The 10 Best Electronic Drum Kits in 2020
Electronic drum kits are in a special category of instruments.
Most people buy them to use in their apartment or home studio because they’re quiet, not because they sound better than the real thing.
This has spawned a lot of poor quality electronic drum sets that were designed to be disposable.
That’s why first consulting the used market for this category of instrument is a great idea–there’s always someone getting rid of an electronic kit that’s been collecting dust.
But, if you can’t find what you need or you’re looking for something new, technology has advanced quite a bit since the days of cheap pads and bad sound modules.
Before you buy
Before you buy any electronic drum kit, there’s four things you should watch out for.
I highly recommend getting mesh heads for at least the snare drum, but ideally the entire kit.
While rubber pads might work as external triggers as part of an acoustic kit, they don’t cut it if you’re trying to replicate the feel of a real drum set.
Kick tower with real pedal
Look for an electronic kit that comes with a kick tower and a real kick pedal.
You absolutely need this to recreate the feeling of playing a real bass drum. A stomp compression pedal won’t do justice to a real kick tower.
Real hi-hat stand
If you want a mid-level price drum kit, try to get an electronic hi-hat that comes on a real stand.
At the lower end of pricing, you can get away with a cheap stomp pedal to recreate hi-hat feeling, but of course, it will never have the same level of control as a real hi-hat.
Pad size, hardware and module quality
If you’re looking for something in the high end, these factors are most important–the size and quality of the pads, the hardware that holds everything together, and the module that generates sound.
The module is especially important because higher-end ones have more detailed sounds and the ability to upload your own samples.
Now, let’s take a look at what’s new in the electronic drum world.
Here’s the 10 best electronic drum kits right now:
1. Alesis Surge Mesh
At the top of the list is the Alesis Surge Mesh.
I’m a little bit biased because I own this drum kit, but I bought it for a good reason–it’s a very good deal given its price.
This kit comes in at the lower end of the pricing spectrum at around USD $500.
At that price, it’s surprising that the kit comes with well-built mesh heads, a sturdy kick tower, 8” toms, and an extra large 10” snare drum.
While the module leaves a lot to be desired, you always have MIDI connectivity, so you can plug it into your DAW or other drum software.
I think this is a great kit for anyone who’s getting started with drumming, or who wants a quiet kit to jam on in an apartment setting.
- Great price considering it’s all mesh
- 10” snare and quality kick tower puts ahead of other competing kits
- Module isn’t the best
2. Roland VAD 306
If you want to get a high-end kit without breaking the bank, I highly recommend looking at Roland’s brand new VAD line.
The VAD 306 is the more affordable kit in this top-tier line at around USD $2,500.
VAD stands for V-Drums Acoustic Design. I think that accurately describes the kit because the VAD series closely resembles the look and feel of real acoustic drums.
They all have wooden shells and full-sized toms, snares, and kicks.
The VAD module is based on the TD-17 module and the sounds are very high quality. Plus, the 306 comes with three-zone sensitivity pads that work like a real snare when played cross stick.
The ride cymbal is also a high-quality multi-zone rubber pad that mimics the response of a real ride cymbal when struck in different ways.
One downside is the crash cymbals aren’t multizone triggers and have a slightly less realistic feel than it’s VAD 503 and 506 counterparts.
- Great choice as a top tier electronic kit
- Reasonable price considering its level of technology
- Good module
- Crash cymbals aren’t multizone
3. Alesis Nitro Mesh
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is the more affordable cousin of the Alesis Surge Mesh.
At USD $300, the main difference is the downgrade in quality of the kick tower, hardware, and the 8” snare head.
It’s still a great deal given that it has all mesh heads, but I find that the 8” snare is pretty small.
Since that’s the drum you’ll play most of the time, it might be worth upgrading to the Surge kit and getting that 10” snare.
Either way, this is a great option for learning to play–the MIDI connectable module comes with coaching modes and songs with drum parts that can be turned on and off.
- Good deal considering its all mesh
- Small pad sizes, especially for the snare drum
- Cheaper kick tower
- Very limited sounds in the module
4. Alesis Strike Pro SE
The Alesis Strike Pro SE is Alesis’ brand new flagship electronic drum kit.
The Strike line of Alesis drums sets has had its ups and downs, but with the launch of the SE, this electronic drum set is about as close as you get to a top-tier kit for USD $2500.
It comes with three 14” crashes and a huge 16” three-zone ride.
The mesh pads are all sized to the same dimensions as a real kit and it comes with a real looking bass drum pad.
The Strike’s hi-hat comes on a real hi-hat stand and features a vastly improved sensor, making it one of the better electronic hi-hat models on the market.
Alesis is also on its fifth update of the Alesis Strike drum module, it comes with all the trappings of a modern high-end drum module–faders, LCD screen, effects controls, and more.
The module comes with some very high-quality sounds, even if some of the kits aren’t as good as what you’d find in a Roland module.
For a top-end kit that won’t break the bank this is definitely a kit that’s worth looking at.
- Refined 2-ply mesh heads
- Huge kit includes four rack toms and three crash cymbals
- Refined design and quality aesthetics
- Upload multi-layered samples
- Good module but some sounds are bit lackluster
- Crash cymbals aren’t up to high-end standards
5. Alesis Crimson II
The Alesis Crimson is a mid-range option that should be on your list, especially if you’re looking for something with a higher quality module.
The Crimson II comes with sizable mesh pads that are very close in size to real drum sizes.
Specifically, the snare drum is a large 12” pad that comes mounted on a real snare stand.
As well, you get three cymbals, including a three-zone 14” ride with a playable bell.
The main feature is the kit’s more advanced drum module that comes with better quality sounds than the Nitro and Surge models, and the ability to upload your own samples.
At USD $1000, this kit comes at a fair price considering the upgrades it comes with.
- Good size pads and quality cymbals
- Decent module
- No hi-hat stand-style pad
- Could come with better sounds
6. Roland VAD 503 and 506
The newest higher-end offering from Roland is its brand new VAD 503 and 506 electronic kits.
Both kits come with the same heavy wooden shells and solid build that looks almost indistinguishable from a real acoustic kit.
The only difference between the 503 and 506 models is that the 506 comes with an extra rack tom while the 503 follows a minimal one up, one down setup.
The quality of the pads are all top-notch, every pad–toms and cymbals included–boasts triple-zone sensors that create the most realistic feel possible.
It also comes with Roland’s flagship TD-27 module, which includes Prismatic Sound Modelling and generates some of the best sounding electronic drums available today.
If you want the best, most recent technology the VAD 506 or 503 is your best option.
- The most modern technology available
- Excellent module
- Cool and convincing look and feel
- High price, but fair when compared to the TD-50KVX
7. Roland TD-1DMK
The TD-1DMK is the most affordable Roland option that comes with all mesh heads.
Sure the V-Drum mesh heads are pretty good, but Roland is even more respected for the quality of its modules and drum sounds.
The module that comes with the TD-1DMK definitely doesn’t disappoint, it’s one of the better drum modules in this price range.
- All mesh V-Drum pads
- Great module
- Pads are small
- No hi-hat stand, no kick tower
8. Roland TD-50KVX
At the other end of the spectrum is the TD-50KV.
This is the best electronic drum kit money can buy right now.
Roland pioneered the mesh head with the V-Drum pad, and the TD-50KVX is the pinnacle of that legacy.
The kit comes with realistic head sizes, including a 14” three-zone sensitivity snare head that works like an acoustic snare drum, even when played with a cross stick.
You also get huge cymbals, including an 18” ride cymbal with multiple pad sensors that accurately recreate the sound of hitting a ride in different places.
You’ll get that washy ride sound when you play with the side of your stick, or the sound of a rimshot when you hit the snare in just the right place.
For the true enthusiast with money to spend, the TD-50KVX is something to consider.
- Top-notch everything
- Very, very high price tag
9. TD-17KV Series
Roland’s TD-17KV is a mid-tier offering that has a lot of punch and should be on the list of anyone looking for something closer to the higher end that won’t break the budget.
With all mesh pads and a sizable 12” three-zone snare drum, it does a good job of re-creating the real feel of an acoustic drum set.
Of course, the module is the highlight of the kit. It’s based on the flagship TD-50 module, putting it on par with some of the best high-end kits available.
The higher price is worth it for one of the most durable high-quality tier drum kits on the market.
- Excellent module
- Great V-Drum pads in good sizes
- Option to upgrade to a real hi-hat stand
- Higher price than other comparable brands
10. Simmons SD1200
The only non-Roland or Alesis option I’ve included on this list is the Simmons SD1200.
This all mesh kit is a great option to consider, especially because it comes at a pretty fair price point given the quality of its module.
For this new model, the cymbals have gotten a re-design and feel better than the older version.
It comes with 12” hi-hats and crashes and a three-zone 14” ride cymbal.
The module is pretty unique, especially because it’s the only module in the price range that comes with faders and a color screen.
It also connects with iOS phones through an app and works with MIDI over Bluetooth.
But the module doesn’t have the best sounds compared to slightly higher price Roland models, and it’s CPU sometimes lacks processing power when used in edit mode.
This is a great kit, but you’ll want to compare it against similarly priced models to see whether it best suits your needs.
- Good hardware and easy setup
- Module comes with faders
- Three-zone ride cymbal
- Kick drum doesn’t work as well with a double pedal
- Lacking some CPU power in the module
Alex Lavoie works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and writes indie post-punk tunes in his band UTILS while moonlighting as drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters.
Gear guides, tips, tutorials, inspiration and more—delivered weekly.
Keep up with the LANDR Blog.