Remember back in the 80’s…
When electronic drum kits made their first appearance in the world of music?
Well, what many folks don’t know is…
In the decades since, they’ve gotten MUCH better.
Some of today’s kits sound so impressive, they’re tough to distinguish from the REAL acoustic drums.
Not only are they great for live settings, they are particularly useful in the recording studio…
As some even have multiple outputs to connect each drum to a separate channel on your audio interface!
And every few years or so, these kits get EVEN BETTER.
To show you just how far they’ve come, in this post I’ve compiled a list of:
The 10 Best Electronic Drum Kits of 2017 (videos included).
First, the cheaper options…
1. Roland TD-1KV
Few folks can argue, that for many years now…
Roland V-Drums have easily been TOP DOGS in the electronic drum industry.
- Their mid-range models rival the flaghsip models of other companies…
- Their high-end models remain virtually unchallenged, and…
- Their budget models are the perfect option for first-time buyers.
And so…the obvious first pick for today is Roland’s newest entry-level kit: the Roland TD-1KV.
Notable features of this kit include:
- 15 kits + percussion sounds
- Built in metronome
- Easy recording and playback
- Outputs for headphones and amplifiers
- Smartphone/Mp3 connect for play-along
- USB connect for computer recording
One of the best parts of this kit is the upgraded mesh snare, which years ago, was only available on higher-end kits.
Watch this video to see the TD-1KV in action:
Also be sure to check out slightly cheaper TD-1K, which lacks the mesh snare…and the slightly more expensive TD-4KP, which also lacks a mesh snare, but is more portable, and has a better sound engine.
Here are the links to each version:
- Roland TD-1K – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
- Roland TD-1KV – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Roland TD-4KP – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
2. Alesis Nitro
As the 2nd of the 3 top brands featured in this post…
Alesis Studio Electronics was one of the first electronic instrument manufacturers to make affordable products for the average home studio.
And they continue that tradition even today…
With the surprisingly inexpensive Alesis Nitro.
While it may be the single cheapest kit on this list, it certainly doesn’t look the cheapest (as you can see in the picture).
Compared to the TD-1K the main thing you lose is the mesh snare, which may or may not be a big deal, depending on your style of play. Because for more intricate snare work, mesh snares are definitely ideal.
However, with the Alesis Nitro, the main thing you gain is the better hardware, including the solid aluminum rack, and the upgraded kick pad.
For more intricate kick drum work, you ideally want a real pedal attached to a pad, rather than an electronic pedal such as the one used in the TD-1KV.
To see the Alesis Nitro in action, watch the video:
3. Yamaha DTX400K
Now that we’ve seen the entry level kits of Roland and Alesis…
Let’s move on to the 3rd and final brand in the post: Yamaha.
Despite the fact that the Yamaha Corporation makes an absurdly wide range of products across many industries…
There’s no doubt that drums are one of their top specialties.
And they prove that once again, with their entry-level electronic kit: the Yamaha DTX400K.
Now I’ll be the first to admit…based on looks alone, it appears pretty crappy (as you can see from the picture).
Once you see how it performs, you’ll understand why it’s one of the best-selling and most well-reviewed electronic drum kits in its class.
With its wealth of educational features, it is perhaps the best option for any young player just looking to learn the instrument.
While it may not have a mesh snare or kick pad, what it does have is a unique combo of gum rubber pads, and a kick pedal that is far more sophisticated than many of the other electronic pedals at similar price ranges.
Interesting fact: it is actually the single quietest drum kit in the Yamaha line. Which is perfect if you’re ever worried about making too much noise in your late-night practice sessions.
So how does it perform, you ask?
Watch this video and find out for yourself:
Now if you watched the video, you might be wondering about the DTX400 app that was mentioned.
Basically you download the free app here on your tablet (or phone) and connect it with the DTX400 module. The two devices will sync automatically and you can control the kit settings from either one.
The main benefit of the app is its advanced user interface which is even more user-friendly than the module itself.
Here’s another video demonstrating how it works:
- a 3-zone snare for rimshots
- a bass drum pad that allows for a double kick pedal, with a REAL kick pedal included
- the more advanced HH65 Remote hi-hat controller
4. Alesis Command
Now that we’ve fully covered the top entry-level kits…
Let’s continue this post by moving on to some of the more advanced models.
Starting first with the Alesis Command kit.
A significant upgrade from the Alesis Nitro which we saw earlier…
The Command adds an improved sound module featuring 50 presets and 20 kits, compared to Nitro’s 25 presets and 15 kits.
In terms of hardware, the Command adds a sturdier aluminum rack, and an advanced mesh pad on both the snare and kick drum.
While mesh snare pads are quite common these days…mesh kick pads are usually only reserved for ultra high-end kits costing several times more than this one.
Now that you’ve heard the features, hear what it sounds like in the following video:
Now if you like the upgraded rack and sound module, but you’re willing to do without the mesh snare and kick, you can save money by going for the cheaper version of this kit instead:
5. Roland TD-11K
Right smack in the middle between the budget kits, and high-end kits…
We have the Roland TD-11K.
And who exactly do I recommend it for?
Well if you find yourself thinking…
I’m willing to spend as much as I need to, but I’m really not looking to spend more than I need to.
Then the TD-11K is the perfect choice for you.
Because quite honestly, with electronic drum kits, you eventually reach a threshold where good becomes good enough.
If you’re a drummer by trade, you may not reach that threshold until you have the very best of the best (which can be found at the bottom of this post).
If drums aren’t your main instrument, and you’re using it for your home studio, or if you just wanna play it for fun…
The Roland TD-11K is the upper limit of what I would recommend to most buyers…
Because it has all the “essential” features you really want, such as:
- a mesh snare,
- a cloth kick pad,
- a sturdy rack…
PLUS…the advanced TD-11 sound engine featuring the same Behavior Modeling, and SuperNATURAL Sound Engine Technologies used in Roland’s higher-end kits.
Watch this video to see the TD-11K in action:
- Multiple trigger cymbals – which offer a better feel and more realism than the cheaper single trigger pads.
- Mesh pads on the toms – as opposed to the rubber pads on the TD-11K.
And while we’re on the subject…
Mesh pads on the toms is the perfect example of a feature that while certainly “nice-to-have”…is mostly unnecessary when you really think about it.
And for the remainder of this post, the higher-end kits I’m about to offer show you MUCH more in the “nice-to-have” category.
And up next we have…
6. Yamaha DTX532K
When comparing the Yamaha DTX532K to the seen TD-11K…
At first glance, you might be thinking that they look quite similar.
And they do. Except…
The DTX532K has 2 HUGE upgrades that TD-11K does not.
First, there’s the 3-trigger zone snare, and 3-trigger zone cymbals, which offer much better feel and playability…
When compared to the TD-11K snare and cymbals, which only have dual-trigger zones.
Second, there’s the vertical motion hi-hats which look and feel WAY more realistic than the remote pedals we’ve seen thus far in the earlier kits. It comes with a hi-hat stand as well, although you can use your own if you already have one you like.
Depending on your playing style, these hi-hats could either be a “nice-to-have” if you’re a classic rock-n-roll type drummer…
Or it could be an absolute “must-have” if you’re more into jazz, reggae, or whatever.
Now check out the video below to see the DTX532K in action:
Also check out the 2 other similar versions in the Yamaha 502 Series:
- The cheaper DTX522K – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF) with a remote hi-hat.
- The pricier DTX562K – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann) with the better hi-hats, and the better XP70 mesh toms.
7. Roland TD-25 KV
Of all the kits we’ve seen so far…
The Roland TD-25KV is the first that surely qualifies as a “professional” electronic set.
It has all the top features we’ve seen in previous kits…
First off, there’s the hardware, which compared to the TD-11K, is upgraded on virtually every part of the kit.
- The snare and toms use the more advanced PDX-100 and PD-85BK
- The cymbals use the upgraded CY-12C crash and CY13R ride
- The hi-hat features the ultra realistic VH-11
The most impressive of all is the snare which features multi-position sensoring that sounds different across the entire drum head, depending on where you strike it, and how hard.
And finally there’s the sound engine, which is the true reason why the TD-25K sounds so incredible.
Watch this video to see the TD-25KV in action:
8. Yamaha DTX 760K
Despite all the advancements electronic drums have gone through in recent years…
The number one issue that drummers have with electronic drums is a lack of feel/playability.
Because even though they sound amazing (sometimes even better than the real thing)…
There’s no mistaking the feel of real acoustic drum heads and cymbals, with that of mesh heads and rubber-cymbals.
At the very high-end price points (somewhere around $3500)…
Electronic drum kits reach a level of quality where the “feel” is not only acceptable, but actually quite enjoyable.
And the Yamaha DTX760K is the first model we’ve seen on the list that clearly fits into that category.
Here are some examples of why:
First…there’s a noticeable difference in tension between the snare and the toms, which is something that all drummers can appreciate.
Next…in addition to having a real hi-hat stand, it has a real snare stand as well, which significantly cuts down on the movement you get with typical rackmounted snares.
Then…there’s the impressive KB-100 kick pad. Just one look at this thing and you can clearly see it’s the best, most realistic kick pad we’ve seen thus far. And it’s even big enough to fit a double bass pedal.
Then…there’s the ultra-realistic hi-hat sensors, which can actually monitor the foot pressure you apply in the closed position and vary the sound/pitch accordingly.
Finally…there’s the optional DTX760HWK hardware which eliminates the standard electronic drum rack design completely, in favor the type of hardware used with acoustic kits.
To learn more about the DTX760K check out this extremely in-depth video:
NOTE: Yamaha’s flagship kit is actually the DTX920K, but I did not include it in this post because it is not yet sold by many online retailers. But feel free to double check by clicking here.
9. Roland TD-30KV
For the past several years now, it has been widely agreed upon in the drumming community…
That the Roland TD-30KV is without a doubt, the Best Electronic Drum Kit on the Planet!
And despite the fact that many newer models have since been released by other companies…
None of them can yet compare to the overall awesomeness you get with the TD-30KV.
In addition to having pretty much all the best features mentioned in previous kits, the one unique feature of this kit is the fact that it uses NOT drum pads…
But actual drums, with a shell, and tensioned head to match not only the FEEL of acoustic drums, but the LOOK as well…(and without all the noise).
The size of the TD-30KV drums also offer the largest playing surfaces of any kit on the list so far.
And finally, there’s my favorite feature: the TD-30 sound module OUTPUTS.
With separate analog outputs for each of the drum and cymbal, it’s PERFECT for the recording studio because it allows you to separate each drum on a separate track…
Just like you would if you were recording an acoustic drum kit with real microphones.
To learn more, check out this video:
NOTE: Right now is a good time to buy the either of these kits, because they are both significantly cheaper than they once were.
The most likely reason? The final kit on the list…
10. Roland TD-50KV
Despite the fact that they already had the best electronic drum kit on the market…
Roland recently decided to take things one step further…
By introducing the newest flagship model in their lineup: the Roland TD-50KV.
Compared to the TD-30KV they’ve added a number of impressive upgrades, most notably the following:
The ride is now a larger 18″ model, with a weight and balance much closer to that of the real thing.
The snare is now 14″ just like a standard acoustic snare, and it includes a 3-ply mesh head which carries a far better rebound than the 2-ply heads used on the toms, and on previous snare models.
It also adds a mute sensor for easy cross-stick playing.
Arguably the biggest advancement on BOTH the ride and the snare, is the introduction of DIGITAL triggering, which is the first of its kind in the entire industry.
Up until now, electronic drums have relied on analog triggers. With digital triggering however, a LOT more information can be sent to the sound module, allowing for a far more realistic response.
While the kick drum still comes with the same KD-140 used on the TD-30KV, a new upgrade option known as the KD-A22 is now available…
Which allows you to convert your own real 22″ kick drum shell into a trigger compatible with the rest of the kit. It looks and feels just like a real kick drum…because it IS a real kick drum.
With the TD-50 module, the entire sound library has been re-built from the ground up, recycling none of the samples used in the TD-30 or any other module.
The rear of the module adds 2 balanced XLR outputs which will definitely come in handy for live performances…
And for the studio, they’ve added a single USB output which allows you to multitrack record the entire kit on your DAW.
So even though the 8 analog outputs from the TD-30 are still available on the TD-50, all you really need now…is a single USB cable.
Pretty awesome huh? Now check out the video to find out more:
Also check out the cheaper Roland TD-50K – (GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann), which is basically the same as as the TD-50KV, but with a smaller kick, toms, and cymbals. The snare, ride, and sound module are the same.
NOTE: Both of these kits were not yet available on Amazon at the time of this post. But you can click here see if they are now.