Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit
The Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit lets you experience mesh heads at an affordable price. Each of the mesh pads are tunable to your preference, to give you the bounce and feel that's closer to acoustic drum heads.
For the price you're getting 3 tom pads, a snare, and a complete set of cymbal pads which include a 10" hi-hat, 10" ride and 10" crash. This kit also comes with foot controllers for triggering the hi-hat and kick drum.
- Snare: 8" Single-zone Mesh Snare
- Toms: 3 x 10" Mesh Toms
- Cymbals: 10" Crash Cymbal Pad, 10" Ride Cymbal Pad
- Hi-Hat: 10" Hi-hat Pad with Foot Controller,
- Kick Pad: Kick Controller Pedal
- Drum Stand: Rack Stand
- Drum Module: Turbo Mesh Drum Module
- Module Sounds: 120 sounds, 64 max polyphony
- Extra Features: 10 preset kits; 120 drums & percussion sounds, 30 backing tracks
- Module Inputs: 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
- Module Outputs: 2 x 1/4" TS (L/Mono, R)
- USB: MIDI I/O - Type B
- Power Supply: Power Supply
- Dimensions: 32" x 46" x 32"
- Weight: 29.1 lbs.
Value for money is its strong suit, with many describing it as a great buy especially for beginners and intermediate players. Playing feel is often appreciated, along with the sonic versatility of its drum module.
There are a few complaints about build quality, with some pinpointing the input and ports as flimsy and requiring extra handling care.
The Alesis Turbo Mesh Kit is a great starter kit that those with budget constraints will appreciate.
NB: Some retailers list this as an 8 piece kit because they count the cymbals, but it's actually a 5 piece kit.
The Donner brand is known for affordability, but it can be a hit or miss when it comes to quality. The DED-200 5-pc set is a good example of what the company can do when they do things right, which is to keep the quality and features up, while keeping the price low.
For the money it gives you three toms and a snare pad, all of which are dual zone, something that'll be hard to beat in its price range.
It also comes with a full complement of essential cymbals which include hi-hat, ride and crash pads.
There is even a small bass pad that you can trigger much like acoustic drums via the included kick pedal, and it has a dedicated foot controller for the hi-hat.
Finally, at the heart of this set is a drum module with over 225 sounds.
- Snare: 8" Snare (Dual Zone)
- Toms: 3 x 8’’ Toms (Dual Zone)
- Cymbals: 2 x 12’’ Ride & Crash Pads (Dual Zone)
- Hi-Hat: 10’’ Hi-Hat Pad (Dual Zone)
- Kick Pad: 8" Kick Pad with Kick Pedal
- Drum Stand: Foldable Rack
- Drum Module: DED-200 Module with
- Module Sounds: 225 timbres
- Extra Features: Dual Zone Pads, 30 demo Songs
- Module Inputs: 1/8" Audio Input
- Module Outputs: 1/4" Audio Output, 1/8" Headphones Out
- USB: Type B MIDI I//O
- Power Supply: 9V DC adaptor
- Dimensions: 28.74" x 32.28" x 15.75"
- Weight: 39.68 lbs.
While it's not quite the cheapest in this list, the Donner DED-200 gives you the most features per buck, and this is well appreciated in reviews. Good playing feel is also another one of its strengths as attested to by many users. Ease of use and setup, along with its versatile timbres also help it gain a lot of high ratings. Many also rate it highly for not looking cheap, and for feeling solid.
Some experienced drummers report that the set is not as sensitive to nuances in playing style as they had hoped, but this is to be expected given the price. Some of the sound presets also prompted a few thumbs down.
With its dual zone pads and solid build, the Donner DED-200 is highly recommended.
Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is a 5-piece electronic drum set with all of the pads featuring mesh material. It is a welcome upgrade to previous generation electronic drum kits from Alesis in this price range. It also sports a dual zone snare, and a crash cymbal pad with choke functionality.
While it may not seem much in terms of specs, it is more than enough for beginner to intermediate players, which is whom this set is designed for.
And much like most Alesis electronic drum kits, it's main wow factor is found in its drum module, with 385 percussion sounds and 40 Drum presets to play with.
- Snare: 8" Dual-zone Mesh
- Toms: 3 x 8" Mesh
- Cymbals: 2 x 10" Cymbal Pads (Crash with Choke)
- Hi-Hat: 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- Kick Pad: Kick Pad Tower with Kick Pedal included
- Drum Stand: 4-post Aluminum Rack
- Drum Module: Nitro Drum Module
- Module Sounds: 385 Percussion Sounds and 40 Drum Presets
- Extra Features: Accessories include Drum Sticks and Drum Key
- Module Inputs: 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
- Module Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (Left, Right)
- USB: 1 x Type B
- Power Supply: AC adaptor
- Dimensions: 24" x 38" x 43"
- Weight: 29.5 lbs.
Sound quality is a strength of the Alesis Nitro Mesh, as it is often compared favorably even by those who bought other electronic drum kits in the same price range. Be it through an amp or through headphones, most are pleased with many of its drum presets. The playing feel of the mesh pads are also often commended. Many also love its compact profile, which makes it readily portable and easy to hide away when not used.
Speaking of compact, there are some who feel that this kit is too small for them, and they caution bigger drummers, or those who are used to wide acoustic kits. The included instructions for setting up got a number of users scratching their heads.
If you're looking for a compact budget electronic drum set with a dual zone snare and chokeable crash, and you want one from a reputable brand, then check out the Alesis Nitro Mesh.
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Electronic Drum Set Under $1000 along with the Yamaha DTX532K which has since been discontinued.
It's also the Highest Rated Electronic Drum Set Under $500.
The Roland TD-1K is a compact and streamlined electronic drum kit that makes their brand of quality and dynamic sensitivity more accessible to the masses.
For the price, you are getting a drum kit with multi-zone and choke capable cymbals, along with velocity sensitive rubber pads, and quiet operation pedals.
All of these are wired to its core, which is Roland's V-Drums technology equipped TD-1 module, with 15 kits to choose from and personalize.
There's even a "Coach" feature that gives you scored exercises to help you improve your playing.
Wrapping it all up is the TD-1K's compact stand that allows the kit to fit into small rooms, making it ideal for those who want to save on both money and space.
- Snare: 1 x Snare (Rubber Velocity Sensitive)
- Toms: 3 x Toms (Rubber Velocity Sensitive)
- Cymbals: 1 x Crash, 1 x Ride (Dual-Zone Rubber with Choke)
- Hi-Hat: 1 x Hi-Hat (Rubber with Choke) with Pedal
- Kick Pad: Beater-less kick pedal
- Drum Stand: Compact TD-1 Stand
- Drum Module: TD-1 with 10 Trigger Inputs
- Module Sounds: 15 Drum Kits, 15 Songs
- Extra Features: Coach, Metronome, Recording
- Module Inputs: 1/8" Stereo
- Module Outputs: 1/8" Stereo
- USB: MIDI
- Power Supply: AC adaptor
- Dimensions: 39.375" x 47.25" x 49.25"
- Weight: 25.19 lbs.
Reviews for the Roland TD-1K are flooded with users who relish its premium feel and sound quality. Many of those who switched from cheaper kits appreciate the big jump in quality that it offers. A lot of drummers also find the size to be just right for their limited space.
Other than a few with missing parts / shipping related issues, there are no noteworthy complaints about the Roland TD-1K's quality.
If you're looking to get the best electronic drum kit with your $500, then the Roland TD-1K should be your top consideration if you're okay with the smaller size as demonstrated in the video below.
Alesis Surge Mesh Kit
There's just no stopping Alesis from hoarding multiple spots in this guide thanks to their good market standing. The Alesis Surge Mesh in particular has been well received for its dual-zone pads.
Each of the dual zone pads feature tunable mesh heads, from the 10" mesh snare, to the three 8" mesh toms.
It also sports two 10" cymbal pads with choke function, along with a 10" Hi-hat pad.
All of these are meant to trigger the many drum kits and percussion sounds that are provided for by its drum module, and knowing Alesis, we expect it to have more than enough percussion sounds to play with for a long time.
- 1 x 10" Dual-zone Mesh Snare Pad
- 3 x 8" Dual-zone Mesh Tom Pads
- 8" Mesh Kick Pad Tower
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- 10" Crash Pad - With Choke
- 10" Ride Pad - With Choke
- Hi-Hat Pedal and Kick Pedal
- Surge Drum Module with 385 sounds
- 24 Preset kits and 16 User Kits
- 60 built-in play-along tracks
- USB/MIDI connection for using it as a MIDI controller with your computer
- Headphone output, Aux Input
The Surge Mesh Kit's playability is its strong suit, which many describe as very responsive, even for more nuanced playing. There are also plenty of positive remarks regarding its sound quality, impressing even professional drummers. While it's not necessarily the cheapest, those who invested in this kit found it to be a great buy, thanks to its good balance of quality, affordability and features.
There are a few who feel that setting up and balancing the volume of each drum and cymbal can be time consuming at first. The Hi-hat's closed or open functionality is a bit limiting for some, but this limitation is the norm at entry level price points.
With its dual zone pads, and choke friendly cymbals, the Alesis Surge Mesh Kit is a good step up compared to many other entry-level kits.
Although this isn't a regular kit, this compact option does have the essentials including kick and hit-hat pedals.
Roland Octapad SPD-30 Version 2
While not exactly a conventional drum kit, the Roland Octapad SPD-30 V2 gets a special spot on this list for being an add-on tool for drummers, while still being a capable and easily portable stand alone kit.
It is often used as an add-on tool by drummers on stage, especially in worship and pop music circles. But it can also work as a compact electronic drum kit complete with a kick trigger pedal and a hi-hat control pedal.
At its core are the SPD-30 percussion pads that utilize the latest technology that Roland has to offer, as seen in their premium V-Drums line.
For easy setup, the unit comes with a double-braced tripod stand with height adjustments.
- Pads: 8 x Spd-30 percussion pads
- Kick Pad: Kick Trigger Controller
- Drum Stand: Double Braced Tripod Stand
- Drum Module: Built-in
- Module Sounds: 99 kits, 600+ Percussion Sounds
- Extra Features: Phrase Loop function, Multi-Effects, Compatibility with MIDI devices, and other Modules
- Module Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (mix in)
- Module Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (main out), 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
- USB: 1 x Type A, 1 x Type B
- Power Supply: 9V DC power supply (sold separately)
- Dimensions: 3.5" x 21.31" x 10.75"
- Weight: 8.44 lbs.
The Roland Octapad SPD-30 has become a fixture in many drum setups, and it's all thanks to its practicality and quality. It gets most of its praise from pros who are using it to expand their percussion sounds, but it also gets some love from those who use it as a portable kit. Jordan McLachlan of Music Radar gave the pads a perfect score and concludes his review by saying: "Combine predictably gorgeous sound with better-than-ever functionality, the ability to connect external pads for an extensive playing set-up and the Phrase Loop feature for creativity on-stage and you're on to a winner." NB - Jordan McLachlan's review was for Version 1 but the hardware is the same and can be upgraded to Version 2 with a firmware update.
Aside from not being a conventional electronic drum set, there aren't any noteworthy complaints.
Whether you're looking for a portable kit, or you just want to expand your sonic palette, the Roland Octapad SPD-30 V2 will get the job done.
Things To Consider When Buying an Electronic Drum Set
Electronic drum pads are designed to be compact replacements for the acoustic snare, tom and floor tom. More affordable kits usually have rubber pads, while more expensive ones feature mesh pads. The general consensus is mesh pads are better, because they feel similar to acoustic drums. Since they are woven from strong polyester plastic (Mylar) they are also sturdier and quieter. Rubber pads are preferred for practical reasons, because they are usually lighter and affordable, ideal for compact and portable electronic drum kits. Note that pads are not limited to just mesh or rubber, as shown by Yamaha's silicon gel based pads.
Cymbals and Hi-Hat
Electronic drum kits utilize plastic cymbals with specially designed rubber pads on top. They are designed to replicate the playing feel of metal cymbals and metal hi-hats - but are usually smaller, probably to save on cost and space. For the most realistic playing experience, you'll generally want a kit with at least a crash cymbal, a ride cymbal and a hi-hat. As for quality and feel, more expensive ones usually have more realistic bounce and feel, so you get what you pay for. Based on our market research, Roland cymbals are widely considered to be the gold standard, specifically the ones in their V-Pro series however those kits are priced above $1000.
Number of Zones/Triggers
Zones, also called Triggers, specify the number of sounds you can get from a pad, cymbal or hi-hat. Basic ones will just have one zone, which means that you get the same sound regardless of where you hit the pad. Advanced kits will have two or more zones. Dual zone pads usually have dedicated triggers for the head and the rim, allowing for rim shots and cross stick playing. Dual zone cymbals have dedicated triggers for the bow and edge. There are also triple zone cymbals that have triggers for the bow, edge and bell. Basically, you'll want kits that have as many zones as your budget permits. Take note that, more expensive kits allow for "positional sensing" where-in the sound varies as you hit different areas of the pad.
Cymbal choking is a technique used by drummers to mute cymbals with their hands. Kits that have at least one crash cymbal with choke are preferred for realism. Some technique adjustments are required to trigger cymbal choking, and it may vary from kit to kit. There are some that require pinching at the outer edge, while more advanced cymbals allow for easier choking. Some of the premium cymbals even allow for muffling and pre-choking, but are usually found on more expensive kits.
Drum Sound Module
The Drum Sound Module serves as the central hub of the kit. It is where all the pads and cymbals are wired to, and it is where all sound processing and production takes place. It also houses the controls for which you can vary the sound of your kit.
Sound Quality and Versatility
Sound quality is the primary concern, but it is inherently subjective, thankfully we only included top rated kits that the market deems to be good sounding in this list. Still, the data we gathered suggests that sound quality improves as price increases. Versatility is also important, you should watch out for the number of factory and user presets, available instrument sounds, and sound editing.
If you're looking to improve your drum playing and musicality, training features should be an important consideration. Thankfully, many of the kits featured in this list have built-in student friendly features that include Advanced Metronome/Click Track functions, Recording and Playback, Songs/Tracks Play Along, and Training exercises.
If you are planning to use your electronic drum kit to trigger virtual instruments in your computer, then USB/MIDI connectivity is imperative. Most modern drum kits utilize USB ports to send/receive MIDI data, so they may not have dedicated 5-pin MIDI ports. Check the specs carefully if you need to connect the kit with MIDI devices that require 5-pin connection.
Audio Input / Outputs
The drum module is where the audio input and output ports are located. Essential audio connections are usually provided, which include a 1/4" output that goes to an amplifier or mixer, and a headphones out for quiet practice. Some modules have two 1/4" output ports for sending stereo signal, one being Left/Mono, and the other Right. Take note of the port sizes, especially with the headphones out, so you'll know if your headphones will fit, or if you'll need an adapter.
Amplifier / Speaker System
Electronic drum kits don't have built-in amplifiers and speakers. You can use headphones when practicing on your own, otherwise they have to be plugged into a separate amplifier or PA system. Since electronic drums produce wide range of frequencies they are best paired with a dedicated drum amplifier or full range Powered PA Speakers. Keyboard Amps and Acoustic Amps also work well, and in case you have one available.
Drum Throne, Kick Pedal and Hi-Hat Stand
One of the most often skimped and overlooked part of a drum kit is the drum throne. While you can use regular chairs, drum thrones offer more comfort, stability and movement freedom. So if you don't already have one, we recommend getting one along with the kit you will buy - see our guide to drum thrones.
You should also shop around for a good kick pedal if the kit you're buying does not have one bundled. The same goes with advanced kits that require hi-hat stands, best get all required hardware ready so you can enjoy your new electronic drum kit as soon as it arrives.
Best Electronic Drum Set Selection Methodology
This guide was first published on March 14, 2017 and the latest major update was published on April 2, 2020 written by Alexander Briones.
We first scouted for electronic drum sets that fall within the sub $1000 price range, and limited the search to those that are rating reasonably well and are widely available in the US. For this update, we ended up with a short list of 15 kits, which became our basis for gathering recent and relevant information, up to March of 2020, from customer feedback, YouTube reviews, Expert review articles and forum discussions. The data we gathered, which summed up to over 1200 sources, were fed to the Gearank algorithm resulting in the scores that we used to rank the kits appropriately. Also new for this update is a special pick that features the highly sought after Roland SPD-30, a portable electronic drum pad. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.