It's possible to buy a high-quality electronic drum set under $500. Here are our picks for 2017.
While many drum purists look down on electronic drum kits compared to standard acoustic sets, there’s a lot to be said for a good quality electronic drum kit. The right set is far more versatile than a standard acoustic drum kit.
A good electronic kit can offer more than 100 different drum voices, enabling a player to leverage sounds from dozens of different drum kits. The right set will also attach to a computer through a MIDI interface, and interface with music mixing software, working really well for music producers with a need to utilize digital software to put together tracks.
In the past electronic drum kits were clunky, they offered up low quality drum sounds and seemed like cheap toys compared to real drum kits. That’s not the case any longer. The best kits around today function just as well as real acoustic drums do, but they come packed with a bunch more features than what you can find on a standard drum kit.
First-time learners will enjoy being able to play their kit through a set of headphones without disturbing those around them. Experienced learners will enjoy mixing up their own music, dynamically changing through drum kit selections and creating custom drum sets of their own with the best sets.
We’ve put together the very best set of electronic drum kits under $500, and you would be surprised at what you can get in that highly affordable price range. There are options offered from leading instrument companies like Roland, Alesis, Carlsboro and Yamaha among these elections, and it’s actually pretty difficult to decide on the top electronic drum kit in this price range.
What to Look for in an Electronic Drum Set
- Pad selection: As a drummer, the number and type of pads that you have available to you determines what songs you’re able to play and how much you can get out of any one particular kit. It’s generally better to have more pads rather than less, and six and up is a good rule of thumb on most quality options except for the ultra-portable options, which can slightly fewer and still be functional.
- Voice quality: Voice quality, or the actual drum sounds that the set puts out is one of the most important factors when choosing a set. The best sets sound incredibly realistic and they’re more exciting to own. That’s why choosing the best set often comes down to picking the kit with the best all-around sound.
- Voice variety: The best sounding voices in the world don’t matter if there aren’t enough of them. Good quality kits come with all the different sounds to play a wide range of music styles. It’s fun to switch from rock, to country, to jazz and everything in between and to have the right sounds for that type of music.
- Realistic action: The pads should have enough bounce to ensure they are comfortable to play. They should also have different sensitivity levels allowing the drummer to switch from loud, soft and moderate noise levels on the fly with ease. This makes the kit sound and feel more realistic overall, and is a major consideration for any quality electronic drum set.
Buyer’s Guide Overview
2017 Best Electronic Drum Kits Under $500
- Alesis Forge Eight Piece Set
- Carlsbro Electronic Drum Set
- Roland Electronic Drum Set
- Yamaha Portable Set
- Alesis Compact 4 and 7 Pad Sets
Editor Choice Pick
Alesis Forge Kit Eight Piece Electronic Drum Set
Alesis is a well-known and highly recommended name in the electronic drumming industry, and it’s no wonder why after taking a look at this electronic drum kit. It offers top-level action, beautiful drum vocals and all the pad options that you need to replace most well-stocked drum kits.
It comes with a dual zone snare, three single toms, a kick pad tower bass drum, three cymbals and a 10-inch snare. This set comes with 70 different pre-programmed kits, and offers another 20 empty spots for user-programmed drum kits, making it easy to come up with just the right setup for each type of music you want to create.
This Alesis kit comes pre-programmed with 600 stock sounds, and it’s possible to load up your own samples via the USB memory input as well for infinite music potential. The drum kit is capable and offers a pretty good feel to users for having mostly rubber drum pads.
There’s plenty of rebound, but it’s not springy. The kit comes standard with a mesh kick pad for a realistic rebounding feel with every bass kick, but it also comes with the option for a mesh snare head as well, which we highly recommend because it’s an excellent upgrade over the stock rubber pad.
It’s our editor’s choice pick for a few different reasons. First of all, the built-in voices are diverse and they sound superb. No matter what type of music you want to play, it’s available from the huge selection available. The second reason is because these drums just feel so realistic.
They are pressure sensitive and you’ll be amazed at how quiet and loud the same pad can go just by the pressure you put on them. It’s tough finding a top-notch drum kit in this sub $500 price range, but the Alesis is a strong contender, and something that even a highly experienced drummer would enjoy.
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Carlsboro CSD130 Electronic Drum Kit
This Carlsboro electric drum kit is one of the best sub-$500 options available when you’re trying to find a compact unit with good quality sound. It comes equipped with everything that’s needed to play most songs today, and it does it all in a nice tight footprint, allowing you to outfit even a small room.
The kit features all rubber pads, and comes equipped with three toms, a single snare, a bass pedal and crash, hi-hat and ride cymbal pads as well as a hi-hat control pedal. All the pads have a realistic drum feel, creating an enjoyable experience.
They aren’t quite as pressure sensitive as the Alesis kit mentioned up above, but there’s enough sensitivity to switch from soft, to loud to somewhere in the middle without much issue. The kit is easy to play and a good solid performer for most songs.
Getting started with this set is pretty easy, whether you’re new to electronic drumming or not. There are 20 preset kits, a total of 250 different voices, and slots to hold custom setups allowing you to create your own custom kits easily. This Carlsboro set features a MIDI-out port, allowing it to function with most instrument software. It also comes equipped with a headphone jack, allowing you to practice in quiet.
It’s important to note that this set doesn’t come with a speaker, and you’ll either need to use a pair of headphones all the time, or couple it with a speaker in order to play for others. This is a small drawback, but I prefer being able to buy my own speaker setup, so it’s only an issue for some people.
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Roland TD-1K Electronic Drum Set
There’s nothing like the mix of quality sound and portability that the Roland TD 1K offers. This kit packs three toms, a snare, a ride, hi-hat and crash cymbal, as well as a hi-hat control pedal and a bass pedal all into a compact little package.
It’s all fitted on a rack system that tucks everything in nicely. The racks adjust up and down, making it easy to customize the kit for little ones, or for larger adults. Parents will love having children practice on this quiet kit that easily attaches straight to a set of headphones.
The main thing this Roland kit has going for it is the realistic sounds that it puts off. Not only are the pads highly sensitive and accurate with their dynamics, but the whole kit puts out sounds that sound very natural when you use the standard kit sounds.
There are a total of 15 different kits to pick from, allowing you to switch between one music style and another in mere moments. Overall the set is a good value that offers solid drumming capabilities in a compact package. It’s good for use in apartments and small rooms.
The kit also interfaces with a computer, making it effective for creating electronic music for your PC samples.
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Yamaha Portable Digital Set
When you’re not only interested in drumming in a small room, but drumming on the go as well, this portable Yamaha set is an excellent option. Not only does it come with two foot pedals that offer decent action, but it also comes with a set of eight pads that can all be programmed for different realistic drum sounds.
This kit works with headphones or an attached speaker, and comes standard with a decent headset, allowing you to play on the go without disturbing others.
It’s important to keep a few things in mind when picking up this set. It doesn’t feel exactly like a real drum kit and if you’re looking for an authentic drum experience you should look for a larger kit instead. It does offer good quality vocals that you’ll really enjoy using. It also allows you to fully map the drum pads and set up three different custom configurations.
There are over 100 different voices available for mapping purposes, and it’s easy to get a new set up programmed in. The pads offer three different sensitivity levels as well, which some drummers might find limiting, but for most purposes it’s more than adequate to achieve the right sound for different songs.
The only feature this kit is lacking is the ability to turn specific drum sets up and down, because some bass drums are difficult to hear with regular drumming. The kit offers minimal rebound, but it’s good enough for comfortable playing, and there are few sets under $500 as portable and good sounding as this one is.
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Alesis Compact 4 or 7 Pad Kits
Anyone familiar with Alesis knows that the brand offers quality products. This four pad compact kit isn’t right for drummers looking for a full outfit, but it’s ideal for new learners just wanting to get started, or players that only need a few different sounds to work with at a time.
This kit is a powerful learning tool with a collection of play-along songs and cool learning games that will help keep new drummers interested in practicing.
The Alesis Compact Kit drum sets come in two different flavors, a four-pad variety, and a 7-pad variety. The four-pad kit is basic and good for brand-new drummers that just want to test out if they’re going to enjoy drumming or not.
The 7-pad kit is better for intermediate drummers, or drummers serious about playing. It offers enough pads to replace a full drum kit, and comes with two programmable pedals for even more variety.
The pads are smaller than a standard drum kit, and don’t offer quite the rebound of full-sized pads, but they work well and offer good percussion voices for a positive playing experience. If you want to be able to play on the go, or you’re just gauging your child’s interest before splurging on a full-sized set, these electronic kits are the way to go. They’re affordable and high quality.
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Tips for Transitioning Between Acoustic and Electronic Drum Sets
- Give Yourself Time to Adapt: One of the most important tips to remember is that there is going to be an adaptation period when switching from electronic to acoustic and back again. Make sure that you practice for at least a few days before performing when switching from one to the other.
- Electronic is less work: Once you make the switch you’ll realize that electronic drums are actually less forgiving and less work. They offer more bounce and don’t have to be hit with as much precision. That makes moving back to acoustic more difficult and tiring overall.
- Good quality speakers or headphones are a must: When playing on an electronic drum kit, the quality of headphones or speakers you use is so important. A top quality set won’t sound good unless it’s paired with excellent speakers or a top-end pair of headphones. Buy them carefully, so you can enjoy the best sound quality your kit is capable of.