Buyers' guide: how to buy beginner drum kits

5 kits under £350, 5 essential buying tips

Cannon Adder
The Adder: Don't worry, it won't bite

For some, buying new music making gear is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. For the inexperienced, though, it can be a stressful experience. There's so much choice, and, depending on your skill level, buying the wrong gear could seriously stunt your progression.

To make it easier, we've put together a buyers' guide, which includes our top product picks and essential buying tips. Here's how to buy a beginner drum kit…

5 buying tips

1. Look for five-piece, full-sized kit, most probably made in China. Many are virtually identical, just bearing the different names of the various importers/retailers. Based originally on the first Pearl Export of 1983, some still have the original Pearlstyle double tom holder and oblong lugs, others have modern oval or small square lugs.

2. The number of tuning lugs on each drum is crucial. For accuracy and evenness of tuning, bass drums, snare drums and floor toms should ideally have eight per side rather than six, and small toms fi ve or six rather than four or five.

"Kits arrive unassembled with a set-up instruction pamphlet. You have to put the heads on the drums and tune them.. it's worth buying from a good dealer who will give you sound advice."

3. Shells are usually nine-ply Philippines mahogany or similar. Premier-Olympic has thinner, more resonant six-ply shells. Remo budget heads are preferable. Matching wood snare drums look good but are not necessarily better sounding than steel.

4. Kits arrive unassembled with a set-up instruction pamphlet. You have to put the heads on the drums and tune them. This is fairly straightforward, but it's worth buying from a good dealer who will give you sound advice.

5. Packages should include everything to get you started: stool, sticks, snare and hi-hat stands, bass drum pedal and at least one cymbal stand. Also basic 16" cymbal and 14" hi-hats. Cannon offers an extra 18" cymbal.

5 beginner drum kits under £350

1. Cannon Adder kit

Astonishingly generous package, the only kit with 14" hats, 16" and 18" cymbals, plus two double-braced cymbal stands and full professional lug count. In addition to that, there's a complete set of carrying bags and drum/cymbal mute pads. Finally, you have cool finishes in black, chrome, red and even Bumblebee Yellow, all with black metal fittings.
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2. Premier Olympic kit

Premier resurrects its historic Olympic budget marque, distinguished by unique lug design, class leading and lightweight six-ply 6-mm basswood/poplar shells which deliver a punchier, more resonant sound. Matching 6½" wood snare and just two wraps – wine red and black, fusion or rock formats. Slightly dearer, but there is that Premier–Olympic badge…

3. Performance Percussion PP300 kit

Bestseller from long-established British distributor J H Skewes, now includes Remo heads and deep 6½" metal snare. Second only to Cannon on lug count (with six on the floor tom instead of eight). Modern image with neat, small oval lugs, plus sturdy hardware including double-braced stool and calibrated bass drum spurs.
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4. Arbiter CB kit

Strong-selling fi ve-piece kit available in Rock or Fusion sizes, which include a matching wood shell snare and budget Remo heads. Standard nine-ply Philippines mahogany shells, Pearl Export-derived double tom mount and squared lugs. Unfortunately the kit falls down slightly on the lug count, with six on the snare (rather than the recommended eight).

5. Leedy NRG

Similar to the PP300 with the same slightly glittery wraps and small, oval lugs, but with a 5½" wood shell snare rather than a 6½". The quality hardware package includes double-braced stands with attractive curved section housings and solid memory locks which notch into the housings. The hi-hat clutch has a smart nonslip rubber clamp.
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