Buying your drum kit should take a reasonable degree of research, patience, and consideration. Often in music, we find that the quality of the instrument can directly affect the playing and progress of most individuals. Drums are one of the more expansive and malleable instruments that one can purchase, and your drum setup can determine your playing level and eventually preferred styles of music. Today’s article has compiled a brief list of affordable beginner sets to high-end luxury designs. Each of these kits is our pick for their price range and should serve as a reference for what you should look for as a drummer.
Budget/Beginner Drum Kits
Mapex Tornado 5-piece Fusion Kit
The Mapex Tornado is one of the most comfortable beginner kits within its price range. This kit comes with standard size shells to help newer players get used to the ergonomics of a drum kit. The Fusion kit is composed of natural basswood that has a nice balance of tone and resonance. The kit features a 20″ kick drum for an even, punching low-end response, along with a 14″ snare and 10-14″ toms. The snare on this kit may tend to wear away quickly with heavy-handed drummers, and we recommend replacing the stock skin right from the day of purchase with something of higher quality if you can. The Mapex team has added a nice touch to this package by including some added hardware with your purchase. When you purchase the kit, you’ll receive a kick pedal, as well as a snare and cymbal stands to help kickstart your practice routine.
Ludwig Questlove Breakbeats Kit
Ask any soul, gospel, or R&B drummer about the modern influences, and the name Questlove should almost always pop up. Questlove has been the poster boy for pocket since his rise to recognition in the mid-’90s. The musician has since tried to find ways to make music accessible to the everyday person, and this Breakbeats kit is a stunning example of his intentions. Despite retailing for under $500, many professional players vouch for the quality and playability of this kit, and some choose to use it for low-key live performances thanks to its compact build. The Breakbeats kit consists of 7 ply poplar wood, and the most significant piece of the kit is the kick at just 16″. The snare of this kit is quite lively and rich and won’t take much adjusting for you to find your ideal tonal sweet spot. While this drumkit may not be the first choice for big shows or studio recordings, it is perfect for those who need to play or practice in tight settings without encroaching on the small space they’re in. It’s also remarkably easy to pack up, and transport and most of the kit will fit alongside you in the backseat of a car.
Mid-Range Model Drum Kits
DW Performance Series 22 – 3 Piece Shell Kit
DW has been the dark horse of the drumming world for a few decades and has grown from humble beginnings to near rockstar status in the drumming world. This particular three-piece kit is a no-nonsense, minimal composition that should find favor with jazz and blues drummers looking to level up with their playing and equipment. DW has incorporated their tuning system into the rods of this kit, and players can easily re-pitch their drum heads to preference with minimal warping or tonal issues. The shells on this model are made using 8ply thickness HVX, which gives the kit a noticeable punchy attack when used in more complex styles of music. The 22-inch bass drum compliments this punchiness with a full and wide low-end that is never too overbearing, even in large rooms with little treatment. This particular shell kit should serve as a solid foundation for players to personalize their kit off of, as it doesn’t require much attention or maintenance and can take a good bashing before showing any signs of breaking down.
Pearl Masters Maple Complete
You’d be hard-pressed to find another drum kit of this quality in this price range. This special edition release by drumming giants Pearl features a full five-piece set of shells that are constructed using a supreme 6″ maple wood that is consistent throughout some of the company’s most popular (and priciest) builds. The hoops that hold the skins use a suspension system to not encroach on the skins’ overall resonance and provide players with a bright, lively response even with subtle playing using mallets or brushes. All shells come in a standard size and are topped off with a set of lovely Remo heads that won’t need replacing shortly after purchase. The cherry on this cake is the beautiful maple echelon finish that makes this design look every bit as stellar as it sounds. If you’re looking for an affordable installation for a live venue or studio setup, we recommend trying out this kit.
Top Shelf Drum Kits
Sonor SQ2 – 5 Piece
There has been so much attention to detail that has gone into the SQ-2 that you’d swear it was built purely as an exhibition piece. The design collaborates with Sonor and drumming’s most prominent current players, including Aaron Spears and Steve Smith. The shells on this kit reach up to 12 plies in thickness (3 layers of 4 ply thickness) and give off what drummers
coin as a “heavy shell” sound. This term relates to the overall resonance of the kit, which carries a serious amount of weight and sustains in the low to mid frequencies while still achieving impressive dynamics around the top end. This resonance is further enhanced by the low-pressure lug system used to hold skins in place. These fittings are very easy on the drum heads and won’t cause any excessive or premature warping even in the harshest conditions. Serious professionals worldwide seldom have any negative comments about the SQ-2’s design and construction, and for a good reason. This kit is perfect for anyone looking to invest in a long-term drumming companion.
Tama Five Star Walnut Series
There are so many praises to sing about most of Tama’s drum manufacturing prowess, and they feature on our list for the second time in this article. The Walnut series features five shells, all manufactured using the highest quality Walnut wood. Walnut is a highly durable, flexible, and costly textile for most builds and has a distinctly warmer and thicker sound than most factory woods or laminates. This kit features a unique tuning system that does not require any complex tuning heads or keys. Once you have calibrated your ideal tuning, you can deviate each shell’s pitch using a nifty switch system that hangs over each drum head and is easily configurable. Most drummers may prefer to have a more hands-on approach to their tuning. Still, this device is excellent for tuning during performances and offers you an expanded range of tonal options during your performances. Each fitting, washer, or fixture comes with some form of cushioning to avoid any unnecessary rattling noises while playing (especially caused by other instruments such as synths or bass). Tama has pulled out all the stops on this edition of their Five Star series, and the result is an airtight and highly versatile drum set that will shine in a wide range of genres or styles.
As mentioned earlier, selecting the right drum kit very much comes down to your personal preferences and circumstances. If you’re a beginner player, it does not make sense to splash out large amounts of cash on something you have yet to become proficient on. In a similar context, more advanced players won’t want to sell themselves short on quality and durability if they’re trying to purchase something that will enhance their progress and encourage them to practice. Remember to try and seek the advice of other experienced players or technicians as they may be able to provide you with more personalized advice on which kit best suits your musicality. Thanks for taking the time out to read through our best drum kit buys for any budget. Hopefully, this article gets you one step closer to finding the perfect drumming companion.