Best Drum Set
There are many companies which manufacture drum sets and they each produce several different types and models. As long as you have all the necessary information, picking out a drum set can be a very fun experience. Backed by 20 years of experience, I've chosen the best drum sets in a variety of categories which will help narrow your search. Also check out our drum set buyers guide below for additional details to help you choose a kit suited to your needs.
Pearl Export EXL Drum Set
Ludwig Accent LC175 Accent Drive Drum Set
Pearl Roadshow 5-Piece Drum Set
Premier Drums Series Elite Drum Set
Pearl Masters Drum Kit
Pearl Reference RF924XSP Drum Set
Tama Starclassic Maple Drum Set
Mapex Saturn V MH Exotic Drum Set
Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz Drum Set
Yamaha Absolute Maple Drum Set
Sonor Special Edition Bop SE Drum Set
ddrum D1 JR Complete 5 Piece Drum Set
Pacific Drums PDJR18KTCB 5-Piece Drum Set
Union Drums Union UJ5BK Junior 5-Piece Black Drum Set
Yamaha PHX High End Drum Set
Gretsch USA Custom High End Drum Kit
Pearl Masterworks Drum Kit
Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5-Piece Drum Set
PDP Concept Maple Series Drum Set
Tama Superstar Classic Custom Seven Piece Drum Set
My first drum set was a Pearl Export and it still sounds great today. Over the years, the Export line has gone through many model numbers but all exports generally sound better than any other beginner kits. In fact, I would say that they’re in a class by themselves between beginner and mid-level.
There have been some drastic improvements in the Export, and the most important is the tom mounting hardware. They now use the S.S.T system with Opti-Loc mounts which allow the drum to sing without drilling extra holes in the shell. It also eliminates hardware buzz, but maintains the durability that Exports are known for.
There are several different color and configurations available. The included hardware is far superior to any other entry-level kits. A D930 single pedal is usually included and it is great. The double version of this pedal actually made my list of best double bass drum pedal! The kit usually does not include cymbals, but it is rare to keep included cymbals for longer than a year anyways.
It is important to note that there are two separate lines, which are EXX and EXL. Basically the drums are the same but the finish is different. I prefer the EXL because I like the color options better, but both models essentially sound the same. While I do love the less expensive Pearl Roadstar kit, I highly recommend spending a few extra dollars on the Export. The quality of hardware and sound of the drums make it worth the extra money.
The Ludwig Accent is the most dependable kit for a beginner. Ludwig has been making drums for a long time, and they have always produced drums that sound great. The Accent has poplar shells that sound better than most entry-level kits while the hardware is very durable and can take some abuse.
There are three different configurations to choose from. I prefer the Accent drive set-up because it includes a 22 inch bass drum, and a bigger floor tom and snare. I also prefer to have two mounted toms, rather than 2 floor toms. This kit usually includes a throne, bass drum pedal, and 200 series cymbal, hi hat and snare stands. These stands are very durable for entry-level hardware.
There are four different colors to choose from that give the kit a nice look. This kit is extremely affordable and will last until you can afford a mid-level kit. It makes me feel good to have the name Ludwig on a kit that I recommend to my students and this pick is no exception.
Pearl has a long-standing reputation for making durable drums that sound great and their Roadshow drum kit Pearl’s is a well-made, entry-level drum set perfect for any aspiring drummer. Durability is particularly important in an entry-level kit, because beginners often don’t yet know how to care for their drums. Even just stripping a tom mount can ruin the kits playability which in turn reduces the beginning player’s interest in practicing. The Roadshow combats this with extremely durable hardware that can withstand all the learning pains a beginner throws at it.
This kit has 9-ply wooden shells that are made of hardwood, and will sound good when tuned properly. It usually comes packaged with legitimate cymbal, snare, and hi-hat stands that will last a long time. The included cymbals are adequate for beginners but will probably be upgraded to better sounding cymbals in a year or two. The included bass drum pedal is nice, but will probably need to be upgraded as well to one of my picks for best bass drum pedal. The Pearl Roadshow offers a one-stop shopping solution for the beginner looking to buy their first drum set and it’s available in many different colors to suit your personal preferences.
It’s fitting that UK drum company Premiere produces great drums for rock, since the UK has generated so many great rock bands over the years. The Elite Series is premier’s top of the line drum set with a sound that is perfect for rock music. The shells are available in either maple, birch, or a hybrid of the two called “Gen-X”. The fantastic “ISO” mount system produces nice sustain and a clear tone and the drums are made slightly undersized to help achieve the best sound when tuned properly.
The drums really hold their pitch well and are actually shipped with Remo heads which are a superior product to the usual “stock” heads shipped with other kits. Premier’s hardware is some of the best around it has a distinct look that is very cool; in particular, I find that the floor tom leg brackets are particularly easy to adjust and durable. As with most kits, there are several configurations and colors to choose from.
The Pearl Masters series drums have been a favorite of Rock drummers for a long time. MCX shells are made of high quality maple and they are very resonant which allows for them to really speak with the band. They have power when it’s needed, but are responsive at any dynamic range which is important since rock music usually goes from extreme highs to extreme lows. The drums have MasterCast hoops, which are very strong die-cast hoops. Strong which help to provide a focused sound. The mounting hardware for the toms is some of the best around, and doesn’t interfere with the sound. Like most of our other pick, these drums come in a variety of sizes and finishes to suit your personal preferences.
Pearl’s Reference drums are in a league all by themselves as drum in the set is like a separate work of art. The shells are made of a combination of birch, maple, and mahogany with the combination varying by size; for example, the larger drums have more mahogany to bring out the low tones. Everything about these drums is designed to produce the optimal amount of perfect sound with the drums using bridge lugs to avoid infringing upon the sound.
The hardware is some of the most durable in the industry, with die-cast hoops that can take a pounding and still hold the drum's tone while the tom’s sturdy mounting hardware for the toms allows for the drums to ring out. The drums are available in a variety of beautiful finishes, and sizes with many different configurations are also available.
These are some of the best drums that money can buy, but they are fairly expensive although worth the large price tag if you want the absolute best sounding drums. It is important to note there’s a similar model called Reference Pure which are lighter than these Reference drums, and probably not appropriate for Metal music. I recommend the Reference for metal drumming over the Reference Pure.
The Starclassic Maple series is Tama’s best line, and a kit preferred by some of metal's top drummers; in fact, most drummers probably started playing Tama drums after seeing Lars Ulrich play them with Metallica. Upon first playing a Starclassic kit, I was surprised at how amazing it sounded, having assumed that all Tama drums were cold and harsh, since heavy metal drummers mostly used them. However, the Starclassic line has a warm sound due to its maple shells and have the power to cut through the band with plenty of volume.
The hardware offers some very unique features, such as built in memory locks for the toms and the tom brackets separate into two parts with the bottom part remaining on the mounting arm for precise placement. The tom mounting system allows for the drums to be placed a little closer together than most other kits, the tension bolts have "Hold Tight Washers" to keep the drum from falling out of tune, and the die cast hoops can take a lot of abuse and still maintain pitch.
These drums include Evans heads which are better in quality than most "stock" heads and are even appropriate for metal drumming. The drums are available in several different sizes and configurations in addition to multiple colors and finishes. Tama Starclassic maple drums are great for metal, but are suitable for other genres as well.
Mapex Saturn drums are the favorites of many professional drummers in the metal genre and their Saturn V Exotic MH Rock drum set is an absolute powerhouse with shells combining the pure tone of maple with the extra punch of walnut. Mapex features a “SONIClear” bearing edge that allows the drums to speak loudly and create a lot of sound; basically more of the bearing edge is exposed to the shell and this causes the shell to vibrate. This makes Mapex drums speak louder than most other drums, which is great for capturing the sound of the metal genre.
Mapex drums have always been known for producing a lot of sound, but the Saturn series also produces a professional quality sound. The tom mounts are top notch and are very durable while the 2.3MM "Power" hoops will keep the drums in tune at very high volumes. This kit is often sold as a “shell only” pack and there are different configurations if you want more floor toms than rack toms. This is a professional level kit and is priced accordingly. As with most kits, it’s also available in several different colors.
Gretsch’s Catalina Club Jazz drum set is the most popular drum set for Jazz music. The mahogany shells give out a warm tone that is similar to older kits, the drums have 30-degree bearing edges that produce incredible tones, and the maple bass hoop will remain true and has a classic look. The tom mounts also allow the drum to ring freely and create an open sound.
This kit is only available in smaller be-bop sizes including 10 or 12 inch rack toms, 14 inch floor tom, an 18 inch bass drum, as well as a 24 inch bass drum which is available for ragtime drummers. The great sound created by these small and easy to move drums make this kit great for jazz gigging. It’s also a very affordable drum set compared to other quality Jazz kits and probably a big part of the reason it is so popular. Lastly, you can choose from five different colors, each with a classic look.
Yamaha Absolute Maple Drum Set
Yamaha’s Absolute Hybrid Maple drums are the best drums available for a modern jazz sound. Yamaha’s Absolute Hybrid Maple is designed with a lot of the same amazing features as Yamaha’s top of the line PHX kits, both of which made my list for best high end drum set. Absolute Hybrid maple drums are responsive to musicality and dynamic playing, being made of maple and wenge woods to create a very pure tone.
The toms are mounted using Yamaha’s YESS mounting system which allows the drums to sing without obstruction. Yamaha has paid a lot of attention to detail when designing these drums and their wonderful sound reflects that. As with all high-end drum sets, there are many different sizes, and colors available. Drummers that like to push their kit to the limit will really enjoy the responsiveness of these drums.
Sonor Special Edition Bop SE Drum Set
I have had many jazz combo gigs in very small rooms that require a very soft touch. These gigs typical call for the music to be in the background and not overpowering. Small in size and lightweight, Sonor’s Martini SE is the perfect drum set for these types of gigs because it will not blow the room away with its volume and doesn’t require a lot of physical space.
The drums are reduced sizes including a 14x12 inch Bass Drum, 8 and 13 inch toms, and a 12 inch snare. The bass drum also includes a riser so the pedal’s beater can be positioned properly. The steel snare drum responds well to brushes which are commonly used at low volume gigs. The Martini kit is also very easy to transport because it’s very small and will fit in just about any car; this is sure to be very beneficial to any working jazz drummer who plays a lot of gigs. The bass drum includes a riser so the pedal’s beater can be positioned properly. Extremely affordable, this selection can serve as a secondary kit for specific gigs if needed.
ddrum’s D1 junior drum set has the same durable resilience that ddrums are known for and the kit can withstand a lot of the beatings a kid’s drum set will take. The tom bracket is solid and the cymbal stands are well made. The drums themselves are pretty small in size compared to other kid’s kits, but only by an inch or two smaller. It also includes everything you need to start playing right away, including hardware and cymbals. I like the fact it’s available in black, because this color adds a much more mature look to the kit as most kid’s drum sets are only available in bright reds or blues. This kit is also the least expensive kid’s drum set made by a dedicated drum manufacturer company; in fact, it’s usually priced $50-$100 less than its competitors. Overall this pick sounds great for a kid’s kit and is very functional to learn on.
The Gammon Percussion 5-piece Junior Drum Set includes a snare, bass, high-hat, cymbal, two mounted toms, and a floor tom; basically everything your child needs to start playing. The setup is mostly realistic but the one thing I don't like is the fact that the crash cymbal is mounted on the bass drum. I prefer crash cymbals that are mounted on their own separate cymbal stand and can be used as a ride cymbal. It’s durable enough to last for a couple years while your child grows into a full-size kit.
While the kit doesn’t sound as good as the more expensive junior kits, it doesn't come off sounding like a toy. Despite a few minor faults, the Gammon 5-piece junior drum set is one of the best buys for a junior drum set because of its low price tag. It’s typically priced about $100-200 cheaper than its competitors. All kids drum sets will be replaced when the child gets bigger, so they need to be inexpensive.
The Union 5-piece junior drum set is one of the most affordable options in high quality kid’s drum sets while sounding better than the “toys” offered by some manufacturers. The kits hardware is well constructed and built a bit higher so if you have a tall child this will help them feel more comfortable. The mounting hardware is durable and the bass drum pedal is even chain driven, lending more to the impression that this is a genuine drum set and not a toy for just banging on. The set up and hardware is realistic to full size kits and the sound is very realistic as well. This is one of the least expensive kits on my list and is a great buy, especially with the included cymbals, hardware, and throne.
Yamaha PHX High End Drum Set
It seems like every so often Yamaha comes out with a drum set that quickly becomes the standard for professionals to use; this time it’s their top of the line PHX drum set. It features one of the most innovative shell designs I’ve ever worked with as the 11-ply shells use different woods that sound better for their respective parts of the shell. Yamaha have researched which woods sound the best for each layer of the shell and have engineered them accordingly. The shells are made from maple, jatoba, ash, and some mahogany wood. Each wood has a specific purpose and combines with the others to create the best sound.
The kits bearing edges are cut differently from drum to drum to specifically enhance the sound of that drum. The hardware is actually an advanced version of Yamaha’s YESS system which allows the drums to speak freely. They also hold the drum in place with as little contact as possible to eliminate any kind of buzz. As with all high-end drum sets, this kit is available in many different sizes and colors available.
Gretsch USA Custom High End Drum Kit
Gretsch is one of the oldest names in drum makers and have been long associated with jazz music in particular, because their drums are capable of projecting such a warm sound. Gretsch makes a lot of higher end kits, but the best of them has to be their USA Custom line. They are custom made to your preference of size and finish while the hardware is also customizable to the buyer’s specific preferences.
The 6-ply maple shells are hand cut and have a very classic sound and while the tom mounting system isn’t as advanced as other high-end kits, it still allows many options for tom placement. The kit provides die cast hoops which help to create a consistent pitch and superior sound. These drums also usually come with Remo heads which I consider some of the best stock heads available. As with all high-end drums, many different sizes, configurations, colors, and finishes to choose from, with many sporting a vintage look most drummers prefer.
Pearl Masterworks Drum Kit
Pearl’s Masterworks drums are the best sounding Pearl drums available as these Masterworks kits are completely handmade which contributes a lot to their amazing sound. Everything about these drums is customizable including the shell material, thickness, and bearing edge. You can choose between maple, birch, African mahogany, and hybrid shells while Pearl’s “Superior Shell Technology” creates a perfect sonic chamber inside each drum and produces an amazing tone. There are even three different bearing edges to choose from for the ultimate sound customization.
The hardware is also completely customizable with different options for hoops and lugs. You can choose between die-cast or triple-flanged hoops and one of three different lug designs. Pearl’s “BRL” lugs are designed for tonal consistency and the bridge and “STL” lugs are designed for a more open and ringy sound. You also have your choice of three different tom mounts that are some of the most durable available. The finish can be customized to almost any color you desire; in fact, you can even send in a piece of fabric or a color swatch and Pearl will match the color!
Yamaha's Stage Custom is the most versatile mid-range drum set and sounds great for all genres of music. The durable shells are made from birch and put out a great sound that blends well in most genres of music. The kit has the classic Yamaha YESS mounting system which is very quiet and adjusts very easily, along with a mounting bracket featuring a ball joint allowing for many placement options. These drums are often used heavily for gigging because they’re construction is so durable and their overall weight is a bit lighter as well (an important consideration for the gigging drummer). These drums are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and configurations to suit a drummer’s individual preference.
PDP's Concept Maple Series are the best drums that PDP makes so you’re assured they are going to sound great and be of the highest quality. The Concept series drums are available in birch or maple but I recommend the Maple because I believe they deliver a warmer sound with a wider dynamic range. The hardware is very sturdy and extremely durable. The kit features suspension tom mounts which help the drums ring longer while the true pitch tension rods to keep them in tune. Additionally you have proportionate counter hoops which are designed to produce the most amount of sound for each respective drum. As with most mid-level drum sets, there are several different sizes, configurations, and colors to choose from. Add-on drums are also available if you want a bigger setup.
Tama’s Superstar classic is the ultimate mid-level drum set with maple shells that are more musical than some of Tama’s less expensive kits. This is one of the least expensive kits that I have found with all maple shells which themselves are very versatile for playing multiple genres of music. The Superstar classic is basically the maple version of the Tama Silverstar, which are also great sounding kits in their own right.
The Superstar Classic features Tama’s non-intrusive Star-Mount system which does a fantastic job of allowing the drums to ring true while eliminating hardware buzz. Another nice perk of this kit is the ball and socket tom holders seem to be more durable than comparable systems from other manufacturers. While the included “stock” drumheads will probably need to be replaced with better sounding heads, this is expected with most kits at this price point. However, my favorite feature of this pick is it’s really affordable for such a great sounding maple drum set.
Finding the Best Drum Set for your needs
Buying a quality drum set can be a challenge because of the number of options both in brand names and possible configurations. Among other things, this buyer’s guide will help you determine how many drums you need to purchase as well as which brand and particular model to choose.
The average drum set usually has three different drum types which include the bass drum, snare drum, and tom-toms. When choosing a drum set, you’ll need to decide how many of each drum type you want to have in your kit. Most drummers have at least a bass drum, snare drum, and two to three tom-toms. Larger kits usually have more toms, for example, a 6 piece kit may have 4 toms.
The best drum setup options I recommend for beginners are known as either a 4-Piece (snare, bass, two toms) or 5-Piece (snare, bass, three toms). Some kits will include snare drums but others provide only matching bass drum and tom-toms sets, requiring the snare drum be purchased separately. However, either of these options is great provided you buy the right drums.
Supplying the bass element of the groove, the bass drum is the largest in the set. Placed on the ground and played with a pedal, a bass drum typically has both playing and resonant drumheads. Occasionally a hole is located in the resonant head for microphone placement.
Most bass drums are between 18 to 24 inches in diameter and 16 to 18 inches in depth. Rock drummers usually play a 22 inch bass drum and jazz drummers usually play an 18 inch or 20 inch bass drum. For the beginning drummer, I recommend a 22 inch bass drum.
Most individuals have a single bass drum, but some drummers have two in order to utilize double bass drum techniques. These techniques can also be performed on one bass drum using a double bass drum pedal.
The snare drum is unique because of the wire or cable snares spread across the bottom head of the drum to create a distinct “snappy” sound. Snare drums supply the backbeat of a groove and have top (batter) and bottom (resonant) drumheads. Most snare drums are 14 inches in diameter with a depth of either 5 inches or 6 1/2 inches.
Specialty snares are available in other sizes and are typically used for specific genres such as Hip-Hop. Most drummers only have one snare drum in their set but professionals usually have several in their collection for alternate sound choices.
These drums don’t have snares and are mostly used for fills. Sold in multiple sizes, toms feature stop (batter) and bottom (resonant) heads. Common tom diameters are 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 18 inches. I recommend drummers start with a kit which includes three toms measuring 10, 12, and 16 inches.
The depths of these drums vary greatly but most are two to four inches shallower than the diameter. For example, a common tom-tom size is 12 by 8 inches (12 inches diameter and 8 inches in depth).
Floor toms are free standing drums with legs allowing them to stand on the ground and sometimes have the same diameter and depth (for example, 14 by 14 inches). Mounted toms, or rack toms, are mounted on stands or poles extending from the bass drum or tom stand.
Most starter drum sets have two mounted toms (usually 12 and 13 inches) and one floor tom (usually 16 inches). These sizes are fine, but I generally prefer the sound of smaller mounted toms. Some drummers have only one mounted tom and two floor toms, but this is a matter of personal preference.
The individual parts making up a drum set can be separated into three categories: drums, hardware, and cymbals. Higher end drum sets usually are sold as “shell only” packs, meaning you supply your own cymbals, drumheads, and hardware. The snare drum isn’t always included so remember to double check whether you’ll need to buy one separately. Drum sets designed for beginners usually come with hardware, drumheads, and some basic cymbals.
The shell of a drum is the most important factor in determining a drum’s tone. Shells are usually made from wood like maple, birch, or mahogany, although there are shells made from metal or synthetic materials such as fiberglass.
Most bass drums and toms are made with wooden shells. Snare drums are commonly made with wooden shells but many are also made with metal. Additionally, there are drum shells made from one solid piece of wood which are generally more expensive than their ply shell counterparts which are constructed from several pieces of wood.
A drumhead is a round piece of plastic or calfskin stretched across the top or bottom of the shell. When struck with a drum stick, the resulting vibrations create sound. The head struck with a stick is called the batter head and the bottom head is called the resonant head.
Hoops keep the drumheads in place and have holes for the bolts supplying the tension. Drums have metal or wooden circular hoops which rest on top and bottom of the shell.
Tension Bolts and Lugs
Tension bolts screw into metal lugs attached to the shell. These bolts are tightened with a drum key and adjust the tension of the drumhead, determining how high or low the pitch of the drum is.
Mounting hardware attaches the rack toms to the bass drum or tom stand. While there are several different designs for mounting hardware, the best mounting options don’t actually pierce the shell of the drum.
Newer mounting hardware designs attach to the rim and some actually suspend the drum for a pure sound. Mounting hardware often includes one or two poles attached to the bass drum for mounting the rack toms.
Bass Drum Pedal
The bass drum pedal allows the foot to play the bass drum. For a more complete description of the bass drum pedal please refer to the Bass Drum Pedal Buyer’s Guide.
Floor Tom Legs
Most floor toms have three metal legs to keep the drum upright. These can be adjusted for different height options.
Bass Drum Spurs
These are small metal poles which attach to the bottom of the bass drum and prevent it from rolling or moving around.
This is the stool the drummer sits on while playing.
Most beginning drum sets include a high-hat stand, a straight cymbal stand, and a boom cymbal stand. For a more complete description of these stands, please refer to the Cymbal Stand Buyer’s Guide.
Snare Drum Stand
The piece of hardware supporting the snare drum. It has three legs, a center post, tilter, and snare basket.
Drum sets designed for beginners often include a pair of high-hat cymbals, a ride cymbal, and a crash cymbal. For a more complete description of these cymbals, please refer to the Cymbal Buyer’s Guide.
While some drum sets do include cymbals, most do not. Remember to double check whether you’ll need to buy them separately
The sound of a drum set is the most important factor to consider when making a purchase. While the quality of the drums sound is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, most drummers agree wooden drums (especially maple, birch, or mahogany) sound better than metal or synthetic types.
Besides sound, you should consider the quality and design of the hardware included with a drum set. Certain companies provide virtually silent mounting hardware that’s easy to adjust, as well as offering die-cast or triple flange hoops. Most drum sets are also available in different colors and finishes which look nice but typically don’t affect the sound. Naturally, there’s a price difference among all of these options which should be taken into consideration.
Certain companies including Ayotte, ddrum, DW, Gretsch, Ludwig, Mapex, PDP, Pearl, Rogers, Sonor, Tama, Trick, and Yamaha produce superior quality drum sets. While drum kits from these popular manufacturers can vary in price and quality, they can be considered very reliable picks that often last players a lifetime.
Price and Value
It’s no coincidence the most expensive drum sets often sound the best. Fortunately, finding a drum set within your price range won’t be too difficult as most companies offer product lines to fit any budget. Whenever possible, stick with well-known companies such as those listed above rather than an off-brand.
Often manufacturers will package an inferior drum set with hardware and cymbals at a discounted price. I find it’s better to buy these bargain items individually because the included cymbals usually sound terrible and the hardware isn’t very durable.
Cheap cymbals and hardware will often have to be quickly replaced and have little resale value. You may end up spending more money up front, but you’ll save yourself money in the long run by purchasing quality drums first and then adding quality hardware and cymbals separately.