Originally published on Jan. 13, 2016 and updated on .
Electronic drums are a heck of a lot of fun to play with, but more importantly they're the best way to learn, practice and improve your chops without making all the noise associated with acoustic drums - just slip your headphones on and you're good to go!
We also have a guide to more advanced options: The Best Electronic Drum Sets - $500 to $5000.
Some of these entry level kits also work as MIDI controllers where you can get much more expressiveness and 'feel' by recording your drum tracks to MIDI rather than programming them directly into a DAW.
Things To Consider When Buying A Cheap Electronic Drum Set
MIDI If you want to use it as a MIDI controller or to record drums directly your computer then you'll need one that sends out MIDI, which in this price range will usually be MIDI over USB.
Zones Drum pads with multiple zones are ones which 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 as well as selecting a rim-shot sound for the outer circle. The more zones you can get the wider the sound pallet is that you can work with in a single pre-set or custom kit saved in your sound module.
Choking Cymbals 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 of the cheaper models don't have this option so read the details carefully if this is something you want.
Best Electronic Drum Sets Under $300
Our analysis of the market clearly shows that you can't get reasonable quality electronic drums for much less than $300, unless they're on sale, so it's at this price point that we begin.
Alesis Nitro Kit
Over the course of 2016 the Alesis Nitro Kit has rapidly become the highest rated electronic drum kit under $300.
Alesis bill this as an 8-piece kit because they, as many electronic drum manufacturers do these days, count the 3 cymbal pads as pieces - in terms of traditional acoustic drum kits this would be considered a 5-piece kit.
- A dual zone snare pad
- 3 single zone tom pads
- Kick pad with drum pedal
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- 10" Crash Pad with Choke
- 10" Ride Pad
- Hi-Hat Pedal
- 40 ready-to-play classic and modern kits - 385 drum and cymbal sounds
- 60 built-in play-along tracks, sequencer, metronome, and performance recorder
- USB/MIDI connection for virtual instruments and recording software
- 5 pin MIDI in and out ports
- Stereo line outputs and headphone output
The vast majority of customer reviews were very positive with many saying it was "a great kit for the price" or words to that effect.
In his review for Music Radar Dave Holmes said, "The buttons of the graphical kit layout are great for various kit/drum voice editing and this is where the module has the edge over almost any other at this price-point. Changing any of the drum and kit parameters is rapid thanks to the layout."
A couple of people said that some of the cymbal sounds were quieter than they would have liked in the pre-set kits.
This is very popular as a starter kit and as a present for children starting out with drums. There were also experienced drummers who reported having a lot of fun with this kit as well.
At the time of writing this was the top selling electronic drum set on Amazon.
Ddrum DD BETA 5 Piece Kit
Ddrum DD BETA, is as the name implies, an entry level kit intended primarily for people who are learning drums,
As a few reviewers have pointed out, the pads don't have the same feel and responsiveness of acoustic drums or more expensive electronic kits, but they do provide a realistic layout so you can begin to learn where to hit as you work on your basic coordination and timing.
Many online reviews say they bought the Ddrum DD BETA for their children to learn on and they're reasonably happy with the results given the low purchase price.
The four drum pads only have a single zone, but the cymbals can at least be choked, and the sounds of the 32 pre set kits it comes with are fit for purpose.
It does not have USB or MIDI connectivity so it can't be used as a MIDI Controller.
Although most reviewers liked the quality and construction for the price, there were a few who complained that the hi-hat pedal and sounds aren't as realistic as they could have been - particularly when opening and closing the hi-hat, but apart from that it has gone over reasonably well with people who bought it without overly high expectations.
If you're looking for a cheap electronic kit for someone to get started on, with the full understanding that you'll need to upgrade to a better model later if you get really serious about drumming, then the DD BETA is a good starting place.
Best Electronic Drum Sets Under $400
A few years ago electronic kits between $300 and $400 were thoroughly covered by Alesis, but that's no longer the case as Behringer have stepped and our analysis shows they are now leading in this price range.
One option in this price range which is not listed below is the Alesis DM6 - it was left out because it is no longer in production and most online stores no longer stock it, but at the time of writing it was still available at Amazon.com.
Yamaha DTX400K 5 Piece Kit
The Yamaha DTX400K comes with 10 preset kits which can all be reconfigured using the 169 built in sounds.
One special feature that Yamaha included is the ability to use the hi-hat pedal as a second kick pedal allowing you to play a double kick.
Most of the positive reviews for the DTX400K center around it being a good starter kit, good for practice and as a MIDI controller.
The cymbals are not chokeable and are only single zone as are the drums - this lack of features was the cause of a number of negative reviews.
Yamaha make some great high-end electronic kits, and you can upgrade many of the components but in doing so you have to spend quite a lot of extra money.
Although many customer reviews rate the sounds of this kit quite highly, it's clear the lack of multiple zones means this is a kit you will outgrow much more quickly than the Roland kit above, although the Yamaha DTX400K is quieter which will appeal to people who need to keep the noise down when practicing.
The following video offers a good comparison of the sounds of the Yamaha DTX400K and the Roland TD-1K
Behringer XD8USB 8 (5) Piece Kit
Behringer bill this as an 8 piece kit but it's really a 5 piece kit. The way you count the number of pieces is by counting the drums and not including any of the cymbals or the hi-hat - so this has a pad for a snare, 3 for toms, and 1 kick.
Owners of the XD8USB generally like the play and feel of the pads and the snare has two zones so you can play rim-shots.
On the downside the cymbals don't choke and when you hit the closed hi-hat then open it the sound doesn't change. There were also a couple of reviewers who said the kick pad failed on them but they were able to get a replacement under the warranty. Other than that the kick pedal and pad were quite liked - just one note: the pedal needs to be perfectly centered on the kick pad so it's unlikely you'll be able to get a double kick pedal to work with it.
Reviewers are generally quite happy with the HDS110USB sound module which has 10 preset kits and you can create 5 of your own presets out of the 123 percussion sounds it comes with.
It has both headphone and auxiliary outputs so it can be used with an amplifier. It also has an 1/8" aux in so you can play along with any recorded music in addition to the built in tracks you can use.
It sends MIDI out over USB so it can be used as a MIDI controller with any DAW.
Behringer XD80USB 8 (5) Piece Kit
The XD80USB is similar to the XD8USB above with the main differences being:
It comes with the HDS240USB sound module with 175 sounds and back-lit LCD screen.
The three tom pads are all dual zone.
The cymbals are dual zone including the hi-hat.
These additional features make this kit well worth the extra $70 in my opinion, and I would buy this instead of the XD8USB if I was buying an entry level Behringer kit.
The reason the XD80USB scored a lower Gearank than the XD8USB is that there were a few more people who expressed negative opinions of the kick pedal even though it's the same piece of hardware as the one above, and because at this price point it seems a few reviewers are disappointed by the fact the cymbals don't choke.
Although reviewers rate it as good value for the money, it's still an entry level kit and you will eventually out-grow it and need to upgrade if you go on to play drums seriously.
Best Electronic Drum Sets Under $500
Following are the two highest rated kits you can get for less than $500.
Roland TD-1K 5 Piece Kit
The Roland TD-1K has more advanced features than the kits above.
The cymbals can be choked just like acoustic ones, and the hi-hat plays much more like a real one. The cymbals are also dual zone and their velocity sensitivity lets you get a 'bell' sound as well.
Reviewers consistently praise the sound of the 15 preset kits and the realism of the hi-hat.
These features make it much more like an acoustic kit and will help you learn to play in a manner that will help you transition to acoustic play.
It's a small compact kit which is a plus if space is at a premium, but if you're used to playing a full sized kit you will have to adjust to the size. The demo video below gives you a good sense of the size and layout.
Many reviewers also say that with the USB MIDI it works very well as a MIDI controller and for recording drums to MIDI.
I was unable to find any consistent negatives reported about the Roland TD-1K 5 - it simply appears to be the best value electronic kit you can get for under $500 and it's high Gearank score bears that out.
With its more realistic cymbals and hi-hat this is the kit on this list that will take you the longest to grow out of - expert reviewers also say you can use it for live performances.
Cheap Electronic Drum Kit Summary
You can see all of the electronic drums we have processed for Gearank here - if you feel there is a cheap kit that we've failed to consider then please say so in the comments bellow and we'll take a look at it - if it scores high enough we'll add it to this gear guide.
We will be providing a gear guide to higher level professional electronic kits at a later stage.
If you're wondering what type of amplifier to use with your electronic drum kit then the most commonly used type is a keyboard amp - read our keyboard amp guide here.