13 Best Compact Drum Kits 2022

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Best Compact Drum Kits

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Small drum sets are ideal to have if you play gigs often and need to fit your kit on a small stage. They make traveling to and from gigs a lot easier than if you were to use a full-sized kit. So, having a compact drum kit as a secondary option is something that all drummers should consider.

Here’s a list of some of the best travel sets available.

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Sonor AQ2 Bop – Best Overall

Sonor AQ2 Bop

The Sonor AQ2 Bop (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an amazing compact drum kit. It’s been one of the most popular options for years, as Sonor was one of the first drum brands to release an extensive line of compact kits. This Bop version of the AQ2 line has the most versatile shell sizes.

Its maple shells give it rich tones and a wide tuning range. The toms sing beautifully, while the kick drum has plenty of resonance. If you put a bit of dampening in it, you’ll get a strong tone that rivals much larger bass drums.

The construction of the kit is what impresses me the most. It feels amazing to play because it’s built so well. The die-cast lugs are a small feature, but they go very far in making this feel like a premium drum set.

The snare drum is one of the biggest snares on this list, so it acts the same way as snares from large kits, and it sounds great.

Overall, the Sonor AQ2 Bop is one of your best options when looking for a small kit that can take on the world. You’ll just need to swap out the stock drumheads, as they’re the weak point of the set.

Shell material: Maple

Snare drum size: 14” x 6”

Tom sizes: 12” x 8”, 14” x 13”

Bass drum size: 18” x 14”

DW Design Series Frequent Fyler – Premium Option

DW Design Series Frequent Fyler

The DW Design Series Frequent Flyer (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the highest-quality travel drum set on this list. It’s part of DW’s popular Design Series line of kits, but it has shallower drums to make it more compact.

The reason why this kit sounds so much richer than the other kits on this list is that it uses DW’s HVLT/HVX maple shells. They sound beautiful, exhibiting plenty of dynamic expression.

The great thing about this kit is that the bass drum is still fairly large, so you get a similar feeling to what you get with a full-sized kit. The toms are also standard sizes, albeit with shorter depths.

The True-Pitch tension rods make the set very easy to tune, and you get an amazing open sound when no muffling is applied. When you add a bit of muffling, the drums round out a bit in their tone.

This kit will fit in a small space, but it gives the same big sound that a large kit does. It’s one of the best kits that you can get if you’re happy to spend a fair amount of money.

Shell material: Maple

Snare drum size: 14” x 5”

Tom sizes: 12” x 8”, 14” x 11”

Bass drum size: 20” x 12”

Tama Club-Jam Pancake – Best Budget Option

Tama Club-Jam Pancake

The Tama Club-Jam Pancake (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the smallest and most inexpensive options on this list. This kit is truly unique, having very shallow drum shells with no resonant heads on the toms. The drums also have very small diameters, giving them high-pitched tones that crack.

Although this kit is very affordable, it could easily be used in a few gigging settings where a tiny drum kit is necessary. The tones are surprisingly musical, and you’d be able to back a band quite well with this kit. So, it’s a great option for a small practice space, but you can use it for gigs in pubs and similar environments.

The rack toms having no resonant heads causes them not to sing as much as the toms on all the other kits do. Rather, they have a snappy sound that is very short. You can still get great low tones from them if you tune them loosely, though.

The bass drum is the one downfall of the kit for many drummers. While it sounds excellent in the high and mid ranges, you can’t get a good deep tone from it unless you mic it up.

To wrap things up, the Tama Club-Jam Pancake is a great small kit for drummers who want the smallest and most inexpensive thing possible that still sounds relatively decent.

Shell material: Poplar

Snare drum size: 12” x 4”

Tom sizes: 10” x 3.5”, 13” x 3.5”

Bass drum size: 18” x 4”

Yamaha Stage Custom Hip

Yamaha Stage Custom Hip

The Yamaha Stage Custom Hip (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an incredible kit from Yamaha. Firstly, it has birch shells, which make the kit sound amazingly punchy and lively. It also has a large 20-inch bass drum, but it has a smaller depth of 8” to keep it compact.

The Yamaha Stage Custom kits are a massively popular line of drums from Yamaha, and this kit offers all the same features with the added feature of compactness. The YESS tom mount makes the small rack tom feel insanely sturdy on the kit, and the other hardware components feel high in quality.

The biggest drawcard of this kit, though, is the floor tom that doubles as a second snare drum. It’s a bit deeper in depth than the standard snare that comes with the kit, so you can turn the snares on to get that deep snare tone that is so commonly used in modern music.

This is a fantastic kit to consider. The larger bass drum allows you to get a thumping tone, and the tom/snare is something that no other compact kit on the market offers. The downside of the set is the stock drumheads that don’t do it any justice.

Shell material: Birch

Snare drum size: 13” x 5”

Tom sizes: 10” x 5”, 13” x 8”

Bass drum size: 20” x 8”

Pearl Midtown

Pearl Midtown

The Pearl Midtown (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) offers a surprisingly big sound from a kit that is quite small. It has poplar shells that give it snappy yet balanced tones, and the rack tom and floor tom are quite wide in their tuning range.

The bass drum is arguably the best part of the set. It’s 16”, but it somehow has the capability of being tuned to sound like a cannon. The big sound of the kit comes from the bass, and all the other drums sit comfortably on top of it with their tones.

It’s one of the best compact kits to consider if you’re looking for something with a 16-inch bass drum. The hardware on each shell is also very well constructed. That’s something that has remained true with every kit that Pearl has put out.

The downside of the kit is the snare drum. It sounds okay for a poplar snare, but it lacks the bite that you’d get from a gig-worthy snare drum. If you’re an experienced drummer, you’ll find yourself wanting to replace the snare drum very quickly. Less experienced drummers may not mind the snare quality.

Shell material: Poplar

Snare drum size: 13” x 5.5”

Tom sizes: 10” x 7”, 13” x 12”

Bass drum size: 16” x 14”

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove

The Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the closest competitor to the Pearl Midtown when it comes to compact drum kits. It’s also one of the most lightweight drum sets on this list, making it a strong contender as a travel kit.

The shells on this kit are made from hardwood. It’s very similar to the poplar used for most of the other kits on this list, but it has slightly different tonal qualities. They’re subtle but enough to notice if you listen to this kit and a poplar kit played next to each other. The hardwood shells sound slightly lighter and bouncier.

This is version two of the Breakbeats kit. It’s a lot more rigid than the first version that wasn’t as durable as the competitor kits. You can easily take this kit out on the road for weeks, and it will hold up with no issues. The lightness of it makes traveling incredibly easy.

The snare drum that comes with this kit is 14”, so it has a bit more depth than the smaller one that comes with the Pearl Midtown. So, I’d suggest doing a listening test between this kit and the Midtown to decide which one to choose.

Shell material: Hardwood

Snare drum size: 14” x 5”

Tom sizes: 10” x 7”, 13” x 13”

Bass drum size: 16” x 14”

Gretsch Catalina Club

Gretsch Catalina Club

The Gretsch Catalina Club (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an amazing compact kit to consider if you’re looking for booming low tones. The mahogany shells accent the low end of each drum, giving you sounds that no other kit on this list will give you.

This kit is very commonly used in jazz circles, as the rack toms sound beautifully resonant when equipped with single-ply heads. You can tune them high to get singing tones, or you can loosen them and apply muffling to get strong low tones for rock drumming.

The bass drum has a significant boom to it. With no dampening inside, it seems to ring for much longer than other bass drums do. Jazz drummers tend to love that about it, but you can add a few pillows to get a tighter sound if you want.

The snare drum is also very responsive to dynamics, but note that it tends to sound best when tuned high.

If you’re a jazz drummer, you’ll love this set. Every drummer will also love the fact that it has several beautiful finishes to choose from. If you play other styles of music, you’ll need to do a bit of muffling to tighten up the tones.

Shell material: Mahogany

Snare drum size: 14” x 5”

Tom sizes: 12” x 8”, 14” x 14”

Bass drum size: 18” x 14”

PDP New Yorker

PDP New Yorker

The PDP New Yorker (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a kit with a reputation of being a good option for kids. However, it offers similar qualities to the Ludwig Breakbeats and Pearl Midtown, so it’s a good option for adults to consider as well.

The tones from the poplar drum shells are very clear and focused. You get bright punchiness from the rack tom and a bit of boom from the floor tom. The bass drum has a short, strong sound with a decent amount of low-end oomph.

I’d argue that the snare on this kit sounds a lot better than the snares from the Midtown and Breakbeats kits. It’s very dynamically responsive, and it sounds decent in low, mid, and high tunings. PDP snare drums are usually quite good, so you get that same aspect here.

It would be great if this kit had the same True-Pitch tuning rods that the larger PDP kits have, but they’ve omitted them to keep the price down. It just means that the kit isn’t as easy to tune as the larger PDP kits.

Overall, it’s a good competitor option to the Midtown and Breakbeats kits. I’d also say it’s an amazing option for young kids due to it having vibrant toy-like finish options.

Shell material: Poplar

Snare drum size: 14” x 5”

Tom sizes: 10” x 8”, 13” x 12”

Bass drum size: 16” x 14”

DW Performance Series Low Pro

DW Performance Series Low Pro

The DW Performance Series Low Pro (Sweetwater) is another decent compact kit option from DW. It’s essentially a higher-quality version of the Tama Pancake kit, as this kit has the same idea of having shallow shells with no resonant heads on the toms.

This kit also doesn’t have a resonant head on the snare drum, and it has a unique snare wire system that still allows the snare to have a standard sound.

The hardware of the kit is brilliant, and I don’t think any drummer would expect anything less from DW. The tones of the kit won’t be for everyone, though.

You get very short tones from each drum. The rack tom and floor tom sound quick and punchy, and the bass drum has slightly more resonance, but it’s still not a lot. For modern music, these tones are perfect. The drums are also amazingly responsive to nuanced drumming techniques.

However, this kit won’t suit drummers who are looking for resonance and richness with their drum sound.

So, it’s an excellent kit for drummers who play modern styles but not an ideal option for drummers who are a bit more traditional.

Shell material: Maple

Snare drum size: 12” x 3”

Tom sizes: 10” x 3”, 13” x 3”

Bass drum size: 20” x 3”

Sonor AQX Micro

Sonor AQX Micro

The Sonor AQX Micro (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a great kit to consider if you love the sound of the AQ2 Bop, but you want something a bit more affordable. The kit comes from Sonor’s more affordable AQX line of compact drum sets. It has poplar shells, and the drums are a bit smaller than the ones from AQ2 Bop.  

This is a true mini drum kit, having the smallest bass drum of all the kits on this list. The bass drum is very punchy, but note that you’ll only be able to get medium and high tones from it. The same can be said with the rack tom and floor tom.

The size of the kit makes it excellent for children, but it’s also good for busking and playing on small stages for styles of music like hip-hop and anything electronic.

The Sonor hardware is immaculate. Even though the drums are tiny, they feel very durable and well put together. Everything stays very stable while you’re playing, although you might get a bit of wobbling from the bass drum.

This is a great kit to get if you’re okay with only being able to play with high-pitched tones.

Shell material: Poplar

Snare drum size: 13” x 6”

Tom sizes: 8” x 7”, 13” x 12”

Bass drum size: 14” x 13”

Tama Cocktail Jam

Tama Cocktail Jam

The Tama Cocktail Jam (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a kit that will turn heads every time you go out and play with it. It’s one of the most travel-focused kits on this list, as it’s designed to be set up and torn down within minutes.

The kit has all the drums stacked very closely to each other, and the bass drum sits right underneath the floor tom. It acts a bit differently from a standard bass drum, as the kit comes with a kick pedal that gets positioned to strike the underside.

You can then place hardware and cymbals around the kit in the same way that you would with a standard acoustic drum kit.

Something interesting about the design of this kit is that you can play it while standing, so you don’t even need to lug a drum throne around with you when you gig. It also means that you can fit into tighter spaces on a stage if you have to.

The kit has birch shells that are very punchy and lively. The drums don’t have a lot of resonance, though, considering that there are no resonant heads on the toms.

This isn’t a kit that you’d want to play full-time, but it’s an amazing compact kit to consider getting to use for small gigs. It also comes with two bags to pack the whole kit into, which is great as all the other kits on the list require you to buy travel bags separately.

Shell material: Birch

Snare drum size: 12” x 5”

Tom sizes: 10” x 5”, 14” x 5.5”

Bass drum size: 16” x 6”

ddrum SE Flyer

ddrum SE Flyer

The ddrum SE Flyer (Sweetwater) is a drum kit that doesn’t get as much traction as the other kits on this list, but it’s a great high-quality option to consider. It’s just not as popular as ddrum is a lesser-known drum kit brand.

This kit takes inspiration from the small kits that were used in clubs and pubs in the bebop era. It has two amazing vintage finishes that look far superior to the finish options from the competing kits in its price range.

The drums have powerful bright tones with focus on the mids and highs. You can get amazing jazz tunings from this kit, but you can also get adequate low tunings with enough dampening to stop the overtones.

I’m a big fan of the tom holder on the kit. It’s very sturdy, and it also allows you to mount a ride cymbal to the side that isn’t being used for a rack tom. It’s very similar to the YESS tom mounts that come on Yamaha kits.

The last thing to mention is the beautiful wooden hoops on the bass drum. They add even more to the visual aspect of the kit.

Overall, the SE Flyer is a decent compact kit that simply looks a lot better than all the kits in its price range. The tones are good as well, but you’ll need to do your own listening tests to see if you prefer this kit over the others or not.

Shell material: Poplar

Snare drum size: 14” x 5.5”

Tom sizes: 12” x 8”, 14” x 14”

Bass drum size: 18” x 14”

Yamaha Stage Custom Bebop

Yamaha Stage Custom Bebop

The Yamaha Stage Custom Bebop (Sweetwater) is a larger compact version of the Stage Custom with more standard shell sizes. This kit is called the Bebop as it’s an ideal option for jazz, but it has such a wide tuning range that you can use it easily for other styles of music too.

The birch shells give the drums plenty of brightness, but they have a surprising amount of warmth in their tone as well. When tuned low, the drums sound quite strong and thumping. When tuned high, they sound musical and resonant.

The YESS tom mount is always a plus of Yamaha kits, and it keeps the rack tom feeling very secure in place. The bass drum has die-cast claw hooks. They look sleek, but they also add a superior sense of quality compared to most of the other bass drums on this list.

The downside of this kit is that it doesn’t come with a snare drum. However, that’s ideal for drummers who were planning to use another snare drum anyway, and the lack of a snare drum keeps the cost down.

Shell material: Birch

Snare drum size: No snare drum

Tom sizes: 12” x 8”, 14” x 13”

Bass drum size: 18” x 15”

What To Look For In a Compact Drum Kit

Size

When looking for a good travel drum set, size should be your biggest feature to consider. The smaller a kit is, the easier it will be to travel with. However, size affects tone, and smaller kits typically sound worse than larger ones. Size also affects how the drums feel to play. So, you need to find a balance.

When it comes to snare drums, 14-inch snares typically fit quite well in compact setups, but you’ll also find kits that come with 12 or 13-inch snares. The smaller the snare is, the higher its pitch will be.

With bass drums, you’ll either get shallow shells or small diameters. If a compact kit has a 20-inch bass drum, it will have a shallow shell. You’ll get deep tones, but you won’t get a lot of resonance.

If a compact kit has a bass drum that is smaller than 20”, then the shell most likely won’t be as shallow, and you’ll get more resonance. You should decide what bass drum tone you like before choosing between those two.

The rack toms on compact kits range from 8” to 14”. Their shell depths also vary, with the shallower shells having less resonance and more attack.

Shell Material

Shell material refers to what wood a drum set is made from. Different shell types give varying tonal qualities, so it’s good to know what those are when choosing a new kit. When it comes to compact drum kits, the majority of them are made from poplar.

Poplar is the most inexpensive wood to use for drums, and most compact drum sets sit on the more affordable side of every brand’s kit lineup. Poplar drums are fairly balanced in their tone, but they don’t sound as rich or detailed as other woods.

The other woods you’ll find being used for compact drum sets are maple, birch, and mahogany. Maple is the most common wood used for premium kits. It gives them balanced tones that are fairly warm.

Birch gives more attack and punch. Since compact kits have shallow shells, the attack is boosted even further. So, birch compact kits are incredibly lively.

Mahogany drums have boosted low-end. You get richer tones when they’re tuned low, and they resonate beautifully.

Choose which wood you like the sound of the most, and then find a few compact kits that are made from it. That will narrow down your final decision.

Snare Drum

All compact kits come as shell packs. However, some of them don’t come with a snare drum. Make sure to check that before buying a compact kit, as the advertising pictures often depict the kit with a snare and hardware, even if it doesn’t come with those things.

Something else to note is that the snare drums that come with compact kits are usually quite poor in their tonal quality. That’s especially true for compact kits with poplar shells. Snare drums need to have plenty of dynamic responsiveness, and small inexpensive snare drums just don’t offer that.

So, it’s a good idea to use a standard snare drum that sounds better when setting up a compact kit for gigs. The stock snare drums will be okay at the start, but they’ll be the first thing you’ll want to upgrade over time.

The great thing about snare drums is that the way you position them in a setup won’t affect the footprint of the kit.

Finish Options

While appearances won’t make any difference to how a compact kit feels or sounds, they certainly help with your overall perception of a kit. If you’re one for aesthetics, you’ll need to choose a kit that has a finish you love.

Some compact kits have more finish options than others, so you’ll need to check those out before making a buying decision.

Most compact kits have single color tone finishes, so it will be quite difficult to find a small kit with artistic finish options. Most of them either have solid or sparkle finishes.

Build Quality and Features

Build quality is something else to take careful note of. Compact kits that are lighter are usually not as durable. You get portability for the trade-off of build quality. Other compact kits have amazing hardware, but they’re a bit heavier to transport.

You should also look at the tom mounts. Certain compact kits will have an extra mount on the bass drum that allows you to attach a boom arm for a ride cymbal. Doing that will lower the kit’s footprint even more, which is great!

Other compact kits have unique features, like the Yamaha Stage Custom Hip having snare wires on its floor tom.

You’ll also come across compact drum sets known as cocktail kits. These are special kits that allow you to play while standing or sitting. The bass drum sits underneath the floor tom, and you need a special bass drum pedal to play it.

So, make the decision whether you want a straightforward set or something that offers you a bit more than what you have with a larger set.

Price

One of the best things about compact drum sets is that they don’t cost a lot. Some are very inexpensive, while the higher-quality ones cost around the same as what a good large intermediate set would cost.

When establishing a budget, think about what you’re going to use the kit for. If it’s intended for professional gigs where you want the best sound possible, I’d suggest getting a high-end compact kit.

If you’re buying the kit for a beginner drum student who is young, the most inexpensive compact kit will work perfectly fine.

As I said earlier, poplar kits are mostly going to be the most affordable. Kits that have birch, maple, or mahogany shells cost more, but they sound a lot better. They also have better snare drums, so you won’t need to buy a better snare drum as soon as you would with the poplar kits.

If you don’t have hardware and cymbals to go with the kit, make room for those in your budget as well.

Best Compact Drum Kit Brands

There are nine big drum brands that dominate the market. However, not all of them offer compact kits. The following brands that I’m about to mention all have two or more compact kit options, so you should check them out.

Sonor

Sonor are a German drum brand that are very well-known for the high-quality drum sets they put out. The great thing about Sonor is that they have several compact kits on offer, with some of them catering to beginners and others catering to seasoned professionals.

You can find Sonor compact kits of all sizes, giving you an impressively wide range of options to choose from.

Tama

Tama is a Japanese drum brand. Like Sonor, Tama have an extensive list of compact kits in their lineup. They don’t share the same high-quality tones and features that the high-end Sonor kits do, but they’re more affordable and fantastic for gigging.

Tama also have two cocktail drum kits available in their lineup, which are unique compact kit options.

Ludwig

Ludwig has been one of the most popular drum brands in the world since the early popularity of drum sets. The brand doesn’t have as many compact kit options as Tama or Sonor, but the Breakbeats drum kits are loved by drummers all over the world. The brand also offers compact kits for children, which are excellent.

Yamaha

Yamaha is another Japanese drum brand. All their compact kits fall under the Stage Custom line, which is an amazing intermediate drum set line. Yamaha kits have outstanding build quality and tones, so you’ll undoubtedly be happy with a Yamaha kit if you decide to get one.

The brand also has an extensive range of other musical instruments on offer, including a top-quality line of electronic drum sets.

DW

DW is considered a luxury drum brand. All the brand’s drum kits are made in the US, and they use US woods for all of them. This arguably gives them superior tones to many kits that have woods sourced from other places.

DW kits are known to be quite expensive, but the prices are well worth what you get. Their compact drum sets are some of the best-sounding compact sets available on the market.

Top Compact Drum Kits, Final Thoughts

Remember that none of the compact drum kits come with hardware or cymbals. You’ll need to get those separately to create a full drum setup. If you already have a large kit, you can easily use the hardware and cymbals from that.

When searching for a good travel kit, make sure that it ticks all your requirement boxes. You’ll be so glad to have a small kit when playing gigs.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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