- Best Drum Set Complete Guide
- Best Drum Kits Reviews
- 1. Premier Drums Series Elite Review
- 2. DW Collector’s Series Review
- 3. Gretsch USA Brooklyn Review
- 4. Pearl MCX924XSP Review
- 5. Tama Superstar Classic Review
- 6. Mapex Saturn V MH Exotic Drum Set Review
- 7. Pearl Vision Birch VBL Review
- 8. Ludwig USA Keystone Review
- 9. Pearl Reference RF924XSP Review
- 10. Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Review
- 11. Tama Imperialstar Review
- 12. Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz Review
- 13. Pearl Roadshow Review
Finding the best quality drum set can be challenging and time-consuming due to the sheer number of products on the market. Even within individual brands, there are a wide range of options and configurations that need to be considered. In addition to our comparison and reviews of the best drum sets on the market, we go over the various kinds of drums and their parts, go into further depth regarding the popular drum configurations, and then go on to highlight some of the important things to consider when searching for a drum kit.
Generally speaking, most drum sets are composed of at least three of the main drum types, including a bass drum, snare drum, and tom-toms. When picking the best set of drums for you, keep the goals you have in mind as this should give you a better idea as to how many of each drum type you’ll need. Typically, the combination most often seen on entry to mid-range sets is composed of at least one bass drum and one snare drum, along with two or three tom-toms. Higher-end, larger drum kits often have more of each, for example you can find a drum set with two bass drums, or four tom-toms. For beginners, we always recommend at least a 4-piece (e.g. bass, snare, two tom-toms), though if at all possible a 5-piece (bass, snare, three tom-toms) set will do you much better.
Ayotte, Yamaha, ddrum, DW, Trick, Tama, Gretsch, Ludwig, Mapex, Pearl, Rogers, PDP, Premiere, and Sonor are some of the top dogs when it comes to drum set manufacturers – the drum kits produced by these brands have stood the tests of time and are consistently rated highly by professional musicians and the average consumer. Each brand produces a range of different drum sets, all of which vary in quality, price, and target audience. Regardless, the brand does matter when it comes to quality, so stick to one of the big names if you have the ability.
The sound produced by a drum set is one of the most important factors when determining which is best for you. Personal preference plays a significant role in this determination, though in our opinion (and based on the opinions of most professional drummers we’ve encountered), wooden drums sound better and are often favored over their metal or synthetic counterparts. Additionally, the build quality of the drums and hardware themselves vary. Some mounting hardware is much more easily adjusted, and may come in die-cast or provide triple-flange hoops. You can expect a higher price tag if you’re after some of these premium features.
In this guide, we curate and review some of the best drum sets for the money, for any budget. If you’re just looking to have a bit of fun at home in your garage, there is probably no need to spend thousands on a drum kit – we’ve got you covered with some cheap, yet high-quality drum sets. If you’re a professional musician who simply needs the best, regardless of price – we’ve also got you covered. This complete guide is a one-stop shop for all of your drum set buying needs.
Best Drum Set Complete Guide
Premier Drums Series Elite
DW Collector's Series 4-Piece FinishPly
Gretsch USA Brooklyn Series 4 Piece Drum Shell Pack
Pearl MCX924XSP/C MCX 4-Piece Drum Set
Tama Superstar Classic Custom 7-Piece Shell Pack
Mapex Saturn V MH Exotic 4pc Deep Water Ash Burl Drum Set SV504XBSSL
Pearl VBL925SP/C Vision Birch Lacquer 5-Piece Drum Set
Ludwig USA Keystone 3 Pc Drum Kit - Includes: Hardware, Drumsticks & Survival Guide
Pearl RF924XSP/C Reference 4-Piece Drum Set
Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5-Piece Shell Pack - 22" Kick
Tama Imperialstar 5-Piece Complete Drum Kit with 22" Bass Drum & Hardware, Cymbals
Gretsch CT1J484SWC 2014 Catalina Club Jazz 4-Piece Shell Pack
Pearl RS525SCC706 Roadshow 5-Piece Drum Set
Types of Drums
Bass Drum: The bass drum is the generally the largest drum in the set, and is responsible for introducing an element of bass into the groove. Drumsticks typically never make contact with the bass drum, instead they are played with a pedal, which is often positioned on the floor where the bass drum is located. A bass drum consists of both playing and resonant drumheads. During musical performances or concert scenarios, a microphone can be placed near the hole of the resonant head for further amplification of the bass element, though in smaller areas (e.g. bar settings) this is not usually needed as the bass drum is quite powerful and loud as is (in fact, I have a nice setup in the garage of my house, and I can only play up to a certain hour because the bass reverberates through the walls into my neighbors’ houses – 3 houses down). The typical bass drum has 16-18 inches of depth, and measures somewhere within 18-25 inches in diameter. The size of the drum influences the sound it will produce – some sound better for certain genres of music than others. For the beginner, a 22-inch bass drum should suffice. For the jazz musician, you’re probably better off with something a bit smaller like 18-21 inches. If you’re into rock or metal, one or two 20-22 inch bass drums are ideal. These recommendations are not set in stone and it really boils down to personal preference in most cases. Double drum base techniques can be accomplished with a second bass drum or through the utilization of a double bass drum pedal, on a single bass drum.
Snare Drum: The snare drum has metal cables or wire snares that are sprawled across the bottom head of the drum – this small addition results in that unique snap sound that the snare is known for. In most cases, the tautness of the cables snares that are spread across the drum can be adjusted, which has an influence on the sound that is produced. The snare drum is responsible for producing the backbeat of a groove, and is composed of batter (the top of the drum where the drumstick makes contact) and resonant drumheads. The snare drum has a depth of anywhere between 5 and 6½ inches, and is typically 14 inches in diameter. Specialty snare drums, which come in much smaller or larger sizes, are available and used for different genres of music like merengue or hip-hop. Most drum sets usually come with only one snare drum, but professional drummers often add additional snares for greater variety in their choice of sounds.
Tom-Toms: This type of drum is typically used for fills, and lack any wire snares. Toms can be found in a wide range of sizes that can either be freestanding or mounted directly to the bass drum. The most common sizes include tom-toms that measure 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 18 inches in diameter, all of which produce their own distinct sounds. For the beginner, make sure you find a drum set with at least three tom-toms (10, 12, and 16 inches is standard). More toms can always be purchased separately and added to the drum set as experience level grows. There is no standard set depth for tom-toms, though what you’ll usually see is that they are anywhere from 2 to 4 inches shallower than the size of the drum itself (in diameter). For instance, a common floor tom size is 16” x 12” (16-inches in diameter, 12-inches depth). Floor toms have legs and are free standing, meaning they stand directly on the ground instead of being mounted. It is not unusual to see a floor tom with an equal diameter-to-depth ratio (ex: 16” x 16”). Mounted tom-toms (also referred to as rack toms) are mounted directly to the bass drum or a tom stand on poles. A starter set often includes two mounted toms (usually 10 and 12 inches, or 12 and 13 inches) and one floor tom (usually 16 inches, or 18 inches), though the combinations found in each kit vary based on quantity and the size of the tom-toms. Out of personal preference, some drummers have more free-standing toms than mounted.
Components of Drums and Other Hardware
To make things simple, each item found in a drum set can be categorically defined into one of three separate groups (drums, cymbals, hardware). The more expensive drum sets are often shell only, and so you’ll be responsible for purchasing your own cymbals, drumheads, and hardware. Also, the snare drum might not even be included, so be sure to take these additional costs into account if your drum set does not include some of these necessities. Beginner drum sets usually come with everything you need (all the basics), including any needed hardware for setup or mounting, the drumheads, a few basic cymbals, and even a pedal for the bass drum.
Shell: The shell of the drum plays a significant role in the resulting sound that is produced. Shells can be made from wood (e.g. mahogany, maple, birch, walnut, beech, cherry, bubinga, poplar, ash), metals (e.g. brass, aluminum, copper, titanium, bronze, steel), or a wide range of synthetic materials (e.g. carbon fiber, fiberglass, acrylic, plastics). Many bass drums and toms are constructed with wooden (e.g. plywood, stave, steam-bent, solid, segment) or metal (e.g. spun, cast) shells in different ways, all of which have influence over the resulting sound produced by the drum.
Drumhead: The drumhead (typically made of calfskin or various plastics) is stretched across the bottom and top of the shell, and are responsible for containing and releasing pressure when struck by a drum stick. The vibrations result in the sound that is produced. The drumhead struck by the drumstick is referred to as the batter head, while the resonant head is located on the bottom. Both the batter and the resonant drumhead play equally important roles in the production of sound.
Hoop: The hoops are responsible for containment of the drumheads (they keep the drumhead from moving away from proper position). They are designed with holes that are to be used for the bolts, which provide the tension. Drums typically have metal (though wooden is common as well) circular hoops positioned on the top and bottom of the shell. Hoops play a significant role in keeping the drumheads in place.
Tension Bolts and Lugs: The tension bolts screw directly into the metal lugs that are attached to the shell. A drum key is used to tighten or loosen the bolts, resulting in increased or decreased tension of the drumhead, which has an affect on how high or low the pitch of the drum will sound when struck.
Cymbals: Beginner drum sets typically include various basic cymbals (e.g. high-hats, crash cymbal, ride cymbal), though mid-range and higher-end drum sets do not include any cymbals at all and must be purchased separately. Cymbals may be used in pairs (ex: pair of high-hat cymbals), or individually. They are usually round in shape, and composed of various types of alloy. Cymbals are often used in jazz bands, heavy metal and rock groups, marching groups, along with percussion and orchestra ensembles. Some forgo the drums completely and strictly play the cymbals – these individuals are known as cymbalists. For the purpose of this guide, cymbals are to be used in conjunction with a set of drums.
Cymbal Stands: Similarly to tom-tom stands, a cymbal stand provides a stable means of mounting and support for cymbals. Most drum kits designed for beginners include cymbal stands (e.g. high-hat stand, boom cymbal stand, straight cymbal stand) along with any basic included cymbals.
Mounting Hardware: The mounting hardware is needed to attach rack toms to the top of the bass drum, or an additional tom stand. There is a wide range of techniques that can be used to mount, and so mounting hardware varies in design. The best mounting hardware does not require any drilling or piercing of the shell on the drum, as this can negatively affect the drum’s overall performance, and may complicate things if you ever try to transfer it to another drum set. Some modern types of mounting hardware are designed to attach directly to the rim and may even suspend the drum for a higher-quality sound. Typically, one or two poles are used to attach rack toms to the bass drum or a tom stand. The larger the drum is, and the greater amount of stability required determines the number of support poles that are needed.
Floor Tom Legs: Most freestanding toms are equipped with three metal support structures (legs) that are in direct contact with the ground. These are usually capable of height and angle adjustment based on personal preference and the height of the drummer.
Snare Drum Stand: The snare drum stand, as you probably guessed, is used to provide a means of support and stability (and proper elevation) for the snare drum. Typically, it has three legs (sometimes more), a center post, snare basket, and some sort of tilter hardware (for angle adjustments).
Bass Drum Pedal: The bass drum pedal can be pressed by the foot, which then strikes the head of the bass drum. You purchase single or dual bass pedals based on your goals. These can be mounted to the bass drum itself, or may be simply placed under it – in many cases the weight of the bass drum is enough to keep it in place.
Bass Drum Spurs: Similarly to floor tom legs, the bass drum spurs are support structures (often made of metal) that make direct contact with the ground to prevent movement or rolling of the bass drum.
Drum Throne: The drum throne is really just a glorified name for the stool that the drummer sits on while playing. These come in all shapes and sizes, and vary widely when it comes to build quality, and the overall comfort of the stool.
Best Drum Kits Reviews
1. Premier Drums Series Elite Review
Considering the fact that the United Kingdom is the source of many rock and roll hall-of-famers, its fitting that UK-based drum manufacturer, Premiere, is responsible for some of the best quality drum sets for rock or jazz music. This top-end drum set is the perfect match for rock music lovers, though it is geared toward a much larger audience and can be readily used for all genres. Travis Barker would definitely approve. There are three shell options to choose from: birch, maple, or Gen-X (a combination of both birch and maple). The ISO mount system is exceptionally crafted, and provides sustain and a clear, rich tone in a reliable fashion. The drums were carefully crafted and designed to be slightly undersized which results in a great sound after proper tuning.
The drums hold the pitch and the overall quality of the Remo drumheads is superior to that of the usual stock heads found on other competing drum kits. The floor tom has a rich sound and its leg brackets can easily me adjusted without much fuss or effort. The quality of the hardware is equally impressive to the drums themselves. This Elite Series 4-piece drum set is our favorite drum set overall, as you are provided with a combination of excellent build quality and an aesthetically pleasing, elegant design.
2. DW Collector’s Series Review
The DW Collector’s Series drum set is one of the best for pretty much any genre of music. These drums are top-of-the-line when it comes to tonal accuracy, and produce a rich and powerful sound. The shells come in a variety of wood materials (e.g. maples, birch, cherry, hybrid shells). The hardware itself is solid, made of durable materials and can be customized based on user preference.
You have the option of going with triple flange or die cast hoops. Additionally, you have your pick of various maple bass drum hoops, which are covered in high-quality leather. DW’s acclaimed true hoop is made to last, and should keep the drums in tune for longer than what you’d typically find on other drum kits. The tom mounts can be adjusted, and provide a support and stability, while leaving vibrations resulting from drumstick impact, unaffected. You are provided with a larger tuning range due to the true-pitch tuning rods, which have a finer threading, found on the DW Collector’s Series 4-piece drum set. Aside from the top-end performance of the drums themselves, this DW drum set stands apart from the rest with the degree of customization that is possible. You have a choice of various wood materials for the drum shells and 5 different finishes for the hardware. There are various options regarding how you mount the tom-toms on the bass. These drums have an elegant look and feel. Overall, if you’re looking for some of the best quality drums out there, the DW Collector’s Series 4-piece drum set is in a class of its own and absolutely deserves your consideration.
3. Gretsch USA Brooklyn Review
The Gretsch Brooklyn drum kit has the look and feel, and plays similarly to what you’d expect on classic 1950’s era drum sets. The Brooklyn’s noticeably vintage sound is perfect for a wide range of genres, though we can see a jazz musician like Art Blakey greatly appreciating these beauties. There are a number of shell options, though the maple hybrid’s caught our attention. The double-flanged 302 hoops play a role in producing that vintage sound that can be heard when played. The tom-toms’ mounting hardware (which is not directly mounted to the bass drum) is built with stability in mind, and unintended movement during playing would be unlikely. If you are able to find it, check out the Nitron finish, which we find especially cool to look at.
4. Pearl MCX924XSP Review
The Pearl Masters drum set has been a favorite for beginner and advanced drummers for quite some time. The shells found on the MCX are made of a beautifully well-crafted maple, which resonate in an almost acoustic fashion. Rock and heavy metal music is a bit bipolar in nature, meaning that melodies often go from one extreme to the next, and this is why a drum set that is highly responsive in almost any dynamic range, like the Pearl MCX, is highly sought.
These drums are powerful enough to not be overpowered by the guitars, bass, digital pianos, and whatever other musical instrument that is played alongside with it. The MXC is equipped with die-cast hoops (MasterCast) that are solid and work as they should and provide an accurate sound dependent on the force of drumstick impacts. The mounting hardware is rattle-free, allowing you to unleash your inner Lars Ulrich without movement or interruption. Like many of our other top-picks, the Pearl MCX series drum set comes in a variety of finishes based on aesthetic preferences.
5. Tama Superstar Classic Review
Tama’s Superstar Classic 7-piece drum set is one of our favorites, and arguably the best mid-tier drum kit that comes equipped with high-quality maple shells. All maple shells are highly desired by drummers, and this Tama drum set is one of the least expensive that we could find, without sacrificing in construction and overall build quality. Maple as known for its versatility in musical styles, and so these high-quality drums can reliably play great sounding music regardless of genre or skill level. The Superstar Classic is pretty much the maple alternative to the Tama Silverstar drums (which are also highly rated).
Tama’s acclaimed Star-Cast Mount system, is designed to be non-intrusive while helping reduce hardware hiss during play. The ball and socket tom-tom holders are noticeably better at keeping the drums them in place, and the excellent build quality leaves us to believe that they are superior as far as durability is concerned. The stock drumheads included with purchase really can’t compete with those that come with the higher-end drum kits we’ve reviewed above, though they are sufficient for most people and can always be replaced in the future if needed. Overall, the Tama Superstar Classic is an affordable 7-piece maple drum set that is as nice to look at as it is fun to play.
6. Mapex Saturn V MH Exotic Drum Set Review
Mapex Saturn drum sets are some of the all time-favorites for beginner and advanced drummers alike. The V MH Exotic drum set is no exception, as they take a nice combination maple’s reliable tones with walnut’s extra kick in the pants. This Mapex Saturn drum kit is equipped with a SONIClear bearing edge, which is basically just a bit more exposure of the edge to the drum shell, resulting in enhanced reverberation through the drum shell. Similarly to most drum kits, there are several different color options to choose from.
This powerhouse of a drum set produces forceful sound that is perfect for rock and metal bands (Chris Adler from Lamb of God is a Mapex Saturn fan), as they speak noticeably louder than some of the other drums composed of alternative materials. The 2.3-millimeter Power hoops are designed for a sound comparable to that of professional quality, and the tom-tom mounts as a whole are solid and highly functional. You’ll have difficulty finding anything other than a shell only pack (only drums), so you should probably plan to spend extra on cymbals and other required materials. You should consider this a professional level kit, and so the lack of additional included items is not out of the ordinary.
7. Pearl Vision Birch VBL Review
The Pearl Vision VBL drum set is relatively inexpensive for the quality you get. The steel SensiTone snare drum that comes with Pearl’s Vision drum kit is an excellent addition to an already great sounding set of drums – this snare can even be integrated into a higher-quality set of drums in the future. The 930 series hardware included in this setup is some of the best at this price range, and the I.S.S (Integrated Suspension System) mounting system used for the tom-toms does a great job reducing the likelihood of unnecessary buzz while playing. The toms are allowed to resonate, true to their nature, without any dampening or lessening of overall sound quality from such supportive mounting hardware. The wood bass drum rims, along with recessed bass drum claws catch your attention right away. Just like with other mid-range drum sets, there are a variety of configurations and colors to choose from.
8. Ludwig USA Keystone Review
The Keystone series is one of Ludwig’s more popular drum sets, and for good reason. Many classic rock legends utilized Ludwig’s drums as they are built with durability in mind, and sound great without sacrificing on mounting support or being prone to other design flaws. This drum set has a great degree of versatility when it comes to which genre of music they are best for, though the overall sound stemming from the maple and oak shells makes them a bit louder and adds to that vintage sound you might expect. Rock music is often composed of many loud instruments, and so the drum set should be equally loud, as it must compensate a bit to not be overplayed.
Both the inner and outer bearing edge of the shell is angled, with some flat dense wood somewhere along the center. The design quality of this edge enhances vibration, resulting in a louder, hard-hitting sound. The rack toms are mounted on top of one of the lugs, instead of being drilled into or directly placed on the drums themselves – the result is a fuller, all-encompassing sound. The cymbal arms can be attached either to the floor tom, or the bass drum, based on personal preference and how you want your setup to be positioned. The cymbal stands that do come with the kit are highly functional. There are a number of choices to choose from regarding the finish of the drum set, each of them is equally attractive.
9. Pearl Reference RF924XSP Review
Pearl’s Reference series drum set is in a league of its own, when it comes to the build, durability, and sound quality that these provide – not to mention how nice they are on the eyes. The combination of mahogany, birch, and maple of the shells (the percentage of each is dependent on the size and type of the drum) brings with it an intensely enjoyable sound that would be great for just about any type of music. Each drum uses a separate amount of each type of wood. For instance, the larger drums incorporate more mahogany into their design, which results in a deeper tone that otherwise couldn’t be achieved with a single type of alternative wood. Bridge lugs are also incorporated into the design to avoid negatively affecting the sound.
Pearl’s die-cast hoops are some of the most durable and best performing that you can find at this price range, easily taking a pounding without much give. The tom-toms are mounted with an equally impressive stability and sturdiness. If you’re looking for some of the best sound drums out there, and price is not much of an issue, the Pearl Reference RF924XSP drum set deserves your attention. There are a number of finish and size options to choose from, and a number of different configurations can also be found.
10. Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Review
Yamaha’s combination of versatility and uniquely impressive sound quality make the Stage Custom one of the best drum sets for the money. The birch drum shells are dense enough to take a beating, and are versatile enough in they way they resonate to be suitable for just about any genre of music. Together, the Yamaha YESS mounting system and the ball-joint mounting bracket, provide strength, stability, and allow for easy adjustment for many different placement options depending on individual preference. Music gigs require easy movement and transportation of the musical instruments – and the Yamaha Stage Custom fits these requirements. While the durability of Yamaha drums has always been rated highly, this drum set is also light weight and the perfect setup for the traveling musician who is often in and out of bars and clubs with the band. There are a number of different colors and configurations to choose from, just like most other drum sets out there in this price range.
11. Tama Imperialstar Review
The Imperialstar drum set is one of our favorites, as both the drums and additional hardware are well-built, and the sound made accounts for a certain degree of versatility. While the loud, heavy-impact sound that they produce is great for rock or heavy metal music, the 8-ply poplar wood that the shells are made of really is suitable for beginner and advanced drummers in a variety of settings. Whether you jam out in your garage with a pair of in-ear monitors, or you’re part of a band playing in front of live audiences every Saturday night, the Tama Imperialstar drum set is loud enough to excite just about anyone. The ball and socket joint along with the L-rods used for tom-tom mounting provide stability, and reduce any unwanted, distracting buzz of the hardware.
The Iron Cobra 200 pedal that is included in this set is of high-quality, allowing a gentle or forceful impact against the bass drum head depending on the circumstance – overall this is one of our favorite beginner’s bass pedals. Various MEINL cymbals are also included with the set for your enjoyment – this is a big name brand and they are of high quality (something you could easily purchase on its own). The bass drum is not made of wood, but instead a durable synthetic material, which has a very similar heavy-hitting sound to other types of wood, but also its own unique feel.
12. Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz Review
Gretsch is one drum manufacturer that is widely known for their great sounding studio drum sets. Not only do these bad boys sound excellent live, but the birch shells are uniquely advantageous when heard through microphones during a recording session. As a mid-range drum kit, the ability to make high-quality, accurate recordings of your drumming is almost a requirement. The tom-mounts are durable, and provide very little give – just enough for them to speak when needed. The wooden bass drum hoop is nice to look at, which matches the drum set’s overall finish. Gretsch brings about that Classic look to a drum set, and so for those jazz drummers who enjoy an aesthetic achievement such as this, would surely feel great about owning this Catalina Club Jazz drum setup.
13. Pearl Roadshow Review
Pearl is one of the top-dogs when it comes to drumming brands, and the Roadshow 5-piece drum set is an entry-level drum kit that is a great choice for just about any aspiring drummer. Durability is an important feature for any drum set, especially those geared towards beginners as they are less likely to understand or follow through with proper use or care procedures. Maintaining the Pearl Roadshow drum set is as easy as it gets. The drum shells and all of their components are built to last, and the hardware is equally as solid. This is the best drum set under $500.
The 9-ply hardwood shells sound pretty good once proper tuning is accomplished, and are versatile enough to allow for those young musicians to experiment with many different genres of music and styles of drumming. Stands for the cymbal, hi-hat, and snare are included in the kit, and are free from rattle or unnecessary movement from occurring while playing. The included bass drum pedal is decent, though this may be one of the first things that will be replaced after a bit of experience is gained because there are some excellent budget-friendly bass pedals out there. Many different color combinations are available to choose from. Overall, the Pearl Roadshow is one of our favorite drum sets for beginners, as it includes pretty much everything you need to get started, and is suitable for upgrades and additional cymbal or tom purchases as time goes on.
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