The 10 Best Drum Sets

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This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Few instruments have been as integral to music's historical development as the drum. If you learn to play today, no matter what your favorite style is, you'll always find people to jam with and bands to join. We've compared some of the best kits, from tight, three-piece jazz units to booming, rock-and-roll trap sets, and included budget-tier options as well as professional-grade ones. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Pearl Masters Maple

2. Gretsch Catalina Club

3. Tama Imperialstar

Editor's Notes

December 10, 2020:

Not much update was needed with this list. The Pearl Masters Maple and the Gretsch Catalina Club retain their first and second spots, respectively, as they truly are two of the best kits available today. Since 1966, Pearl has been one of the most popular and coveted drum manufacturers on the market. In their 50+ years of existence, they have been perfecting their craft, constantly improving on what came before. The Pearl Masters series is the product of that constant innovation and is one of the most sought after kits by professionals. Gretsch has been making instruments since the late 1800s and the Catalina Club embodies that history. It combines classic, tried and tested tone and configuration with modern construction so that it holds up to everything that players have loved about Gretsch for so long while taking advantage of everything that modern innovation has to offer.

A few kits have been moved around. The Tama Imperialstar has been bumped up to the number three position from number 6 as it is a powerful, yet classically configured rock kit that can be used by players of varying skill sets. It also can't be ignored that it includes an Iron Cobra pedal, one of the best pedals out there.

The Yamaha Stage Custom and the Ludwig Accent Drive have been switched. Even though the Yamaha does not include cymbals, the birch shells offer a much richer sound than those of the Ludwig. Also, it can be beneficial to choose your own cymbals that better resonate with the rest of the kit and the sounds you're going for rather than use mediocre cymbals just because they came with the kit.

We would also like to encourage you to take a look at our special honors section. The sets listed there are incredible choices that are a bit harder to find and more niche than some of those on the main list. The special honors include the DW Collector's series, a very expensive but amazing selection for serious players as well as the PDP by DW Player 5-Piece which is a top of the line choice for young beginners.

If you enjoyed our list and are looking to further explore the world of percussion, be sure to check out our list of the best electronic drum sets.

June 21, 2019:

Most of our picks are sold as complete kits, meaning they include the shells, heads, hardware, cymbals, and sometimes they even provide a drum throne and kick pedal. Obviously, this is ideal for beginners looking to make a single purchase that will come with everything they need to assemble and start playing their kit on the same day.

With that said, our new addition to this list, the Pearl Masters Maple Absinthe (ranked #1), is sold as a shell-only bundle. This is a professional-grade kit, so chances are, if you're interested in buying a set that costs as much as this one does, you'll want to choose your own cymbals and heads.

While tonal preferences are subjective, objective claims can be made about the quality of the materials certain companies use, or the craftsmanship involved in the production of a kit. Usually these correlate with a drum set's price — the more expensive, the better the quality of the materials and craftsmanship involved. We took these objective metrics into account when ranking our favorites. However, the most expensive kit won't necessarily be the one that you like most. What you should do is head to a music shop and try out some of the kits you're interested in. We are, after all, talking about the most visceral of instruments when we talk about drums, so to fully come to a decision, we believe it's important that you hear them in person, then take some time to ruminate before making your choice.

Special Honors

Gretsch Renown Having developed a reputation as a set that can keep up with kits twice its price, this one exudes timbral warmth with its tight kick drum resonance, expansive projection from the toms, and — thanks to the company's customary attention to detail — hardware components that place less strain on important resonating points, allowing harmonics to breathe.

DW Collector's Series Though quite expensive, the DW Collector's Series is basically a love letter to drummers. Stunningly crafted and imbued with all the tone-enhancing innovations DW has to offer, the Collector's Series offers an incredible feel with a focus on powerful low-end and impact. Choose from a variety of colors and configurations.

PDP by DW Concept Maple The PDP by DW Concept Maple series offers professional sounding kits for affordable prices, making them perfect for beginners testing the waters or veterans looking for a solid kit without spending an exorbitant amount.

PDP Player 5-Piece Everyone has to start somewhere. This junior kit is perfect for young players around the ages of 5-10. It comes with everything your young drummer might need, cymbals, throne, pedal, tunable heads. It's also incredibly affordable.

4. Pearl Export Series

5. Gretsch Catalina Maple

6. Yamaha Stage Custom

7. Ludwig Accent Drive

8. Pearl Roadshow

9. Mendini MDS80

10. Gammon Percussion Complete

A Few Areas to Consider Before Buying a Drum Set

Professional drum sets tend to connect the tom-toms to a bass drum, thereby increasing the overall center of mass.

It's pretty obvious that drum sets vary in size depending on their layouts, and thus require adequate room to be placed. That being the case, you'll want to measure whatever space you have allocated for a drum set, and then compare that space to a drum set's square footage, and getting those specifications should be an easy task.

For traveling musicians, and especially bands, you may need to take similar precautions to ensure that a drum set will fit into the back of a van, bus, or the backseat of a car. You may also need to take note of a drum set's weight, especially in the event that you'll be carting that drum set several nights a week, from door to door.

Drums are no doubt an investment, and besides measuring out a specific space for them to nest, it's ideal to assess if maintenance is required for the pieces, prior to placement. Check for things like, bald tripod foot support, worn out heads, and built up dust. The more the drum set is cared after, the more likely it is to last longer. When everything looks squared away, place the bass drum in the center of your chosen spot, and build up around it with the other pieces. Ideally, you'll want your equipment to rest on tripods or four-point bases with rubber caps along each leg for better floor contact. Professional drum sets tend to connect the tom-toms to a bass drum, thereby increasing the overall center of mass.

If you happen to be buying a drum set for the first time, it's important to strike a balance between seeking out a (relatively inexpensive) beginner's set and seeking out a kit that can generate great sound. This may require some research, including listening to a handful of video demonstrations by way of a manufacturer's website. Once you've found a set that meets your needs, check to see whether that set comes with an adjustable stool. You cannot get very far on the drums if you don't have a place to sit down.

Several Little-Known Benefits Associated With The Drums

Playing the drums can provide you with a sense of rhythm, sure, but did you know that playing the drums can also provide you with a running list of ancillary benefits? Physically speaking, for example, learning to play the drums can help you to build strong forearms and biceps. Playing the drums can also channel your energy, a reality which has proven therapeutic for patients who are suffering from acute anxiety, attention deficit disorder, or similar symptoms of duress.

In terms of rhythm, learning how to speed up a song's time signature can improve your ability to think on your feet.

Playing the drums will likely enable you to understand sheet music and scales, both of which are based on mathematics. Playing the drums may also open the door to performing with a band, an ensemble, or perhaps even an orchestra, any of which can allow you to engage in a collaborative process that finds its roots in the ancient drum circles of old.

Biologically speaking, repetitive drumming catalyzes your white-blood-cell count, which, in turn, increases your body's immunity to disease. Focusing on the drums can also enhance your everyday cognitive skills, if not your IQ. In terms of rhythm, learning how to speed up a song's time signature can improve your ability to think on your feet.

Music, at its best, has the power to unite people, and to raise their spirits. Learning to play an instrument can provide you with access to that conversation, regardless of whether you aspire to play in the philharmonic, or you'd simply like to keep a beat in the garage.

A Brief History of The Drum

According to historians, early primates were the first beings to beat, or drum, their chests rhythmically as a way of establishing dominance, or communicating displeasure. This learned behavior is so rudimentary - and yet universal - that it is still practiced by apes throughout the world to this day.

While drumming as a concept dates back millions of years, the earliest man-made drum dates back to China around 5,000 BCE. This excavated drum - much like several similar drums that have been recovered from the ruins of Ancient India, Peru, Egypt, and Greece - was made from a cylindrical gourd that had been hollowed out, before being covered by an animal skin. A lot of these primitive drums were designed to be played not by wood, but by hand.

Whereas the Ancient Chinese were the first to use a drum during their marching exercises, the Ancient Romans were the first to use a drum as an instrument of war.

Whereas the Ancient Chinese were the first to use a drum during their marching exercises, the Ancient Romans were the first to use a drum as an instrument of war. Centurion drummers were enlisted to send coded messages across sprawling battlefields. These drummers were also enlisted to let civilians know whenever a military faction was about to enter, invade, or cross through a small town.

American Indians, by way of comparison, are known for using drums during their healing rituals. American Indians are also known for developing the drum circle as a means of encouraging community, while passing down the oral histories of their tribes.

The drum has evolved over the centuries as an instrument that is defined by different cultures. Bongo drums and conga drums have remained a prevalent part of many island cultures, giving birth to ska, and reggae, and calypso. American drum sets have incorporated elaborate kits, along with hi-hats and foot pedals, giving rise to the ramshackle sound of rock and roll, and blues, and jazz.

Today, a drummer could be anyone from a professional percussionist to a beach bum, busking for tips in the sand. As fate would have it, drumming is not only the oldest, but also the most accessible form of rhythm known to man.

Daniel Goldstein
Last updated by Daniel Goldstein

Daniel is a writer, musician, and frequent traveler with a bachelor’s in creative writing from the State University of New York. In recent years, his writing chops have developed alongside his musical skills, thanks to a rich double life. During the day, he apprenticed with “Rolling Stone” journalist and critic Will Hermes, and when the sun set, he and his NYC-based, four-piece band gigged at high-end venues across the northeastern United States. His affinity for sharing things he's passionate about has culminated in nine years of experience as a music teacher at elementary schools, where he honed his ability to simplify and elucidate concepts to the uninitiated. All considered, he feels most at home writing about instruments, audio electronics and backpacking gear.

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