Electronic drum sets have come a very long way from the old awkward models of the 1980s.
Decades of advancement in technology has allowed for mainstream electronic drum sets to be of very high quality.
They not only replicate the drumming experience in live environments, but they can also enhance it in ways that acoustic drums never could.
This guide is written to answer every question you have about electronic drum sets.
I’ve also included electronic drum set reviews to suit every budget.
Some are catered to the beginner starting their journey into the drumming world, whereas others are large budget kits that can completely replace professional session acoustic sets for live performances.
Electronic drum sets are amazing for live performances, quiet practice, recording your playing, and much more.
Let’s get started!
- 1 Best Electronic Drum Sets by Category:
- 2 Best Cheap Electronic Drum Sets
- 3 Best Mid-Range Electronic Drum Kit Reviews
- 4 Best High-End Models
- 5 What are the Best Electronic Drum Set Brands?
- 6 Electronic Drum Head Types
- 7 How Electronic Drum Sets Work
- 8 Items You May Need To Purchase Separately
- 9 Should I Buy an Electronic Drum Set?
- 10 Common Questions About Electronic Drum Sets
- 11 Summary
Best Electronic Drum Sets by Category:
Before we do that, let’s do a quick round-up of our top recommend sets across different price ranges.
Best Cheap Electronic Drum Sets
Alesis Nitro Kit
The Alesis Nitro electronic drum set is extremely impressive and simply packs a whole lot of punch for its low price tag.
I now recommend this as the best cheap and entry-level electronic drum set for both value and features.
This is quite a change for me, as a few years ago if you asked me what the first kit in electronic drum set reviews would be, I would have properly opted for a Roland or Yamaha model.
Firstly, the kit is set up in similar positions to an acoustic drum kit. This allows a drummer to easily be able to transition the motions of playing to acoustic drums. This alone carries a lot of weight for beginner drummers or drummers that switch between kits.
This kit uses an actual kick pedal and pad, which retains the correct motion of playing a real bass drum. Many starter kits will just have simple push bass pedals without a beater, this can feel less natural and impede learning.
This kit looks impressive and is great to play. It is leagues ahead of garbage and glorified toy electronic kits that you may find in local stores! You really do pay for quality when it comes to drums, but that fact is doubly true when it comes to electronic drum sets!
You can’t really go wrong with starting out with this kit.
Note: You will need to purchase a drum stool/throne and headphones separately with this, unless you buy it in a special bundle.
Check out the following video to see the Alesis Nitro Kit in action:
Roland TD-1KV Compact Electronic Drum Set Review
It is quiet, expandable, durable, and has great coaching and learning features. Though, it is more expensive than the Alesis Nitro kit.
It has the Roland Brand, which always shouts quality when it comes to electronic drum sets. The snare drum is a mesh head, which is a big advantage. It is easy to set up and takes up little space.
The kick drum is beater-less, which will cause a lot less noise. However, I do not think it quite retains the real feel of a bass drum pedal. However, you can buy a separate electronic kick-pad and pedal later if you want to add it to your kit.
You can record your drum playing on music software via a USB connection. This can be a great learning tool. It is also very easy to set up and only takes up a small amount of space.
For an entry-level set, this is going to be a little more expensive than other electronic sets. However, it is extremely high quality and will get you off to a great start if you are beginner drumming altogether or just stepping into the electronic drumming world.
Best Mid-Range Electronic Drum Kit Reviews
Alesis DM10 Studio
Everything apart from the kick pad clamps into the drum rack. All drums, cymbals are actually very comfortably positioned, including the snare drums.
The drum heads are tunable just like regular acoustic heads, which allow for a much more real-feel when playing.
There are two different versions of this kit: Mylar heads or Mesh heads. This is a matter of preference, though I recommend the mesh heads as they are quieter and better to play in my opinion. However, if your budget does not allow, you could always buy the Mylar heads now and replace them with mesh ones later on.
The drum pads are also dual-zone, with the exception of the kick drum. This detects when the drummer is playing on the head or rim of the drum pad. One of the crash cymbals contains a sensor so you can choke the cymbal sound by grabbing it with your hand. This is a great feature on a kit of this price range.
The drum module for this is absolutely packed with features. It really allows you to control the type of sound you want, customize your drum kit, control playing sensitivity and much more.
The module also contains a sequencer, which allows you to play along to demo tracks and record your own drum lines.
This kit packs a serious punch for its price tag. It really is a great option if you are a producer, studio engineer, or intermediate to professional drummer.
Watch the video below to see the Alesis DM10 Studio in action:
The Roland TD-11K-S electronic drum set truly is a great piece of kit and also one of the most affordable options in the excellent Roland V-Drums range. This kit is also quite a step up in features compared to their entry-level TD-1K.
The Roland V-drums technology really shines in this kit and it has many features that make it feel like playing on an acoustic drum set.
The drum module has Roland SuperNATURAL technology, which uses what is known as ‘behavioral modeling’ to more effectively mimic the effect of playing different types of drum strokes on an acoustic drum set.
The placement and positions of the pads and cymbals make it feel much more like a real kit. I also feel that the bass drum pedal and pad is a major advantage. The Snare mesh head is super sensitive and really detects all the nuances of your playing.
The kick drum pad was designed to fit two beaters. So fans of double-bass drum pedals will be happy with this!
However, this kit does not have a hi-hat stand. The opening and closing of the hi-hat are done through a standalone pedal. I have used this Roland hi-hat pedal setup for a long time and it works very well. It doesn’t feel quite the same as playing an acoustic kit. But I can live with that packs so many other features and performance in this price range.
There is also a more advanced version of this kit, the Roland TD-11KV, which includes all mesh heads for the 3 tom drum pads and some more cymbal pad features. If you have the budget, I always recommend getting the mesh heads. They are much more sensitive, quieter, and feel more like playing on drum skins.
This kit is one of more affordable Roland V-drums options. This set that stands out for me as the great mid-level kit for drummers that are really getting serious with their electronic drumming.
It is also a great option for beginner drummers that want a kit that will keep up with their needs for many years to come.
See the video below to check out the Roland TD-11KV (please note that the cheaper TD-11K-S model includes rubber tom heads)
It is comparable to the Roland TD-11KVS (The V is important in that Roland model name as it is the version with all mesh heads).
A big advantage is that it has a stand-alone hi-hat stand, which makes it feel more natural to play.
The Yamaha also boasts more sounds, and some drummers prefer Yamaha’s samples compared to Roland.
The silicone snare head has 3 sensor zones. This is a cool feature as it allows you to play side-stick shots in addition to regular stroke and rim shots.
The Silicone drum pads on this kit are absolutely excellent. The only downside is the kick-pad. I’ve used the same model of Yamaha kick pad for months and it is really good. Though if noise could be a factor, I would recommend buying a separate mesh-head drum pad.
This Yamaha kit really is a solid contender in mid-level electronic drum sets. It is well worth consideration.
Best High-End Models
Roland TD-30KV V-Pro Series Electronic Drum Set Review
You simply couldn’t exclude from a list of the best electronic drum sets.
The TD-30 drum sound module is packed with top-end features, including over 1000s sounds, and extensibility so you can add even more to you kit later.
All the drums include super sensitive mesh pads and the TD-30KV also includes the exceptional KD-140 bass drum pad.
This kit includes an advanced hi-hat, which really mimics natural acoustic drum set playing.
The build quality of the kit is solid and designed for constant gigging. This kit also really looks the part and it is designed for easy setup. The cabling system is internal in the kit so you can have a clean and professional looking set-up for the stage.
Not everyone is in the position to rock out to an acoustic kit because of noise constraints. If you’re missing the feel of an acoustic kit, I really think this is the closest you’re going to get to it.
This really is a gig-worthy set as well as being a great replacement for an acoustic set. It could apply to just a vast array of musical genres.
The drum module allows you to get superb sounding effects such as reverb and ambiance every time without relying on the sound engineer. This kit also opens you up to such a range of sound possibilities that would simply be impossible with the acoustic alternatives.
A great buy. I would highly recommend this kit. If you are in a nearby drum shop, then definitely check this one out. If you are already convinced by the world of electronic drumming and want to take it to the top level, I think this is the electronic drum set for you.
So that concludes our list of electronic drum set reviews.
Now let’s move onto the next important section.
What are the Best Electronic Drum Set Brands?
The main brands that are currently on the market are Roland, Yamaha, and Alesis. In my opinion, Roland is the powerhouse of electronic drum sets. They are extremely innovative and a joy to play.
High-end Yamaha models are also very impressive. You will find that people’s opinions between the brands are much a matter of personal preference.
Alesis is also another strong competitor into the electronic drum set world. Regarding electronic drums, Alesis released the hugely popular SR-16 drum machine. They are now producing some impressive electronic drum sets for the price range. If you have a lower budget and want to get your hands on a more professional fully-fledged kit, this brand is well worth a look.
Electronic Drum Head Types
There are four main types of drum heads that you will get on Electronic kits. Use the tab below to learn about the difference:
How Electronic Drum Sets Work
Electronic drum sets are composed of the following: a drum module (also referred to as the ‘brain‘) and drum pads.
Each of the drum and cymbal pads connects to the drum module. You can then use the drum module to:
Choose your sounds: You can choose what type of drum kit, percussion set, or other musical sounds that you want to use. Some modules will allow for individual customization and adding your own samples.
Control Volume: You can use the module to control your volume. Some modules allow you to change volumes of individual instruments.
Sensitivity and layers: With sensitivity settings, you can control what force is required to trigger your sounds. Some pads can be very sensitive and allow for dual layering, so when you hit a pad lightly it will trigger one sound and trigger another when it is hit harder.
USB ports, Midi and Audio connections: If you plan on using your module to connect to a computer, interface, or other instruments, then make sure to check what type of connections are available.
Audio Out signal will allow you to connect to an amplifier or audio interface for performance and recording. Midi and USB connections allow you to send your music note data to audio software, opening up a whole world of sound production possibilities.
Patterns and practice modes: Practice modes and preset patterns of drum beats can be really useful learning tools.
Most decent drum modules will include all of the above features. Make sure to check the specs when buying to ensure you are getting what you need!
Items You May Need To Purchase Separately
Electronic Drum Sets Amplifiers or Drum Monitors
An amplifier is a must if you plan on playing with other musicians or want to play without headphones.
Unless your electronic drum set includes an embedded amplifier (only a few entry-level ones have these), then you will need to connect the drum module on your set to an amplifier using an audio cable.
If you need to pick one up, make sure to check out our guide on drum set amplifiers.
Also for those that are missing the physical response from playing their acoustic drums. You can buy a ‘Buttkicker’, which sends the electronic bass drum vibrations up through your drum stool (I’m not joking, this actually exists!).
This may sound comical to some but completely reasonable to others 🙂 Tactile feedback and groove are everything to drummers, and this can help get a drummer in the zone.
Headphones for Electronic Drumming
Make sure to check if headphones are included with the electronic drum set when you are buying it. If not then I would recommend that you read our short guide on the best headphones to buy for e-drumming.
I have used a pair of these for years and they have served me very well! Also, they have great isolation of up to 22 Db, so they are also great for protecting your hearing on acoustic sets too.
Alternatively, be sure to check out our article on the best in-ear monitors for drummers.
Drum Sticks for Electronic Drumming
Any standard drumsticks work for electronic drum sets. If you are not sure what type of drumstick to buy, then I would recommend starting with a 5A size with a nylon tip.
Wooden tips can start to splinter after a lot of use. This can cause damage to your drum heads. If wooden drumsticks are all you have at the moment then you should not worry too much. It is the long-term effect of damaged wooden sticks that can cause damage.
I started drumming 14 years ago playing Vic Firth 5A American Classic. This is a hugely popular model, and I still use it for most of my playing today. For me, they are just the right spot in weight and length to allow for speed and power in my drumming.
They are also very well matched and balanced. This is something that can not be said for many cheap drumsticks! Well, balanced sticks mean that strokes from both hands will sound the same if used consistently and with good technique.
I highly recommend the Vic Firth 5AN American Classic (Nylon) to start with. There are a very large variety of other sizes to choose from. You could go with 7A for a lighter stick or 5B for a slightly heavier one. For more information about drumsticks and how to choose, check out this article on Modern Drummer.
A friend of mine had to quit drumming because of problems with his lower back. This was a major blow to him, and years later and countless dollars spent he is still trying to rehabilitate to no avail.
The cause was related to poor sitting and ergonomics when drumming. The key to improving your posture while drumming is to get a good drum throne. I cannot stress this enough!
A really good option is the ROC-N-SOC Nitro Throne Black.
An unfortunate part of drumming is that good drum thrones are quite expensive. However, don’t be fooled into choosing a garbage product. Please don’t just use a regular stool or seat for drumming. They are simply not designed for drummers and they will cause pain and damage, and slow you down a lot. Check out this article on Modern Drummer to learn more about drum thrones.
Some electronic drum kits require a separate purchase of a kick pedal, and others will including them in the price. If your electronic drum set does not include one, then the Tama Iron Cobra Pedal would get you off to a great start.
If you’re interested in playing with a double kick pedal, make sure to read our separate article on this subject.
Should I Buy an Electronic Drum Set?
Electronic drum sets are an increasingly popular option in modern times. Here are some reasons why:
Great for Quiet Spaces
Acoustic (non-electronic) drums are incredibly loud. They even reverberate quite a lot despite muffling techniques such as using blankets or rubber coverings to put over drum heads and cymbals.
This can be a big problem for families, neighbors, and the drummer’s hearing. With acoustic drums, you may need to invest in sound-proofing, which is very expensive and may not be sufficient enough for some living situations.
When my family moved home I was hit pretty hard by this problem. My practice time greatly diminished for a quite a long time as I was limited to renting time out at a rehearsal studio. This also added much greater expense to my practicing.
Electronic drum sets do not have this problem. You can hook up headphones directly to the set so only the drummer can hear.
If you’re looking for super quiet electronic drumming, check out sets with either mesh or silicone heads. These are generally the quietest.
Great for Beginners and Practicing
To be a great drummer you need practice.
Drummer’s will generally find it much easier (and diplomatic!) to practice for long periods of time with their electronic drumming because of the lack of noise.
Practice sessions could be done in early hours or after work or school in the evenings.
Some electronic drum sets come with practice modes, which train the drummer into staying in time through a metronome and audio notifications.
Practice modes can do wonders to help a drummer stay in time and practice their rudiments. These are both the foundation for becoming a good drummer.
Electronic Drum sets are easy to hook up to Audio Software on your PC or Mac using an audio interface. This allows you to record your drumming and analyze your areas for improvements.
I know of some good drum teachers that now teach on electronic kits and send the student a recording of the class afterward. This is very cool, and an amazing way for the student to improve.
Great for Professional Drummers
Electronic drum sets are no longer just toys, entry-level kits, or limited to a small segment of music genres. The best electronic drum sets do an amazing job of replicating the feel and response to playing behind an acoustic kit.
Even the slightest drum hit can be detected with extremely sensitive mesh heads. Also, some electronic cymbals have sensors that can detect when the drummer is ‘choking’ the cymbal to stop it from ringing.
Electronic kits also remove a lot of the hassle on gig night and getting the drums ready during sound-checks. I’ll get to that in a moment.
You can now even buy special electronic heads that you can attach to your acoustic drum set. So when you hit your drum it will actually produce an electronic triggered sound. Some drummers are now opting for this option if they want an electronic sound while retaining the presence of a big acoustic drum kit.
I think the innovation and development of electronic drumming is quite astounding (Read this wiki here to find out more about the history of electronic drum sets).
The technology is continuing to develop and evolve. For example, Roland’s ‘supterNatural’ technology helps to mimic and detect the feel of playing an acoustic instrument, further bridging the gap between electronic and acoustic.
They also provide a whole wealth of new sound opportunities, which is my next point!
A Whole New Range Of Sound Opportunities
Electronic drum sets allow you to experiment with a large variety of different drum and percussion sets. Most sets allow you to customize your set to put any sound on any pad.
If you or a friend is savvy with music production, some electronic sets will also allow you to sample your own sounds.
If you own an acoustic drum kit you could record this and sample the sounds onto your electronic pads. Instead of regular tom-tom drum sounds, you can replace them with 80’s power ballad style drum sounds (here’s a link to those if you’re getting nostalgic!).
The sky is the limit. Having such a range of sound opportunities means that you’re much less likely to get bored, and your one kit will suit a variety of musical situations.
Much Easier and Cheaper and Gig With
It is great to play live electronic drums for many genres of music. I’ve been a drummer for 14 years. Setting up and packing down a drum kit can be an absolute nightmare when you have to do it a lot.
Sound checks take a long time, and it can be a lottery with the sound engineer on the night as to how the drums are going to sound in the final mix.
Electronic drums do not have this problem. You turn up to a show, the sound engineer will connect a lead or two into your drum module, and away you go!
This might not sound like much now, but it was an absolute revelation when I started playing electronic music live. I still hop back and forth a lot between acoustic drums, electronic drums, and hybrid setups for different type of live shows.
There really is so much opportunity when you take the innovation of both and experiment to get the sound you need.
For concerts with limited space, many drummers usually opt for a Cajon (also known as a box drum), but these days I opt for my Roland Octapad. It takes up little space, and makes so serious punch!
Protect Your Hearing
Playing on an Electronic Set either part or all of the time means that you’re not always succumbed to the loud volume of acoustic drums.
The damage that your snare drum, cymbals, and bass drum can do to your hearing is quite substantial.
If you play Acoustic drums, you must use hearing protection. It doesn’t matter how young you are, your hearing is incredibly important. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Also, it is important to note that hearing damage doesn’t just come as hearing lower volume, it’s often associated with tinnitus. Tinnitus is a pretty common condition where missing hearing receptors in your ears make your brain think you are hearing a constant noise.
If you always wear earplugs when exposed to loud music, this does wonders to protect your hearing.
In fact, when going to concerts I always wear a cheap pair of Musician earplugs. The ones I wear are Alpine MusicSafe Pro earplugs and they are really good at maintaining a clear sound while filtering out the damaging sound frequencies.
I would highly recommend checking out the following website on Tinnitus if you need to learn more about how to protect your hearing as a musician.
How does this affect your electronic drumming? Just make sure to have the volume at a reasonable level on your headphones or amplifier.
Common Questions About Electronic Drum Sets
The same questions frequently come up when people are considering the purchase of an electronic drum set.
I hope they will be beneficial! Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. I will keep adding to this as time goes on.
Please write a comment at the bottom of this article if you have a question that I haven’t covered. I’d be happy to help!
When buying an electronic drum set, is everything included?
It depends on the model. Make sure to carefully read the product description before purchasing. Essentials you need are drum-sticks, a set of headphones or an amplifier, and a drum stool.
If you do not live on a ground floor then a carpet or rug may be useful for underneath. This is also particularly useful to stop your kick drum pad from moving.
Can I add custom samples to my kit?
This depends on the drum module (also known as the ‘drum brain) that comes with your electronic drum set. Some models allow for import of WAV file samples.
MIDI capability is also a standard feature of electronic drum sets. If your model does now allow the loading of custom samples, then you could potentially trigger sounds from another source, such as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on your computer.
How loud are electronic drum sets?
They are far quieter than acoustic drum sets. There is simply no comparison between these. However, they are not completely silent, and the amount of tapping and noise varies between kits.
If you don’t live on the ground floor of your accommodation, I would recommend that you get a think carpet to place on the kick pedal of your kit. This minimizes the noise of the pedal, particularly if you are a hard hitter!
Also, the type of material will have an impact on noise. Mesh heads tend to cause less noise than mylar and rubber heads for example.
Are electronic drum components compatible with each other?
E-drum technology is relatively standardized. Many pads and pedals will work with drum modules from another manufacturer. This mixing and matching can be very useful in order to get the best and most personalized experience.
However, as a word of caution, you should research thoroughly if you are planning to do so. Not all devices are fully compatible with each other. For example, hi-hat pedals can be an issue as these can be triggered differently across different manufacturers.
Can I learn how to play drums on an electronic drums set?
Yes, you can certainly learn to play drums on an electronic set. If you are a beginner, practicing your beats and fills can be very beneficial on these. It could also save your relationship with your family or neighbors!
The electronic versus acoustic debate is very much a matter of personal preference. However, there is nothing stopping you from switching between the two later on down the line. You can also combine both into one particular set.
Electronic kits can also allow you to record your practice. This can be of tremendous benefit to your playing. It can really pinpoint inconsistencies in your playing and help you to identify problem areas.
What are drum triggers?
Drum triggers are devices that are attached to your drum heads which can trigger external sounds. Triggers can be used on both electronic sets and regular drums.
For example, you can hook up a drum trigger to a floor tom. Every time you hit the floor tom, this can also trigger another sound through a drum module. You can build some very cool performance pieces out of these.
How can I record my electronic drums to a computer?
You can do this in two ways. Every time you hit a drum pad, it triggers the drum module to produce a sound. You can hook in external audio jacks into the drum brain, which can be connected to your computer via an audio interface. The audio can then be recorded into recording software on your computer.
Alternatively, you can record the midi notes and produce different sounds on your computer via a virtual drum machine or music production software. Midi also contains data for velocity so you will also get different levels of sensitivity in the notes from your playing.
Latency could be a problem depending on your hardware setup. There are plenty of guides online for this if you run into problems.
How are electronic drum sets powered?
Electronic drum sets need to be plugged into a wall socket. Any battery powered electronic drum hardware tends to be small modules and devices (like roll-up drum kits!)
Do I need a set of headphones?
You will need either a set of headphones or an amplifier in order to hear your electronic drums. Some very entry-level models have built-in speakers, but these are usually just for practice and are of relatively low quality.
How can I learn to play the drums?
There are a wealth of video tutorials and lessons online. Check out our review article on Drumeo, one of the best online drumming resources.
Of course, you should definitely consider eventually getting a local drum tutor. They can help you to hone your skills and identify weak spots. However, they can be quite expensive. Depending on your budget, they can be used in combination with other lessons.
Some people decide to go it alone when learning an instrument. In fact, I went self-thought for quite a few years. However, it is quite easy to stop progressing after you reach an intermediate stage if you go this route.
How can I connect my electronic drum set to amplifiers/speakers?
You can generally connect these using a standard audio jack, which is generally inserted into the back of your drum module.
So that is my buyer’s guide and a bunch of electronic drum set reviews to suit every price range, which should help you to decide on what to purchase within your needs and budget.
Electronic drum sets are a great option whether you are a seasoned drumming pro thinking of going digital, or a complete beginner looking to buy your first set.
Electronic drums open up so many opportunities for practice and playing compared to acoustic drum sets. They open up the drummer to a wide variety of drum and percussive sounds.
There are so many options available. I personally love jumping back between my electronic kit, electronic pads, and hybrid acoustic setup.
If you are interested in learning about combining your acoustic drums with electronic drums then check out the following article which goes through your options.
I’ve also written a detailed article on the best drum pads.
If you have any questions about this article or need any advice then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Recommended electronic drum set: Alesis Nitro Kit
I’ve chosen this model as it’s a great, affordable option for all levels of drummers. At this price, it really packs a lot of punch and has a lot of impressive features.