Electronic Drums

Alesis Surge Mesh SE Review (2024)

With the Alesis Nitro MAX out, is the Surge Mesh SE still worth consideration?

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Our Verdict
While it is one step up from the new Nitro MAX electronic drum set, the Alesis Surge Mesh SE misses the mark on a number of key features drummers will want in the current year. Ideal for apartment drummers and beginners.
Reader Rating1 Vote
What We Like
Great-looking black & white design
Larger mesh kick drum pad
Lightweight and foldable for easy storage
What We Don't Like
Drum module sounds are bad
BFD sounds are not included on this kit, like they are on the Nitro MAX
No Bluetooth connectivity
3.5

Alesis has long been in the business of creating musical instruments that are both high quality and affordable.

A few years back at the California music convention NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), Alesis rolled out two brand new electronic drum kits: the Alesis Command Mesh and the Alesis Surge Mesh. The Surge Mesh was a popular hit with intermediate drummers, so the next best step was to roll out the Surge Mesh Special Edition.

An affordable electronic kit for beginners
Alesis Surge Mesh Special Edition
4.5
The Surge Mesh from Alesis is a perfect kit for any beginning drummer featuring three tom pads, a snare pad, kick pad, two cymbals, and a hi-hat.
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The Alesis Surge Mesh SE is an eight-pad, five-piece electronic kit featuring mesh drum heads that are both quiet and have an amazing natural response. This kit ships with a beautiful four-piece black rack.

Let’s take a look at some of the features and specifications.

What’s in the box? Alesis Surge Mesh Review

  • 10″ dual-zone snare drum pad
  • Three 8″ dual-zone tom pads
  • 10″ cymbals (3): a ride, hi-hat, and a crash cymbal
  • Auxiliary input for playing along with smart device or MP3 player
  • Surge drum module that includes 40 kits, 60 play-along songs
  • 385 unique sounds
  • Four-piece chrome rack, cables, sticks, drum key, and power source

All drums feature mesh drum heads for a better, natural feel.

Specifications
Total Pads5 drum pads, 3 cymbal pads
Snare & Tom Pads8″ dual-zone mesh toms (3), 10″ dual-zone mesh snare (1)
Kick Pad8″ mesh kick pad tower
Drum moduleSurge drum module
Preset kits24
User kits16
Total sounds385
Trigger inputs1 x 1/4″ TRS (tom 4), 1 x 1/4″ TRS (crash 2), 1 x DB-25 (cable snake)
Auxiliary input1/8″ (3.5mm)
Analog outputs1/4″ main out (2)
Headphone input1/8″ (3.5mm)
MIDI I/OIn/Out/USB
Included hardwareKick pedal, 4-post chrome rack, hi-hat pedal, cable snake

The Drum Module of the Alesis Surge Mesh

The module itself almost resembles a metronome, like a Dr. Beat. It features a backlit LCD screen with plenty of buttons for customizing kits and changing everything from effects to recording your performance.

You can reassign pads and create kits on the fly. There are 24 ready-to-go drum kits right out of the box along with 16 user kits you can customize to your liking. In addition to tons of kits and percussion sounds, the Alesis Surge Mesh comes pre-loaded with sixty play-along tracks for practicing and performing.

Unfortunately, the Surge SE doesn’t have Bluetooth functionality, so playing along to your favorite songs wirelessly is not a possibility with this module. Instead, you’ll need to use a dongle adapter with a 3.5mm cable to connect your phone to the aux input for playing along to music.

My Overall Thoughts on the Alesis Surge Mesh

When I originally wrote this review back in 2018, Alesis was one of the only companies offering electronic drum sets with mesh drum heads at such a low cost. Times have changed, and nearly every new e-kit available, not only has mesh drum heads, but more features than the Surge Mesh SE.

But, for such a low price point, you’re still able to get an electronic drum set with mesh heads, which is a really good feature when considering the level of noise produced by the kit and overall feel.

Now, why are mesh heads important? More expensive electronic drum kits from Roland, for example, feature mesh heads that feel much better than traditional rubber pads. The responsiveness from the Surge Mesh is wonderful and even will allow you to use a double bass pedal.

For beginners, the module features a training mode for learning and even will give you a score upon finishing. It’s super helpful for getting your timing to be spot on.

The kit is also extremely convenient. It doesn’t take up too much room and can easily be folded and put into a corner to save space in a room.

The module sounds bad

The only major complaints I have with this electronic drum kit are the stock sounds offered from the drum module. They seem to lack the dynamics and subtle velocity sample changes that Roland and others have adopted in recent years.

Playing buzz rolls and other quick drum rudiments sound like a machine gun more than anything.

Now that being said, it is rather difficult to replicate everything you can do on an acoustic drum kit, so I’m still happy with what you get with the Alesis Surge Mesh.

What sets other, more expensive e-kits apart?

Despite the Alesis Surge Mesh having incredible velocity recognition for playing quiet and loud dynamics, they dropped the ball in one area: the samples. Roland and other high-end electronic drum sets use multiple samples for each velocity. 

This means, that you’re getting a different sample of the same drum when you tap the drum near the rim versus hitting it hard in the center. I believe the Surge Mesh SE uses the exact same sample across all dynamic ranges; it just changes the volume rather than the actual sample.

I think it’s hard for people to grasp this concept, but this is exactly why this kit sounds like a machine gun to me. Still, this isn’t a deal-breaker. Even though the kit doesn’t sound completely like a real drum set, you’re getting amazing value with the Surge Mesh SE. I understand why they did this, as it’s a great way to cut cost on their end and make the product more affordable for beginners and younger players.

Using a computer with drum VSTs to get better drum sounds

If you already own the Surge Mesh, or a similar kit, it’s very easy to expand the sounds of your drums. Using drum VST plugins, you can get different software like Addictive Drums 2, EZ Drummer, Steven Slate Drums, or GetGood Drums.

There are many more plugin options; these are just a few of my favorites. In fact, Alesis just released the free BFD player, which has a bunch of great-sounding presets.

In order to use VST plugins with a computer and your electronic drum kit, you may need music production software, like Cubase or Ableton Live. In some cases, VST drum plugins, like BFD Player, can run in standalone mode, so you’ll only need the drum software.

If you decide to get a DAW, you’ll also be able to record your performances and be on your way to producing your own music, drum covers, whatever you can think of!

A step up from the Alesis Surge Mesh SE

While the Surge Mesh is a fine electronic drum set for a beginner, we think you should consider looking at Roland or a higher-end model from Alesis. The Roland TD-17KVX, a used Roland TD-25KV, or a Roland TD-27KV are nicer options instead of the Alesis drum kit if you have the budget.

Now any of those kits mentioned are far more expensive, but worth more in the long run. A kit like the Roland TD-17KVX will last a long time and they usually have great resale value.

I own a ton of electronic drum kits including the Roland TD-50K-S, Donner BackBeat, Alesis Nitro Mesh, Alesis Surge Mesh SE, Alesis Strike Pro, EFNOTE 5X, Donner DED-80, Donner DED-200, and probably a few more kits I can’t remember that are sitting in storage. Needless to say, I’ve used a LOT of electronic drum kits. The Surge Mesh SE is near the lower-end of e-kits, but young students will definitely get good value out of this drum kit.

If you have any questions related to buying an electronic drum set please leave me a comment down below or feel free to email me via the contact page.

Images used courtesy of Alesis.com

Our Verdict
While it is one step up from the new Nitro MAX electronic drum set, the Alesis Surge Mesh SE misses the mark on a number of key features drummers will want in the current year. Ideal for apartment drummers and beginners.
Reader Rating1 Vote
What We Like
Great-looking black & white design
Larger mesh kick drum pad
Lightweight and foldable for easy storage
What We Don't Like
Drum module sounds are bad
BFD sounds are not included on this kit, like they are on the Nitro MAX
No Bluetooth connectivity
3.5

Nick Cesarz

Nick is a drummer, percussionist, and blogger from Milwaukee, WI. He toured extensively with Vinyl Theatre, opening up for acts like twenty one pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and more. Now no longer touring, his passion lies in gear and playing the kit as much as time allows.

25 Comments

  1. I recently purchased a Surge Mesh kit following a 25-year drumming hiatus and have very limited (almost none, actually) experience with electronic drums in general. I decided on this kit for a few reasons – price, mesh heads, and the advertised ability to run a double bass pedal. I have enjoyed this kit so far, despite the fact that I suck after not playing for all these years, but that’s another story. A few flaws – bass drum trigger doesn’t pick up every hit, particularly at higher speeds. I have read that using one of the other inputs and programming a kick drum voice has yielded better results, but haven’t tried this yet. Hi-hat is either open or closed, but I’m fine with that as I programmed the floor tom rim for an in-between sound. As for the overall sound, I am running noise cancelling head phones and am fairly pleased with what I am hearing.

    The review that is posted by Drumming Review should be taken with a grain of salt, in my opinion, because it seems to be based on a video from the NAMM convention and from what I can tell, was not actually played by the reviewer as there is no discussion of set-up, feel, playability, etc. That being said, I do agree that this is not a gold-standard in electronic drums by any stretch, but was more of a first step to get me back into something that I have missed doing for a long time for not too much money. Since I’m basically playing along to songs on my phone for my own enjoyment, I am not concerned about how it would sound behind an actual band, so its all good. I am hopeful that they are durable and allow me to get some skills back – time will tell.

    1. Hi Mike. Thanks for leaving some constructive comments for me. I have since updated the review. I’ll be sure to include the note about the bass drum trigger being a little lacking in sensitivity. Glad you’re back to playing once again after a long break.

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  2. Are you kidding? You’re comparing this $500 Alesis kit with kits costing $1200- $2500.

    I’ve owned a $5,000 Hart Dynamics Kit with a Roland TD-12 Sound Module. I just took delivery on this $500 Alesis Surge Kit and am blown away with how well it worked right out of the box with no tweaking or adjustment needed! The mesh pads feel great. It sounds amazing for the price and there are some very usable kits. For those of us who want Pro Sounds, we can use the USB out with our favorite VST Virtual drum kit like BFD or Slate Drums. I prefer to have 2 crashes so I’m going to order an extra crash. While everyone has different taste go to a music store and try it with a good pair of headphones or buy it rom somewhere that gives you 30 day money back. I give this a huge thumbs up for the money.

    1. Hi TheXIT. Thank you for leaving a comment. I do appreciate the criticism and have since updated the review, taking my harshness down a bit. I do like hearing people with positive experiences, so I appreciate you sharing this.

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  3. The bass drum is a joke! The sensor is so wrong positioned and after 2 weeks of not so fast double pedal it just stop picking signal anymore. I regret buying it 100%

  4. You called it right. Roland is better. Sure, they generally cost more, but you get why you pay for.

  5. Big mistake buying the alesis surge mesh kit the company refuse to give you any information on how or where to buy the mesh replacements. I have paid £1000s on alesis & to be honest it was a total waste of money. Once you have been stupid enough to purchase their products they show absolutely no interest at all in helping you with replacement parts. Never again please save your money do NOT buy alesis products & shop elsewhere!

    1. Hey Steve,

      Sorry you’ve had a poor experience. From what I understand, the best option for replacement mesh heads is to contact the Alesis parts department directly.

      The support forum over at https://getsatisfaction.com/alesis is very active in responding to users, but they suggest contacting support directly.

      You can either call +1 (401) 658-5760 (+44 (0) 1252 896040 for UK) or email parts@inmusicbrands.com.

      There are also companies like Pintech that sell replacement heads for e-kits, but I’m unaware if any of them fit properly.

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  6. “The Alesis kit uses the exact same sample across all dynamic ranges; it just changes the volume rather than the actual sample.”
    Can this problem be solved using VST plugin softwares like EZ Drummer?

    1. Yes, as the sensor on the drum module still captures the velocity range 1-127. EZ Drummer, Addictive Drums 2, SSD, BFD3, all would work great—though it is a bit more of a setup.

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  7. Bonjour,
    Je vais acheter cette batterie mais je me demande quelles sont les dimensions car je doute que j’aie assez de place. Est-ce que quelqu’un pourrait me les dire ,
    Merci.

    I’m going to buy this drum set but I wonder what the dimensions are because I doubt that I have enough space. Can someone tell me? Thank you.

  8. What is the difference between the 8 inch nitro dual zone meshpad and the 8 inch surge and command meshpads, response triggers, weight, hardware, etc? I would very much like to add some of one or the other to my strike multipad, is that possible?
    Thanks :)

  9. I just got the surge – everything is great except the crash and ride are supposed to be dual zone cymbals for choke or whatever midi setting you choose. I can not activate the cymbals dual zone so I can edit the midi number to choke. Seems to be a FAQ with multiple users asking this question yet no answers.

  10. I purchased the kit 2 weeks ago and while I love it I already pierced my snare drum head and replacement parts are nowhere to be found for Canada. I wish I purchased another one.

  11. Worked perfectly out of the box,everything is of a standard i would expect for the price($1049.00 aus$ delivered) 5 or 6 actual quality kit samples (full kits) would have been practical instead of a shoebox full of rubbish sounds,i couldn’t be much more disappointed,yes,i know,trigger external,,,blah blah,,= more gear,more time when in this day and age they could use quality samples,they’re not expesive guy’s!

  12. Hey – were you able to have the drum heads themselves trigger the dual-zone on MIDI? I can’t get that working.

    1. Hi Samantha,

      Are you working within a DAW? You’re not able to see different MIDI notes from the rim and the pad itself?

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  13. My first kit was a low end Alesis kit and the less than authentic sounds soon got on my nerves and I upgraded to the DM10 module. Even with that I still couldn’t live with the drum kit sounds and sold the lot to buy a 2Box Drummit 5 kit which I have to say is indistinguishable from a real kit in recordings. However, several years later I have moved continents and find myself looking for another e-drum kit. Not much seems to have changed in that time. Alesis kits still sound like 90s drum machines and a great sounding kit is a must for me, and I’m a guitarist. If I was in charge of Alesis I would be selling budget kits with tones that blow away the competition. As the owner of a musical instrument business (guitar pickups) I make great tone and value for money a priority. It really doesn’t cost that much more to produce a sound module with more convincing drum kits and if they did that they would dominate the edrum market. Alesis seem to be happy with their lot.

    Living in the US puts the 2box kits out of my reach and Roland’s best kits will never match up to it. I am content to settle with less but I have little faith in Alesis. Budget kits shouldn’t sound this bad. Budget guitars after all can sound every bit as good the high end models and people should expect better. Looks like I will be splashing out on a Roland kit which is not what I had originally planned to do.

  14. Hi, Do you know if the Alesis Surge Kit is compatible with the Roland VH 10. Hi Hat or the Alesis Pro X Hi Hay?

    Thanks in advanced
    Rogelio Durán

  15. I would love it if someone in ANY EDrum review would mention the height of the rack. But literally none of the companies list the height adjustments for the racks. If anyone knows how high this kit can go it would be a huge help because that info is nowhere.

  16. Hey Dru, I have the Alesis Nitro Mesh kit but I’m sure both kits are close to the same size. I am small (5’4″) and I’ve been adjusting stuff for a week or so to go with my natural style. I’ve got most of the heads 24″ – 29″ (not counting cymbals) which feels comfortable for me. I have seen others say it’s too short (“for a kid”) but not sure how tall they are (they never say). Hope this helps.

  17. I got the surge two years ago. Overall I would say it’s a decent kit, samples aren’t the best but you get what you pay for. However there’s a design flaw in the drums. The wires to the sensor run under a square piece of plastic that can eventually cut the wires. I have had to replace my snare twice due to this problem. Thankfully it was under warranty but now that my warranty is up I’m thinking of switching to a different brand because at this point I know I’m going to need to replace the head every 6-9 months and they cost $150+.

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