One of the blessings of being a drummer in the modern era is the advent of electronic drum sets; they literally open up the wide world of percussion and electronic sounds expanding the palette of sound exponentially.
One of the blessings of being the parent of a drummer in the modern era is the advent of electronic drum sets; YOU CAN TURN THE SOUND DOWN!!!!
As a drummer myself – for the majority of my life and a good chunk of my family’s – I do not understand why my family does not love to hear my playing and practice all hours of the day. However, an electronic drumset gives me the opportunity to play until my heart is content without disturbing those around me.
The question is, as a beginner or someone looking to practice or utilize an electronic drumset, which cheap electronic drum set is best?
Top 5 Best Cheap Electronic Drum Sets:
|Alesis Forge Kit|
|Yamaha DTX400K (Editor's Choice)|
|Alesis Nitro Kit|
|Spectrum AIL 602|
|Pyle Electronic Drum Kit|
The Alesis Forge kit is created by electronics company Alesis. It features an 8-piece set up with 5 drums, a hi-hat setup and two additional cymbals. It also includes any hardware and a good module made by the company.
The pads are all rubberized and hard. This style pad is not the most quiet but if you are considering a value proposition between quiet, feel, and durability this style is very good.
The hardware, according to reviewers, is not much to write home about but it will get the job done for most drummers.
As the module is really going to be what sets these kits apart, I would like to spend just a little bit of time considering what makes this module one to look for.
Firstly, it includes a good number of kits and samples (50 premade kits, 20 slots for user made and about 600 individual sounds) that are good enough to play with. Under scrutiny, these and any sounds on any of these kits will leave something to be desired.
One of the stand-out features is the ability to use the included USB port to add your own samples. I would say that most discerning drummers or musicians will outgrow the sounds included with the set. By having the ability to add your own sounds, this kit can pretty much last as long as you will want to keep it around.
Yamaha DTX400K Electronic Drum Set
Yamaha makes pretty much everything these days. But, they are pretty well known in the electronic drum set world for producing good products. The DTX400K is one of the better sub-$500 electronic drum sets that money can buy.
It is smaller and more compact, the hardware is thinner, much of what this set does is very small. 10 kits, 10 songs, a few different customizable controls. What you are getting more or less the iPhone of value electronic drums. Yamaha has created a compelling kit for anyone looking for something simple and functional.
The DTX400K features dark rubberized pads. The cymbal pads are larger than some other electronic drum sets and they seem to be a bit more responsive.
The most valuable part of this kit is that it is something that is extremely compact yet does not sacrifice when it comes to quality. Additionally, small improvements like a 3-zone snare pad that allows the snare to simulate closer to a real drum, make this set something for anyone who lives in an apartment or a parent’s bedroom to consider.
The DTX400K Module is really great looking. That is not something I say a lot about electronic drum set modules. But it is designed really well. If that matters to you, this is a device to consider.
Like I said earlier, this module features a small amount of sounds and an acceptable array of adjustment features. There is nothing here that is mind blowing, but what is done here is done really well.
To be honest, this is very much a toned down version of the Forge. The Nitro kit attempts to offer some of the higher end features of the Forge in a lower-cost, smaller footprint package.
Unlike the DTX400K, neither the Forge or the Nitro are kits that I would consider for advanced drummers. I say that, though, meaning this: the Alesis line of drumsets are not constructed by companies known for producing high-end instruments yet they have produced affordable and very good, consumer level products.
If I consider the Nitro in this context, the Nitro is a high-value investment.
It features essentially the same physical footprint as the Forge kit. The only real difference comes in the module.
Again, the module is essentially the same here.
The major differences come in the number of sounds and kits. The Nitro features less kits and sound options than the Forge.
The major concern if you are picking between the Nitro and the Forge is whether or not you can afford the Forge. If you can, you need to consider the Forge or the Yamaha above. If price is a constraining aspect, then go for the Nitro.
Spectrum AIL 602 Electroniс Drum Set
In my opinion, the Spectrum AIL is the most portable option of the bunch but this comes with some serious caveats.
Honestly, the price of this thing is great but it is not a drum set. The AIL 602 is more of a practice pad that can also make some somewhat convincing drumset sounds.
If portability is your major concern, this is definitely the instrument to consider especially in this price range.
But, this is not a traditional drumset and I cannot recommend it as one. For example, I think that this device would be put to very good use by a drummer looking for a way to think about different beat or fill ideas but I think it would not be a good tool for learning drums because it does not share the same layout as a “real drumset”.
That being said, this thing is great for anyone who already knows how to play the drums or a kid who may be interested. The sounds are really good for what it is, better than I think those on the Alesis options.
There is no need to fiddle with amplifiers or modules, this unit has all of that built in.
The price and portability of this model really set it apart, but before purchasing make sure that you have considered all of the different elements that set this device apart from other electronic percussion devices.
Pyle PTED06 Electronic Drum Set
Similar to the AIL 602, this is not a drum set in the typical form factor.
Most of my criticism and acclaim in regards to the 602 applies here but, I think that this instrument has a leg up over the AIL 602.
That leg up is a focus on using this device in tandem with a PC or Mac product and digital music production software. I think that this is the feature that puts this device out front, in a different way, than any of the other devices on the list.
If you were looking at an electronic drumset in order to pair it with a computer, you should definitely consider starting on this device.
It features the portability and ease-of-use like the AIL 602 but is geared towards the digital producer.
If you are purchasing this device for an aspiring producer, this might be one to watch especially at this price range!
But, like the AIL 602, this is not a drum set and should not be considered one for practice or learning purposes; this is a different name but the same instrument.
A Guide to the Wide World of Electronic Drums
When you are buying an electronic drum set, you must bear a fair amount of details in mind.
- You are buying two things
- The pad technology
- The computer module that transforms data into sound
- Some features are pretty much available on all sets
- A “library” of a handful or more of sounds
- You will be smacking pads that make some noise
- You will also need an amplifier or headphones
- An electronic drumset is not exactly like playing real, acoustic drums
- You are going to pay more money for an electronic drumset that is capable of something a mid-cost acoustic drumset is.
What Should You Look for in Every Electronic Drum Set?
- You want to buy from a company with a history of creating reliable electronics. You are, as previously stated, buying something that relies almost entirely on the electronic signal. Therefore, in order to ensure that you are going to get a good, long-term return on your investment you want to buy from a company that has a history of producing long-lasting electronic components. The best value electronic drumset will be manufactured by a company that can put out reliable electronic components.
- You want to buy from a company that has other musical instrument offerings. This idea is a little less essential than the previous but, in my opinion, if you buy an electronic drumset from a computer manufacturer you are going to get a solid computer paired with a poor musical instrument.
If you can make sure to check off both of those, then I do not think you can go wrong when selecting an electronic drumset in any price range.
The Important Components
Besides the above conceptual considerations, you should look at any electronic drumset before you buy. When you look, you need to examine three major aspects of the gear: the pads, the module, and the hardware. Most electronic drum sets in the lower price range will include all of the things you need to play. The only thing that you might need to buy is an amplifier.
The pads are one of the most important aspects of your electronic drum set. While I won’t say whether or not there are good or bad pads, I will say that you need to be aware that pretty much every different pad will have strengths and weaknesses in regards to feel, how noisy they are, durability, etc.
I would recommend always trying to get the opportunity to try out the set you are thinking of buying so that you can make sure you are happy with it.
Make sure that the hardware the set comes with is acceptable to you. Some people, depending on playing experience, will have different hardware expectations. Don’t worry too much about what is good or bad hardware, get something you like and works for you.
I have saved this portion for the last part of my buyer’s guide for a singular reason: this is what makes all electronic drumsets tick. When selecting your module, you want to make sure that it has a few good different sound samples and some basic volume and mixing controls in this price range.
Again, the best way to assess the value of the module you are considering is to test it out.
Final Buying Consideration
One of the coolest things about electronic drums is that you can, usually, upgrade small pieces at a time. You can buy a new module should the day come when you outgrow the existing one.
Pads, hardware, triggers, and amps can all be switched out with varying levels of technical ability. So, while you are making an initial investment here, consider that these drum sets are each only a starting point.
So, what is the best cheap electronic drum set?
Conclusion: What’s the Best Cheap Electronic Drum Set?
The best electronic drum set in this price range is the DTX400K, hands down. If you can afford it, buy it. But, there are other devices on this list to consider.
Honestly, I could forget the Alesis line of products. They just do not do anything for me. That being said, they might do something for you and if they do, they are good instruments.
The AIL 602 and the PTED06 are different beasts but each has his/her own uses.
Still, for the traditional drum set player, purchase the DTX400K for minimal fuss and disappointment.