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Gretsch is one of the longest-standing drum companies in the music industry, and they were making drum kits way back when they were first popularized in the early 20th century.
With a rich history of American craftsmanship, it’s no surprise that many people see Gretsch Drums as one of the best brands in the world.
In this guide, I’m going to highlight seven of Gretsch’s best drum kits. I’ve included a few options that vary in prices.
Gretsch Brooklyn – Best Overall
The shells are a mixture between maple and poplar, giving the drums warm sounds that are short and very distinct. The tones are also quite beefy, thanks to the 30-degree bearing edges.
These shallower bearing edges are what you saw very often in the earlier days of drum construction, so that’s another feature that adds to the vintage appeal.
The shells have 3mm double-flanged hoops that give them a more open sound, and these interact really nicely with the closed sounds from the shells.
The hardware features on the kit all come from the brand’s flagship USA Custom line. This includes the lugs, floor tom legs, and brackets. So, the kit feels really high-end.
The kit also comes with Remo Emperor drumheads. They let the drums resonate beautifully while also giving you a wide range of dynamic playability.
You get a decent number of finishes that fall under Nitron and Satin categories, giving you plenty of color options to pick from.
Overall, this is a fantastic kit that any drummer would love, but it’s most appealing to drummers that want a bit of a vintage sound and aesthetic.
Shell Material: Maple/poplar
Sizes: 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
Gretsch USA Custom – Premium Option
The shells are made from a mixture of maple and gum. The maple gives them balanced tones that are quite warm, while the gum shortens the tones a bit to add a vintage touch. This kit also has 30-degree bearing edges, drying the drums out a bit.
Added to that are the 4mm die-cast hoops. These dry the drums out even further, and they add a serious amount of stability when it comes to tuning. Drum kits with die-cast hoops always feel very high-end, so it’s great to see those being used here.
There are over 70 finishes to choose from with this kit, allowing you to pick almost any color and pattern that you can think of.
The kit also has incredible hardware quality, making it feel and perform like many of the best drum sets in the world.
If you have the money to spend, this is your best option from Gretsch. However, I’d recommend looking at your other options if your budget is a bit lower.
Shell Material: Maple/gumwood
Sizes: 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
Gretsch Energy – Best Budget Option
The Gretsch Energy is the brand’s entry-level drum kit option. If you’re a complete beginner that has never owned a drum kit, this one gives you everything you need to get started.
It comes with a full setup of drums, cymbals, and hardware. You just need to get a pair of drumsticks and a throne, and you’ll be ready to go.
This is one of the few inexpensive poplar kits on the market that has 30-degree bearing edges. In my experience, it makes the toms slightly easier to tune to get great sounds.
For cymbals, you get Paiste’s beginner 101 brass cymbals. They sound quite bad to experienced drummers, but they’re perfect for beginners to use as target practice until they feel ready to get nicer cymbals.
The kit comes in four finish options, which are Ruby Sparkle, Black, Grey Steel, and White. These finishes look quite dull compared to the vibrant finishes of all the other kits from Gretsch, but they’re neutral colors that fit easily into any environment.
Overall, it’s a great first drum kit for people who aren’t willing to spend a lot on drum gear just yet.
Shell Material: Poplar
Sizes: 14” snare drum, 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
The Gretsch Renown (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is my favorite drum kit from Gretsch. It’s a full-on professional set, but it has an attractive price tag that makes it more attainable compared to the higher-end options from the brand.
This kit has classic and reliable maple shells that make the drums sing very musically. With the 30-degree bearing edges and Gretsch’s 302 hoops, you get drums that sound incredible when unmuffled.
Another thing that I really enjoy about this kit is that the rack toms are mounted to the bass drum. Rack toms are typically mounted to cymbal stands on high-end kits, so it’s great to see this design here. Some drummers claim that the toms don’t resonate as much, but the easier placements and angling make it worth the trade-off.
This kit comes with a matching snare drum, making it one of the few high-end drum kits to bring that to the table.
I’d say that the Gretsch Renown is an ideal kit for working drummers that don’t want to spend too much on a flagship option.
One downside is that the toms are a bit softer than many other kits, so it’s not the best kit to get for styles like rock and metal.
Shell Material: Maple
Sizes: 14” snare drum, 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum
Gretsch Catalina Maple
The Gretsch Catalina Maple (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is Gretsch’s most popular drum set. It’s the brand’s intermediate option, and it’s one of the few maple kits on the market that you can get in a 7-piece configuration.
This is an incredible affordable drum kit for beginners and intermediate drummers. It’s even a reliable option for professionals, as long as they use a better snare drum and some high-end cymbals.
The drums are made from Asian maple, so they’re not quite as musical as the higher-quality Gretsch drums that we’ve looked at. However, you can still tune and muffle them to sound incredible.
This is one of the few Gretsch kits that I’d recommend to metal drummers, mainly due to the larger setup option.
The downside is that the stock drumheads aren’t good, so you’ll need to swap those out to get much better sound quality out of the shells.
Shell Material: Maple
Sizes: 14” snare drum, 8” & 10” & 12” rack toms, 14” & 16” floor tom, 22” kick drum
Gretsch Catalina Club
The Gretsch Catalina Club (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another popular option in Gretsch’s Catalina line. The difference here is that this kit has mahogany shells. The shells are also much smaller, giving you a compact drum set setup.
This is one of the best options on the market if you’re looking for an affordable drum kit to play jazz with.
The mahogany shells sing beautifully in every tuning, giving you a bit of boosted low-end when they resonate. The bass drum also sounds like a cannon when you don’t put any blankets or pillows inside.
I’ve been a drum tech at a few jazz festivals, and this has always been the drum kit that I’ve seen the most due to its affordability and how well it works in that style.
You could easily use it for other musical styles. You’d just need to muffle the drums and tune them a bit differently. As with the larger Catalina kit, the stock heads are quite poor.
Shell Material: Mahogany
Sizes: 14” snare drum, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, 18” bass drum
The Gretsch Broadkaster is another high-end professional drum kit in Gretsch’s product line. The best thing about this set is that it was originally made from the 1920s to the 1950s. This is a modernized version, but you still get plenty of that vintage appeal.
The shells are a combination of maple and poplar, but there are only three plies. This means that the shells are seriously thin compared to other drum kits. The thinner shells cause the drums to be a lot more responsive.
This is another Gretsch drum kit that lends very well to jazz playing, as the kit sounds the best with jazz tunings.
I’d recommend getting this if you love the Catalina Club but want something a bit more luxurious. Just note that it’s very expensive. You’re paying almost the same price as the USA Custom and you’re getting one less tom with the setup.
Shell Material: Maple
Sizes: 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
What To Look For In a Gretsch Drum Kit
The first thing to consider when looking for a Gretsch drum kit should be size. Gretsch is one of the few drum brands that leans more on the smaller side of things, offering plenty of kits with 18” and 20” bass drums. However, they also have amazing options in standard drum kit sizes.
The size of your drum set should depend on the style of music you play, along with your preference of tones.
Larger drum kits feel heavier and have deeper sounds. Smaller drum kits feel a lot lighter to play. They’re easier to transport, but they don’t offer as much volume.
If you’re a jazz drummer, it’s better to get a drum kit with smaller shell sizes. If you’re a rock or pop drummer, you’ll have a better time using a large bass drum and standard tom sizes.
The great thing about Gretsch is that most of their drum kit lines come with options for both small and large shells. That gives you plenty of choice, no matter what your budget is.
The type of wood that a drum kit is made of mostly affects how the drums sound. It establishes the fundamental tones of the shells, and then your choice of drumheads and tuning will push those tones in a particular direction.
It’s good to know what type of wood the drums are made from so that you know what to expect when it comes to those fundamental tones.
There’s a somewhat limited number of woods that you’ll see on Gretsch kits, especially in the brand’s current lineup. But the brand uses a few different woods incredibly well.
Here are the main types of wood that you’ll see on Gretsch kits:
Maple – Most balanced shell type. Great blend of lows, mids, and highs.
Poplar – Most inexpensive shell type. You get slightly boosted lows and mids, but they’re not very rich.
Mahogany – Boosted low-end tones. Mahogany drum kits sound incredible when tuned low.
Gumwood – Punchy tones. Gumwood was used in a lot of vintage drum kits, which is another way that Gretsch achieves vintage tones from their modern drums.
You’ll also see that a few kits have mixtures of these wood types. This gives the kits qualities from two different types of woods, leading to highly unique fundamental tones.
Most high-end drum sets don’t come with matching snare drums. You just buy a shell pack that includes toms and a bass drum. This trend continues with Gretsch, as the Broadkaster, USA Custom, and Brooklyn sets don’t come with snare drums.
This means that you need to buy a snare drum separately if you don’t already own one. You get snare drums from those lines to match, but I’d recommend looking for unique snare drum options. Gretsch offers plenty of them.
The other beginner and mid-tier drum sets come with matching snare drums, so you don’t need to worry about those. However, the included snare drums on the lower-end kits aren’t great. So, most pro drummers swap those out quite quickly if they end up using those kits.
It’s quite easy to make a set of toms and a bass drum sound fantastic with good tuning and muffling. It’s a lot harder to do that to a beginner or mid-tier snare drum. So, replacing a stock snare drum is one of the best ways of getting a pristine overall drum kit sound.
A finish refers to the colors and wrap that you see on the drum shells. The finish is the main thing that affects a drum kit’s appearance, with the hardware adding a slight visual touch on top of that.
It’s not the most important thing to look out for, but it is vital to get a drum kit that you love the look of.
Most Gretsch kits have distinct finishes that make them recognizable as Gretsch kits. The only ones that are easy to find on other brands’ kits are plain finishes.
Just note that you’ll get more finish options as you pay more for a Gretsch kit. The beginner and mid-tier kits are fairly limited, but Gretsch’s three high-end drum sets have dozens of beautiful finish options.
One thing that I love about Gretsch is that their highest-quality drum set options don’t cost more than $5000. They can easily compete with kits from Tama, Sonor, and DW that cost way more, but you’re not going to pay an arm and a leg for them.
The costs can build up when you include a snare drum, hardware, and cymbals, but it’s good to know that a dream Gretsch drum kit is only about half the price of a dream DW drum kit.
You can expect to pay between $1000 and $2000 for intermediate Gretsch kits, and then the beginner ones are under $1000.
The main thing you’re paying for with the higher-end kits is shell hardware. They have shell designs that make them feel more solid, offering better playability.
The cheaper Gretsch kits are great, but they don’t offer those qualities that make you instantly feel that you’re playing a high-end drum set.
Top Gretsch Drum Sets, Final Thoughts
One of the best things about Gretsch drum sets is that they give you vintage appeal with modern reliability. They’re great drum kits for all kinds of styles, but they’re mostly loved by drummers that play rock and jazz because of this.
With drummers like Keith Carlock, Mike Johnston, and Mark Guiliana using Gretsch drum sets, you can clearly see how fantastic they are.
If you’re looking for a new kit, I highly consider checking all the Gretsch ones that I listed!