The best electronic drum sets under $500/£500 have come a long way since the hard rubber pads and funny-shaped cymbals of their early days. Similarly, perceptions and attitudes towards learning to play on an e-kit have changed massively, and what used to be met with a slightly soured face by teachers is now accepted as a space-saving, noise-reducing, all-in-one alternative for those who want to play the drums but simply can’t have an acoustic kit at home.
Even at the affordable end of the shopping cart, electronic drums in 2022 have the benefit of a few decades of sampling technology and pad design under their belts, which is great news if you’re looking to pick up the sticks and get going on a budget of around $500/£500, but with a kit that you’re not likely to outgrow as a gimmick.
At this price you’ll get a decent and varied soundset, nicer pads – in some cases surprisingly well spec’d – and even some features that were reserved for mid-level kits a few years ago. There’s plenty of choice on the market, so let’s check out some options for the best electronic drum sets for around $500/£500 and under.
Best electronic drum sets under $500/£500: Product guide
As with all Roland electronic drum sets, the TD-1 is available in a couple of different configurations. The TD-1KV is the more affordable, and while you get a ‘five-piece’ set-up along with crash, ride and hi-hat cymbals, they are all rubber playing surfaces. The bass drum is controlled by a foot switch rather than a physical beater-struck pad. This not only helps keep the price down, but can also drastically reduce the noise level – particularly if you’re playing this upstairs or with people below you.
Plus, it’s upgradeable for a tower such as the Roland KD-9 if you choose to do so. There are 15 kits covering acoustic drums, EDM and percussion, 15 play-along songs, multiple Coach modes, USB for computer MIDI connectivity and a Mix In socket for connecting your phone or other music-playing devices. It’s an easy-to-use first step onto the Roland ladder.
Read our full Roland TD-1KV review
Okay, so we’re breaking our own budget here, but only because if you’re hovering around the $/£500 mark, it’d be criminal not to consider pushing the boat out just a little further if it’s possible. The Roland TD-1 DMK gets you the same module and features as the more affordable TD-1K, but there’s a big jump in features.
First, the tom and snare pads are Roland’s mesh head-equipped PDX models – as found on kits at twice the price. You get a PDX-8 for the snare featuring two playing areas (head and rim zones), and three PDX-6 pads for the toms. Roland patented the tension-able mesh head format, and its pads feature two-layer mesh for better response and durability.
What’s more, you get a bass drum pad that requires an acoustic-type pedal, and this one can even utilise a double bass drum pedal. It’s still upgradeable if you’d rather use a tower and, as with the TD-1K, you can expand the kit with an additional cymbal.
Read the full Roland TD-1DMK review
Alesis is an old hand in the electronic drum sets game, and it’s always had one eye on offering additional bang for your buck. The Nitro Mesh is a fine example of this, bringing in all-mesh heads for the snare and toms and a standalone tower for the bass drum. It follows the crash/ride/hi-hat formula of many of the kits on the list here, but you can add an additional tom pad, plus an extra crash cymbal to expand the kit.
Soundwise, you get 40 kits, with 385 sounds on board. There’s 60 playalong songs and recording capability, built-in training modes, and USB MIDI connection for use with a computer (as well as traditional five-pin MIDI). You can hook-up your phone/CD/MP3 player with the aux input, and it even comes with a bass drum pedal and drumsticks. It’s hard to beat for the money.
Read the full Alesis Nitro Mesh review
Yamaha is one of the few brands that makes acoustic and electronic drums, which could arguably give you some reassurance as to how they’ll sound. The DTX402 is Yamaha’s sub-$/£500 offering, with rubber pads throughout, and the inclusion of a bass drum tower pad. There are 10 preset kits which can be edited with a choice of 287 drum sounds (and a further 128 ‘keyboard’ sounds), and the module makes use of the iOS/Android DTX402 Touch app for easier navigation of features such as the 10 training modes and sound swapping/editing.
There’s decent connectivity too, with USB for plugging-in your phone to use the app, as well as for connecting to a computer, plus an aux-input for hooking up a music player. It’s not expandable, unfortunately, but other than that it’s a solid offering from a big-name brand at a lower price.
Once again we’re pushing the budget into the red, but for good reason. The Alesis Command breaks the bank by around $/£50 at the time of writing, but it’s worth investigating if you can stretch a little. It’s an all-mesh design for the drum pads, with the snare and toms giving us two playable zones (head and rim) each. The snare is 10” in diameter, so heading out of the small pad format towards more realistic sizes, while the toms are 8”.
The module is expanded from the Nitro, featuring 671 sounds arranged into 54 kits, with space for 10 user kits too. It also has 60 tracks to jam with, as well as recording functionality. The ace up the Command’s sleeve though is its ability to load-in custom samples and play them from the pads.
Add-in USB MIDI, expandability via the Tom 4/Crash 2 sockets and a mini-jack aux-in, and the Command is a compelling reason to save up just a bit longer.
Read the full Alesis Command Mesh review
The Millenium MPS-850 stands alone in this buyer’s guide, for the simple fact that it offers a number of features that are frankly unheard of in this price bracket (okay, it’s slightly over, but you’ll see why). Those pads are all mesh, with two-zones on the toms and snares. There’s no compromise made on the pad count – you might have already spotted the additional floor tom. It’s a similar story with the cymbal pads too, with a two-crash-and-one-ride (all choke-able) set-up as standard. Then there’s the acoustic-style hi-hat control, which sees the hi-hat pad perched upon a real stand!
Millenium’s MPS-850 module houses 550 sounds, 30 preset kits and 20 user kit slots and there’s EQ, compression, reverb and pitch editing inside too. It doesn’t stop there though because you can record yourself, plug-in your phone for jamming, send MIDI to a computer over USB and import your own samples. It could be overwhelming for beginners, but it’s certainly swinging above its price tag.
If you like the sound of the Millenium MPS-850 set, but have a strict sub-$/£500 budget, turn your head in the direction of the MPS-750X. All mesh drum pads? Check. Two-zone playability? Uh-huh. Acoustic-style hi-hat stand? Yes indeed!
The big difference here is that the cymbal and tom pad count is reduced to what we’d expect – which is by no means a limitation (just look at the other kits here) with one crash, one ride and the hi-hat pad. But what you miss in pad numbers, you gain in other areas as this is the first kit to include Bluetooth connectivity.
Plus there are 697 sounds, 55 internal playalong tracks as well as a hardware line-input if you’d rather use a cable, and there’s USB connectivity too. As a bonus, it can also be expanded to match its bigger brother’s additional tom and cymbal pads. They even throw-in a bass drum pedal!
Another entry into the sub-$/£300 bracket is the Debut from Alesis, and it’s particularly suitable for the smaller people in your life. With four 6-inch-diameter mesh head-equipped pads, you don’t have to lose out on feel even if you’re looking to spend a bit less. Bigger players may find it all a bit small, but it’s not alone in this size, and there are plenty of useful features onboard. 120 sounds are arranged as 10 kits, there’s a metronome and aux-in as well as MIDI transmission over USB.
The bass drum pedal is a footswitch, and in this case it’s rather stubby which might require a bit more of a stomp than some of the longer examples on this list. But with a stool, sticks and cables included, you can start playing straight away.
“Can a sub-$/£200 electronic kit be any good?” you ask. Well, as it turns out, you’d be surprised. The 120-E from Millenium is very much in the same category as Roland’s TD-1K: all-rubber pads, basic cymbal set-up, foot controller rather than a bass drum pad.
But basic doesn’t have to mean ‘bad’ and for half an energy bill you can get a compact kit with enough features to start playing and keep you there. There’s 12 kits, a metronome, USB MIDI connectivity, a line-input for your music player and it comes with sticks, headphones and even a stick holder. There’s no drum stool, but at this price we don’t think that’s unfair – just remember to budget for one.
Carlsbro may not be the most familiar name to drummers – but the brand has a pedigree in music gear that reaches back decades and was revived a few years ago. The CSD25M offers a fair amount of value for its price, with mesh heads throughout (although the toms are single zone).
Once again the bass drum is a foot controller rather than a strikable pad – great news if you’re trying to keep the noise down – and it comes with a hi-hat pad and two 10” cymbals for a crash and ride. The Commander 25 module has 22 kits pre-loaded with another 10 slots for you to create your own, there’s three recording slots, 20 demo songs, reverb and a metronome.
Carlsbro hasn’t scrimped on the connectivity either with USB MIDI and audio, aux-input and a pair of headphone outputs so two people can listen at once.
Best electronic drum sets under £500/$500: Buying advice
How to choose the best electronic drum set under $500/£500
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We’re focussing on the lower-to-mid section of the market here, but while that means some compromises, you might also be pleasantly surprised at just how much you can get. The question of what to look for in an electronic drumset will largely hinge around what you want to use it for. Are you a beginner/intermediate drummer looking to get started or find an at-home practice solution? If yes, we’d suggest trying to find a kit (and there are some on this list) with better quality mesh pads – at least on the snare drum – and a bass drum pad that requires an acoustic-style pedal. These will allow you to develop acoustic playing techniques with greater authenticity from the get-go, and you should find jumping between an acoustic and electronic set to be a smoother transition.
You’ll also want a good range of sounds to play with, with a focus on the acoustic sounds while you’re still finding your feet (and hands!). Many drum modules supplied with electronic kits also include training functions which focus on areas such as dynamics and timing – which can be a great way of taking the monotony out of practising.
Expandability could also be important to you, particularly if you’re going for a base configuration of the kit you’ve chosen. This way, you’ll be able to add an additional drum or cymbal pad further down the line (or at the time of purchase).
Wireless connectivity is likely to be off the cards at this price, but most modules have an auxiliary input – usually a 3.5mm mini-jack connection – which will allow you to plug any device that can play music via a headphone socket into your drum module and hear it alongside your drumming: ideal if you want to jam along to songs.
On the other hand, you might be a more experienced drummer who’s looking for an electronic kit to play at home and use for more advanced purposes such as triggering sounds over MIDI or recording. Thankfully, even lower-priced modules come equipped with at least a five-pin MIDI output, and some have MIDI over USB, which will make integrating the kit with software such as Superior Drummer and EZDrummer, or a DAW such as GarageBand, Logic or Cubase, even simpler.
Regardless of your ability, good quality hardware in the form of your kit’s rack/stand is also important – you don’t want to be constantly adjusting pads that move every time you hit them. Finally, if you’re looking to get started straight away, consider purchasing one of the bundle options. These usually include a stool, bass drum pedal and sticks so that you can get set up and truly start playing. If not, don’t forget to factor these items in as you'll need them!
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