Drums Buying Guide
This buying guide was drafted by our very own drumguydave from the forums. If you have any questions on the information in this buying guide, please visit the forums and post your questions in the drums/percussion or cymbal forums. If you can think of any additional information you'd like to see in this space, please let us or Dave know as well. This is a working guide, and we plan to continuously improve it over time. Good luck!
Beginner Drum sets (ages 4-8)
CB Junior Drum Set
This kit is great for a younger rocker due to the fact of the entire kit has been scaled down to suit the needs of the little ones. The kit comes with a snare, two mounted toms, a floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, hi-hat, crash, throne and cymbal stands. The Junior kit uses a bass mounted crash cymbal stand that mounts just behind the two mounted toms. The Junior comes with decent heads already mounted, and a drum key for head tuning. Over all this is a superb beginning kit. CB uses a birch-maple dual ply mix, and that results in a sturdy shell with warm tone and solid projection.
Recognizing the need to give the aspiring drummer an economical and complete drum set, Gretsch created the Blackhawk specifically for the younger generation. Though it is a normal sized kit, the Blackhawk is a very sturdy and forgiving drum set that can take the abuse and keep rocking. The Blackhawk comes with a snare, two mounted toms, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, snare stand, sturdy double braced hi-hat and boom cymbal stand. Unfortunately, no throne or cymbals are included. But you may find some good package deals at your local music store. The Blackhawk uses great Basswood/Poplar shells that project a clear, warm resonant response that only gets better with age.
Ludwig Junior 5-Piece Drum Set W/ Cymbals
Ludwig’s entry into the junior market is a scaled down version of their legendary drum sets. Unfortunately, they missed a few beats on this one. Though the shell construction is sturdy the tonal qualities are bland and boring. This Junior comes with a snare, two mounted toms, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, throne, hi-hat, crash/ride, hi-hat stand, snare stand, two mounted tom holders that slide into the bass and throne. The Junior ships with poor drum heads and no instructions on how to put the drum set together.
Yamaha Manu Katche Signature Jr. Drum Set
Yamaha set the stage with this slightly higher end junior drum set. They pulled out all the stops and produced a powerhouse you have to hear to believe. Using 9 and 6 ply Philippine mahogany shells in addition with their patented Air Seal System, they produce perfectly round shells that produce a magnificent tone that covers an incredible spectrum. This kit comes with a snare, single mounted tom, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, hi-hat stand, crash cymbal stand, snare stand and throne. Unfortunately no cymbals come with this kit, but most music stores offer package deals. Yamaha produced a great junior kit that even through the years would only get better with age and can be used as a small venue, light gigging kit.
Pulse Junior Drum Set series
Pulse offers three different sets for the underage rockers. Each kit is made with great birch-maple shells that produce a warm and vibrant tone. The Pulse Junior series are well constructed and come with decent heads.
Pulse Junior 3 Piece Drum Set
This kit comes with junior sized snare, single mounted tom, bass, bass pedal, and snare stand, throne, and single cymbal stand that mounts on the bass and a single crash/ride cymbal. The Junior 3 Piece was built specifically for kids, which means it is built sturdy and can take any abuse you throw at it. The Junior 3 Piece comes with decent heads, but expect to replace them soon. Other than that this is a great beginner kit that the little ones would enjoy without question.
Pulse Junior 4 Piece Drum Set
This kit comes with a junior sized snare, single mounted tom, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, snare stand, crash/ride cymbal, hi-hats, hi-hat stand, cymbal stand and throne. This is just a small step up from the Pulse 3 piece drum set with the addition of cymbals and a floor tom. This can also be used as a reliable small venue light gigging drum set as well. With good care and a great set of heads this drum set might surprise even more experienced players.
Pulse Junior 5 Piece Drum Set
The Pulse Junior 5 throws another mounted tom into the mix and produces a junior sized full drum set. Again like the Junior 4, this kit can be used as a great small venue kit for those looking for something light and compact with a great sound. With good care and a great set of heads this drum set might surprise even more experienced players.
The Sound Percussion Junior 5 Piece Drum Set
For those looking for something adequate and inexpensive, Sound percussion offers this decent starter kit. It includes a snare, two mounted toms, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, hi-hats, crash/ride cymbal, hi-hat stand, cymbal stand, snare stand and throne. It has average shell construction and creates a bland tone. But this is a great inexpensive kit for assessing early talent.
Roadie electronic drum sets (ages 6-15)
For those looking to indulge their new rock stars habit, there are a few electronic drum sets that are worth looking into. For those looking for a little quiet time, all electronic drum sets have a head phone jack built into the main controller for virtually silent practice. Once the headphones are plugged up the only outside sounds are the sticks on the pads, bass mallet on the bass pad and the movement of the hi-hat pedal while the drummer hears the full kit through the headphones. This can also be reduced by the use of mesh drum pads instead of rubber ones. Using the DM6’s stereo input jack you can also connect your MP3 or CD player and listen to your own tunes while rocking along. Electronic drum sets have sturdy aluminum racks and sturdy drum pads that can withstand the playing of younger musicians and can endure the long haul of up and coming rock stars practice sessions.
The electronic kit can also be plugged up to an amplifier, and the full drum set sounds can be cranked up to 11 for rocking the world! Electronic drum sets are also upgradeable with the purchase of additional drum pads or cymbal pads. The add-on drums will plug into the jacks on the back of the main control unit.
Alesis DM6 Performance Electronic Drum Set
The DM6 is a great starter electric kit. It is built out of high quality plastic and has natural rubber drum pads that have a great feel while playing. The DM6 main control module comes with 108 quality drum, cymbal and percussion sounds that are preloaded into the unit and users can even create and save their very own custom drum sets by assigning different instrument voices to the different drum pads.
This kit comes with a dual zone snare pad that produces good snare response from the center of the pad and rim shots and clicks on the rim. The rim of the snare pad can also be assigned a different instrument voice. Three tom pads are also included in this package and they offer good response across the pad and rim areas. The bass tower pad is built sturdy and has quick clear responses and it is compatible with most single or double-bass pedals.
The DM6 also includes hi-hat cymbal pad and two crash cymbal pads. The cymbal pads can also be assigned different instrument voices and allows the user to create a mind boggling combination of different drum sets. Headphones, amplifier, speakers and drum throne not included. The DM6 uses a heavy duty aluminum rack system that when assembled creates the frame of the drum set. Don’t worry instructions and drum key for assembly are included and easy to follow.
Alesis DM5 Pro Kit
The DM5 is a step up from the DM6 and uses mesh drum pads that offer quicker voice response, the upgraded control module has 540 programmable sounds and more life like sound libraries. The DM5 also offers great Dynamic Articulation, meaning the harder or softer you hit the pad; the sound will be louder or softer respectively. The DM5 also comes with an additional cymbal pad. The MIDI features of this kit make it great for recording use as well. This drum set is great for anyone looking to invest a little bit more into the developing talent. The Ultra Fast Trigger response and velocity sensitive pads make this a great light kit for gigging musicians as well. Instructions included.
The DTXPLORER is Yamaha’s entry into the lowest- priced, professional grade drum kit arena. It features a strong aluminum rack and resilient rubber drum pads. Devices such as a CD player can be connected to the module via an AUX IN, while a PC or Mac computer can be connected via MIDI. In addition, the DTXPLORER module can be used with a traditional acoustic drum kit as a stand-alone trigger module. The controller module comes with 214-high caliber drum and percussion voices, 22 preset songs and 32 preset drum sets. Just like the Alesis kits the DTX allows users to custom program and save their own drum sets. The DTX comes with controller module, rack system, 4 drum pads, two cymbal pads, hi-hat pad, bass pad, bass pedal, hi-hat pedal and instructions.
Rock Star drum sets (ages 15+)
So you’ve built up your chops and gone from being a Roadie to a full fledged Rock Star. This portion of the guide is dedicated to those who are ready to continue developing their talent, looking to upgrade their gear or looking for a different drum set.
Hopefully at this point in your musical journey you might have some kind of idea about what genre you want to play. This opens an incredible realm of opportunity with new hardware, additional drums and additional cymbals to build and craft your instrument to your exact needs.
On these higher end drum sets keep in mind with any kit mentioned in this guide with the exception of the Junior acoustic drum sets you can buy a standard 4 or 5 piece and add more drums, cymbals and accessories. Some monster 8-10 piece drum sets look great to begin with, but what if you don’t have the space to put it all or the need for all the additional instruments? Or you buy a 4 or5 piece and it just isn’t enough to keep the creative juices flowing? When looking at these drum sets determine the short and long term aspects.
Short term - how much are you ready to invest time wise and financially, are you going to use the kit a lot for live shows or how much practice space are you dealing with, is there a dedicated interest.
Long term- you’re in it for the long haul, you’re ready to hit the road and rock the world, and you’re willing to put in the long hours to perfect your craft.
Pearl drum sets
Pearl has been building drum sets since 1946 during the time after WWII there was a time for reconstruction and it was also time for new influences such as Jazz and Big Band along with American style music education. This created a new generation of musicians who needed affordable musical instruments which at the time were in scarce supply. Through the years Pearl has expanded and refined its percussion line into one of the finest in demand musical instruments in the world. Pearl produces drum sets that are tailored to the player by the player. They listen to what the musician wants and builds exactly what they need to the highest standard. Pearl also offers additional drums for all of their drum sets.
The Forum is a complete Pearl powerhouse. The Ready-to-Go kit is a full 5-piece drum set that comes with rugged double braces cymbal stands, snare stand, throne and comes with cymbals. The kit also includes a pair of Vic Firth drum sticks and a DVD to get you going. The shells of the forum are made from 100% Poplar which gives this kit a punchy dominant tone that is consistent from note to note. The Forum is a great kit to use when playing Rock, Punk, Funk, Alternative and Metal. The dominant tone of the poplar shells combined with Pearls Superior Shells Technology is the reason the Forum bows to no one.
Pearl Vision series
Pearl has taken their legendary Export series and set their goal above their already high standards and created a new line that has taken the Export far beyond what it used to be. The Vision series can be found in 4 or 5 piece configurations and come with optional cymbal or additional drum package deals. These kits are great lighter kits for gigging or light playing.
Pearl Vision VX/VSX
The only difference between these kits is the color options. The VX comes in standard color wraps and the VSX comes in Pearls Ultra-Exotic color wraps. Both feature 6 ply blended Birch shells and 8 ply tom shells. Both kits are available in a 4 or 5 piece configuration. The VX/VSX is a superb drum set with a warm, bright and consistent tone that goes well with Jazz, Blues, Reggae and classic Big Band Swing. Each kit comes with durable rugged hardware.
Pearl Vision Birch VBX
The VBX offers 100% Birch shells that has a focused, natural sound. The VBX can be found in 4 or 5 piece configurations and may include cymbal or add-on drum package deals. The VBX is a great kit for playing any genre whether on a stage or in the studio. These incredible sounding drums are available in 5 high gloss color options.
Pearl Vision Maple VMX
The VMX offers 100% Maple shells that have a warm radiant rich tone that has been a favorite of drummers around the world. The VMX can be found in 4 or 5 piece configurations and may include cymbals or add-on drum package deals. The VMX has an incredible sound that you have to hear to believe. The warmth of the Maple shells is perfect for any genre and with a great set of heads may surprise you with the tonal depth.
Pearl Master Series
For more than 20 years the legendary Pearl Masters sound has rocked the world on countless recordings and in the world’s top recording studios. The Masters series has precision and innovations ingrained in their shells and are in a class of their own. The Masters series include sturdy durable hardware that can withstand the test of time and never let you down.
These powerhouse brothers have rocked the world for 2 decades and show no signs of slowing down. They both feature Pearls legendary 6 ply Maple shells that let nothing stand in their way. The main difference between these two is the MCX offers glass-glitter wrapped finishes and UV high-gloss finishes which results in it being slightly less expensive and the Premium offers absolutely gorgeous high gloss lacquer wraps and high polished black chrome or gold lugs. Both sets can be found in multiple drum configurations and may include cymbal, hardware or add-on drum packages.
Gretsch has been building drum sets since 1883, and they have never sounded better. For 127 years Gretsch has been building some of the greatest drum sets ever to be heard. Using Purewood Oak, select Ash and select Maple, their tone depth and projection are second to none. Gretsch uses multiple ply’s in their construction to produce a resilient drum set that will sound the same 20 years from now no matter how much you abuse it.
Gretsch Catalina Series
The Gretsch Catalina line features three distinct drum sets; the Catalina Club Jazz, Catalina Club Mod and the Catalina Club Rock. All three drum sets are four piece kit’s that include a snare, single mounted tom, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal and snare stand. Unfortunately, no other hardware is included requiring the purchase of cymbals, cymbals stands and throne.
Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz
The Club Jazz is the perfect drum set for those looking to play jazz. The drum set features an all Mahogany shell construction that projects a warm, well rounded classic tone that will keep you grooving for a long time. The classic 18” Be-Bop style bass features Maple hoops that add warm, resonant bass tones, and the head is even pre-muffled right out of the box. This kit is perfect for anyone looking for a small kit with a big sound.
Gretsch Catalina Club Mod
The Club Mod sets the stage with tonal and visual distinction. The Club Mod features an all Mahogany shell construction, black hoops, and deeper drum construction resulting in a more powerful presence and dominant sound. The Club Mod’s 20” bass is also pre muffled for those deep resounding bass notes, and the drum set overall has a presence and feel that you could only believe by sitting behind one and letting loose. The Mod excels for those looking to play funk, blues and alternative.
Gretsch Catalina Club Rock
The Club Rock is the reason Disco is no longer around. Featuring a full 9 ply Mahogany shell construction, nothing can stand in the way of its monstrous sound. The Club Rock has a dominating presence and thunderous tones that capture the essence of everything that is Rock. The 24” bass and deep snare/tom construction is a throwback to the classic rock sound. For those about to rock, this kit is for you.
The Gretsch Catalina Ash series has been designed with power in mind for the player who is looking full, penetrating tones and solid shells with a rugged construction. The Ash wood shells produce a lively tone that projects a clear, cutting sound. The snare has a very quick aggressive attack that states its authority.
Gretsch Catalina Ash 6 Piece Euro Kit
The Euro includes a snare, three mounted toms, floor tom w/ legs, bass, bass pedal, double tom holder, snare stand and throne. Cymbals and cymbals stands are not included. The Euro is a great all around kit that can be used for multiple genres and has a really quick response in low dynamic playing as well. The Euro comes in a variety of high gloss colors and also in a black chrome hardware version.
Legendary Drum Sets
So you’ve rocked your way to the top and you know exactly what you need. This is the kit you have dreamed of. The exact needs tailored by you and the drum maker. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or you just want to dream a little these kit’s are built by the best to the highest standards imaginable…yours. Most of these drum sets were built with the help of the biggest names in drumming and are some of the finest most professional instruments available to date. Sonor and D.W. offer a Kit Creator flash program on their websites that let you create your dream kit from the exact shell ply, shell construction and wood type to the finish and the exact hardware configuration you want. Be warned, these kit’s are not for the squeamish, your only limitation is your imagination when it comes to creating the kit of your dreams.
Gretch’s Stephen Ferrone Signature Series drums feature legendary Gretsch-formula maple shells in a legendary Gretsch 1955 Cadillac Green finish. This kit includes a collection of classic drum sizes- including snare drums with Lighting throw-offs and his own black and silver signature badges with matching Cadillac Green maple bass drum hoops. All drums include GTS suspension system, die cast hoops, Silver Sealer interiors, 9025 hinged brackets, floor tom legs and Permatone coated heads. The overall result is a stunning drum set made for legendary and stunning grooves heard in his work with Eric Clapton and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This drum set produces an unbelievably smooth clear tone with deep warm depth that when played reminds you of an era when the only thing that mattered was groovin’ out.
This kit comes with a snare, bass, single mounted tom, and two floor toms w/ legs and bass pedal. Gretsch also offers a selection of additional add-on drums in a range of classic sizes. This shell pack drum set does not include any stands, cymbals or tom arms.
The legendary Vinnie Colaiuta and Gretsch teamed up to make this work of art that has a mind blowing sound. The traditional sized thin maple shells offer up a brilliant tone that has a complex depth. Finished in a White Wash High Gloss Lacquer with all lugs, brackets and hoops finished in black chrome plated finish, this kit looks as great as it sounds. With full wood bass hoops, heavy duty bass spurs and floor tom legs this kit will be around and rocking for generations to come.
This kit comes with a snare, two mounted toms, two floor toms w/legs and a bass. The bass does not have a mount for a mounted tom post nor does the drum set come with any stand, cymbals or tom mounts.
The Sonor SQ2 is to say the least an absolutely beautiful drum set not only in design and quality but the tonal range, projection and sound depth outshine its gorgeous natural wood finishes and spectacular high gloss covers. The SQ2 comes in Beech, Birch, and Maple wooden shells as well as X-ray/Acrylic shells. The wooden shells come in three separate depths vintage, medium and heavy.
A thin shell that offers a great flexible brilliant tone that covers a wide range of spectrum. Head choice will also add a lot of neat and different directions as well as playing around with different tunings.
This shell offers really full mellow tone with a high projection. Think of old school 1970’s funk, throw some medium/heavy heads on these bad boys and let the good times roll!
Heavy shells have a dominate sound that projects way past 11. Heavy heads were made for those looking for a heavy end tone that is flexible for high and low dynamic playing. With a full rounded warm tone and a deep sound depth these shells are guaranteed to rock your face off.
The X/ray shells come in 6 and 8 mms acrylic plastic that has a full-bodied tone with a great powerful presence and deep dynamics. The acrylic plastic is built incredibly tough and can withstand years of abuse without cracking or losing tone.
The SQ2 comes in multiple drum configurations and a plethora of colors but to get the full effect of how Sonor goes out of its way and sets an industry leading standard, swing by their website and check out the SQ2 Drum Configurator. Here you can custom make your own drum set from shell to hardware selection. You can even get a price quote and print a picture of your dream kit so you can tape it to your wall and know exactly how much gig money you need to save and have the motivation to do so.
DW is the first thing that comes to mind when professional custom drum set is mentioned, and DW couldn’t be happier. They offer an incredible range of custom options that let you tailor your kit to your every need. They also have a drum configuration program to bring your very own dream kit to life including the ability to set-up your cymbal option as well and creating a bird’s eye view of your full drum set. DW has a sound that is second to none and it changes with every drum set because not only is it your kit but your sound as well.
When Pearl created the Masterworks series it had hoped to change the way most people viewed custom drum sets. To prove their high standard every single Masterworks drum set is built completely by hand. From forming the shells of select hand picked wood, to die-casting and plating the hardware, piece by piece the Masterworks is built for you. Offering Maple, Birch, African Mahogany and even Carbon Fiber the craftsmen at Pearl produce drum sets that are revolutionary in sound and design and have a tone and depth that destroys the competition.
Masterworks even takes it a step farther offering Composite shells that let you create your own shell combinations! Masterworks also offer a wide selection of finishes, glosses and custom hardware options that are hand painted and hand built. Because of the Masterworks craftsmanship and attention to detail, there is no doubt why Pearl is the best reason to play drums.
Knowing how nothing influences your drum’s overall response and tonal spectrum than the bearing edge on the drum shell, Masterworks offers three to choose from.
45 degree Bearing- delivers the perfect blend of attack and warmth.
Round 45 degree Bearing- has a better head to shell contact which projects better mid-to-high frequencies.
Full Round Bearing- provides the most head to shell contact for a huge boost in mid-to-low frequencies.
The only thing that makes any sense anymore is the music...play it loud enough, you can keep the demons at bay.