The Best Beginner Drum Sets for Adults - Under $1000

The Highest Rated Beginner Drum Sets

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This guide features the best acoustic drums in the sub $1000 price range, ideal for beginner to intermediate drummers, and only featuring those that come complete with all necessary hardware and cymbals.

This 2020 update is based on the most current ratings and reviews, up to March of 2020, and adds to the previous iteration by expanding the price range to $1000.

These are full sized kits so if you need one for someone about 10 years old or younger then please refer to our guide for Junior Drum Sets.

The Best Beginner Drum Sets

Ddrum D120B

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Ddrum D120B 5-Piece Drum Set w/ 20" Kick

At publication time the Ddrum D120B was the highest rated drum set under $500.

The D120B is a compact 5-piece set that comes with everything you need to start playing, including a drum throne and a pair of drum sticks. It has a similar configuration to ddrum's d2 set, only smaller.

The toms have a more compact size at 12" and 10", the same can also be said of its 14" floor tom. The snare on the other hand follows conventional size at 14", along with the 20" bass drum.

Items Included in this Drum Set:

  • 8" x 10" Rack tom
  • 9" x 12" Rack tom
  • 14" x 14" Rack tom
  • 5.5" x 14" Snare drum
  • 16" x 20" Bass drum
  • Throne
  • Hi hat stand
  • Snare stand
  • Bass drum pedal
  • Straight cymbal stand
  • Tri-holder bass drum mount
  • 16" Crash cymbal
  • 14" hi hats
  • 1 pair of sticks

Specifications:

  • Basswood Shells
  • D Series Black Oval
  • Hoop Spec - 1.6MM Triple Flanged
  • 6 Plys Tom
  • 8 Plys Bass Drum
  • 6 Plys Snare Drum
  • 45 degree
  • Suspension Mount Type
  • Direct to shell mount

Pros

This set is loved by many for being compact and travel friendly, there are also many who commend its construction quality, which they describe as sturdy. In addition, many of them find the kit easy to tune. Most users are also satisfied with its sound to price ratio.

Cons

There are some who report that the bundled cymbals are too thin, and they recommend replacing them to make the most of the set. The setup manual got a few complaints, although setting up the kit itself is easy, based on our analysis of reviews.

Overall

The Ddrum D120B is an affordable option for those who are starting out.

Ludwig LC175 Accent Drive

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$449
Ludwig LC175 Accent Drive 5-Piece Acoustic Drum Set

This affordable drum set from Ludwig sports some nice features, including a 22" kick drum, 16" floor tom, 10" & 12" toms, and 14" snare.

For its cymbals, this set features a more basic and compact bundle, which includes 13" hi-hats and a 15" crash cymbal.

Items Included in this Drum Set:

  • NB: Drum sticks are NOT included
  • 14" x 6.5" snare drum
  • 10" x 8" rack tom
  • 12" x 9" rack tom
  • 16" x 16" floor tom
  • 22" by 16" kick drum
  • 13" Hi Hats
  • 16" Crash Cymbal
  • Drum throne
  • All Hardware

Specifications:

  • 6 ply poplar shells
  • Double braced hardware

Pros

Several people are impressed with how this set sounds more expensive than it actually is. The quality of the shells and bracing on the hardware are also often praised, even by those who are critical of the cymbals.

Cons

The quality of the cymbals get the most complaints, with many owners recommending replacing the cymbals for best results.

Overall

The Ludwig LC175 makes for a solid beginner to intermediate drum set for those with budget limitations.

Pearl Roadshow RS525SC

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Pearl Roadshow RS525SC 5-Piece Drum Set - Wine Red

The Roadshow kits are Pearl's entry level drums but they come with quality features such as double braced hardware and 9 ply poplar shells.

To keep the price down the Roadshow series only have a single crash/ride, but as you improve your chops you can add more crash or splash cymbals to taste.

Items Included in this Drum Set:

  • 14" x 5.5" snare
  • 10" x 8" rack tom
  • 12" x 9" rack tom
  • 16" x 16" floor tom
  • 22" x 16" bass drum
  • 16" Crash/Ride cymbal
  • 14" Hi-hats
  • All hardware
  • Drum throne
  • 2 pairs of Maple Drum Sticks
  • Pearl Stick Bag
  • Limited 2 Year Warranty

Specifications:

  • Double Braced Hardware
  • 1 Ply Coated Snare Drum Head
  • 1 Ply Clear Tom Drum Head
  • 1 Ply Clear Bass Drum Heads with Self-Muffling Rings
  • 9 Ply 7mm Shells made from Poplar on all drums

Pros

The quality and sound of the drums are repeatedly praised in customer reviews, many of whom are experienced drummers. The quality of the kick pedal, which is sometimes lacking on budget kits, was cited positively by several reviewers.

Cons

The cymbals are sometimes cited as very basic or low quality - a common complaint with drum sets in this price range. Some reviewers point to the hi-hats being too flimsy.

Overall

Backed by one of the biggest brands in drums, the Pearl RS525SC is easy to recommend.

Tama Imperialstar 5-Pc

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$700
TAMA Imperialstar 5-Pc Acoustic Drum Set with 22" Kick

The Tama Imperialstar 5-Pc is a drum set with two toms (10" and 12"), a 16" floor tom, a 22" kick drum and 14" snare. The package also includes cymbals and their stands, along with the kick pedal, and it even comes with a drum throne. The only other thing you'll need to start playing are drum sticks.

The shells are crafted from poplar, which is known for balanced dynamics and warmth. The included Meinl HCS cymbal pack features a 16" crash, a 20" ride, and 14" hi-hats. Wrapping up this set is a single-chain kick pedal and a drum throne.

Items Included in this Drum Set:

  • 10" and 12" Toms
  • 16" Floor Tom
  • 22" Kick Drum
  • 14" Snare
  • 16" Crash
  • 20" Ride
  • 14" Hi-hats
  • Stands and Mounting Hardware
  • Drum Throne
  • Kick Pedal

Specifications:

  • 6-ply Poplar
  • Double Braced Hardware

Pros

This kit is appreciated for its value for money, mostly by students and first time drum owners. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for its clean and polished appearance, and those with drumming experience are pleased with how easy it is to setup and tune. Soundwise, it is described as warm and balanced, and is deemed by many as very good sounding for the price.

Cons

There are a few who feel that the included kick pedal is not as sturdy as they'd hope it would be. The no inclusion of a pair of drum sticks also ticked off a few people - see which sticks we recommend here.

Overall

If you're looking for a nice looking and sounding kit, then do check out the Tama Imperialstar 5-pc set.

Ludwig LCEE200 Element Evolution 5-Pc

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$800
Ludwig LCEE200 Element Evolution 5-Piece Acoustic Drum Set with 20" Kick

At publication time the Ludwig LCEE200 was the highest rated drum set under $1000.

Ludwig continues to enjoy popularity among drummers, thanks originally to Ringo Starr, but more recently due to drummers like Ben Barter, Scott Devours, Grant Gerathy, Alicia Warrington and many more.

But it's not just about star power, because the brand is doing well in terms of ratings, with the Element Evolution 5-pc being their best rated set in this price range.

The shells are crafted from poplar, this includes its 20" Kick, 14" Floor Tom, 10" and 12" Rack Toms. It also includes a 14" Snare Drum. Also included in this set is a bundle of Zildjian I cymbals, described as bright sounding with medium sustain. This includes a 16" crash, 20" ride, and 14" hi-hats.

Finally, the package also includes a drum throne.

Items Included in this Drum Set:

  • 20" Kick
  • 14" Floor Tom
  • 10" and 12" Rack Toms
  • 14" Snare Drum
  • Zildjian I 16" crash
  • Zildjian I 14" hi-hats
  • Zildjian I 20" ride
  • Kick Pedal
  • Stands and Bracing Hardware

Specifications:

  • Zildjian I Series Cymbals
  • Poplar Shells
  • Double Braced Hardware

Pros

Market response has been very positive, with many describing the Ludwig Element Evolution 5-Pc as a great beginner to intermediate set. Build quality gets a lot of thumbs up, impressing even those who own more expensive kits. It also helps that it is really pleasing to look at, as alluded to in many reviews.

Cons

There are no complaints regarding its quality or features, although there are a few complaints regarding shipping and missing parts - always buy from a reputable seller.

Overall

You don't have to be a fan of Ringo Starr to appreciate great quality, if you want nothing less than the top rated drum set in this price range, then this is for you.

Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Drum Kit

  • Does it have everything you need?

    One of the things that catches some people out is that they get a bargain price only to find they hadn't bought a complete kit with all the hardware - often the really low prices for a particular model are because it's only a shell set - that means it only contains the drum shells and nothing else.

  • What does the word 'Hardware' mean in acoustic drums?

    You may have seen listings or advertisements that say "all hardware included". What they are referring to is the hardware necessary to hold cymbals, hi-hats, snares, rack-mounted toms and any other percussion items in the kit. Many kits are sold without things like cymbal and snare stands because they're intended for drummers who already have that hardware and it's just the drums by themselves that they want to buy. Sometimes you'll see the phrase 'double braced hardware', this means there are two pieces of metal adding extra strength to the bracing.

  • What does the number of pieces mean?

    Traditionally with acoustic drum kits we count the number of drums as the pieces - cymbals and other items are not included in the count. So when a drum set has a snare, kick drum and 3 toms, this adds up to 5 pieces. This tradition isn't always followed by makers of electronic drum sets who often count any triggering device as a piece including electronic cymbals.

  • Why didn't we include 4-piece or 3-piece kits?

    The standard configuration of a basic drum kit is to have 1 snare, 2 mounted toms, 1 floor tom, and 1 kick drum. This is the best configuration to start out with when you're learning because it's the setup many other kits will have that you'll have to play at times. This is important because drummers often have to share kits at places like drum lessons and in some live performance situations because drums take longer than other instruments to set up and to mic up when that's needed. EG: Many 'battle of the bands' type competitions require bands to share back-line equipment and drum kits.

  • Are tonewoods important?

    Yes, but no. You may have heard things like 'mahogany is better than poplar wood' on the shells of your drums - but the distinctions in tone are subtle and when you're just starting out you probably won't notice much of a difference. Don't go spending extra money on a beginner drum set just to get 'better sounding' wood - just get the best kit you can afford for now and a couple of years down the road you'll develop the ears you need to tell what kinds of wood suit your style of music best.

  • Drum Sticks

    Often these are included when you buy a drum set but not always. They're not very expensive so I recommend buying a couple of sets of different weights: Vic Firth 5A at Amazon - Vic Firth 5B at Amazon. If you would like to learn more about your stick options then read our guide: The Best Drum Sticks + Brushes & Mallets.

  • Cymbal Quality

    One of the ways manufacturers are able to produce drum sets at these low prices is by providing only very basic cymbals. The vast majority of people who have bought a beginner set and continued playing drums on an ongoing basis tended to get new cymbals including hi-hats, crash and ride - this is probably the most common point made in verified customer reviews. You usually won't find any brand name cymbals such as Zildjian or Sabian included with the cheapest kits.

  • Drum Sizes

    In this guide we state the diameter first, then the depth. So a 14" x 5.5" snare is 14" in diameter and 5.5" deep. I point this out because sometimes manufacturers and retailers state the measurements the other way around.

Some Helpful Drum Terminology

  • Ply - a ply is a single layer of wood. Drum shells are typically made from multiple layers of wood so a 9 Ply shell means it has 9 layers.
  • Drum Kit vs Drum Set - these terms are essentially interchangeable and mean the same thing at music retailers.
  • Drum Throne vs Drum Stool - drummers sit on thrones, pianists sit on stools - other than that they mean the same thing.
  • Kick Drum vs Bass Drum - in terms of drum sets these terms are also interchangeable and mean the same thing. Technically a kick drum is designed to be used with a kick pedal but there are bass drums not designed for that purpose such as ones you might see played in an orchestra or marching band.
  • Cymbals - Crash, Splash, Ride, Hi-Hats... Hi-hats and Ride cymbals are often played continuously through parts of a song while crash cymbals are used for accent and in fills. Splash cymbals are just smaller, higher pitched versions of crash cymbals. For a basic standard set up you'll want to have hi-hats and at least 1 crash cymbal. Most budget drum sets only come with a single crash or a single combined crash/ride cymbal.
  • Drummer's Key - These are used to loosen and tighten the lugs on your drum heads in order to tune them to the pitch you want. Drum tuning advice is beyond the scope of this guide but here are some helpful references: What You Need to Know About Drum Tuning by Ben Meyer at Modern Drummer, and Drum Tuning by Gene Okamoto of Pearl Corporation. The drum skins often come loose or detached on a new kit so you'll also need the key to properly install/tune them when your kit is delivered.

Best Beginner Drum Set Selection Methodology

This guide was originally published on December 9, 2016 written by Jason Horton and the most recent major update was published on March 26, 2020 written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Denise Azucena and Jason Horton.

We went through the entire lists of sub $1000 drum sets at the major online retailers in the USA and selected only the full-sized kits that were complete with all the hardware needed to set up (including cymbals) and start playing the moment your new drum kit is delivered - note that this doesn't always include a drum throne or drum sticks.

For this 2020 update, we ended up with a short list of 17, featuring the most promising 5-piece or larger drum sets. Relevant reviews and ratings data were then processed using the Gearank Algorithm to produce the independent Gearank scores which we used to come up with our recommended list - there were over 1,100 sources that we used.

To summarize; the criteria for inclusion were that it had to have all necessary hardware, had to be full-sized which in this case means at least a 20" Kick/Bass drum, and it had to have a minimum of 5-pieces. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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