Buying any set of drums can be a daunting task. But if you are an acoustic drummer looking to buy an electronic drum set, the differences you encounter may throw you a bit.
Once you understand what the modifications are that you need to make, and know a few tips to make the transition, you should find that an electronic drum set has a lot of surprising advantages you may not have considered possible. Here are a few tips on what to look for in an electronic drum set, and a few reviews to help you to start shopping.
Top Pick: Roland TD-11K-S V-Compact Series
Roland designed an electronic that realistically feels and sounds much like an acoustic kit. Very compact, practical hi-hat configuration, comes with a durable and sturdy lightweight metal frame.
Why Trust Me
After playing the drums for thirty years, I have had a lot of experience with acoustic sets and electronic sets, and transitioning back and forth. Mostly, I have found that electronic sets are great for when I have been living in an apartment situation where I needed to practice quietly, but I was also pleasantly surprised at the recording possibilities.
Electronic drums use rubber pads or mesh heads that are placed over a sensor that relays the strike of a drum stick to the module. The module then translates the information that the sensor sends into the appropriate sound, such as a cymbal, bass drum, or snare.
The module is very much the brain of the electronic kit, and it will most likely have a ton of features. Some modules are also capable of interpreting the velocity of the drum stick strike into a dynamic value, and then creating either a soft or loud tone.
Some sets have more than one sensor under a pad which allows it to create multiple sounds. This will let your snare drum create a sound from the drum head, plus a rim shot. Once you get the hang of the electronic drum kit, you will be surprised at the number of different sounds and tones that you can create.
Once you get the hang of the electronic drum kit, you will be surprised at the number of different sounds and tones that you can create.
Most acoustic drum players are aware that they will have to make a few adjustments with the way they play when they transition to playing on an electronic drum set. Electronic drums are different than acoustic drums in several ways. Here are a few ways to make the transition a little bit easier:
Acoustic drummers are used to being right on top of the sound that they are getting from their drum set, so the way that sound comes out of an electronic drum set may throw them.
Electronic drum sets have sound that will come from a distant source, so they will be hearing sound come from a house sound system or a stage monitor.
Guitarists and keyboardists have already learned that the sound their instrument makes will come out a little way away from them, but a drummer will have to make a few adjustments. One tip is to get a good monitor system that can give you more of the acoustic feel that the sound is coming from right around you.
You don’t need something that will blow you away with volume, just a couple of small monitors will help you get that feel that you are accustomed to, and they should fit into your set up well or they can be mounted near you.
Delayed response is another aspect of the electronic drums that an acoustic drummer will not be prepared for. Some MIDI can process several hundred notes a second, but you may still feel a delayed response of a few milliseconds between what you are playing and what you hear.
Just be prepared for the experience, and it passes after a little while when your ears figure out how to make the adjustment.
Acoustic drummers will immediately be able to feel a difference of the mesh heads and rubber pads used on electronic drum kits. There is a different attack, rebound, and basic stick response than a drummer feels on a cymbal, drum head, or percussion instrument.
The rubber pads should be reminiscent of the feel of a practice pad, and they do make you adjust your dynamics as you play. Unlike varying tension heads on actual drums, rubber pads do at least have the same rebound features from pad to pad.
However, mesh heads can be tensioned to varying degrees, and they have more of a give when you hit them, which will give you some added creations choices.
You can get different volumes of sound from percussion instruments, which is often difficult to duplicate these dynamics on an electronic set. This comes with the module’s difficulty in translating these dynamics from the signals it receives from the pads.
Dynamic ranges are often restricted by modules to a specific MIDI range of 0, or silent, all the way to 127, the maximum velocity. One tip is to check out the ability of your module to adjust for velocity curves and sensitivity, which can make your kit a lot more playable.
Depending on the type of percussion sound you are trying to elicit from your electronic drum set, it can be difficult to know how to strike the pad.
Some drum sounds use a hand strike to get just the right sound, so it can be frustrating to try and figure out how to get the same sound using a stick.
One tip is to use an alternative controller that gives you a surface that make hand playing easier. Overall, a few adjustments and remembering some of these tips will help you make the transition between acoustic drums and electronic drums.
Knowing what the difficulties are beforehand is half the battle, and you will soon find that there are actual benefits to playing on an electronic drum set that you may have found difficult to do on your acoustic set.
Electronic drum sets has most commonly used used a rubber practice pad design. The electronic instrument company Roland has since introduced a new design using mesh heads that replicates an acoustic drum head. Here is a quick comparison of the two designs:
Economical – You will usually find the rubber pad design on kits under $500, plus dual-trigger pads can be found for under $100, so you can add to your electronic drum kit very economically.
Compact – Rubber pads are also great if you don’t have a lot of room, especially if you are in a dorm room or an apartment. They will also work if you need a pad to fit onto your acoustic drums.
Consistent – The response you get from rubber pads does not vary, it is always consistent. Acoustic drum heads will have varying tensions, so you have to adjust your response and rebound from drum to drum.
This does not happen with rubber pads. And when you use percussion controllers, you can get alternative sounds that can include a trigger for sustained loops and tones.
Evolution – Rubber pads have definitely evolved over the years. In years past, rubber pads were hard, and they didn’t give you the rebound that you expected as you moved from pad to pad.
These days, rubber pads have improved designs that provide more give when you hit them, and they also have a lot more of a natural bounce to them.
Realistic – Mesh heads are as close as you can get to a real drum head. They also mimic the give and rebound you feel when you hit a traditional drum head.
Sensitive – Mesh head controllers have the support of the module to give you a wide variety of sound responses depending on where you strike it. It is even possible to play brush sweeps on some heads, they are that sensitive.
Tunable – Mesh heads also have the ability to have their tension adjusted, which is a great advantage. You are able to find the rebound and feel that you prefer.
So if you like to have a pretty tight and bouncy snare head but still want a sound that is more of a heavily muffled snare, you can with mesh heads.
There is no best choice when it comes to drum pads versus mesh heads. It is all a personal preference, and it is dependent on what will fit your needs, as well as your budget, the best.
Why Buy an Electronic Drum Kit
Drummers are a little late in embracing how technology can take them performance to a whole new level. Here are a few benefits to using an electronic drum kit.
If you play several different styles of music, then you will certainly appreciate the versatility of an electronic drum kit. Getting a call to play a last minute gig is easy when you have pre-installed drum kits already in your electronic drum set.
This makes having to own and maintain a vast assortment of acoustic kits to fill all the different music style needs unnecessary.
Live Performance Convenience
Depending on where you are performing, your drum kit may need to be a little quieter than other venues. Churches may need an almost silent performance, while playing in a club may need you to really turn up the volume.
No matter where you play, the module on your electronic drum kit will be able to give you the sound and volume you need.
This is a great advantage when you are on a large stage and you can play without having to mic your drum set, plus you won’t have any feedback, other instrument bleed, and you won’t have to deal with a lot of stands crowding your kit.
The ability to record your playing, and then play it back and edit if you want is an awesome benefit to using an electronic drum kit. You can capture the groove you are working on, but also go in an edit a late hit, or balance out the velocities when necessary.
One of the best benefits of an electronic drum set is the ability to play at any time. You don’t have to worry about waking up the neighbors, or keeping the kids up late.
All drummers get tired of hearing comments about how much noise they must make, so it’s a great option to be able to just have your sound come through headphones and avoid those complaints.
A lot of modules also offer metronomes and practice songs that you can play along with to improve your performance. Plus, most modules also allow you to plug in an MP3 or a CD, so you can play along with your favorite music.
Transporting your drums is always a pain, so having a lightweight, compact option is a great benefit. Instead of carrying around several cases, you can easily slip an electronic kit into your van with plenty of space left for the rest of your bands instruments and amps.
Plus, if you don’t have enough room at home to leave them set up all the time, it will also easily fold down to fit into a closet.
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|Very high-quality, and the mesh head really is able to create an actual snare feel with great sound|
|Has a lot of nice touch features, plus lots of midi options, and it all comes in a durable pack with a beautiful finish|
|Has a realistic feel, and Yamaha has done an excellent job with this set|
|Comes outfitted with a USB-MIDI that will send the MIDI data right to the software or to the other instruments|
|Includes a built in MP3 player and recorder with an A-B looping learning feature, and a 16 bit/44.1 kHz 3D sound generator with a sound high quality stream|
|Comes with standard heads, a crash cymbal, hi-hat, bass drum, ride cymbal, plus four single-zone drum pads|
|Includes training function for beginners, a USB connection to download songs, and a quiet bass kick unit for super quiet playing|
|Can connect to a PA or recording equipment with stereo out, and it has forty different kits to choose from|
Our Recommendation: Roland TD-11K-S V-Compact Series
The Roland TD-11K-S V-Compact Series Electronic Drum Set is part of the Roland dynasty that has been creating high-quality electronic instruments for many years. This is an ideal electronic drums set, and many happy customers agree.
It has the setup of a five piece drum kit which includes three toms, a snare drum, a bass drum, plus three cymbal pads, hi-hats, and a drum module. The whole set is black except for the cymbal bars and the snare drum’s mesh head.
The snare drum is very high-quality, and the mesh head really is able to create an actual snare feel with great sound. The toms are referred to as V-pads by Roland, and they are made of rubber.
The whole kit is very compact with a practical hi-hat configuration, and it comes with a durable and sturdy lightweight metal frame. Roland was actually able to design an electronic kit that realistically feels and sounds much like an acoustic kit.
The TD-11 Drum Sound Module gives you tons of great features which is what Roland is known for. It is outfitted with a USB-port and an aux-port, so that you can transmit and play along to your favorite music using an MP3 or other electronic devices.
The USB-port allow transmission of data to either your computer or other electronic devices which makes it the ideal kit to either play on or record your own compositions.
There are fifty programmable drum kits that you can create your own combination of drum sounds to, plus there 190 different instruments to choose from as you creating your own perfect drum kit.
It also features a built in EQ that gives you ten different ambient effects that can help you create a kit with a lot of depth similar to an acoustic kit.
The Roland family of electronic instruments did not disappoint with the Roland TD-11. This kit has a lot of great features which makes its higher price around $1,000 definitely worth it.
Amazing features and great quality
The mesh on the snare drum gives it a realistic feel
Really helps to recreate a real acoustic set
It is on the expensive side
Runner Up: Alesis DM10 Studio Kit Six-Piece
If you are looking for a professional level electronic drum set, you need to look at the Alesis DM10 Studio Kit. It has a lot of nice touch features, plus lots of midi options, and it all comes in a durable pack with a beautiful finish.
The kit consists of a six piece drum set including a bass drum, snare, two toms, several cymbals, and a huge, expandable rack. This is a very expandable and transportable drum kit.
A high definition drum module makes it an advanced electronic drum set. The premium DM10 module provides extra help in making high-quality music, and it includes the exclusive Dynamic Articulation technology which allows you to change the timbre of the drums while keeping that realistic feel to your music.
You can expand uncompressed samples from real drums and cymbals when you use the MIDI/USBto control software instruments and modules.
This is a great electronic drum set for professionals, and it is great for recording high-quality music. This set runs in the $750 range.
Uses real drum head pads
Has an acoustic feel with Mylar heads and three-flanged counter-hoops
Can do rim clicks and rim shots on the toms and snare pads
Drum module is really top heavy
Other Products to Consider:
Another leader in electronic drum kit manufacturing is Yamaha. All musicians know the name and the quality of their products. Their electronic drums sets have also been evolving like Roland’s, and you will find that they are a leader in the electronic drum set market.
This is also a five piece set that includes a bass drum, three toms, and a snare, along with three cymbals, hi-hat, and drum module. The all black drum set uses rubber to construct the toms and cymbals has a realistic feel, and Yamaha has done an excellent job with this set.
Similar to the Roland TD-11, the Yamaha’s snare drum also has a mesh head, but they do not look at all the same. Lightweight aluminum is used in constructing the rack, giving the whole set a high-quality feel.
This module gives you tons of features, and comes outfitted with over 400 wave ROM drum sounds. Plus it can store up to fifty programmable drum mixes which lets you create your own perfect configuration of drum sounds for any occasion, and then recall them easily by pressing a button.
It also has a choke function that enables you to grasp a cymbal to “choke” it, and it has a built in training function that works with voice guidance.
It also comes outfitted with an aux port, so that you can easily play along with your favorite music from your MP3 or iPode device.
This is a great overall kit with lots of features, and it is ranked high by customers. It is a little on the expensive side at around $800.
Customers love this kit, great reviews
Can choke a cymbal by grabbing it
Voice guidance is a great training feature
The rack that the kit sits on is not very sturdy
The Alesis DM6 USB Kit contains the basics of a five piece drum kit inlcuding a bass drum, snare, and three toms, plus two cymblas, a hi-hat, bass drum pedal, and the computer that controls it all. It is solid black, except for the chrome cymbal bars and kick pad.
It is a lightweight kit that is easy to ship, and transport if necessary. It has great feeling toms and snare drum, and it is about as close as you can get to duplicating the actual feel of a drum head.
The DM6 comes outfitted with a USB-MIDI that will send the MIDI data right to the software or to the other instruments. The on-board module gives you a ton of features you wouldn’t expect for this price range.
It also comes equipped with an aux port so you can practice with an outside audio source such as an MP3 or another instrument. You can choose from 108 total sounds that include drum, percussion sounds, and cymbals.
Plus, you can even design your own fifteen special programmable drum sets, which means that you can pick any of the sounds you prefer for whatever kit part, and then save that entire kit to play back later.
Although this set isn’t exactly the same as playing on real drum set, it does duplicate the feel fairly well. This is a great electronic drum set for the amazing price of just over $300.
Tons of features for a very low price
One of the better electronic drum sets on the market
Comes equipped with an AUX and USB-MIDI, so you can either play along or transmit what you have recorded
Doesn’t quite have the same feel as a real drum kit
The Pyle-Pro PED02M Electronic Thunder Drum Kit has been becoming a popular choice among musicians. It is a compact kit that features eleven pre-set drum kits that includes four variations. It includes a bass drum, snare, and three toms along with a bass pedal.
The module has a built in metronome, two cymbal pads, and an advanced drum rack. It also includes a built in MP3 player and recorder with an A-B looping learning feature, and a 16 bit/44.1 kHz 3D sound generator with a sound high quality stream.
The digital sound module comes complete with console controls that let you control how the system communicates, and lets you synchronize with samplers, drum machines, synthesizers, MIDI controllers, sound cards, and other computers so that you provide awesome audio fidelity.
This is a great electronic drum set for beginners or those that are budget conscious. You can find the Pyle-Pro under $300.
Very lightweight, plus has the feel of a drum set
Has tons of pre-recorded songs and song kits to choose from
Easy to sync up your MP3files
Can be difficult to set up with all the digital features
The Ddrums DD1 Electronic Drum Kit is a very durable kit, and it works great in very tight spaces. It is easy to use, and it is a lot of fun to play on making it an awesome alternative to an acoustic drum set. It comes with standard heads, a crash cymbal, hi-hat, bass drum, ride cymbal, plus four single-zone drum pads.
The module on the Ddrums has a wide variety of 200 percussion and drum sounds that include:
64 miscellaneous percussion sounds
14 high hats
24 electronic toms
42 accessory toms
12 electronic snare drums
40 accessory snare drums
The module also has ten user-programmable kits, plus twenty preset kit with fifty preset song options.
The Ddrums also has groundbreaking acoustic feeling Real Head pads that come in both 8 and 10 inch sizes. The dual zone pads come with real Mylar heads, plus three-flanged counter-hoops that give you a real feel when you want it. This is a moderately priced kit for just under $600.
Durable and well-built kit
Sturdy rack system
Very versatile for the money
Bass drum not sensitive enough
The most current line of electronic drums that Yamaha has includes the DTX400K customizable drum kits electronic drum set which is one of the many popular choices on the market.
It feature a 10 basic kit configurations to choose from that include 10” cymbals, 7.5” drum pads. The Yamaha DTX400K also includes training function for beginners, a USB connection to download songs, and a quiet bass kick unit for super quiet playing.
It also includes a 3-zone snare that you can do rim shots on, a bass drum pad that lets you use a double pedal that includes a real pedal also, and an advanced HH65 Remote hi-hat controller. This is another moderately priced kit in the mid $400’s.
Easy to assemble, great sound for an entry level set
Lightweight, very compact, and rugged
Training set for each of the sets to practice along with are great
Cannot modify any of the preloaded sets
This is another affordable electronic drum set from Alesis for around the same price as a Yamaha set. The Alesis Session Five Piece Ultra Compact Electronic Drum set includes a super quiet StealthKick 2 trigger, choke on the crash cymbal, and an Alesis kick pedal with inverted beater.
It also can connect to a PA or recording equipment with stereo out, and it has forty different kits to choose from. The best feature of the Alesis Session set is the USB MIDI connection that is great for home studios that need virtual instruments. This is a very affordable set at $375.
Easy to assemble out of the box and durable
Snare has its own rack mount which makes set up easier
Great sound, plays and responds well to different velocities
Hi-hat pedal does not work well