The Highest Rated Electronic Drum Sets Under $500
Alesis Debut Kit
- Button style pedals are a bit finicky
- Can be outgrown quickly because of its small size
- Compact drum kit for beginners and small spaces
- Student-friendly features
- USB MIDI out for drum education software
- Great feeling mesh heads
First up is the Alesis Debut Kit. Aimed squarely at younger beginners and smaller players, this electronic kit is designed to be the ultimate learning tool with a tiny footprint for small budgets. It is the cheapest drum set that rated high enough to secure a top spot.
It sports mesh heads, a plethora of electronic drum kit sounds, and 60 free lessons from Melodics. The module comes with 10 preset kits, a built-in metronome, and an integrated drum coach feature to help build your timing. It also comes with everything you need to start drumming, including the sticks, headphones, and the drum throne.
For an electronic drum set, the drum pads have a great feel. This is a good alternative to a big and noisy acoustic drum set for kids. The USB midi out is useful for triggering electric drum kits and drum education software on their PC and tablets.
The button style pedals and kick drum pedal jack can be a bit finicky. They also could have done more with the Melodics partnership. Some report that only 5 minutes a day of free lessons are provided even with the promo code. I feel this is a missed opportunity to provide value beyond just promoting another product.
The Debut would be a great choice for all budding musical families, if not for its small size which makes it slightly unergonomic for larger players. Still, this is a good pick if you have drastic space limitations.
But due to the limitations in size, you might outgrow this kit fairly quickly. If you want that Alesis goodness with better ergonomics for adult sized beginners, I'd recommend the Nitro Mesh.
- 4 x 6-inch Adjustable Mesh Head Drums
- 3 x 10-inch Cymbals
- Bass Drum Pedal and Hi-Hat Floor Pedal
- Sturdy metal mounting rack
- DM-Lite drum module with 10 kits and 120 sounds
- Connect to a computer or music player for play-along via USB-MIDI Output
- 2 x 1/4" Output, 1 x 1/8" Headphones Output, 1 x 1/8" Aux Input
- Drum throne, sticks, headphones, and cabling included
- Melodics learning software included
Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit
- Mesh heads can be springy if not tuned properly
- Cables are a bit thin
- Needs headphone amp for high impedance headphones
- Good value for money
- Tunable mesh heads
- Versatile sound options and easy to use
- With USB and MIDI connectivity
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit gives you quite a lot for the money. As the name implies it features all-mesh pads along with a hi-hat, crash cymbal, and ride.
The 8" dual-zone snare features mesh material that gives it a feel closer to an acoustic set than regular rubber pads. The same material is also used on the kit's three 8" mesh toms. Completing the set are three 10" cymbals, a hi-hat pedal, and a kick pedal with a bass drum pad tower.
All of these are mounted on its four-post rack, which is a definite plus if you like to strike your drumset hard. While the posts are tough, the cables are a bit thin, so proper handling and cable setup are needed.
The mesh heads have a springy trampoline feel to them that might not be for everyone, but they're tunable so you can mitigate this somewhat by dialing in the tension to taste.
All of these connect to the Alesis Nitro drum module which offers 40 drum kit sounds, 385 individual sounds, and 60 play-along tracks right out of the box. More importantly, all these features are easy to access, making this kit viable even for those with zero e-drum experience.
Other features include built-in metronome, headphones out, Aux input, USB, and MIDI connectivity. Its included MIDI input/output separate from the USB-MIDI output and 2 inputs for pad expansion provides unrivaled connectivity in its price points.
Note that the headphones out is meant for low impedance earphones. Volume will be noticeably lower when using high impedance headphones, or when you use headphones with built-in mics and a non-TRS plug. You'll need a dedicated headphone amplifier to achieve proper volume levels. I personally use an Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for quiet practice.
All things considered, the Nitro Mesh is what I personally recommend. It is the best beginner electric drum set for under $500 you can get barring the second-hand market.
Good job Alesis! I've gigged with this and it's very usable for an entry level kit. The sounds are limited and I wouldn't go as far as to say that they are "real" sounding but I would use it in a pinch for live performance as I did in this video:
Me playing the Alesis Nitro Mesh in a live recorded performance:
- 1 x 8" Dual-zone Mesh Snare Pad
- 3 x 8" Mesh Tom Pads
- Kick Pad Tower
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- 10" Crash Pad
- 10" Ride Pad
- Hi-Hat Pedal and Kick Pedal
- Alesis Nitro Drum Module with 385 sounds
- 40 Preset kits
- 60 built-in play-along tracks
- USB/MIDI connection for using it as a MIDI controller with your computer
- 2 x 1/4" Output, 1 x 1/8" Headphone output, 1 x 1/8" Aux Input, 1 x MIDI Input, 1 x MIDI Output, 2 x 1/4" Pad Expansion Input
|Music Radar||Tom Bradley||80/100|
- Older release that still uses rubber pads
- Single-zone snare
- Reliable and durable beginner electric drum kit
- Responsive rubber heads with good rebound
- Seamless integration with drum software
- Chokeable cymbals
The Yamaha DTX402K was released in 2018 and while not quite as popular as the newer Alesis electronic drum sets (likely due to being priced higher than them) it has been well received by those who bought it.
This is one of the entry-level descendants of the beginner e drum set I currently have at home, the DTXpress 1 launched in the year 2000. And it has what's expected from a good Yamaha electric drum kit. It has rubber heads that are responsive and durable - a no-frills solution to triggering.
They don't feel like real acoustic drums, but in this case, they don't have to. Because they are good enough for novice to intermediate-level drumming. I even use the pads with the module turned off, the rebound is nice enough to get a late-night drum workout. While this kit is aimed at students, even experienced drummers like myself still find good use with this kit.
It lacks a dual-zone snare but partly makes up for that with chokeable cymbals - a feature beginners are more likely to use. The rubber pads can be a deal-breaker for those who prefer the feel of mesh heads.
Another good feature of this kit is its seamless integration with drum software like Superior Drummer. Being able to edit and create your own kits on the drum module (using the DTX402 Touch App) gives this more tweakability than some of the cheaper options.
An old photo of my Yamaha DTXpress 1 that features similar rubber pads. Apart from the slightly louder sound I've never had a problem with the feel.
If you want a bit more flexibility with your electronic drum kit setup, and you don't mind the rubber pads, this is a solid option from a reputable company.
- 1 x 8" Single Zone Snare Pad
- 3 x 8" Single Zone Tom Pad
- 2 x 10" Cymbal Pads With Choke
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- Hi-Hat Pedal
- Kick Button Pedal
- DTX 402 Drum Module With 10 Customizable Preset Kits
- 415 Percussion Sounds
- 9 Reverb Types
- 10 Play-Along Songs
- 10 Training Functions
- USB-MIDI Output
- 1/4" stereo out for Headphones
- 1/8" Aux Input
- iOS and Android app for training features and customization
- iOS only Rec'n Share App for recording and publishing YouTube videos
I know this is beyond our price range but this list would be remiss without mentioning the top brand in electronic drums, Roland - so I wanted to place this as an aspirational choice in case your budget can accommodate it.
Roland V-Drums TD-1DMK
- Basic module with just 15 kits
- Limited audio output options
- Great feeling 2-ply mesh heads
- Responsive chokeable cymbals and kick pad
- Professional and authentic sounding kits
- Reliable and feels solid
Straying a bit from our hypothetical budget of below $500 is the Roland TD-1DMK. This digital drum set is part of their very popular VAD series of electronic drum kits. For the extra money, you get a great Roland kit with 2-ply mesh heads. It doesn't come with a kick pedal, drumsticks, throne, or external speaker but you do get a great quality electronic drum set.
The strength of this kit is its quality mesh heads, which feel much closer to an acoustic drum head. It has good bounce and impressive sensitivity, similar to more premium electric drum sets.
The kick pad is also quite good, it's small and attached to the main rack, but it responds really well for its compact size. It can accommodate certain double pedals.
You also get good control over your sound on the chokeable cymbals and hi-hat. But I'm not a fan of the hi-hat pedal, it would've been nice if it used a mechanical hi-hat stand.
Configuration wise it might be similar to the offerings of Donner, I wouldn't be surprised if Donner patterned it off this and other Roland e-sets, but the quality and robustness of this kit more than make up for the price bump.
The main downer for this kit is the limited features of its module. It only has 15 kits, and you can't make your own custom sounds. It also doesn't have a 1/4" or XLR output. The only audio output is a 1/8" out for headphones, and even that requires a dedicated headphone amp to work properly. It's like you're getting professional quality heads and cymbals, paired with a basic practice module.
Thankfully, the drum samples sound professional and authentic, which at the end of the day, is the most important factor. The module can be swapped to a stage ready one, but they are priced much higher. Even with its limited features, playing feel and sound quality is top-notch. It is the best electronic drum set under 1000 in my book.
It is a bit small compared to more premium electronic drum sets. But this can be a good thing for small stages and rooms. It's small enough to be a good kid and youth drum set. But it's not too small to be awkward for taller drummers.
Given that this is from Roland, this music instrument can last you for years. So if the brand means anything to you, it might be worth it to jump up to the TD-1DMK. This is a good albeit pricier option for beginners.
If you want to explore other options at this price range, do check out our guide to The Best Electronic Drum Sets.
Roland TD-1DMK set up on stage
- 1 x 8" Dual-zone Snare Pad With 2-ply Mesh Head
- 3 x 6" Single-zone Tom Pad With 2-ply Mesh Head
- 1 x Kick Pad Compatible With Double Kick Pedal (Kick Pedal Not Included)
- 3 x 10" Dual-zone Cymbal Pads With Choke(Plus Hi-hat Control Pedal)
- Four-post type rack stand, MDS
- TD-1 Drum Module With 10 Trigger Inputs, 15 Drum Kits, 15 Songs
- Coach, Metronome, and Recording Functions
- 1/8" Stereo Input
- 1/8" Stereo Output
Electronic Drum Set Still Not Quiet Enough?
The rubber drum pads found on electronic drum sets are much quieter than acoustic drums, mesh pads even more so, but sometimes the sound transmitted through the floor from the pedals and rack can still be troublesome.
To prevent as much noise as possible from being transmitted to the floor, it's best to have a mini drum riser with some isolation padding between your drumset and the floor. This is often done by sandwiching tennis balls between two sheets of plywood or MDF.
Here's a video showing a basic home-made sound isolation drum riser that didn't require tools other than a drill:
Here's a more complicated option, but more stable:
Things To Consider When Buying An Entry-Level Electronic Drum Set
When looking at the various types of electronic drum sets available, it is important to note that there is a range of quality between more affordable and pricier models. Don't expect cheap e drums to have the same specs as premium models like the Roland TD-50Kv2. Although they can all provide an enjoyable experience, there are a few key differences to consider.
The construction quality of electronic drum kits is one of the most notable contrasts between budget-friendly and pricier models.
Cheaper models are usually constructed with inferior materials like plastic and rubber, making them less dependable and responsive.
On the contrary, more costly electronic drum kits usually have components crafted from higher-grade materials like metal and mesh, providing a more realistic and resilient playing experience. Some even utilize traditional looking wooden shells.
The sound quality between expensive and cheap electronic drum kits can be dramatically different.
Budget models typically have lower-grade sound modules, resulting in drum sounds that lack realism and depth.
In contrast, more expensive kits come with high-end sound modules that can produce incredibly lifelike, detailed drum sounds. Also note that these lower-grade sound modules often come with fewer drum sounds and connectivity options.
The technological methods used to trigger sound in cheaper and pricier electronic drum kits can vary significantly. Inferior drum kits normally make use of simple stimulus methods, like force sensors or plain piezo-electric sensors. These lack accuracy and responsiveness in comparison to more complex triggering mechanisms employed in higher-end models.
High-end electronic drum kits often utilize more highly developed stimulus systems, like sophisticated piezo-electric sensors and positional sensing technology, which enable a much more precise and responsive playing experience.
Size and Portability
For those who need a convenient and portable setup for drum practice, cheap electronic drums are a great choice due to their size and portability.
Conversely, pricier models tend to be bulkier and less mobile, making them a better choice for those who require a more long-term and professional setup.
Advanced electronic drum kits often come with additional features that can enhance the playing experience. These features can include things like built-in effects, advanced connectivity options, and programmable drum kits which include drum machine samples.
Cheap electronic drum kits, on the other hand, often come with fewer extras, which can limit the versatility and functionality of the kit. This limited feature set can still be enough for casual or beginner drummers. But if you are looking for a more immersive and diverse playing experience, investing in a pricier electronic drum set may be a better option.
There are several key features to consider, the most important of which is your budget. Investing too much in a kit is not a good idea for newbies. This is why the best electronic drum set for beginners are usually the cheaper ones. Still, this does not mean you should skimp on quality.
You should look for a set that fits your budget but still offers good quality and features.
Speaking of features, it is recommended to have at least four pads that function as snare, tom, hi-hat, and cymbal. And the more responsive they are, the better they are for learning.
It's unreasonable to expect ultra realistic feel from beginner electric drum kits. But there are good ones, as featured above. Also, pay attention to the quality of the pedal or kick drum tower that's included in the set.
Roland TD-1DMK's Sound Module
Another important consideration is the sound module. It's a no brainer to go for one that sounds good to your ears. And even better if they have a good variety of percussion and drum sounds, that can be customized.
Connectivity is an important feature that is often neglected by first time buyers. Those with USB and MIDI connections can allow for easier integration into computer setups with studio monitors. Be wary of severely limited output options, especially if you're planning on playing your electric drum kit on stage.
If you have limited space, or if you need to move your kit often, then go for smaller and compact e drum kits. Saving space is often the priority of a cheap drum set anyway. If you're looking for a full-size electric drum kit, you'll definitely have to extend your budget.
Lastly, you'll need to consider essential accessories such as drumsticks, drum thrones, and headphones. These seemingly minor items can impact your drumming experience in big ways.
- Most electronic kits don't include a few of the essentials you need so make sure to leave room in your budget for any of the following items that you don't already have:
- Drum Sticks These come in different weights with 5A being the most popular - check out our Drum Stick Guide.
- Drum Throne This is what a drummer's stool is called - they are much better than regular chairs and you can find the highest-rated ones in our Drum Throne Guide.
- Headphones or Amplifier Most electronic drum kits don't provide sound on their own. You have to plug your drum's brain or sound module into headphones or an amplifier. To practice quietly (and not annoy the neighbors) get yourself a set of closed-back headphones - I personally use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. If you're going to play with other musicians or just want to enjoy the sound of your drums in the room, you'll need an amplifier. There is a range of different amps that are good for drums - see our guide to Drum Amps and for further information read Things To Consider When Buying An Amplifier For Electronic Drums.
- If you want to use it as a MIDI controller or to record drums directly on your computer then you'll need one that sends out MIDI, which in this price range will usually be MIDI over USB. All of the kits on this list have this feature. This is the best way to break free from the built-in sounds of your e-drum kit and start getting into the world of music production.
- Drum pads with multiple zones are ones that you can hit in different areas to trigger different sounds. Zones are usually concentric circles.
For example a snare pad with multiple zones allows you to play regular snare sounds and rim-shot sound by hitting the outer circle. The more zones you can get the wider the sound pallet is that you can work with in a single preset or custom kit saved in your sound module.
- Some electronic kits come with cymbals you can choke - this means that after you strike them you can grab them with your hand and the cymbal sound will immediately stop just like with an acoustic kit.
Some electric drum set for beginners don't have this option so read the details carefully if this is something you want.
- Some electronic drum sets come with a kick drum pedal that is triggered by a button on the bottom of the pedal. While some act more like a conventional kick drum pedal with a bass drum pad tower trigger that is struck with a beater.
There are some pros and cons to each variation like the conventional kind (kick tower) is closer to the feel of acoustic drums but can produce a louder sound than the kick button type, so be sure to consider this when making your selection. Also note the more traditional bass drum pad tower is compatible with a double bass drum pedal.
What's the Difference Between a Premium and Cheap Electric Drum Set
What to Look For in a Beginner Electric Drum Set
Complete List of Gear You Need to Start Drumming
Roland TD-1DMK's Kick Tower
Kick Tower or Kick Button Pedal
Beginner Electronic Drum Set Selection Methodology
The first Edition was published in 2016. The current edition was published on March 30, 2023.
We looked at all electronic drum sets currently selling at major American online music gear retailers for less than $500 and placed the 20 most promising on our short-list for closer analysis - see the list in the Music Gear Database. We then looked at ratings, reviews, videos and forum discussions about them, which tallied to over 20,800 sources from regular users and experts. All these data were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. Finally we selected the highest rated options to recommend above. For more information about our unique methods please read How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. I also studied music for 6 years majoring in percussion and jazz studies with a minor in classical piano.
The drumming gear I use includes Zildjian Cymbals, Gretsch Drums (acoustic), Yamaha electronic drum set, Evans Heads, Pearl Hardware and Vic Firth Sticks and Earplugs.
The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.
Except for the Yamaha DTXpress which was photographed by Alden Acosta and the Roland TD-1DMK set up on stage which was photographed by Alexander Briones, the individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.