This is a guide to the best budget drum kits on the market today, carefully selected from the archives of our sister publication, the venerable Rhythm magazine, as well as buyer's guides and MusicRadar's own round-ups.
Arranged in price order, we've collected eight kits that we think will prove themselves as either future-proof starter sets, or (perhaps, more realistically) a worthy 'next-step' for those graduating from basic beginner kits.
Also, be sure to check out our generalbuying tips below before proceeding...
4 buying tips
1. While beginner kits are mostly generic, budget kits are the slightly more expensive entry-level kits from the dedicated drum companies – the 'designer' labels, if you like.
2. They are mostly made in China or Taiwan, and with their distinctive design touches – lugs, tom mounts, badges and the like – you can feel like you own a proper Pearl, Tama or Gretsch. The idea is to build brand loyalty from the bottom up.
3. Shells are still cheaper semi-hard woods, such as poplar or basswood, but they are often a bit thinner and better finished than the shells of beginner kits. Look for a wider range of sizes, including contemporary 22"x18" bass drums plus a bigger choice of coloured plastic wrap finishes – which should be fully glued to the whole shell, not patched on with double-sided tape. Some kits come complete with lacquered paint finishes.
4. You should still get a decent hardware package, often including a stool/throne. Small toms are usually mounted off the bass drum, although some kits have up-market isolation mounting brackets. Bass drums should have enclosed, drum key-tightened tension claws rather than old-fashioned 'T' handle types. And bass and snare drums should have a respectable eight lugs per head, although floor toms may still only have six.
Performance Percussion PP300R Starter drum kit
"A solid performer that provides almost everything the beginner could want."
FULL REVIEW: Performance Percussion PP300R Starter drum kit
Ludwig Questlove Breakbeats drum kit
"An affordable kit that lives up to its design, this kit will suit any style of 'groove' player and is even a great quality set for kids. Breakbeats offers a cohesive package of portability, sound and all-round style!"
FULL REVIEW: Ludwig Questlove Breakbeats drum kit
PDP MainStage drum kit
"At over £500 the Mainstage kit is at the upper end of the entry-level price band, but still represents good value for money. It would appear to have been designed as much to a drummer's specifications as it has to meet a price, and, as we've come to expect from PDP, the build quality is faultless."
FULL REVIEW: PDP Mainstage drum kit
Gretsch GS1 drum kit
"Scoring almost maximum points for quality and value, the GS1 is a package that's hard to beat."
FULL REVIEW: Gretsch GS1 drum kit
Mapex Meridian Maple Jazz drum kit
"The affordable answer to jazz player's prayers... The Meridian Jazz's specification and attention to detail are highly impressive. Mapex has gone all-out with this superbly-appointed package and you'd never guess this was a budget kit."
FULL REVIEW: Mapex Meridian Maple Jazz drum kit
BUY: Mapex Meridian Maple Jazz drum kit currently available from:
UK: Andertons Music
Odery Fluence Fusion Series drum kit
"We don't know how Odery can afford all this at such a low price - perhaps it's something to do with the relatively low value of Brazilian currency? Whatever the international economics, this is certainly one the best value kits ever."
FULL REVIEW: Odery Fluence Fusion Series drum kit
PDP Concept Series Kits Birch CB5
"With this kit, the gap between DW (the premium brand) and PDP (the budget brand) has been dramatically reduced."
FULL REVIEW: PDP Concept Series Kits Birch CB5
Mapex Meridian Retro Fusion drum kit
"This kit will appeal to jazz or funk drummers, or indeed any drummer who needs to squeeze into a small area without compromising the sound of their drums."
FULL REVIEW: Mapex Meridian Retro Fusion drum kit