advantage with this electronic set; the entire machine is less vulnerable to breakage and wear because it is not acoustic. When you practice, you strike durable pads with your mallets; your force is converted to electronic signals that determine the sound output. It really is a gentler way to practice and play the drums.

    Cons:

    • You don't get as realistic a drum sound as you do with an acoustic kit.

    • An electronic drum kit isn't as useful for playing live compared to an acoustic drum set.

    • You'll find particular drumming articulations that you can't replicate with an electronic kit — for instance, rim shots and stick taps.


    Price: You can spend anything between $200 and $4,000 on an electronic drum kit.

    An electronic drum kit can be useful for recording demos, as you can record straight from your kit into your computer, rather than requiring microphones or a live room.

    Anatomy of a drum set

    A standard drum set usually contains five pieces: a bass drum, a snare drum, a floor tom, and two rack toms. This can be expanded on, however, and some drummers like to have extra rack toms or floor toms, or even a second bass drum. Let's examine these drums in closer detail.

    • Bass drum: Also known as the "kick drum," this is the largest drum in the kit, and produces the lowest tone. It sits on its side on the floor and is operated with a pedal.

    • Snare drum: The snare drum is so called because it has a metal "snare" stretched across the bottom, to produce its distinctive snappy sound.

    • Floor tom: This is a large drum that stands on legs on the floor. It produces a low sound and is used in conjunction with the rack toms to create "fills."

    • Rack toms: Rack toms are mounted to the kit on top of the bass drum. They produce a higher sound than the floor tom.

    Most drummers also prefer at least three cymbals: a ride, a crash, and a hi-hat.

    • Ride: Ride cymbals are often the largest, and can produce a range of sounds depending on where you hit them. They tend to be used for rhythm work, rather than accents.

    • Crash: Crash cymbals produce a loud, explosive "crash" sound, which can vary in pitch depending on the size and thickness of the cymbal. They're usually used to create accents.

    • Hi-hat: Hi-hats are pairs of cymbals with a pedal that opens and closes them. The tone produced depends on whether they're open (sitting apart from one another) or closed (sitting together).

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you plan to play shows with a band, you'll often hear the term "breakables" used to refer to a drum kit's cymbals, snare, and kick pedal. Drummers are usually expected to bring their own breakables, even if the venue provides a drum set.

    Considerations for selecting a drum set

    Drum sizes

    Drums come in different sizes, measured in inches across the diameter. Different sizes give you a slightly different sound, so choose your drum sizes wisely. The most common size configuration for a drum set is a 22” bass drum, 12” and 13” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 14” snare. This gives you a versatile sound, suitable for playing a range of genres. If you're a specialist, rather than a generalist, and plan to play only one style of music — for instance, jazz or metal — you might want to find out the optimum drum sizes for your preferred genre.

    EXPERT TIP

    It's worth going to the top end of your budget to buy a drum set you'll grow into, rather than opting for the cheapest kit available and having to replace it six months down the line.


    Shell material

    Drum shells are made from wood, but not all woods are created equal. Different woods have different sound qualities.

    • Maple is probably the most common wood for drum shells. Its tone is warm and balanced.

    • Birch is good for darker tones. It has punchy low-end, as well as boosted high-end frequencies.

    • Mahogany has a great low-end and midrange, with reduced high-end. This gives it a warm, vintage-type sound.

    • Poplar has a bright sound and is sometimes used as a cheaper alternative to maple.

    EXPERT TIP

    If your drum set doesn't include cymbals, factor in their cost when budgeting for your kit — decent cymbals are surprisingly expensive.


    Drumheads

    Drumheads, or "skins," are the part of the drum that you hit. Traditionally, they were made from animal hide, but today they're usually crafted from a type of plastic called mylar. Thinner drum heads give you a brighter, livelier sound, and are favored by jazz musicians. Thicker drum heads give you a fatter, muddier sound with less resonance, and are therefore favored for heavier styles of music.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Electronic drum kits often have a built-in metronome to help you with your timing.

    Tips

    • If you opt for acoustic drums, you'll need to tune them by using the "lugs" around the rim to adjust the tension of the drumheads.  

    • Drum kits can come in a range of finishes, including natural finishes, covered finishes, and lacquered finishes.

    • Many drummers choose to muffle their bass drum to give it a deeper, heftier tone with less resonance. You can buy specific muffling products, but most people simply stuff a pillow or two inside.

    • Drum stools are adjustable to allow you sit at the most comfortable height for you. Many beginner drum sets come with a stool.

    EXPERT TIP

    Drums with covered finishes are wrapped in vinyl. This protects the wood, but can take away the character. Lacquered finishes help protect the wood while still showing the grain.


    FAQ

    Q. What kind of drumsticks should I use?
    A.
    The variety of drumsticks can seem baffling the first time you shop, but once you get the hang of things it's quite simple. The number assigned to a drumstick refers to its circumference; the lower the number, the larger the circumference. Chunkier sticks are favored for styles of music where you want loud, driving drums, such as R&B, punk, and metal. Thinner sticks are better for genres where the drums should be quieter and more subtle, such as folk or jazz.

    You can also buy drum brushes, which are used when you want very quiet drums, for instance, when playing acoustic music.

    You'll need the right hardware for your drum set — cymbal stands, a snare stand, and a kick pedal for your bass drum. Most drum kits come with basic hardware included, but you may want to upgrade your kick pedal at some point.

    Q. Do I need any extra accessories to go with my drum set?
    A.
    Once you have a drum set, hardware, cymbals, stool, and sticks, you're ready to go. But, you can find more accessories, if you still want more. Musical accessories include extra things to hit to give you different sound, such as woodblocks and cowbells. Other common accessories include drumming gloves, stick grips, and cases.

    Q. Are drum sets hard to assemble?
    A.
    When you first receive your drum kit, you usually need to partially assemble it yourself, putting the drumheads on the shells, and setting up any hardware. It may seem a bit tricky if you've never done it before, but you should get full instructions with your drum set to help you out. Once you've got the hang of assembling a drum set, it's actually quite simple.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor