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The 7 best beginner electronic drum sets 2020: plug in and start drumming today

The 7 best beginner electronic drum sets 2020: plug in and start drumming today
(Image credit: Roland)

For a beginner drummer, an electronic drum set is a great tool to help develop fundamental skills in technique and timing. It’s unlikely you’ll use one of the best beginner electronic drum sets featured here in a live environment, but for home practice, there’s no better – or quieter – alternative. 

The rubber/mesh trigger pads that you find on an e-kit produce much less noise than an acoustic drum kit, and electric kits take up less space, so fitting one into a bedroom or compact corner is a no problem. Electronic drum kits can also be plugged into a computer, making them excellent tools for prospective producers or beat-makers too.

If you’ve decided that an electronic drum set is the way forward, you’ll be looking for something that offers a great sound library, realistic expression and helpful learning tools. You’ll probably be looking for phone/laptop compatibility, too. Thankfully, big brands like Roland, Yamaha and Alesis have really stepped up to the plate to tick all those boxes. With that, let’s take a look at the best beginner electronic drum sets available today.

What is the best beginner electronic drum set?

So, who tops the list? As we’ve mentioned, the world of electronic drums is ripe with excellent choices. If you need more convincing, take a look at our comparison of the Alesis Nitro Mesh, Yamaha DTX402K and Roland TD-1K – all worthy of the best beginner electronic drum set title.

It’s a tough contest overall, but right now we’d point you to the Alesis Nitro Mesh as the best beginner electronic drum set. For the money, this kit offers everything a prospective drummer needs, along with mesh heads for a more realistic playing experience (as well as quieter delivery of stick-to-head). There are some helpful learning tools included, 40 kits to choose from and 385 sounds. The Alesis Nitro Mesh is also class compliant, which makes laptop connectivity very easy, so it could easily fit into a home-studio setup. With all of these great features and a sub-$380/£340 price point, this is the best all-round choice.

The Yamaha DTX402K is another stellar option. It has been specifically designed to help beginner drummers build proficiency and there are some excellent tools included. Most impressive is the ‘Touch’ app (iOS/Android), which includes some intuitive training programmes and also enables further expansion of the drum sounds. With the DTX402K you’ll get excellent Yamaha build quality without breaking the bank.

Best beginner electronic drum sets: buying advice

After decades of evolution, the modern electronic drum kit has a few different uses. First, and foremost: it’s a tool to develop drumming skills. With this in mind, a lot of manufacturers include learning programmes within the drum module (also known as the brain). Features include play-along tracks, precision tests (where a score is given, based on how accurate your performance and timing is), the ability to record yourself and assess your performance and, of course, the all important metronome for working on your ability to stay in time.

Secondly, many popular musical genres use electronic drums as an alternative to acoustic drums. A lot of hip-hop, R&B and pop artists often value the ‘sampled’ kit sound over acoustic drums – even in live settings. Therefore an electronic kit might be favourable to beginners interested in developing these styles of music. In some cases, the electronic drum set could even be used as a MIDI controller, for use with DAW software.

Finally, with musical genres being more fluid now than ever before, some drummers will opt to include parts of an electronic kit in their live set up, resulting in a ‘hybrid’ kit. For example: it’s not uncommon for modern drummers to swap out the acoustic kick for an electronic pad, in order to trigger an ‘808’ kick sound. So a beginner electronic drum kit might also be a great idea for anyone looking to fuse their acoustic kit with electronic elements.

Beginner electronic drum sets: an overview

An electronic drum kit comprises a set of trigger pads connected by cables to a drum module (a small computer which holds the data, sometimes referred to as a brain), affixed to a hardware frame (or drum rack). On a beginner kit you will usually find eight drums altogether – one snare, three toms, three cymbals (hi-hats, a crash and a ride) and a kick drum – as standard. They are relatively painless to set up and it’s possible to get everything connected and ready to play quic

Trigger pads

Trigger pads emulate various drum and percussion sounds when hit. They are made from either rubber or mesh and are designed to sound and feel like acoustic drums. Mesh heads are more expensive but feel more like an acoustic drum and deliver less ambient noise. Rubber pads are cheaper but feel a little less realistic and produce more ambient noise.

Pedals

Most electronic drum kits will use a pad for the kick drum, along with an actual bass drum pedal – meaning there is a ‘kick’ motion happening. On cheaper kits, manufacturers will swap this out for an entirely electronic pedal, which will simulate sounds entirely. This offers less dynamic range and is not entirely representative of how an acoustic kit plays, so bear this in mind when making your decision.

The drum module

The module is the computer that holds all of the information. They are generally user-friendly, with buttons to toggle between kits and activate programmes, songs and the metronome. This is also where you adjust the volume and plug in the most important accessory of a beginner’s electronic drum kit: headphones

Plugging in a pair of headphones and listening to yourself, knowing only you can hear what you’re doing, is very liberating. Shy beginners need not worry about being overheard and – providing housemates don’t mind the ambient noise – it’s much easier to practice late into the night.

Hardware and cables

The pads and module will fit onto a small metal frame and there will be a cable for each pad, connecting it back to the module. Most beginner’s electronic drum kits will be easy to set up and take up a relatively small footprint.

The best beginner electronic drum sets right now

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Alesis Nitro Mesh

(Image credit: Alesis)

1. Alesis Nitro Mesh

The best beginner electronic drum set – the perfect blend of versatility, usability and price

Launch price: $379/£339/€390 | Pads: 3x mesh toms, 1 dual-zone mesh snare, 1x bass drum tower, 1x integrated hi-hat pedal, 3x cymbals (including 1 dual-zone crash) | Kits: 40 | Kick pedal: Real | Ideal for: Solo practice, recording beats, rehearsing with others

Excellent value for money
All-mesh heads for realistic feel
Great tutorial features
USB connectivity for beat-making and recording

The Alesis Nitro Mesh now sits atop the throne as the perfect introductory kit. The mesh heads offer a far more realistic playing experience than traditional rubber pads, and are quieter to the touch. This alone makes this kit worth a look at this price point.

The module houses 40 drum kits, 385 sounds and 16 slots for customised, user-created kits (meaning you can piece together a kit of your preference from the existing sounds). With USB connectivity, any budding drummer who is interested in producing hip-hop, lo-fi or electronic music can record into a laptop and get creative.

The Alesis Nitro Mesh also comes with some excellent in-built software to help beginners learn the discipline of drumming. There are 60 play-along backing tracks, a metronome, a sequencer and a performance recorder. With drumsticks and a drum key thrown in, a high build quality and a very fair price, there’s nothing to complain about here.

Read the full Alesis Nitro Mesh review

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Yamaha DTX402K

(Image credit: Yamaha)

2. Yamaha DTX402K

The most helpful and intuitive beginner electronic drum kit

Launch price: $499/£376/€436 | Pads: 4x rubber toms/snare, 3x cymbals, 1x Midi bass drum pedal, 1 x integrated hi-hat controller pedal | Kits: 10 | Kick pedal: Electronic | Ideal for: Solo practicing, learning skills behind the kit, building confidence

High quality drum sounds
Excellent training programmes for beginners
Cymbals feel great
Rubber pads are a little stiff

Yamaha’s DTX402 series is perfect for beginners. Building on years of drum-building expertise, they have packaged together everything a drummer needs to get started. The rubber pads feel high quality and responsive, albeit a little stiff in comparison to mesh alternatives.

The DTX402 module features 10 customisable kits, with 287 expressive drum and percussion sounds. Alongside this are 10 training tools including Fast Blast, Pad Gate, Rhythm Gate and recording functions.

What really brings this kit to life is the free ‘Yamaha Touch’ App (iOS/Android), which offers deeper kit customisation and some excellent training functions. Our favourite is a neat little thing called the ‘DTX Drum Lesson Program’, which scores you on your performance for each song and rewards you with a certificate at the end of it. If you’re looking for a kit with a focus on education and development, this is the one.

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Roland TD-1DMK

(Image credit: Roland)

3. Roland TD-1DMK

The cheapest mesh kit from the experts in electronic drums

Launch price: $699/£615/€709 | Pads: 4x mesh tom/snare pads, 1x rubber bass drum pad, 3x cymbals | Kits: 15 | Kick pedal: Real (but not included) | Ideal for: Recording beats, exploring sounds

Highest quality mesh heads in this price range
Excellent sound quality
No kick pedal included
Not much customisation

With the Roland TD-1DMK, what you pay for is high build quality and a brand name synonymous with years of expertise in the field of electronic music. There aren’t many added features here, but what’s on offer is very well thought-out.

The kit is sturdy and feels great to play, with the double mesh heads doing an excellent job of replicating an acoustic kit. The dual-zone snare and cymbals allow for some more intricate playing and the exploration of dynamic range, which is nice.

The module includes 15 backing tracks, recorded on real instruments, which is a classy touch; budding John Bonhams will feel a very real simulation of what it’s like to play in a band. All in all this is a simple, high quality kit which is incredibly user-friendly, albeit lacking in customisation options.

Read the full Roland TD-1DMK review

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Alesis Turbo Mesh

(Image credit: Alesis)

4. Alesis Turbo Mesh

A great e-kit on a budget – includes mesh heads and sticks!

Launch price: $299/£279/€299 | Pads: 4x mesh tom/snare pads, 3x cymbals | Kits: 15 | Kick pedal: Electronic | Ideal for: Learning the ropes, trying out the drums, having fun

Great price for mesh heads
Lots of cool features aimed at beginners
Sticks included
Electronic kick pedal

The Alesis Turbo Mesh is perfect for beginners. The module is simple and easy to use, featuring 10 drum kits and 120 sounds. There is a coach mode which grades you on how well you play along with different time signatures, as well as 30 playalong tracks and a metronome.

As with the Nitro Mesh, this kit comes with mesh heads, a drum key and a pair of sticks. It doesn’t have a dual-zone snare or crash and the kick pedal is electronic – which is not ideal – but the low price point speaks for itself.

Overall, the Alesis Turbo Mesh is excellent value for money. All mesh heads feel great, the drum sounds will definitely suffice and the coaching modes are helpful. If you are on a budget or just looking to have a go at drumming, this is well worth your money.

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Roland TD-1K

(Image credit: Roland)

5. Roland TD-1K

The best beginner electronic drum set for small spaces

Launch price: $537/£409/€475 | Pads: 4x rubber tom/snare pads, 3x rubber cymbals | Kits: 15 | Kick pedal: Electronic | Ideal for: Small spaces, electronic music production, general practice

Sleek, space-saving design
Quality Roland drum sounds
Perfect for those looking to produce electronic music
A little expensive

Roland’s pedigree might come at a slightly higher price point, but it’s hard to deny that their electronic drum sounds are some of the best available. The TD-1K offers 15 kits spanning traditional acoustic, electronic and percussive; all of which sound great.

The pads themselves are made of sturdy and responsive rubber, but can be upgraded to mesh for a slightly higher price. The included crash and ride pads are dual-zone and chokable, making for an even more realistic feel. The T-frame is compact and has a cool, spacey vibe to it.

Roland's Rhythm Coach feature is included on the module, along with a metronome and 15 jam tracks. The USB connectivity (for recording or triggering alternative sounds) is perfect for budding producers. While this kit is not as competitively priced as others on this list, it’s definitely an excellent tool.

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Simmons SD600

(Image credit: Simmons)

6. Simmons SD600

A great beginner electronic drum kit for budding producers

Launch price: $599/£489/€549 | Pads: 4x mesh tom/snare pads, 1x mesh bass drum pad, 3x rubber cymbals | Kits: 35 | Kick pedal: Real | Ideal For: Recording beats, producing music

Excellent sound library with 35 kits and 336 sounds
Mesh heads
Easily connectible to DAW for use as a MIDI controller
A little harder to get hold of

Simmons is something of a legendary name when it comes to electronic drums. Back in 1981 they released the SD5, which was the first ‘mainstream’ electronic drum set with bizarrely cool, hexagonal pads. Nowadays, it seems they are fully aware of the opposition and happy to compete.

The SD600 features all-mesh heads which feel great, although they will need a little tuning to get the perfect tension. Also included is a decent (albeit iOS-only) app which offers various training programmes and further kit customisation; designed to be used with an iPad mounted on the included stand. 

The module is loaded with 35 kits, spanning 336 sounds, which will give budding producers a lot to play around with (for some real fun, have a look at the ‘Nails’ and ‘Chinese Dawn’ settings). All in all, the easy DAW connectivity and playable nature of this kit make it a great choice, especially for those looking for a kit to use as a MIDI controller.

Best beginner electronic drum sets: Yamaha DTX432K

(Image credit: Yamaha)

7. Yamaha DTX432K

An upgrade on the 402K, with kick tower and real bass drum pedal

Launch price: $599/£456/€509 | Pads: 4x rubber toms/snare, 3x cymbals, 1x bass drum tower w/pedal, 1 x integrated hi-hat controller pedal | Kits: 10 | Kick pedal: Electronic | Ideal for: Solo practicing, learning skills behind the kit, building confidence

Real kick drum with great pedal
HH65 hi-hat pedal adds extra expression
‘Touch’ app is ace
Rubber pads are a little stiff

The Yamaha DTX432K takes the 402K and adds a kick drum tower and a real bass drum pedal, as well as the more expressive, HH65 hi-hat controller. These additions are seemingly small but actually make a big difference to playing feel.

As we’ve already outlined, the difference between a MIDI-controlled kick drum pedal and a real pedal hitting a tower is sizable. Using a real pedal will help beginners progress more smoothly to an acoustic kit, as the response and feel will be more ingrained into their playing style. The HH65 hi-hat pedal also does a more accurate job of replicating an acoustic kit by accommodating for half and quarter-open movements.

Overall, the Yamaha DTX400 series offers helpful, subtle improvements as you move up the price bracket. The 432K is a great example of this, with the addition of the more expressive pedals providing an even closer replication of an acoustic kit.