Electronic drum sets have come a long way over the years, there is no doubt they rival many acoustic setups. If you are a beginner or relatively new to the world of percussion there are many great brands to get you started.
For a long time playing drums was a pretty hefty expense. With modern technology it is now possible to start for the price of a decent guitar! But you have to know what to look for. Let’s touch on a few points before looking at the best electronic drum sets for beginners.
Electronic Drum Kit Basics
In the early days of electronics and recording people were learning great new ways to manipulate sound. It wasn’t long before engineers started building rhythm boxes or simple drum machines that would keep a backing beat for a musician.
Over time these electronic drums became a lot more complicated, rivalling human drummers in many cases. Some electronic drum sounds are created by circuitry while others are made by sampling. And that is what we will be playing on a kit; a sampled drum sound.
Modules and Sampling
The computer and brain of the drum is the sound module, this holds all the chips that contain the samples and effects. Samples are recorded from the best and sometimes most famous instruments in the world. Every style of drum kit is sampled, that way you have a huge variety of sound.
Triggers and Pads
One of the major problems over the years with electronic drums was durability and playing at the right moment. Older plastic pads are hard on the wrist and have terrible rebound. Plus they only used to have one or two triggers that caused the samples to play when struck with the sticks.
Kits eventually used rubber pads and now the real revolution is with mesh heads. These can be tightened and adjusted to feel like an acoustic mylar drumhead. Currently, mesh heads are the way to go for the best feel. And now modern kits have multiple triggers and sensors.
Cymbals and Pedals
The cymbals are made out of rubber and depending on the price will have multiple sensors. The more triggers, the better the module can tell the nuances of where and how you are hitting. Clearly one of the downsides of cheap electronic kits is that they can miss subtle aspects of playing.
And as for pedals, they are often very similar to acoustic setups. In some cases they have beaters, other times they are just the footboard and plate. The important part is that the feel is similar as you press down. Again lower cost kits don’t have the best pedals.
Electric Vs Acoustic?
Most players would prefer an acoustic drum kit, and there is no doubt it has aspects that are better. But these modern electronic kits offer so many samples, practice exercises, backing tracks, and more. Why fuss with what kind of wood or kit is the best sound when you can have them all!
And most of all the ability to practice with less noise is a huge benefit to many players. Without having to worry about the loud sound you can play more often. Granted it’s not super quiet, but far better than an acoustic kit with drum mutes. The better electronic drum sets have less ambient sound.
This is a common theme in the music world, especially with drum machines and synths. People want nostalgia and think a sound needs to be pure and analog. However once you find out how much you can do with modern instruments; the nostalgia quickly fades.
Best Electronic Drum Sets for Beginners
Many of the kits below are suited to semi-quiet practice and entry level playing. If you are wanting something for performance or recording you will need to increase your budget. And with more money comes more research.
1) Alesis Nitro MAX (Best Overall Buy)
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is perfect for new drummers—it's affordable and fun to play.
- Mesh drum heads
- Affordable price
- Perfect for a beginner drummer
- Pads are small and compact
- Rack is a bit wobbly
The Alesis Nitro MAX is perfect for beginners, and it has a great price. It has a 10” snare, 8″ toms, 10” cymbals, 4 post aluminum stand, kick pedal tower, and a hi-hat controller. The mesh heads are tunable for a customized playing experience. It also has virtual instrument compatibility with USB and MIDI connections, so you can use drum VST software (like EZDrummer 3) if you’d like. A perfect practice kit with low acoustic volume!
- 32 classic and modern preset drum kits and 440 drum, cymbal, and percussion samples
- Practice with 60 backing tracks
- Mesh heads are very playable and responsive
- Rack wobbles a bit
- Can’t import sounds to drum module
- This kit sits very low for some drummers, needs to be propped up
2) Alesis Turbo Mesh (Best Budget Option)
If the Nitro Mesh is too pricey you can find the Alesis Turbo for about $100 less. This model is not only great for beginners, it is targeted at kids and teens. It has the 8” snare and toms and 10” cymbals. Also included are the same expressive kick and hi-hat controller. The main difference between the Turbo and Nitro is the kick pedal tower.
- 10 preset kits with 120 drum, cymbal, and percussion samples
- Tunable mesh heads are awesome as usual
- MIDI and USB triggering of DAW and virtual instruments
- The kick controller doesn’t have the most realistic feel
- Not usable for recording or gig work
- Reviews complain of cheap sounding samples
3) Donner DED-300
Another low budget option is this Donner with 8” snare and toms, 10” hi-hat, while the ride and crash are 12”. It also comes with a realistic kick pedal, hi-hat controller and even a drum throne to sit on. It has a USB connection and audio-in for practice with your own music.
- 329 sounds and 25 presets
- With all mesh drum head to feel like real drums
- Very affordable to start playing drums on
- A lot of customer complaint issue is not a good thing
- Quality control problems with durability affect some users
- Only for practice and fun, not a serious drum kit
4) HXW SD61-5
The HXW SD61-4 is a great value introductory drum kit perfect for kids including 251 sounds, 25 preset kits, and 15 play-along songs. Aux input and USB included.
The $300 area is where many beginning kits seem to aim for and this has similar features as the rest but a smaller 7.5” mesh tom and kick tower. All 10” cymbals feature a dual zone choke and it has a user friendly SM110 sound module. And you can adjust your own MIDI and triggering parameters.
- 15 drum kits, 227 sounds, and 15 backing tracks
- Built in recorder and metronome for onboard coaching
- USB MIDI interface and AUX input
- Some reviewer complaints about the sound quality of the kick drum
- A lot of small pieces and setup can be a bit of a hassle
- The sample kits do not have that much variation
5) Alesis Surge Mesh
Excellent intermediate electronic drum set with all-mesh drum heads, dual-zone technology, 10" snare, 8" toms, and 8" kick.
First we had the Turbo, Nitro, and now the Surge Mesh. It has similar measurements and features as the other two kits, except it has more module trigger and analog inputs and outputs. It is simply a better built model that is going to sound better and feel more realistic. If you have the budget pick this Surge over the other two.
- 24 drum kits and 385 drum, cymbal, and percussion sounds
- 60 playable backing tracks plus music to add from your own device
- Full set of significantly quieter and tunable mesh heads
- Sensor issues arise for some players after months of use
- Potential kick drum sound quality issues
- Still not the greatest to be gigging with
6) Yamaha DTX522K
Despite being over twice the price as the rest, the DTX has been a popular brand from Yamaha for many years. With three zone cymbal and snare pads and the DTX502 sound module you will get a fine-tune response and realistic sound. It also has a scoring function to track your progress on rhythm, endurance, and accuracy.
- 50 preset drum kits and 128 instrument samples
- Import your own sounds and VST control
- Trigger response set with laser analysis
- Module shuts off if not played for so many minutes
- Some potentially problematic reviews
- For such a high price you may want to play one in person first
- New players may wish to opt for the DTX450k instead
7) Roland TD-17KVX
This expensive beauty is very popular thanks to its great sounds, pads, and features. With the flagship TD-50 drum module and state of the art tech, these drums are perfect for practice and recording. With audio, MIDI, and Bluetooth adjustments for every part of the drum. The biggest problem with many entry level kits is the lack of mesh heads. However the TD-17KVX has you covered on that aspect.
- 50 preset drum kits and 310 instrument samples
- It’s a modern tech marvel full of drumming features
- With so many accessories and features it will be fun to play for a long time
- A LOT to learn and setup for a beginning player
- The model with mesh heads is way more expensive
- This may simply be overkill for some young drummers
8) Alesis DM10 MKII Pro Kit
If you prefer to get a great intermediate option from Alesis instead of Roland you can try the DM10 MKII. Here the drums and cymbals have full sizes like a real kit. The woven mesh head provides great sound, rebound, and low acoustic noise. The durable chrome stand also keeps vibration down so no false triggering.
- 80 drum kits and 700 instrument voices
- Onboard sequencer with 100 preset patterns and more you can load
- Kick pad can be used with a double bass pedal
- Some potential issues with long term durability, not good for a high price
- Pads and triggers need replacing quite a bit for some customers
- No flexibility in how you can set it up
So there you have the 8 best electronic drum sets for beginners. You will be very happy with one of the Alesis models or, of course, a set of Roland V-drums. Try to save a little more money to buy the best kit you can. Remember you will be banging sticks onto these pads a lot! You want a quality kit that will take a beating and sound real!
Don’t forget amplification! We’ve got you covered on the best e-drum amps around, so give it a read.