Best Drum Set Review in 2018
So, you’re looking for a drum set. Before you get overwhelmed with the immense range of options out there, allow me to help you. I’m going to break down the five drum sets that are the best value for your dollar and tell you how to determine which sets are better than others. With no more ado, here is my best drum set review in 2017.
How to Pick
The first and obvious question is this: what makes one drum set better than another? Ultimately, it all comes down to sound quality. But, like with anything else, quality comes at a price, and the best-sounding kits universally cost more than others.
Wood drums sound better than any alternative, and there is a general hierarchy of wood quality. At the low end of the spectrum, you have ply woods and other hodge-podge materials. To take things up a notch in quality, manufactures start turning to poplar. It costs a little more, but it sounds much better. After that you break into the higher-end woods of birch and maple. Most sets made from those woods start at $1000 and go up. Finally, you get specialty woods. They are vast and numerous, and you should bother paying the sometimes obscene prices for them unless you already know exactly what you want.
No matter what is used to make the shell of your drum, you can put any head on it as long as the dimensions are correct. That means a specialty, super-expensive rosewood tom-tom could be ruined with a cheap, plastic head. Conversely, cheaper shells can be augmented with quality heads. In general, the heads that come on any set will match the price range of that set, so until you are dropping thousands of dollars, you’re going to get some of the more cost-effective choices. Ultimately, when I review the kits, the heads that come standard are a large factor in the overall value and quality of the set.
In general, a drum set comes with just the drums listed. Cymbals, pedals, thrones, sticks and everything else usually have to be bought separately. There are exceptions to this, and generally speaking, if two sets are otherwise equal, the one that comes with more is the better value.
I said that sound is all the matters, but realistically, we all have a budget. The biggest consideration for ranking one set above another on this list is overall value. You can get more expensive kits that sound better, but are you getting more bang for your buck? That was my ultimate determination, and for that reason, I stuck to kits that are in the four to six piece range. As soon as we start talking about 12-piece professional kits, it becomes difficult to reasonably compare price points. So, with all of that said, these are the five most valuable drum kits in 2017.
Five Best Drum Set
Starting off the list is an entry from Pearl. They are a staple in the drumming world, and they have a top entry on every drum list. The Roadshow is the entry-level kit that brings better sound than you might expect in a pretty affordable package. Priced right around $450, the kit includes everything. The five drums, hardware, stands and even cymbals are all part of a single package, which makes buying much easier for newcomers.
The full set includes a snare, two toms, a floor tom, a 16-inch crash/ride cymbal and a 14-inch hybrid hi-hat. The drum shells are made from poplar, which is a fair compromise between sound quality and cost. The entire kit weighs in at 50 lbs., making it reasonable competitive in the mobility department. I’m also going to emphasize how wonderful it is that this kit includes hardware. Few things are more frustrating than killing the joy of unpacking your brand new set only to realize you can’t play it yet because you’re short petals or mounts or some other innocuous piece that is easy to forget to order separately. Overall, if you’re looking at sheer bang for your buck, the Roadshow is a heavy contender, and it’s plenty of good to be your set in your first gigs, provided the venues aren’t uncommonly huge.
PDP New Yorker
PDP is a familiar brand to all experienced drummers, and they have a number of good kits that are worthy of this list. In the end, I shaved it down to the best valued kit, and it is the New Yorker. A four-piece kit, the New Yorker is one of the most popular and widely loved drums on the market. It starts around $480, and it comes with one mounted tom, a floor tom, a base drum and one of the crispiest sounding snare drums you can get in this price range. Without the extra hardware, the total weight is a paltry 21 lbs., but with typical add-ons its total weight is closer to 50 lbs.
The drums on the New Yorker are made from poplar, but PDP put some extra care into their design, and the overall sound quality is so good it's hard to believe you’re playing on “budget” wood. While beginners will be sad that this kit doesn’t include accessories, it’s actually an opportunity in the making. The kit is cheap enough that you can afford a little quality when you pick your cymbals, and ultimately this is a set that upgrades well. As you grow, so too can your outfit, and having the chance to do high-end add-ons from the start will go a long way.
Gammon Full Size Complete Adult 5
In terms of reviews, this is probably the most beloved drum set on the planet. That said, this is not professional equipment. It’s following is due to the fact that it is an almost unbeatable price for what you get. Starting at $260, Gammon includes everything in this kit. Like the Roadshow, it provides you with five drums, a hi-hat and crash cymbals and all of the hardware necessary to play. When you unpack it, you can play it, and as I said before, that is very convenient. The fact that you can do it for under $300 including shipping is mind boggling.
As for the details, the Adult 5 is made from an undisclosed wood. I couldn’t get a straight answer on what the shells are made from no matter who I asked, but they are decidedly wooden. The whole package weighs just over 84 lbs. The heads are a proprietary model, as are the sticks. While this might sound unappealing, you can upgrade the sound quality on this bad boy for a surprisingly low cost. If you replace the stock heads with a little better quality, it sounds as good as entry-level kit out there. So, while it might sound like I’m picking on this kit, and aficionados are sure to cringe a little reading about it, it really does belong here. If you’re new to drumming, this is probably the best drum kit I can recommend. The same holds true if your budget limits your options.
I put a lot of effort to keep my bias out of these reviews, but I’m still nostalgic for Ludwig. The first set I could ever call mine was a 40-year-old Ludwig 5-piece, and I had to practically rebuild it. Still, it taught me how to play. The Breakbeats is a considerable upgrade from the DIY project I had. A standard four-piece kit, it is specifically designed to be compact and mobile. The whole kit weighs 52 lbs., and it is designed for easy tear-downs and transportation. It even includes velvet carrying bags!
The shells are made from poplar, allowing for the $400 price tag. Good-quality remo heads give you a darker, punctuated, German sound that is perfect for a lot of small combo gigs. It does not include cymbals and hardware, but in this case that’s probably a good thing. You’re flirting with a higher echelon of sound quality with this kit, so you want to take your time and pick out worthy cymbals. You’ll also be surprised at the volume. The kit is designed around apartment living and is easily muted, but when you release the restraints, it can fill a medium-sized venue.
MAPEX Mars Crossover
MAPEX is another brand that has been around the block. Out of all of their kits, the Mars made this list because it is genuinely innovative. For the most part, drum head design has been unchanged for a few hundred years. Leave it to MAPEX to decide they know better. The patented Bearing Edge changes the contact point between the drum heads and shells, and it is utilized on all five drums in this kit. The new design allows for more contact between shell and head, and the head sits flat on the edge. The result is a unique sound that gets great punch and projection. It also changes tuning. I’ve tuned so many thousands of drums that it’s second nature, but I was still taken aback at how easily these drums matched pitch.
The whole set is a little on the heavy side at 40.5 lbs. without cymbals or hardware. Speaking of, you’ll be purchasing those separately, which will make your final expenditure larger than the $600 price tag. Overall, that makes this the most expensive kit on the list, but you are paying for quality. These drums are tough, reliable and sound great. You can take them on gigs, and you’ll turn heads with a sound that is unique but not out of place.
Every kit on this list is there because of its overall value. Still, there must be a winner, and I have to award it to the Pearl Roadshow. It’s the best all-around combination of low cost and good sound. The all-inclusive package takes it over the top. It can hit a range of sounds, and only two other kits on this list can really match it, neither of which include cymbals or hardware.