Alesis has chosen to avoid making the mesh drum heads of other high-end electronic kits, instead using real drum heads and other plastic materials. This has resulted in high-quality entry and mid-level kits at reasonable prices. The Alesis DM6 used to reign supreme as the best budget kit but it’s been replaced by the DM7X Session. The Alesis DM7X Session is a newer model of electronic drum kit with a lot of improvements over the DM6.
It has a dual zone snare trigger, a better high-hat and the ability to choke the crash cymbals for added effects. The bass drum pad is horizontal instead of vertical but still offers the option of using an inverted bass drum pedal for added realism. In fact, these pads can function better than vertical low budget pads because they don’t move around a lot. The tone module contains 40 kits and allows the drummer to customize these kits along with a rhythmic training program, metronome and connectable to a computer through USB or MIDI. The kit is very compact and easy to use making it the best budget electronic kit available.
Yamaha has quickly become one of the top names in electronic percussion by offering kits with responsive, very playable pads. The DTX 400 is their least expensive kit but still high on quality including four rubber drum pads, three cymbal pads, and two pedals. Although these are rubber pads and not mesh, they’re still high quality and very responsive, although not as many of them are included as some of the higher priced kits.
While I highly recommend upgrading to the more expensive DTX 450 (because of a realistic bass drum pad) the 400 is still a great value for the level of quality you’re getting for the money. The tone module has 10 drum kits and a training program for productive practicing. This kit is a must for any musical theater drummer needing some electronic options for unusual sounds.
The Alesis DM Lite is a wonderful introductory electronic drum kit for the young drummer. It’s the least expensive electronic kit on this list but includes better hardware and more realistic foot pedals than the black boxes typically included with some inexpensive kits. This electronic drum set has a basic sound module designed to be a rhythmic coach, and it can be connected to a computer for access to more sounds. The high-hat pad can be opened and closed via the foot pedal and it’s more responsive than other low-budget kits. This kit also has a fun feature which lights up the pads when working with the rhythmic coach via LED. The Alesis DM Lite Kit is a great entry-level electronic drum set which works particularly well for young players because it’s easy to use and still responsive.
The DD1 by ddrum is a great low-budget electronic kit offering great features at a low price such as the standard four drum pads, two cymbal pads, high-hat pad, and high-hat pedal. It also has a mounted bass drum pad allowing the player to use a real bass drum pedal which creates better technique than an electronic pedal; an important feature not often available on budget electronic kits. The tone module features 30 kits which can be easily edited, a built-in metronome, midi outs, a headphone jack and the tone module even has adjustable reverb and gain.
This kit, like all of DDrum's drum sets, caters to the heavy hitters featuring pads which are a bit thicker and can take a real beating while its rack system is very durable allowing for better pad positioning than other budget kits. I find I can adjust this kit more easily than others and pads can be placed exactly where they’re needed. This kit is a great option if you can’t afford the large price tags found on high-end kits.
Simmons is one of the oldest makers of electronic drums and they’ve consistently produced quality electronic drums at low prices. This is the best budget kit for individuals valuing responsive, durable pads over an advanced tone module. The rack system is strong but also lightweight making it easy to move around. The tone module will probably have to be upgraded down the road but in the meantime you do have over 20 factory programmed kits to choose from. You can also edit and save 10 kits for added customization.
The SD5K includes a metronome, several songs for practicing, and over 200 sounds. The one drawback is the sounds are dated and only appropriate for certain situations. If you are on a limited budget, I recommend buying this kit and eventually replacing the tone module when you can afford it.
Roland's TD-30KV is the standard all electronic drums strive for. V-drums were the first electronic kit to feature mesh heads which feel similar to a real drum kit. This electronic kit includes all of Rolands technological advancements such as highly sensitive pads and their patented SUPERnatural sounds.
The pads are extremely responsive, larger than most others, and even the rims can be played with sensitivity. They actually feel a little easier to play than real drums because bounces are really easy to execute consistently while the kick pad is also mesh and feels very realistic. Another big thing setting this kit apart from the rest of the pack is the realistic-sounding two-piece VH-13 high-hat only offered on the TD-30KV.
This kit has the best hardware available for any electronic kit and easily adjusted to any player's preferences. The drums have half shells to make the kit almost look like acoustic drums and you even have a choice of fresh colors for the shells. Let’s not forget the included tone module; the best money can buy which includes individual faders and sampling capabilities. This is simply the best electronic kit available and worth the high price for a truly professional sound.
The DTX950K is Yamaha's top of the line electronic drum set. The pads feature a Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) head which feels very similar to a real drum. The heads respond to bounces and buzz strokes and have a good dynamic range. The cymbals have three different playing zones and the
high-hat feels fairly realistic.
The 950 has an expandable rack system which makes setup and adjustments a piece of cake. It includes a 12" snare pad, two 10" tom pads, two 12" tom pads, three cymbal pads with multiple zones, a reinforced kick pad, and realistic high hat pad on a HS740A stand.
The tone module is what really sets this kit apart from competitors. It features midi in/out, USB connectivity, individual volume faders and optional sampling capabilities. The tone generator features 64 note polyphony and 1,115 preset drum voices, along with countless effects. Basically this module has more than any drummer could want and is ideal for individuals planning to use this kit live on stage. It’s important to note Yamaha's 700 series electronic kits feature the same pads and may be the cheaper option if you don’t need a powerful tone module.
The Roland HD-3 Lite is the best drum kit for drummers or students looking for a compact and inexpensive electronic option which is designed for very quiet practicing. Featuring a very responsive mesh snare pad and three cloth head tom pads, there’s also two dual zone cymbal pads and a fairly decent high-hat pad. This kit is ideal for apartment dwellers, because you can practice with headphones on and not bother your neighbors.
The tone module has a metronome and 20 pre-loaded kits, but it can also be connected to a computer via a USB cable for unlimited downloadable sound options. The tone module on this kit is labeled very clearly and is a bit easier to use than other V-drum kits. You can also easily hook up this kit up to an MP3 or CD player for play-a-long practicing.
DrumKat Turbo 4.5 Midi Percussion Controller
There’s been many situations where I haven’t had space on stage for a full set of electronic drums so I’ve used a DrumKat, an advanced midi controller and performance pad in one. This pad is very easy to play because of its clever layout designed to look like a cat (but it looks more like a mouse if you ask me.)
The design actually helps the player because the "ears" can be programmed to be cymbals and the rest of the pads are shaped like descending toms. All the pads are programmable with various drum sounds and even can be programmed to play back 8 different sounds in succession via different midi channels. Full songs can be played on this kit, not just the drums, but the guitar parts as well.
With the Drumkat Turbo 4.5, the sound possibilities are endless when it’s hooked up to a computer and used with a sequencer. It’s very easy to attach foot pedals to this drum pad for a kick drum and high-hat but these pedals can also be programmed to the tune of instrument you want. This kit is perfect for musical theater drummers who need to make quick changes with multiple instruments.