27 Best Drum Sets 2023

Best Drum Sets

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With thousands of drum sets available, it can be extremely challenging to pick out just one. Luckily, it’s a bit easier to narrow your choices down once you separate kits into brands and price segments.

Here’s the ultimate list of all the best drum sets available on the market. You’ll find a wide array of sizes, shapes, and materials in every option, and there’s a kit on this list for every specific need.

Tama Starclassic Maple – Best Overall

Tama Starclassic Maple

The Tama Starclassic Maple (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most loved drum sets in the music industry. It’s a seriously popular set amongst gigging drummers, and it was popularized as one of the best kits for rock music at a stage.

It’s a brilliant kit for every musical style, though. The maple shells offer powerful tones that are both warm and responsive, and the die-cast hoops add a bit of bite to each drum. They also add a bit of resonance.

Apart from the beautiful looks, it’s the hardware that holds this kit together that makes it so appealing.

The quick-lock tom brackets work very well, and they make it easy to set the kit up in the most comfortable way possible. The toms also stay surprisingly secure when they’re set up.

The floor tom has incredible resonance, and part of that is due to the Air Pocket Rubber feet that stop the legs from touching the ground.

These Starclassic kits have some of the best finishes available in the drumming world. Any drummer could sit and stare at most of them for ages due to how beautiful they look.

Overall, the Tama Starclassic Maple is one of the best drum kits on the market. It’s a high-end option, but it’s not as expensive as all the flagship kits from every drum brand.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

DW Collector’s Series Exotic – Premium Option

DW Collector’s Series Exotic

The DW Collector’s Series Exotic is an absolute dream drum kit. It’s one of DW’s finest pieces of work, and it’s essentially one of those kits that you’ll buy for life. It blends premium looks with beautiful tones, giving you the ultimate drum set package.

The standout feature of this kit is DW’s SSC shell optimization. Every shell on the kit is created differently to suit its dimensions. This sets it apart from most other sets where the shells are made in the same way.

Each shell offers the most musical tones possible, and that’s what makes the set sound so good.

To get the pristine appearance that you see here, DW has used rich-grained African chenchen veneer and a natural lacquer finish. They’ve then given the kit polished nickel hardware. The combination gives the most stunning visuals, making it a drum set that you want to display for everyone to see.

If you’ve been wondering what kind of drum kits go for the top dollar, here’s your answer. Naturally, this is a kit that is way out of most people’s price ranges.

Shell material: North American Hard Rock Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor toms, 22” kick drum

Pearl Roadshow – Best Budget Option

Pearl Roadshow

The Pearl Roadshow (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) has been one of the top beginner drum kits for several years. While it’s not a very high-quality kit, it offers a full drum kit setup with everything you need, and it comes with a seriously compelling price tag.

This is the ultimate package deal for any beginner drummer who needs to get their first drum set. The hardware is the standout part for me, as these stands are heavy-duty enough to comfortably use when you eventually upgrade to a higher-quality shell pack.

The drums sound somewhat boxy, but you can get them to sound decent with good tuning and a bit of muffling. For beginners, the tones are perfect, though.

The cymbals are the weak point of the set. They’re quite flimsy, and they won’t last very long with drummers that hit them hard. You’ll be using them as target practice at first, and then you’ll need to upgrade them to cymbals that are better and more durable.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Hi-hat stand, cymbal stand, drum throne, kick drum pedal

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

DW Design Series Frequent Flyer – Best Compact Option

DW Design Series Frequent Flyer

The DW Design Series Frequent Flyer (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the highest-quality compact drum kits on the market. It forms part of DW’s Design Series line, but it has smaller shell sizes to suit drummers who need something to fit in tight spaces.

The beauty of this kit is that it maintains the high-quality standard that the DW Design kits are known to have, whereas other compact kits tend to dip in quality as the shells get smaller.

You get DW’s popular HLVT/HVX maple shells, and they make the drums sound warm and resonant. They also allow you to tune the kit to sound quite large, even though it’s a lot smaller than a standard set.

The snare drum is one of the best parts of the kit, which is a pleasant surprise. The snare drums that come with compact kits are typically quite poor in quality.

The bass drum is also full of life. It’s still 20″ like larger kits have, but its depth is a bit shallower to make it compact.

The downside of this set is the price. While it’s the best compact kit available, it’s also one of the most expensive. Drummers typically want to get smaller kits as secondary options to use, and that means they’re not willing to spend as much as they would on a standard kit.

If that sounds like you, you’ll need to check the other options that I’ve mentioned below on this list.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 20” kick drum

Best Beginner Drum Sets

Ludwig Accent

Ludwig Accent

The Ludwig Accent (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is Ludwig’s entry-level drum kit option. It’s designed to offer everything you need when getting started, and it’s a solid pick for drummers that want to get their foot into the door with the Ludwig brand.

The shells are made from select hardwood, and they have deeper tones than you may expect. High-end Ludwig drums are very well-known for deep and musical tones, so I love how the brand offers those in their most affordable full set.

The stands that come with the kit are relatively sturdy and secure, and I love how smooth the pedals feel.

The standout part is the cymbals, though. Cymbals in this price range are never great, but some are slightly better than others. That’s exactly the case with these Wuhan 457 Heavy Metal cymbals. They sound a lot better than the cymbals you get with Pearl’s Roadshow, which is the main kit that this one competes with.

The drawback of this kit is that the toms can be very hard to tune at times. They also tend to go out of tune a bit quicker than other kits in this segment. That won’t affect you too much if you apply a lot of muffling, though.

Shell material: Select hardwood

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal, drum throne

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

PDP Center Stage

PDP Center Stage

The PDP Center Stage (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another decent drum kit for beginners to get as their first set. It has poplar shells that give all the toms a touch of boominess, and that makes them sound great when you tune them low.

Some drummers have mentioned the tuning process to be a bit easier with this kit compared to the others in the same segment, and it has a lot to do with the True-Pitch tension rods. These rods are used on almost every DW and PDP drum set, and they’re incredibly reliable.

This kit also has strong triple-flanged hoops on each shell, further adding to the tuning stability, but they also give a bit of bite to each drum.

As with all the other entry-level kits here, you get some solid hardware parts. The PDP single pedal is perhaps the best entry-level pedal out of all the beginner kits I’ve suggested.

The thing I don’t like about this kit is that the arms for the toms dig very deeply into the bass drum shell. They’re quite long, so you can clearly see them when looking at the clear batter head.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal, drum throne

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Mapex Venus

Mapex Venus

The Mapex Venus (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most impressive beginner drum sets that I’ve seen introduced to the market over the last few years. The Mapex brand is known for offering fantastic value-for-money sets, and that’s exactly what you get with their beginner option.

This kit has poplar shells that fill the drums with low-end punchiness, but it’s the SONIClear bearing edges that smoothen out their tones and make them a lot more stable than most other beginner drum shells.

The included cymbals are very interesting. They’re your standard low-quality brass cuts, but these cymbals have been hammered to make them sound a bit more musical. They have far more usability than the cheap brass cymbals that come on most other beginner kits in this price range.

However, they still won’t last very long for drummers who like to hit hard.

The final thing to mention about this kit is the studio shell sizes. I love when beginner kits offer 14” floor toms and 20” bass drums. You get that here, and it’s a great change of pace from the standard drum kit sizing.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal, drum throne

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” floor tom, 20” kick drum

Tama Stagestar

Tama Stagestar

The Tama Stagestar is one of Tama’s latest additions to their product lineup. The higher-priced Imperialstar was their previous entry-level option, but this Stagestar kit has now opened up the floor to a whole demographic of beginner drummers.

Like most kits in this segment, this set has thick poplar shells that give it boosted low-end tones. They aren’t the easiest to tune, but you’ll find it becomes a lot easier when you add plenty of muffling.

The real strength of this particular set is the included hardware. Tama is one of those brands that offer top-quality hardware, and even their entry-level stands are heavy-duty and durable.

The most impressive part is the drum throne, though. You’ll see that you get a fairly flimsy drum throne with the other beginner kit options I’ve suggested. The drum throne here is a much better one with a spiral mechanism.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal, drum throne

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Pearl Export

Pearl Export

The Pearl Export (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most recognizable kits on this list, and it was stated to be the highest-selling drum kit in the world at a stage. These Pearl Export kits are one of the biggest reasons for Pearl being such a popular drum brand.

While this kit isn’t as popular as it was in the early 2000s, it’s still one of the best beginner kits out there. In fact, this is one of the only beginner kits that I’ll suggest to people to use for live gigs and studio recordings.

It has the ability to create fantastic tones when you tune it well, and the poplar and mahogany combination leads to some massive tom sounds.

This kit comes with hardware stands, but it doesn’t come with cheap cymbals. It’s the perfect package for drummers that want to spend a bit more on higher-quality cymbals to go along with it.

Shell material: Poplar/mahogany

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Tama Imperialstar

Tama Imperialstar

The Tama Imperialstar (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) has been an iconic beginner option for several years. However, I’d put this kit a bit higher on the quality spectrum compared to most of the others in this segment.

It comes included with Meinl HCS cymbals. While these are still low-quality brass cymbals, they’re far superior to the thinner brass cymbals offered from the previous kits.

I’ve found that this Imperialstar kit can sound incredible when you tune it well. You just need to get some new drumheads from Evans or Remo, and it has the potential to sound highly musical.

The other amazing aspect about it is that you get highly unique finish options. Most beginner kits have single-color finishes to pick from, but Tama offers very creative ones here.

This is a brilliant set to get for someone who is just starting out but wants to take drumming very seriously.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal, drum throne

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Sonor AQX Studio

Sonor AQX Studio

The Sonor AQX Studio (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the highest-quality beginner drum sets available.

The way the shells are constructed makes them sound incredible, and they have a seriously impressive tuning range.

You get a set of Sabian’s SBr entry-level cymbals with this set and a full set of Sonor’s 1000 Series hardware.

It’s another to-tier beginner kit for new drummers that want to take things seriously. However, it’s the most expensive beginner kit that I’ve mentioned so far. It will be a tricky decision to get this kit, as there are great intermediate maple kits that cost less.

With that being said, it’s a drum set that comes with everything you need to get started, and that makes it more valuable than many intermediate sets that only come as shell packs.

One last thing to mention is that it’s another set that offers studio shell sizes, meaning the floor tom is 14”, and the kick drum is 20”.

Shell material: Poplar

Included hardware: Snare stand, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, kick pedal

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” floor tom, 20” kick drum

Best Intermediate Drum Sets

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch

The Yamaha Stage Custom Birch (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the ultimate intermediate kit, in my opinion. It’s one of my favorite kits from Yamaha, purely due to how much value it offers and how affordably it’s priced.

This kit has birch shells that make it sound very tight and punchy. It’s the ideal option to use for live gigs with its lively tones, and you’ll find plenty of drummers using it in professional settings.

I’ve even seen this kit being used in a few professional recording studios. That’s how good it is, and you’d never expect it to cost less than $1000 when hearing it being played.

Its limitations come in the shell hardware. While the YESS mounting system for the toms is incredible, all the other components don’t match up to what you get with professional sets. You can feel that the kit is inferior to those due to it feeling a bit flimsier in its design.

With that being said, I strongly recommend this set to any drummer looking to buy the most cost-effective drum set out there. This is the kind of set to mix with pro-tier cymbals to get an overall professional kit sound on a bargain deal.

Shell material: Birch

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

PDP Concept Maple

PDP Concept Maple

The PDP Concept Maple (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a fantastic intermediate maple drum set to consider. This is the option that many drummers go for when they want DW quality, but they’re not prepared to spend the higher price for a proper DW kit.

PDP kits are made with many of the same parts as DW sets, and you’ll find those making this particular set perform very well.

The European maple shells offer warm and rounded tones, but you’ll find that they have plenty of attack as well. The toms tend to sing and then get out of the way a lot quicker than what you’ll hear from the other maple kits in this price range. It’s one of my favorite things about these Concept Maple sets.

The DW-inspired components are the True-Pitch tension rods and the MAG throw-off on the snare drum. Both these hardware components make the kit feel pristine.

You’ll find a lot of drummers getting the 7-piece version of this set, as that one tends to be the most popular. However, the 5-piece version is the perfect option for drummers looking for a standard setup.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Pearl Decade Maple

Pearl Decade Maple

The Pearl Decade Maple (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another compelling option in the intermediate maple drum kit segment. These drums have some of the best tones I’ve heard from a kit at this price.

The maple shells produce warm and musical tones from the toms, while the bass drum sounds incredibly thick and punchy. The included snare drum is decent enough, but it’s the toms and bass drum that stand out here.

The shells have mini lugs that are inspired by Pearl’s high-end Reference Series. They don’t have too much effect on the sound, but I love how they look on the toms and snare drum.

If you’re a fan of Pearl’s Export Series kits, the Decade Maple essentially has the same design, but it sounds so much better.

The only big drawback for me is the way that the toms are mounted. The Opti-Loc suspension mounts are great in the fact that they allow the drums to resonate, but they get in the way when you’re trying to replace the drumheads on the toms.

It’s never a simple thing of removing the head and placing a new one. You need to remove the Opti-Loc mounts too, as they’re attached to the tension rods.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Tama Superstar Classic

Tama Superstar Classic

The Tama Superstar Classic (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) has been one of the most popular intermediate drum sets since the late 70s and 80s. You’ll see hundreds of pictures of rock drummers from that era playing Superstar kits with large tom sizes.

The kit has been simplified a bit, but it’s now become a highly versatile option to use for almost every style of music.

It’s competing with all the other maple kits in the price segment, so you’re spoiled for choice in this area. The thing that I specifically love about this Superstar kit is that it has intuitive tom mounts.

The rack toms are easy to position in any way you feel comfortable, and that makes a big difference compared to the other kits, where getting them in place may take a bit longer.

The sound quality is mostly the same as the other maple options in this segment, so it’s the hardware that you need to look at. It’s also the finish options, and there are some fantastic ones on offer from Tama.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Mapex Armory Studioease

Mapex Armory Studioease

The Mapex Armory Studioease (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an incredible intermediate drum set that is packed with value.

The shells are a mixture of birch and maple, so you get punchy sounds that are rounded out by the warm qualities of the maple plies.

The included snare drum has a steel shell, so it has plenty of bite and volume. The mixture of the snare with the rest of the kit gives you a setup that sounds fantastic in live settings.

I also love the finish options given to you with these Armory sets. All of them are classy yet very artistic.

Another thing to mention is that this is one of the few intermediate drum sets that has the rack toms mounted to cymbal stands. If you’re someone who prefers that setup, you’ll love this kit a lot more than the other intermediate options.

Shell material: Birch/maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Best Professional Drum Sets

Pearl Masters Maple Complete

Pearl Masters Maple Complete

The Pearl Masters Maple Complete (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) has been one of the go-to professional drum sets for most of the 21st century. You’ll find this kit being used by professional drummers all over the world, and it’s regularly used as a house kit in various gigging venues.

It has two great things going for it. Firstly, the tones are amazing. Pearl’s 6-ply maple shell construction gives these drums a good balance of sensitivity, projection, and sustain. You get warm sounds that are full of energy and power, no matter how high or low you tune the drums.

The second great aspect is the shell hardware. Pearl’s SuperHoop II counter hoops are pristine hoops that round the tones out fantastically. They keep the drums in tune, and they look good while doing it.

The one area that some drummers don’t like about this kit is the OptiMount tom suspension system. Tom mounts have often been one of the great frustrations of drummers that play Pearl kits, and I don’t think the brand gave us the best design with these tom mounts.

They can be a bit frustrating to set up, but you won’t actually think about them too much once the kit is ready to play.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Ludwig Classic Maple Fab

Ludwig Classic Maple Fab

The Ludwig Classic Maple Fab (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a fantastic kit for drummers that want both high-quality sounds and a bit of historical goodness. Ludwig’s Classic Maple sets have been go-to options for decades, and these drums were first made seriously famous by Ringo Starr and The Beatles.

This is just a simple 3-piece shell pack, but each drum sounds huge. You get so much resonance from each shell, and the tones just get bigger and bigger as you play down the drums.

It’s the perfect kit for styles like heavy rock and country. This is also a great set to have in a recording studio.

You’re going to need a second snare drum stand to mount the rack tom, and I know many drummers that find that arrangement quite uncomfortable. So, this may not be the kit for you if you fall into that camp.

However, the 7-ply maple shells mixed with Ludwig’s Radio Frequency Shell Technology make these drums just too good to pass up.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 13” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

DW Performance Series

DW Performance Series

The DW Performance Series (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another highly popular pro drum set option. These Performance Series kits are heavily inspired by DW’s flagship Collector’s Series line, but they have more standardized setups to keep the costs a bit lower.

They look and sound just as good as the higher-end kits, which is why they’re such a highly regarded option for professional drummers.

The HVX maple shells offer a wide range of tones and nuances. You can tune these drums in any way you want to, and they’ll even sound brilliant with just the stock drumheads.

I’m also highly impressed by the shell hardware you get on these drums. The turret lugs are the first thing that everyone notices, but it’s DW’s Graduated Counter Hoops that get me excited. They do a great job of boosting the attack and sustain of each drum.

I just wish these kits came with a bass drum resonant head that had a port hole. It would finish the package off quite nicely, and it would stop drummers from needing to buy a new reso head when they want to use this kit for recording and live gigging settings.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Mapex Saturn Evolution Workhorse

Mapex Saturn Evolution Workhorse

The Mapex Saturn Evolution Workhorse (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a highly unique professional drum kit option, as its shells are a mixture of walnut and birch.

This combination gives the toms a very distinct modern sound. They have a good amount of sustain, but they’re also punchy enough to get out of the way quickly if you want them to.

These drums offer several of Mapex’s best hardware qualities. The SONIClear bearing edges ensure that they’re very easy to tune, and the Sonic Saver hoops fall somewhere in between triple-fanged and die-cast qualities.

The drums have plenty of resonance due to floor toms having special legs and all the shells having Mapex’s Nodal Line Air Venting scheme.

This kit is a work of art, and I’m quite surprised that it doesn’t cost more than it does. The only thing that disappoints me a bit is the finish options available. The ones you can choose are fantastic, but I wish there were a few more exciting ones.

Shell material: Birch/walnut

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor toms, 22” kick drum

Yamaha Recording Custom

Yamaha Recording Custom

The Yamaha Recording Custom is one of the most iconic kits in Yamaha’s acoustic drum range. It’s been on the market for years, but Yamaha did a revamp on the line with the help of Steve Gadd at some stage in the last decade.

It’s a top-quality drum kit that you can use faithfully for live gigs and studio recordings. The birch shells give it plenty of bite, but you’ll find an undeniable sense of musicality from each drum in this set. They’re just so easy to tune, and they sing beautifully when you play them.

The kit comes shipped with Remo Ambassador heads, which are perfect for bringing out all the best tones, so you won’t need to worry about getting new heads when buying it.

The hardware of the set is also immaculate.

The downside is that it’s a bit pricey, but it’s a kit that will last you a lifetime.

Shell material: Birch

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” floor tom, 20” kick drum

Sonor SQ2 Beech

Sonor SQ2 Beech

The Sonor SQ2 Beech is one of my favorite drum kits available. It has such pristine construction quality, and it offers all the musical tones that Sonor’s top drum kits are known to have. It’s a dream drum kit that many drummers wish to own one day.

The beech shells offer a seriously impressive dynamic range. You can tune these drums to sound low and booming, or you can easily tune them to sound resonant for jazz drumming.

You get incredible sustain from each shell, thanks to the 45-degree bearing edges. That sustain is further boosted by all of Sonor’s shell design technology.

These SQ2 sets are typically custom-made, but you can find prebuilt ones all over, and most of them are exactly what certain drummers are looking for.

So, if you’re looking for a premium kit to own for the rest of your life, I highly recommend the beech version of the SQ2.

The downside is the high price tag. You’ll also need to find a good snare drum to go with this set.

Shell material: Beech

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum

Best Compact Drum Sets

Ludwig Breakbeats

Ludwig Breakbeats

The Ludwig Breakbeats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the more affordable compact drum set options, but I found that it’s a lot lighter than all the other picks. It has 7-ply hardwood shells that give it plenty of attack as well as sustain.

The 45-degree bearing edges have been hand-sanded, giving this kit a bit more personality than many others in the same price range.

One of the main ideas behind Questlove helping Ludwig create this set was to give drummers that play in busy cities something light that they can take with them on subways. It works perfectly for that use, and you can even get bags to go with it that allow you to carry the entire shell pack over your shoulder.

It’s a fantastic kit for drummers who gig in clubs and pubs to have. It’s incredibly easy to fit it into a tight corner. You just need to get cymbal stands that match the compact energy.

It naturally doesn’t sound as warm or musical as higher-end compact kits, but it does what it needs to do, and it’s one the lightest compact set available.

Shell material: Hardwood

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 10” rack tom, 13” floor tom, 16” kick drum

Tama Club-JAM

Tama Club-JAM

The Tama Club-JAM (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the smallest compact kit that I’m suggesting on this list. It’s a tiny kit, but it has plenty of heart.

The cymbal arm mounted to the bass drum is one of the biggest reasons for this kit having such a small footprint. It’s incredibly useful for drummers who want to eliminate the need for a ride cymbal stand. You just can’t place a 24-inch ride on this arm, as it will take up too much space.

In terms of sound, these drums sound incredibly bright and punchy. They have popping tones that cause them to cut through mixes easily, and you can only comfortably tune them in mid to high ranges.

The shells have a mixture of poplar and mersawa, and the added mersawa wood is what sets this kit apart from the other options in this price range.

With the floor tom being so shallow, it tends to be the hardest drum to tune in the set, but most drummers just end up muffling it a good amount to control the nasty overtones.

You’ll find several different Club-JAM versions from Tama, but I think this standard one will always be your best option.

Shell material: Poplar/mersawa

Included hardware: Cymbal arm

Drum sizes: 13” snare, 10” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 18” kick drum

Yamaha Stage Custom Hip

Yamaha Stage Custom Hip

The Yamaha Stage Custom Hip (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most unique compact drum sets available, and its innovative design has caused its popularity to skyrocket since it got released.

It’s one of the only compact kits available that has birch shells, which is its first defining feature. The birch wood mixed with the shallow drum shells gives you incredibly punchy tones that are short but very effective.

The next thing that I love about this set is that the bass drum is 20”. Like the DW Frequent Flyer, it’s just shallower to make it more compact. This one is much smaller than the DW kit, though.

The final interesting feature is that the floor tom also has snare wires, making it work as what people have started calling “snoms.” You have a floor tom when the wires are loose, and then you have a deep and thuddy snare drum when the wires are switched on by the throw-off.

Overall, it’s a fantastically unique drum set. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to any drummers looking for toms that resonate and sing. These ones only give you short tones.

Shell material: Birch

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 13” snare, 10” rack tom, 13” floor tom, 20” kick drum

Sonor AQ2 Bop

Sonor AQ2 Bop

The Sonor AQ2 Bop (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the most reliable compact drum kits that I know of. It comes in standard bop sizes, meaning the kick drum is 18”, and the toms are 12” and 14”. A lot of jazz drummers love this kit due to its size but it works well for any style of music.

The reason it’s so reliable is that it accurately reflects the high build quality features that Sonor is so well-known for.

I’d say that this is the best compact kit on the market if the DW Frequent Flyer wasn’t in the picture. This set is far more affordable, though, so it’s the best option for drummers who aren’t looking to spend over $1000 on a small drum set.

The maple shells have some seriously sweet and musical tones, and you can tune these drums in a wide range of different tunings to get both high and low sounds.

I’m also a big fan of the snare drum that comes with the kit, and that is something that I typically wouldn’t say about a compact kit.

On top of all of that, the finish options offered with these AQ2 sets are beautiful. They easily compare to the finishes that you get with professional sets.

Shell material: Maple

Included hardware: None

Drum sizes: 14” snare, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 18” kick drum

Tama Cocktail Jam

Tama Cocktail Jam

The Tama Cocktail Jam (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is very unique compact drum set option, as it’s designed a bit differently from how typically drum sets are set up.

The shells are stacked on top of each other to give you the most compact setup possible, and the kit comes with a special kick drum pedal that you need to use to play the bass drum that sits on the bottom of the stack.

Cocktail drum kits have been around for countless years, but they’re not the most popular options out there. I recommend getting this kit if you’re looking for something fun and different.

In terms of tones, it produces very short and bright sounds. You have a bit of control over the tuning, but you’ll mostly get punchy tones that get out of the way quickly. However, you’ll be surprised at how deep the bass drum can sound.

You get two carry bags to transport the set with, which are a great addition to the overall purchase.

One of the benefits of this set is that you can play it while standing up. It’s a bit of a unique experience, but it’s one that I think every drummer should try at some stage.

The downside is that this is the least versatile drum set on this list. It’s good for a very specific purpose, but it will fall short in most other areas.

Shell material: Birch

Included hardware: Unique kick drum pedal

Drum sizes: 12” snare, 10” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 16” kick drum

What To Look For In a Drum Set

Understanding Different Drum Set Types

It helps a lot when you categorize drum kits into different segments. It will make finding a kit much easier, as you’ll be able to identify what you need for the types of settings you play in and how much experience you have.

The four main categories of acoustic kits are beginner, intermediate, professional, and compact drum sets.

Beginner drum kits are designed for drummers buying their first-ever set. These kits are very affordably priced, and they often come with everything you need to set up and start playing. This includes drum shells, cymbals, and hardware.

Intermediate kits come as shell packs, but they’re made with higher-quality materials than beginner kits. This includes woods like maple and birch. They’re mostly labeled intermediate kits due to their price tags, but all of them are perfectly usable in professional settings.

Pro-tier kits are the best options that drum brands have available. These are made with the best design techniques and materials, and they sound and look incredible. The easiest way to know if you’re getting a pro kit is to look at the price, but you can also tell a pro kit by its shell hardware.

Pro kits have much sturdier and more intricate hardware than intermediate kits, and that often leads them to have better sound quality.

Finally, compact drum sets have shells that are much smaller than what you typically get. The smaller shells lead these kits to have smaller footprints, making them easier to fit in tight spots.

They’re great to get as secondary kits to use at gigs when you aren’t offered much space. They’re also good options for kids to learn on.

Some compact kits have beginner quality, while others are designed in the same way as pro-tier drum sets.


When browsing through different drum sets, you’ll see that some of them come with cymbals included. It’s important to know that only beginner drum kits come with cymbals. You’ll never get them with intermediate, professional, or compact sets unless you buy them secondhand.

You’ll also get two distinct kinds of cymbals with these more affordable kits. The most affordable sets will come with brass cymbals that aren’t branded.

Typically, this includes a single pair of hi-hats and a single crash cymbal. The problem with these cheap brass cymbals is that they don’t sound great. They don’t last very long, either. So, don’t expect to use these cymbals for years to come.

The slightly pricier kits will also come with brass cymbals, but they’ll be higher-quality ones from brands like Zildjian, Sabian, Meinl, and Paiste.

These cymbals are a bit more reliable, and they tend to sound better. They’re still regarded as beginner cymbals, though, as experienced drummers won’t like how they sound.

If you buy a non-beginner kit, you’ll need to purchase cymbals separately.

Something important to note is that you can make an intermediate kit sound like a professional kit if you just pair it with high-end cymbals. This means that it’s often a better idea to spend more on cymbals and less on acoustic drum shells.

A professional set paired with low-quality cymbals will make the entire setup sound bad.

Hardware Stands

Hardware is another set of components that may or may not come with a drum kit. The term you need to look for when buying a kit is a shell pack. If it says it’s a shell pack, it means that you won’t get any stands coming with it.

If it doesn’t, you may get a few cymbal stands, a drum throne, and a kick drum pedal. There are more kits that come with hardware than there are ones that come with cymbals, so grouping those together will lower your options.

Many intermediate kits come with a full set of hardware, and that will end up saving you a good amount of money in the long run.

The best thing about hardware packs is that you can use them for kits of every level. As long as the hardware comes from a major brand, it will be reliable enough to use with high-end drum kits.

A lot of drummers start with beginner or intermediate kits, and then they use the same hardware stands when they upgrade to a high-end kit.

Shell Material

The shell material used to create the drum shells is one of the biggest factors that determines how the drums sound. There are several popular types of wood that drum companies love to use. These include poplar, maple, birch, mahogany, and walnut. There are a few others, but those ones are the most common.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the tones that each wood offers when used to make drum shells:

Poplar – A good amount of low-end with softer mids and highs. It’s a wood that is mostly used for cheaper kits.

Maple – The most popular type of wood. It’s highly versatile, having even tones in every frequency range.

Birch – One of the more aggressive types of woods. It heightens the attacking tones of drum shells, making them sound a lot punchier. It’s a great material to have on a kit that is used for live gigging.

Mahogany – Drums with this wood have warm low-end tones. They sound amazing when tuned low, as the high frequencies are a bit muted. The mid-range frequencies also sound wonderful, though.

Walnut – Another very versatile type of wood. You’ll only find high-end drums made from it, and they sound similar to maple drum sets. The timbre is slightly different, though.

Number of Toms

Every drum kit needs to have a snare drum and bass drum, but the number of toms you get will differ between every option.

We refer to the size of drum kits by the number of shells there are in a setup. A 3-piece kit will only have one tom, while a 7-piece drum set will have five.

The number of toms you need will mostly depend on the style of music you play. For example, most metal drummers need several toms in their setup to be able to play intricate fills with different voices.

On the other hand, jazz drummers rarely need more than two toms, as they like to have minimal setups. A minimal setup does a good job of pushing creativity, which is what you need within that style of music.

A 4-piece would be the sweet spot for most gigging drummers. Having one rack tom and one floor tom allows you to play a wide array of different drum fills, but it also stops your kit from being too big.

It’s a great idea to get a 4-piece kit if you’re looking to save money on a pro-tier set. Having one extra tom can often boost the price by up to $500.


The sizes of all the drums will affect how much they resonate, as well as how high or low-pitched they are.

A typical drum set will have shells with the following sizes:

  • 14 x 5.5” snare drum
  • 10 x 8” rack tom
  • 12 x 9” rack tom
  • 16 x 14” floor tom
  • 22 x 16” kick drum

Shells that are larger than that will sound more open and resonant, while smaller shells will sound tighter and higher pitched.

The other benefit of having smaller shells is that they take up less space. That’s why compact drum kits have the smallest shell sizes available.

Shells with deeper depths are a bit easier to tune, though, so that’s something else you need to factor in.

With all this being said, the sizes of your shells don’t play as much of a role compared to other features you need to look at. So, I wouldn’t stress too much about this specific point. As long as you’re getting a kit that sounds and looks great, you’ll be happy with how big the shells are.

Shell Hardware

When someone mentions shell hardware, it refers to all the metal components that go into keeping the drum shells structured.

On toms, this includes lugs, tension rods, and counterhoops. On a snare drum, it also includes the throw-off, snare wires, and butt plate. For a bass drum, it includes the claw hooks and spurs.

These components don’t have a big effect on how the drums sound, but they play a massive role in determining how the drums feel when you play them.

A good example is triple-flanged and die-cast counterhoops. Some high-end kits have die-cast hoops, which are much heavier than the standard triple-flanged hoops that you get on most affordable kits.

These die-cast hoops round out the tones, but they also add a lot of tuning stability to the shells. They make the drums feel more premium.

Higher-end kits also have much better leg hardware on their bass drums and floor toms. It’s often designed to maximize resonance, making the drums sing for longer.

The lugs and tension rods establish how easy the shells are to tune. They look cosmetic, for the most part, but some drum lugs just hold tension rods much better than others.

Bearing Edges

Bearing edge is another term that you’ll commonly hear when looking at drum kits to buy. When you take the rims and drumheads off a shell, the bearing edges are the top and bottom parts of the shell that are angled.

The bearing edges determine how much contact the shell has with the drumheads, so they play a huge role in establishing certain tonal qualities.

The flatter the angle of the bearing edge, the more contact it will have with the drumhead. That will dampen the tones a bit and give you a dry sound.

Bearing edges with sharper angles offer more sustain. They have a much livelier sound that is characterized by bright and attacking tones.

The most common type of bearing edge you’ll find are 45-degree ones. They’re typically used in most mid-level kits. Especially the ones in the maple shell category.

High-end drum sets will have varied types of bearing edges, and that’s one of the key features that set them apart from each other. With the quality gap being so small between different ones, it’s good to look at the bearing edges to establish what tones they may have.

Mounting Mechanisms

Something to look at with each drum set is how the toms are mounted. There are two main types of setups. One of them has the toms attached to the bass drum, while the other has the toms attached to cymbal stands.

When a bass drum doesn’t have any hardware piece drilled into it to mount the toms, it’s referred to as a virgin bass drum. Many people think that these bass drums produce fuller tones than ones that have toms on them.

However, most drummers end up muffling their bass drums a bit, so the extra bit of tone from not having a hole gets cut out anyway.

It’s more of a personal preference choice on which type of setup you want. You’ll also only get the choice with intermediate and pro kits. All beginner and compact drum sets have toms that mount directly onto the bass drum.

The benefit of having rack toms mounted to cymbal stands is that you have more room to angle them. If you need a very specific angle to feel comfortable, it will be easier to achieve with these.

The downside is that they tend to wobble when you play, as they’re not as stable as toms mounted to the bass drum.

Toms on the bass drum are far more secure in their place, but they have limited mobility on most kits, especially if the depths are bigger than normal.


The drumheads that come equipped on a drum kit that you buy are called stock heads. The unfortunate reality is that most stock heads have very poor quality. This is especially true with drum kits in the beginner, intermediate, and compact segments.

Many professional drum kits come with high-quality drumheads from Evans and Remo, but it’s not a guarantee.

So, it’s a good idea to consider getting new high-quality drumheads when you buy a new drum set. It’s the best way of making the kit sound as good as it possibly can, as the stock heads will always be limiting.

You can also use certain drumheads to change the quality of tones that you get from the set. Sounds often come more from the drumheads than they do from the drums, and you can make an intermediate kit sound like a professional one with some good heads and tuning.

I’ve found that picking good drumheads is vitally important with compact kits, as the smaller shell structures of those often lead to poorer sound quality. Drummers are regularly disappointed with how many compact kits sound, but a good set of drumheads will completely change that.

Snare Drums

When you buy a professional drum set, the chances are slim that it will come with a snare drum. At the professional stage of playing, most drummers obtain standalone snare drums that they love to use.

Drum companies know this, so they don’t include matching snare drums with their high-end sets. It keeps the costs low, and it’s also common that pro drummers won’t even use them.

Stock snare drums often share the same reputation as stock drumheads.

However, this can be a bit disappointing for drummers buying a pro kit that don’t already have a snare drum to use. You’ll find a matching snare drum for most professional drum sets, but I highly suggest looking at different options.

You’ll find better value in snare drums that are part of a standalone series. Look at a few snare drum lines like Mapex’s Black Panther line or Tama’s Starphonic line.

You’ll get snare drums when buying beginner, intermediate, and compact kits. Out of all those segments, compact kits tend to have the lowest-quality snare drums. Drummers mostly just use the toms and bass drum of a compact kit with a larger snare if they’re using the setup for gigging.


A finish refers to the colors and patterns that are on the shells of drums. Finishes have zero effect on how the drums sound, but they establish how the drums look.

Most drum sets have several finish options available, so you can establish your personal touch by choosing a finish that you love.

As the prices increase of different drum sets, you’ll start seeing more intricate and artistic drum finishes. The finishes on pro drum sets also look much more pristine. You’ll find that a pure black finish on a $5000 drum set will look far better than a pure black finish on a $500 drum set.

Some brands offer far better finish options than others. Out of all my years of playing on different drum kits, I’ve noted that Tama offers the best-looking finishes on their kits. However, that’s just my opinion, and that’s the beauty of being able to choose different finish options.


Acoustic drum kits aren’t cheap. There’s no getting past that fact. However, most acoustic drum kits will last decades if you take care of them, even if they’re the cheapest sets in a certain brand’s product range.

Here are all the prices that you can expect to see from the different drum kit segments:

Beginner drum sets – $300 to $1000

Intermediate drum sets – $600 to $1500

Professional drum sets – $1500 to $10 000

Compact drum sets – $200 to $2000

Remember that only beginner drum sets will come with everything you need. That means that all the other drum sets may cost even more if you don’t have hardware and cymbals to pair with them.

Something to note is that you can get an amazing professional drum set for around $2500. It could be one that will last you a lifetime. I strongly recommend sticking in that price range if you’re not someone who can easily afford a $10 000 drum set.

Those luxury kits have a very small quality difference compared to the more affordable professional sets, so they’re often not worth the extra thousands of dollars. However, you should get one of them happily if it’s your dream drum kit.

Resale Value

If you get a beginner or intermediate drum kit, the chances are high that you’re going to sell it eventually to buy a better set. To set yourself up for success in that area, I suggest getting a kit from one of the nine brands I’m about to mention below.

The major drum brands have the best resale value, as they’re highly trusted. If you buy a drum kit from a smaller and lesser-known brand, the chances are high that you won’t be able to sell it for as much as it’s actually worth.

Best Drum Set Brands

There are essentially nine big drum kit brands that you’ll find selling kits all around the world. They’re the most accessible brands, and they tend to have the most options in each price segment.

If you don’t see a brand listed here, it just means that the company doesn’t have as wide of a reach.


DW is regularly referred to as one of the top drum kit brands in the world. They’re based in the US, and they only make professional drum sets.

They also have a reputation for being expensive, though. So, they’re not a brand that every drummer will consider when getting a new kit.


Yamaha is a Japanese drum kit brand that has been in the business for decades. They also make several other types of instruments, but their drums tend to be one of their most impressive offerings.

The best thing about Yamaha kits is that you get unparalleled consistency between options in different price ranges.


Tama is another top-quality drum kit brand from Japan. The brand is arguably most well-known for their Starclassic drum kits, but they have plenty of options in every price range.

One of the best things about Tama kits is the unique finish options available on their intermediate and pro sets. They also have solid hardware.


Pearl was the most famous drum brand in the world at one stage due to the popularity of the Export kits. They’ve always been a top player, and the professional Pearl kits have amazing sound and build quality.

Here’s another brand well-known for their solid hardware quality in every kit they offer.


Mapex is a slightly less popular drum brand than the other ones, but they’re well-known for offering affordable professional kits.

The best thing about Mapex kits is that they mix woods to create unique sounds from the shells. With other brands, you only get that feature in the higher-end options, but Mapex offer it with their affordable sets.


Gretsch is one of the oldest companies mentioned here. They’ve been making drums for over a century, and many of the modern drum sets have vintage appeal.

The brand is based in the United States, and they make excellent kits that work well for styles like rock and jazz.


Sonor is a German drum kit brand that creates luxury drum sets. Like DW, Sonor kits are known to be a bit more expensive than competitor kits, but the build and sound quality you get from a Sonor kit are always superb.

The brand has an impressive range of compact kits as well.


Ludwig is another old drum company. In fact, many of the designs we see today were first started with Ludwig sets in the early 20th century.

The brand’s drums also have a big vintage appeal, and a lot of modern rock drummers love to play them. However, they work well for all styles of music.


PDP is a sister company to DW. The idea behind this brand is that you get affordable drums that have designs inspired by high-end DW sets.

They’re made in China instead of the US, which is a big reason why all the kits are more affordable. The PDP Concept Maple kit is one of the most popular intermediate kits that is often used in professional settings.

Top Drum Sets, Final Thoughts

The big difference between professional and intermediate drum sets is the quality of the shell hardware. All pro kits feel far more stable and rigid and then tend to stay in tune much longer. However, you can make an intermediate kit sound amazing with some good tuning.

Every drum kit that I mentioned on this list has the potential to sound incredible. Some just have an easier path to getting there than others. They also look a lot better!

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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