The 10 Best Electronic Drum Sets

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This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Percussion is an integral part of every genre of music, but it's often difficult, inappropriate, or simply impossible to practice on or record with a large, acoustic trap set. So musicians, amateur and professional alike, turn to electronic drum sets to jam out, whether at home wearing headphones or on stage behind the monitors. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best electronic drum set on Amazon.

10. Pyle PED021M

9. Yamaha DTX 400K

8. Kat Percussion KT2

7. Roland TD-4KP

6. Alesis DM10 MKII

5. Yamaha DTX450K

4. Roland TD-30KV

3. Alesis Nitro

2. Roland TD1KV

1. Alesis Strike Pro

Fingers On The Trigger

Electronic drums operate on the principal of what are commonly called triggers.

Electronic drums operate on the principal of what are commonly called triggers. There's no violence implied here. It's more like hitting a big red button than firing a gun.

When you hit a drum trigger, or pad, the intensity of the hit–and sometimes even its exact position on the pad–is relayed to a module of available sounds and translated through any number of presets you select.

The thing about most electronic drums is that you can assign that trigger to make any sound under the sun so long as it's programmed into your module.

Most people will give the pad in the snare position a snare sound, the tom positions tom sounds, the ride cymbal a ride cymbal sound, etc., until they essentially have a recreation of a standard drum kit in front of them.

That's fine and all, but you can really customize these sounds to anything and everything. If you want your snare to sound like a kick drum and your kick drum to sound like a space ship launching or a geisha fanning herself, there's nothing but your budget to stop you.

Zen And The Art Of Electronic Drumming

Most drummers will tell you, especially if they're rock or jazz drummers, that there is no substitute for a real acoustic kit. It's not just the sound they're talking about, either.

They're liable to go off on a long pseudo-spiritual rant about the life force in a "real" drum set.

There's a great Robert Pirsig quote about this mentality in his spiritual road epic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which he's undoubtedly paraphrasing a Zen parable he heard along the way.

The more custom you want the sound and feel, the nicer a kit you're going to want.

He says, "The only zen you find on tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there."

What it means for us is that there's nothing inherently more spiritual about an acoustic drum than a electronic drum, it's just that we find it easier to connect them to things we view as living, namely trees. But steel and plastics are just as spiritually and practically alive as any redwood. It's what you bring to the experience that matters.

With the spiritual stuff out of the way, we can admit that there are significant sonic differences between acoustic and electric drums.

In the case of acoustics, the sound of the drum is largely determined by its environment: the size of the room, the moisture in the air, etc. But you are in complete control of the sonic output of your electronic drums.

You can fine tune an electric kit to sound like an old GMS kit in a 1000 sq. ft. barn on the driest day of the summer if you want to spend enough on the tech side of it.

In that sense, electronic drum sets are all about customization. The more custom you want the sound and feel, the nicer a kit you're going to want.

If it's really just a matter of getting your hands on something that'll let you rock out without disturbing the peace, you'll be happy with something less expensive.

Rhythm From A Box

In the early 1960s musicians and artists began to experiment increasingly with devices called rhythm boxes. They were essentially early drum machines made by companies like Maestro and Ace Tone.

It wasn't until 1971, however, that a drum trigger pad, designed to be hit with a drum stick, came into being.

One such drummer, a man named Felix Visser, modified an Ace Tone drum machine to respond whenever he touched any one of a dozen circuits he wired into a board.

There was no pressure sensitivity, and the sound quality was immensely mechanical, but it was the dawn of electronic drumming as we know it.

It wasn't until 1971, however, that a drum trigger pad, designed to be hit with a drum stick, came into being. A Sussex University professor named Brian Groves combined his technical knowledge with the ambition and imagination of the drummer from The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge.

Since then, the pads have become more sensitive and more elaborate, the sounds have been more fine tuned to sound like human productions and not the effort of machines, and the feel of the drums themselves has gotten closer and closer to the feel of actual acoustic drum sets.

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Christopher Thomas
Last updated on October 11, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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