You can’t get a killer groove without a great set of drums. While you can purchase your kit piece by piece, the best drum set will give you the same sound quality from a one-time purchase without you having to do the work of choosing each drum—and will usually save you some money in the long run, too.
Whether you’re a beginner buying his first drum set or a professional expanding his collection will make a difference in which is the best drum set for your needs.
The options in the article below were picked on a number of different factors like value, sound quality, and size. There’s something on the list for every player.
How we decided
We started our selection process by seeing what drums professional musicians play, and which ones music instructors recommend. We narrowed down our list using customer reviews, paying close attention to the sound and durability of the kits until we arrived at the choices below.
|Product Name||Image||Best Feature||The "But"||Overall Rating||Details|
|Ludwig LC179X016 Breakbeats 4 Piece Shell Pack||A compact and lightweight kit that’s easy to take on the road.||Doesn’t include stands or cymbals.||10||Check price|
|Pearl RS525SCC706 Roadshow 5-Piece Drum Set||A solid and versatile kit suitable for both beginners and professionals.||Included cymbals and drum heads will likely need to be replaced.||9.5||Check price|
|Gammon Percussion Full Size Complete Adult 5 Piece Drum Set||An affordable drum set that’s still built to stand up to daily play.||Included cymbals don’t have a great sound.||9.5||Check price|
|Pearl EXX725S/C 5-Piece Export New Fusion Drum Set with Hardware||Sound quality is high enough to serve as a gigging kit for professionals.||Not the best value for an intermediate-level kit.||9||Check price|
|Mendini by Cecilio Complete Full-Size 5-Piece Adult Drum Set with Cymbals, Pedal, Throne, and Drumsticks||The most affordable full-sized kit on this list.||Poor-quality cymbals and the included stands aren’t very stable.||9||Check price|
|Ludwig Accent Drive 5-Pc Standard Size Drum Set with Zildjian Cymbals & ChromaCast Accessories||An all-inclusive drum set with a professional sound from top to bottom.||The lack of included instructions can make it tricky to set up for a beginner.||9||Check price|
|Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5pc Drum Shell Pack||High-quality birch shells have a punchy, resonant tone.||Cost goes up quite a bit if you also need the stands and pedals.||8.5||Check price|
|Sonor Drums SSE 13 MARTINI TGS 4-Piece Drum Shell Pack||Beautiful drum set with a small footprint.||Limited dynamic range makes it less versatile.||8.5||Check price|
Kits at a Glance
If you don’t need the hardware, you can get better drums for a lower price by buying just the shells. Any of the items on the list will have a good enough sound quality for a beginner, but professionals will want to pay more attention to the kits from Ludwig, Pearl, and Yamaha. They have the sound, look, and rugged build you’ll need for on-stage applications.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing The Best Drum Set
Even more so than other instruments, the best drum set needs to be rugged.
Because guess what…
If you can’t hit it hard without worrying about breaking it, it’s not much use to you as a player.
The build quality of the shells is important, but so is the stability of the hardware, if it comes included. The harder you hit, the more you’ll have to pay attention to these factors.
One of the great things about a drum set is its modularity. You can change the heads or swap out and add drums and cymbals to customize the feel and sound. Because of this, the main thing you want to pay attention to is the sound and build of the drum shells themselves, since those will be the most permanent aspect of the kit with the most impact on your sound.
The sound when you hit your drums is shaped by the resonance of the vibrations through the head and shell. Most of the drums on a standard kit will be made out of some kind of wood, though you might also find shells made of metal or synthetic materials like carbon fiber.
So which is best for you?
The chart below lists some of the most common materials, and what effect they give to your sound.
What’s in the Box?
Not every drum set you find will include the same things. Kits designed for professionals will often only include the drums themselves, on the assumption that most drummers already have hardware like stands and pedals. If you’re a beginner, the Ludwig Accent and Pearl Roadshow give you the best of both worlds, with professional-level drums and the hardware you need to set them up.
But that’s not all you’ll need.
You’ll also almost invariably need to buy your own cymbals. Percussion companies typically specialize in either drums or cymbals and rarely do both well. Even if you get a kit that has cymbals included, they rarely sound even good enough for a beginner. The exception is a kit like the Ludwig Accent that partner with professional cymbal makers to ensure consistent quality.
Our Research Reveals These Are The 8 Best Drum Sets Out There
Drums are hands down the hardest instrument to schlep around. The Breakbeats series was designed by Roots drummer, Questlove, to be a more compact option for street musicians. This smaller size also makes it perfect for apartment living or small club gig.
And the best part is…
It sounds just as good as its bigger counterparts.
The Ludwig Breakbeats 4-piece set linked here is an ideal touring kit for a professional drummer, and not just because of its size. It’s not too pricey–especially considering the quality of the sound and build. Ludwig saves you money by leaving out the extras like cymbals and hardware—things that professionals will already have on hand.
Sound-wise, this kit delivers what you’d expect from Ludwig equipment. The punchy tone is perfect for hip-hop, funk, or rock, and they’re responsive and sensitive enough for quieter genres like jazz, too. Even the Remo Pinstripe heads that come installed are a higher caliber than the stock heads most kits come with.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: 7-ply hardwood
- Kick drum: 14” X 16”
- Snare: 14” X 5”
- Toms: 13” X 13” floor tom, 7” X 10” mounted tom
- Whole kit weight: 48.5
- Color options: Black sparkle, white sparkle
Ludwig LC179X016 Breakbeats
- Super compact and lightweight
- Fast and easy to assemble and tear down
- Versatile sound
- Included Remo Pinstripe heads sound a lot better than what comes on most kits
- Velvet storage bags double as mutes
- Doesn’t include cymbals, hardware, or accessories
If you want a complete all-in-one kit that sounds good enough for the stage (but won’t completely kill your budget), the Roadshow from Pearl gives you first-rate gear in an affordable package. The sound quality is a noticeable step up from your typical beginner kit, and the hardware is built to last even through heavy play.
The stands that come in this kit are well-balanced and double-braced so you can be sure they won’t fall over while you’re playing, and use gears to lock in place so you know they’ll stay in place. The build quality on the drum shells themselves is equally high, using a 9-ply poplar and triple-flanged hoops.
You can also get a choice of four different drum configurations with the Roadshow. The New Fusion set-up linked to here is the most versatile for a beginner, but a professional with a more specific style in mind will likely appreciate the rock and jazz options.
And let’s not forget portability!
Though it’s still a full-sized kit, the more compact overall design makes it a lot easier to transport to gigs, too.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: 7mm 9-ply white poplar
- Kick drum: 22” X 16”
- Snare: 14” X 5½” (coated head)
- Toms: 16” X 16” floor tom; 10” X 8” and 12” X 9” mounted toms
- Cymbals: 14” hybrid hi-hat, 16” brass ride
- Whole kit weight: 50 pounds
- Color options: Charcoal metallic, jet black, wine red, bronze metallic
Pearl RS525SCC706 Roadshow
- Multiple configuration options make it incredibly versatile
- Responsive to dynamic changes and different playing styles
- Slip-free locking double-braced stands
- Extended tuning range on kick drum for deeper bass
- Two sets of maple sticks and a stick bag included
- Included drum heads aren’t as durable as the rest of the kit
- Cymbals are a bit thin and not up to par with the drums
The problem with a lot of inexpensive drum kits is that they’re cheaply built. This is great for saving on costs, but not great if you really plan to learn the drums. This full-sized set from Gammon, on the other hand, is an affordable option that has the durability for daily use and a professional set-up so you can learn the right technique.
You’ll get everything you need to start playing right out of the box when you order this kit. This includes all the stands and pedals for the drums, along with a stool for you to sit on, and a set of decent sticks. You’ll also get all the basic tones you need for playing in most styles, with a kick drum, a snare drum, three toms, a ride cymbal, and a hi-hat.
This kit is designed for learning and practice, not on-stage performance. The cymbals sound thin compared to professional options, but these are easily upgraded if you want a richer tone quality. The drums themselves sound surprisingly good given the price and don’t require much tuning out of the box—perfect for the beginning player. If you’re looking for an affordable option for home play, this is an excellent choice.
Specs at a glance:
- Kick drum: 22”X14” (12-lug)
- Snare: 5 ½”X14”
- Toms: 16”X16” floor tom; 12”X10” and 13”X10” mounted toms
- Cymbals: 12” hi-hat, 14” ride cymbal
- Whole kit weight: 82 pounds
- Color options: Blue or black
Gammon Percussion Drum Set
- Includes accessories like stands, sticks, and a stool
- Incredibly affordable for a full-sized kit
- Stable and well-designed stands
- Durable construction on the drums and hardware
- Decent sound from snare, kick, and toms
- Included cymbals don’t have the best sound quality
- Not designed to be frequently torn down and moved
This is Pearl’s next step up from the Roadshow line mentioned above. It offers the same configuration options and hardware quality as the Roadshow.
The difference is in the drums themselves.
They use a combination of poplar and mahogany that gives you more dynamic power and longer sustain, especially in the lower range.
Let’s talk about the build quality.
Our short answer: we were impressed!
Maybe the best use of this drum set is as a backup gigging kit for professionals. It’s relatively light-weight and easy to assemble and take apart quickly. The suspended mounts and double-braced stands make it very road-worthy, while the SST process used to build the shells gives them a consistent tone that won’t fade with time.
Surprised we didn’t score this one higher on our list of best drum kits?
The reason this doesn’t rank higher on the list comes down to value. The sound quality isn’t as high as with high-end kits, but it doesn’t give you the same bang for your buck as entry-level options. It also doesn’t include any cymbals, meaning you’ll need to leave some extra space in your budget. It’s best-suited for intermediate players who are a bit too advanced for beginner kits but not quite ready to invest in a professional drum set.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: 6-ply poplar/Asian mahogany blend
- Kick drum: 22” X 18”
- Snare: 14” X 5½”
- Toms: 16” X 16” floor tom; 10” X 7” and 12” X 8” mounted toms
- Whole kit weight: 48 pounds
- Color options: Smokey chrome, jet black, electric blue sparkle, pure white, red wine, grindstone sparkle
Pearl EXX725S/C Export Drum Set
- Easy to set up and tear down
- Poplar and mahogany shells have a warm, musical tone
- SST construction for ultimate acoustic performance
- Durable and stable hardware
- Lower-mass construction improves sustain and resonance
- No included cymbals or sticks
- Price slightly high for the sound
#5 Mendini by Cecilio Complete Full-Size 5-Piece Adult Drum Set with Cymbals, Pedal, Throne, and Drumsticks
If you’re looking for the cheapest choice for a full-sized kit (that won’t fall apart when you start playing it), this drum set from Cecilio is your answer. It’s the whole package for someone just starting out, with stands and pedals sized to fit all the drums and a stool and sticks for the player.
The shells of all the drums are made of a cross-laminated poplar. This is not only a durable and stable wood, it also gives you a warmer and fuller tone, especially when it comes to the kick drum and floor tom. The hoops and lugs are all triple-flanged and powder coated for maximum sound quality and longevity.
They won’t win the best sound award, but…
Every detail of this kit is designed with a beginner in mind. It’s easy to assemble, with set-up instructions included. The stool and stands are all adjustable, too, so you can make sure you’re comfortable when you play. These drums might not be the best-sounding options on the list, but for learning and practicing you can’t beat the build or price.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: Cross-laminated poplar
- Kick drum: 22” X 16”
- Snare: 14” X 5½”
- Toms: 16” X 16” floor tom; 12” X 8” and 13” X 9” mounted toms
- Cymbals: 14½” hi-hat, 16” crash
- Whole kit weight: 82.5 pounds
- Color options: Black, blue, green, silver, white, wine red, bright red
- Extremely affordable for a full-sized kit
- Attractive shells in lots of color options
- Easy to set up with detailed assembly instructions included
- Cross-laminated poplar shells give you lots of warmth and resonance
- Adjustable stool and stands included
- Included cymbals have a poor sound quality
- Drum heads must be installed and tuned by the user
- Stands aren’t completely secure (especially the snare stand)
The main complaint against all-in-one kits is the quality of the cymbals.
Until now that is.
And when we say all-in-one, we really mean it.
You not only get the drums, cymbals, and hardware; the box also includes two different styles of sticks, a stick bag, a cymbal bag, a stool, drum and cymbal cleaning supplies, and a book of rudiments. While the price tag on this kit is still on the high side for a beginner, it’s the best value you’ll find for a complete stage-worthy kit.
The kick drum and floor tom in this set are on the smaller side. This gives them a brighter, tighter tone and makes them easier to transport and play, especially for beginners or younger players. While they might not be the best option for heavier genres like metal, for most players they have the durability and sound quality to serve you well in any situation.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: 9-ply poplar
- Kick drum: 16” X 20”
- Snare: 14” X 5”
- Toms: 14” X 14” floor tom; 8” X 10” and 8” X 12” mounted toms
- Cymbals: 13” ZBT hi-hat, 14” crash, 18” ZBT ride
- Whole kit weight: 89 pounds
- Color options: White, wine red sparkle
Ludwig Accent Drum Set
- High-quality Zildjian cymbals included
- Full range of accessories and hardware
- Attractive, durable wrapped finish
- Tight, articulate attacks
- Resonant tone with natural decay
- Can be tricky to assemble with no included instructions
Yamaha instruments are known for their precision craftsmanship and high sound quality. This set of birch shells is constructed using the company’s patented Air-Seal System to ensure a uniform shape and thickness across all their models. The result is a durable set of drums with a sound to give pricier professional kits a run for their money.
The quality level of these Yamaha Custom shells really shines through in the details. They use a staggered diagonal seam, for example, which lets them make the shell thinner without losing its shape. Combined with the low-mass lugs, this lets the drums resonate more freely, improving the tone and sustain.
They’re not quite 100% perfect though.
The only place the quality dips is in the included heads. They’re functional but don’t do the shells justice.
Yamaha gives you two options for buying this kit: just the shells, or the shells with stands and pedals. This makes the Custom an affordable shell upgrade option for intermediate players who already have the hardware. For the straight beginner, though, the extra cost for the stands may put it out of your price range.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: 6-ply 6mm birch
- Kick drum: 20” X 17”
- Snare: 14” X 5½”
- Toms: 14” X 13” floor tom; 10” X 7” and 12” X 8” mounted toms
- Whole kit weight: 70 pounds
- Color options: Natural wood, cranberry red, raven black, honey amber, pure white
YAMAHA Stage Custom Birch
- Birch shells are very responsive
- Bright and crisp articulations
- Warm, resonant tone, especially in the low end
- Option of buying with or without hardware
- Beautiful finish options
- No stands, pedals, or stool included
- Included heads are a weak link in terms of sound
For another small kit that can give you a big sound, the Martini drum set from Sonor is an attractive option. It’s actually even a bit lighter than the Breakbeat shell set above and has an equally small footprint once you set it up.
What really caught our eye was this:
The combination of the retro finish and the natural bass drum hoops gives this set an attractive, vintage on-stage look. The build quality is high overall, down to the tune-safe lugs that make sure your heads stay properly tuned even through a lengthy session. While it’s small, it’s certainly not delicate; these cross-laminated poplar shells are solid.
On the other hand…
Sonically, this kit is better-suited to lighter styles like jazz or softer rock. The dynamic range isn’t quite as wide as other options on the list. The stiff poplar shells give these drums a distinctively bright, tight tone that’s perfect for an old-school vibe.
Specs at a glance:
- Shell material: cross-laminated 9-ply poplar
- Kick drum: 14” X 12”
- Snare: 12” X 5”
- Toms: 13” X 10” floor tom, 8” X 8” mounted tom
- Whole kit weight: 46 pounds
- Color options: Emerald Isle/Turquoise galaxy
Sonor Martini Drum Kit 4pc
- Compact kit with a small footprint
- Beautiful vintage styling
- Heads stay in tune well
- Reliable construction
- Bright, vibrant tone, especially from the toms
- Cymbals and hardware not included
- Not as loud as other kits
The choice really comes down to whether this drum set will be played on stage or have a more permanent home in a house or practice room. Options like the Gammon and the Mendini might not work in performance, but they’re the best drum set for a beginner who’s not sure they want to stick with it.
You can always upgrade the cymbals and the heads down the line to improve the sound.
Space is an important consideration, too.
Kits like the Ludwig Breakbeats and Sonor Martini will fit a lot more comfortably in a smaller room than most drum sets—and as a result, you’ll be more comfortable playing them. If you’ll be traveling with your drums, pay attention to the weight, too; some full kits can be a beast to transport to gigs.
What is considered “hardware”?
When a drum manufacturer talks about hardware, they’re typically referring to the snare stand, the cymbal stands, and the kick drum pedal. The tom mount and legs for the floor tom will typically still be included even in drum sets that don’t have other hardware.
Does the size of the drum affect the sound?
It does, though the effect is very subtle. Generally speaking, the width of the drum will affect the pitch (the wider it is, the lower it will sound) while the height or depth of the drum will affect the sustain (the deeper the drum, the longer it will take vibrations to move through it).
Can a child play on these drum sets?
That depends on the set and the age of the child. Most kids are tall enough to comfortably play a full-sized drum set by around age seven or eight. For younger kids, one of the more compact options mentioned above might be more comfortable, and they won’t outgrow it they way they would a junior-sized set.
When it comes to all-around performance in categories like sound, durability, and value, the Ludwig Breakbeats is the best drum set you can buy. Its compact size and affordable price make it incredibly versatile and the punchy tone is suitable for a wide range of genres. If you’ve got a different top choice, though, drop us a note in the comments. Any of the kits above is the right pick for a certain kind of player.