Buyers' guide: synthetic drum kits

The 5 best crazy plastic sets from £1400

Who said a drum has to be wood? Back in the '70s the whole world went synthetic, when glam rock and sequins were matched by colourful drums made from plastics, fibreglass, carbon fibre - you name it.

The fad passed and wood returned to favour, but recently acrylic/Plexiglas kits have resurfaced and specialist companies are making kits from non-wood materials. Although they ttend to deal in small runs or custom one-offs, so they're not going to be cheap.

"Although there's a natural assumption that wood sounds warm while synthetics and metals are harsh, brittle and cold, this is rarely the case"

Pure tone, unfettered resonance

Metals and synthetics are much more consistent than wood, which is organic and affected by weather. Wood shells can vary dramatically in a single kit so you might find that one of your toms is duff. Ply shells are adulterated with layers of glue, whereas synthetic and metal shells are invariably a single 'ply', which leads to a purer tone with unfettered resonance.

Although there's a natural assumption that wood sounds warm while synthetics and metals are harsh, brittle and cold, this is rarely the case. Metals and synthetics are certainly often loud, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily insensitive.

The 5 best synthetic kits from £1499

5. Staccato Thunder£2088

Staccato thunder kit



A 1970s classic, the Staccato fibreglass shells are probably among the weirdest you're ever likely to see and the bass drum is the loudest you'll ever hear. The small toms lack resonance, yet they do have massive attack. (Read the full Staccato Thunder 4 Kit review)

4. Remo Gold Crown European£1617



Remo gold

Remo gold

It's official, Remo's drums sound as good as their heads. Shells are made from Advanced Acousticon - recycled hardwood fibres impregnated with resins. The shells are dense, uniform and consistent and produce a warm, loud and vibrant tone.

3. Ludwig Vistalite£2441



Ludwig vistalite

Made famous by the one and only John Bonham, Vistalites were hugely popular in the '70s, but were prone to cracking, so this time around the shells are strengthened at the seams by a thin Plexiglas strip. Unmistakable piercing snare and deep, dark bass drum. (Read the full Ludwig Jellybean Vistalite Kit review)

Next page: Highwood Acrylic shell kit plus our top pick

2. Highwood AcrylicFrom £1499



Highwood acrylic

HighWood's Gareth Heeley and Simon Eland head the resurrection of acrylic drums with cast shells available in 20", 16", 14", 12" and 10". This sharp-looking kit features tom hoops in triple-flanged 2.3mm steel and a 14"x5" snare. Only available in clear acrylic. (Read the full Highwood Acrylic Shell kit review)

1. RCI Starlite£2779



RCI starlite

Years of research have culminated in this 21st century acrylic vision, hand-built in Romano Cotone's Connecticut factory. Shells are welded air and water tight and are surprisingly resonant. The sound is fat and barely less warm than wood. (Read the full RCI Starlite Kit review)

Liked this? Then try:
How to build the ultimate drum setup… on a budget
Improve your drumming with Rod Morgenstein
Buyers' guide: high-priced wood snare drums

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter
The free MusicRadar newsletter serves up the week's biggest artist and product news stories alongside exclusive tuition and gear reviews. Sign up here!

Follow MusicRadar on Twitter
Get instant updates and bonus content plus chat with the team. Start here!

All-access interviews, in-depth gear reviews and world-class tuition with the UK's best-selling drum magazine.
Subscribe and save today!