Electronic vs Acoustic Drums – The Real Differences

I often get asked “which is better, electronic or acoustic drums?”. To me, it’s like a parent being asked to pick their favorite child!

I love them both, and they’re suitable for different situations. In this article, I’m going to explain the real differences and pros/cons of each.

This site may be dedicated to electronic drums, but we still absolutely love acoustic drums!

Electronic and acoustic drums can be quite different in many ways. Each type is stronger in certain aspects. So, the following article is about to show in which areas acoustic drums are better, as well as to point all strong points of electronic drum sets.

The Winner – Electronic Drums vs Acoustic Drums across different factors:

Electronic Drums Acoustic Drums
Variety of sound
Depth of sound
Price (Varies) (Varies)
Quietness
Presence on stage
Ease of transport
Setup
Skills and feel improvement
Tactile response
Ease of Recording

Videos showing the differences

Acoustic Drums

This is a Pearl Session Select, which is a very decent quality kit (Check price on Amazon)

Electronic Drums

This is the excellent Roland TD-50KV, you can find a very similar version of this kit here on amazon.

The differences – in more detail

Variety of sound:

Acoustic drums are pretty straightforward in this aspect. You can count on nothing more than typical sounds of snares, toms, hi-hats, cymbals etc. On the other side, a good electronic drum set usually comes with a highly capable module, which includes tons of sounds.

First of all, every module features at least a dozen of different drum sets, as well as hundreds of individual sounds, including pretty much every kind of percussion instrument you can imagine. Add to this MIDI conversion and options seem endless. Therefore, electronic drums are an obvious winner in this category.

Depth of sound:

Technological progress is going forward pretty rapidly these days and this refers to digital sound technology too. So, it’s no wonder that modern electronic drums sound so realistic. When you hear old drum sets from a couple of decades ago, it looks like it’s not even worth comparing.

However, they can still be far away from traditional acoustic drums. The sound of the electronic module might sound realistic, but pads still lag behind in terms of punch, density and overall playing dynamics. Therefore, acoustic drums are still an obvious choice if you want a really broad depth of sound in your playing.

Price:

First of all, keep in mind that both electronic and acoustic drum sets come in a pretty wide price range, which starts with just a few hundreds of dollars. If you do your research, you can get decent entry-level models for both of these at relatively low price.

High end electronic drums sets can be very expensive, but the same is very much true when building a top-end acoustic kits (where you could pay hundreds of dollars for ONE cymbal!).

Quietness:

Electronic drum sets are the absolute winner when it comes to quietness. Older generations know all the troubles of acoustic drums and their loudness. Practice sessions can be a real nightmare for your family and neighbors. On the other side, pads of electronic drums can be very quiet. Just put your headphones and you can practice all day long.

However, this is not true for all electronic drum sets. Mylar heads, for example, can be significantly louder than mesh heads. Mylar heads on e-drums are becoming less popular for this very reason.

Presence on stage:

Despite it doesn’t have anything to do with music, stage presence is an essential part of live performances, especially if you play popular music genres. Of course, singers are often in the focus, but drummers have an important role as well. Generally, acoustic drums would leave a significantly stronger impression on the audience, so the choice in this case seems obvious.

After all, you need a bass drum that is large enough to put your name or bend’s logo on it. That said… top-end acoustic kits like the premium models of the Roland TD-50 now include a full acoustic bass drum with a pad/trigger attached to the inside.

Ease of transport:

Bulky bass drum, large snares and numerous stands are just some of the parts of acoustic drums that will take a lot of space in your trunk. Not to mention that you have to carry them in your hands all the time. On the other side, electronic drums are much easier to transport. They are smaller, lighter and usually feature fewer stands than acoustic drums. So, there is no doubt which one takes the point for portability.

Setup:

This is another aspect where electronic drums are much more convenient. Not only that acoustic drums are less portable, but they also take much more time to prepare for the performance. As I’ve already mentioned, they usually feature more parts, more stands and screws. Another inevitable thing to do before every session is tuning. This job can take quite a long time.

Setting up microphones and sound checking acoustic drums can take a long time too. Oftentimes, snare buzz or some rouge tuning of a rack-tom can start causing problems with feedback.

Despite everything said above, enduring the setup of acoustic drums for live performances can certainly be worth the pain!

Skills and feel improvement:

You can certainly start playing drums on an electronic kit, but it’s definitely worth getting some practice on an acoustic kit. The biggest reason here is because of dynamics.

Unless you’ve invested good money in an intermediate or high-end e-drums kit, you could lag behind a little in playing playing dynamics. It’s important to note that dynamics are one of the most essential aspects of playing any kind of musical instrument.

One of the main areas of dynamic differences are around cymbals. Cymbals emit such a vast array of subtle frequencies that they are extremely difficult to emulate from an electronic point of view.

Recording:

Among all instruments, acoustic drums are probably most complicated to record. Simply, this process requires a lot of tools and could take hours to set all things in the right way. First of all, you need a whole armada of good microphones, as well as a mixer with enough channels to cover all of them. Also, keep in mind that you need a room with good sound insulation if you want your recording to sound any good. Finally, mixing everything together will probably take a lot of time, so electronic drums seem like real saviors in this case.

This is where electronic drums really shine. You can simply use a direct line out and start recording immediately. Also, you can always trigger software samples or even go for MIDI files if you want. Of course, you don’t need a studio or any kind of sound insulation. You bedroom would even be perfect for all kinds of recordings.

Check out our guides

Be sure to check out our guide on electronic drums sets:

best_electronic_drum_sets

Also, if you’re new to drums and want to pick up a new acoustic drum set then check out this article:

best-acoustic-drum-sets-banner

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s impossible to say which one is better. After all, the result is tied. Both types of drums shine in several aspects. Also, future generations will probably look on these things in a completely different way.

Electronic drums obviously offer more convenience and practicality, as well as a variety of sounds. On the other side, acoustic sets retain the dynamics and feel that are very difficult to replace.

All in all, we are ready to make a conclusion that choosing between these two types completely depends on personal preference.

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