Every drummer needs a drum kit. That seems like an obvious statement. However, your drum kit will become a reflection of you, meaning you need to be a lot of thought and decision into what drum kit you have.
Drum sets are made in all shapes and sizes and have different metals, woods, and construction. Every drum company makes kits for different scenarios and budgets. So, here is a list of the best professional drum sets for every situation.
Best High-End Kits
DW Collector’s Series
You don’t get much better than DW’s Collector’s Series drums. DW is one of the top drum brands on the market at the Collector’s Series is their flagship line. Each one of these kits has a custom setup that will be catered to the buyer. This means that you can choose which wood the shells are and how big or small you want them to be. You can also choose how many drums come with your setup.
These kits tend to be very expensive. All of them are custom-made locally in the US with the materials they use also coming from there. The woods you can choose from are North American Hard Rock Maple, Select Heartwood Birch, and Maple/Mahogany.
There are a huge amount of finishes to choose from, each one looking seriously sleek and visually aesthetic. You can also choose the color of the hardware. Most hardware is a standard grey metal. However, your DW Collector’s kit could have matte black or even gold rims on the drums.
These DW kits are notorious for having immaculate tone. Their snare drums are especially popular. You’ll often find drummers using a DW snare along with another drum kit brand.
If you’re ready to spend your life savings on a top-quality kit, a DW Collector’s Series is a good option.
Ludwig Vistalite John Bonham Zep
There have been a few drummers over time that have influenced entire generations. Players like Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, and Gene Krupa have all brought innovation into the drumming world and changed the way other people play. One player that pioneered rock drumming was John Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin. He was known for his huge sound and hard hitting. This kit from Ludwig has been modeled after his setup, providing huge drum sizes and a big sound.
The Ludwig Vistalite John Bonham Zep is an amber acrylic kit with a 26 inch bass drum. If you’ve been drumming for a while, you’ll know that 26 inches is not normal at all. This oversized bass drum provides a massive punch with plenty of low-end, making it the perfect tool for hard rock drumming.
It has a 14 inch rack tom and 2 floor toms that are 16 and 18 inches respectively. These toms have a very warm low-end that will ring throughout a stadium.
The kit comes with a 14 inch Supraphonic sonic snare drum. The chrome-plated aluminum shell gives the snare a huge tone with crispy attack. It has a fairly wide tuning range, sounding great when tuned low or high.
If you need a huge kit with a huge sound, look no further than Bonham’s Vistalite.
Tama Star Walnut
The Star kits are Tama’s flagship series of drums. They provide the absolute peak of Tama’s drum manufacturing processes and features. The Tama Star Walnut is a high-quality kit that’s intended for every situation. It sounds amazing live and caters well to recording studios. It’s a kit for professionals through and through.
The walnut gives the drums a warm and woody tone. It also controls the sustain, making the kit seriously effective in recording environments. The 10 and 12 inch rack toms provide quick attack while the 14 and 16 inch floor toms produce all the low thumping tones. The 22 inch bass drum is undoubtedly one of the highlights of this kit, producing such a beautiful tone that you’ll want to be playing four-on-the-floor beats constantly. These standard drum sizes will equip you to take on any gig or session.
Underneath all the shiny bits is the kit’s immaculate construction. The shells have die-cast hoops that make the drums easy to tune. The toms attach to cymbal stands and are supported by Tama’s SRMS tom mounts. These tom mounts stop almost all wobble when you play the toms. This is a huge bonus as cymbal-mounted rack toms tend to move around when played.
An added bonus of the Star kit is the inclusion of Remo Ambassador drum heads. These heads provide a smooth tone and fit the kit perfectly. The only thing missing from the kit is a snare drum which you’ll have to buy separately.
Gretsch drums have been around for over a hundred years, providing high-quality instruments for drummers in different styles and situations. If you’re looking for that vintage tone, Gretsch is the way to go. The Brooklyn kit is one of their high-value professional kits that come at a more affordable price compared to the previous kits on the list. This 4-piece kit has a warm tone that is wide and open.
The 6-ply maple/poplar shells provide impressive attack with a full sound and wide tuning range. The vintage tone makes this kit work wonderfully in jazz settings. However, it still delivers with other styles like rock and country.
The kit comes in standard sizes including 10 and 12 toms, a 16 inch floor tom, and a 22 inch bass drum. The shells have Gretsch’s 302 hoops which are inspired by earlier Gretsch models, adding to the vintage vibe of the kit. They’re thicker and more rounded than standard hoops, meaning your drum sticks won’t shred as quickly.
The final bit of spice to add to this kit is the finish. There are 3 main finish options in the latest models of the kit and each one has a vintage aesthetic. Pair this kit up with a decent snare drum and some cymbals and you’ll be ready to take on anything.
Best Electronic Kit
The world is constantly evolving when it comes to electronics and this is especially prevalant in the realm of musical instruments. Electronic drum kits used to be poor substitutes for acoustic drums, sounding too machine-like to be played in a musical context. However, recent developments have seen electronic drum kits come seriously close to sounding and feeling like acoustic kits. At the peak of innovation is the Roland TD-50KVX.
This kit provides everything you’d expect from a standard electronic kit. However, there are a few features and build qualities that make it stand out above all the rest. The first is the Prismatic Sound Modeling engine. It gives you full control over the sounds on the module. You can change shell thickness and the overtones they produce, you can change the size and weight of cymbals, and you can change where the virtual mics are placed to vary the acoustic sounds you get. You’re also spoiled with FX options.
The next feature that makes the kit stand out are the physical sizes of the drum pads. Electronic drums generally have small pads, pulling you away from having the feel of an acoustic kit. The TD-50KVX has a 14 inch digital snare that feels as real as real can get. It has 8 sensors that allow you to accurately play any nuanced thing an acoustic snare can play.
The kit also has an 18 inch ride cymbal and a 22 inch electronic bass drum. These large sizes allow expressiveness and react extremely well to anything you play on them.
The TD-50 lets you import your own samples and sounds, providing endless possibilities. Being one of the most expensive e-kits on the market, you’re going to need to save up a fair bit of cash. However, it’s highly worth it if you need an authentic feel with an electronic setup.
Best Mid-Range Kits
Yamaha Stage Custom Birch
Yamaha’s Stage Customs are notorious for having professional sound quality at an affordable price. They’ve released several versions of the kit, with the recent additions having birch shells. The birch shells give the kit a round sound with a good amount of projection.
The set comes as a 5-piece shell pack that includes 10 and 12 inch toms, a 16 inch floor tom, a 14 inch snare drum, and a 22 bass drum. These drums sound good in every situation you put them in. However, you’ll see a lot of Stage Customs in gospel churches thanks to the punchiness of the toms.
The toms are mounted onto the bass drum with the use of Yamaha’s YESS mounting system. It makes the toms feel extremely stable without clamping down too hard and cutting off their resonance. This allows you to have a comfortable setup without worrying about sound issues.
The Stage Custom Birch kits come in 5 different finish options. Each one is a uniform color that neatly holds the kit together.
If you need a professional drum kit but you’re on a budget, the Yamaha Stage Custom is a top contender.
Similar to the Stage Custom, the Mapex Armory provides professional sound at an affordable price. This 5-piece shell pack provides maple/birch shells with dry overtones and plenty of projection.
The toms produce heavy attack while the bass drum produces a thick low-end thump. The shell construction is quite complex with birch inner plies and maple outer plies. Maple drums are typically warm while birch drums project. The Mapex Armory gives you the best of both worlds.
One of the defining features of this kit is the SONIClear bearing edge on each drum. These bearing edges allow drum heads to sit perfectly on the shell without any movement. This widens the tuning range and keeps the drum in tune for an extended amount of time. Features like this are prevalant in high-end kits, making it a great feature to have in an affordable drum set.
The Armory comes with a Mapex Tomahawk steel snare drum. It has a penetrating cut and works wonderfully in rock and metal settings. Most Mapex artists play heavy styles. So, it makes sense that this snare is included.
Ludwig Element Evolution
The final mid-range kit on the list has a unique quality in that it comes with hardware and cymbals. This is something that entry-level kits generally include. However, the Element Evolution has tonal qualities that any intermediate drummer will love.
The shells are made from poplar, giving the drums a fair amount of attack and sustain. Overall, the drums will work well for different styles of music. They come with poor-quality stock drum heads, so swapping those out will make a world of difference.
Moving onto the selling point of the set – the hardware and cymbals. The kit comes with Zildjian I cymbals. These are bright and heavy and work well for harder styles of music. They’re not the most dynamically responsive cymbals around, but they pack a punch when you hit them.
The included stands are double-braced heavy duty stands. The cymbal stands have boom arms, allowing a lot of maneuverability. The hi hat stand and drum throne are both quite stable and durable.
If you need a new mid-range drum kit that comes with cymbals and hardware, the Element Evolution is one to look out for.
Best Beginner Kit
Pearl has been at the top of the drum market for decades with their Export kit being the most sold drum set of all time. The Export kit was mostly bought by beginners as it catered well to their needs. The Pearl Roadshow is Pearl’s fresh take on an entry-level drum kit. It has a great sound and comes with hardware and cymbals at a seriously affordable price.
The kit comes in a few setup configurations with the most popular one being the 5-piece. The drums have 9-ply poplar shells, giving them a classic drum tone that any beginner will love. The bass drum sounds especially good when it’s tuned low, producing a high-impact thud.
The 5-piece kit comes with everything a beginner drummer needs including a pair of drum sticks and a stick bag. The hi-hat and crash cymbal aren’t the greatest. However, they’ll get the job done for anyone that is fresh and learning to play. Typical of Pearl, the cymbal stands are heavy and durable.
Overall, the Roadshow is a perfect entry-level kit for anyone new to playing the drums.
Best Compact Kit
Many professional drummers end up gigging frequently, meaning they need to set up drums in different venues constantly. Everyone knows that drums aren’t a light instrument to move around. So, compact kits have become a huge seller. This Breakbeats set was made with the help of Questlove, a famous working musician in New York. It’s designed to be carried on the subway and fit in tiny spaces.
The 4-piece shell pack includes a 14 inch snare, 10 inch high tom, 13 inch floor tom, and a 16 inch bass drum. These shells are extremely light, yet they pack a punch when you play them. They’re made from 7-ply hardwood and work well for most styles of music. However, they shine in jazz, funk, and hip-hop settings.
The kit comes with a full set of nylon bags, making transportation really easy. There are some higher quality compact kits out there. However, the Breakbeats is arguably the lightest one, adding to the transportation benefits.
The drums are equipped with Remo Pinstripe heads. These 2-ply drum heads give the drums fullness of tone and will make you feel comfortable hitting them hard.
What to look for in a drum kit?
Your choice of drum set should largely depend on your level and budget. Drum companies sell kits that cater to everyone, meaning a beginner won’t have to spend too much money on a fancy kit. Beginners just need a kit that makes a decent sound and has hardware and cymbals. If you start to improve and develop, you can upgrade your kit at a later stage.
Intermediate and advanced players will have to think a bit more about what type of set they get. Things to look out for are wood type, size, and shell construction. Different woods have unique tonal qualities. Maple is warm whereas birch is punchy. So, decide what tones you need and then take it from there.
The size of the kit should depend on the style of music that you play. Rock and metal drummers need larger heavy kits while jazz drummers need smaller kits. If you’re a versatile drummer, get a versatile kit that will work well for all styles of music.
The last thing to look for in a drum set is how it’s constructed. This is mainly a personal preference thing. Some drummers will prefer wood hoops while others like metal ones. Something to look out for in particular is how the toms are mounted. Some drummers like toms that are mounted to cymbal stands while others prefer them to be mounted to the kick drum.
What is the most popular drum brand?
There are several popular drum brands that all sell some seriously high-quality products. Saying that one is more popular than the other is a bit naive as most of them are on a level playing field. However, there are a few that come to mind when just thinking about drums. These brands have obviously been selling kits for so long that their names are easily associated with drum sets. The names would include DW, Gretsch, Ludwig, Tama, Yamaha, and Pearl.
Some smaller drum companies are Mapex, Sonor, A&F Co, Premier, and Truth Custom Drums.
How important are drum heads?
Heads become less important the higher a kit is priced. This is thanks to the immaculate shell quality of top-of-the-range kits. A poor sounding drum head would still produce a fair sound. However, the best drum heads will give you the best sound possible no matter what type of kit you’re playing on.
Heads are extremely important in cheaper drum sets. The stock heads that come with entry-level kits don’t sound amazing, so a new set of heads will dramatically change how they sound and feel. You’d typically put 2-ply heads on an entry-level drum set to get a nice full tone.
Does the size of your drum set matter?
The size of your drum set only matters in certain situations. If you’re just playing drums at home for fun, no one is going to come and tell you that you have too many toms and cymbals. You’re free to do whatever you want.
Size matters when you start playing gigs. The first thing to think about is the fact that you may have to transport your own kit to a venue for a gig, meaning a massive drum set is going to be a burden. Smaller sets are much easier to set up and breakdown. You may also be playing in venues that just don’t have a lot of space. This happens more often than you think it would.
Another thing to think about is the fact that your kit may be amplified through a sound system. A sound guy will put mics around and if your kit is too big, you’re not going to get a focused sound.
Most professional players jam out on smaller kits for gigs thanks to all these reasons. It’s just easier. You may actually learn to love the simplicity of it.
If you’ve looked at this list and thought, “Hey, that kit would be perfect for me”, don’t hesitate to go for it and make the investment. Playing drums is such a rewarding activity that you should give yourself the best platform to play them from.
Make sure to pair these kits up with some high-quality cymbals and hardware. Cymbals often tend to cost more than the drums themselves, so just brace yourself.