"A kit with some surprising tricks up its sleeve": Donner Backbeat review

A feature-packed mid-range electronic drum set, but are the light up pads a pointless gimmick?

Donner Backbeat kit
(Image: © Donner)

MusicRadar Verdict

An interesting addition to the e-drum market with some surprisingly top-shelf features, but who is it aimed at? An ideal and appealing kit for beginners, but perhaps a little expensive for a first kit.


  • +

    Trigger responsive and programmable LEDs in each drum and cymbal pad

  • +

    7” full colour touchscreen module

  • +

    Wireless app control


  • -

    Separate hi-hat controller

  • -

    Not the best samples

  • -

    Some tweaking needed out of the box

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Donner Backbeat review: What is it?

Perhaps not a household name in the world of electronic drums quite yet, but self-described ‘global music store’ Donner hosts an impressive array of instruments, ranging from ukuleles and guitars to microphones, guitar pedals, MIDI controllers and of course e-drums. Founded solely as an Amazon store in 2012, all of the Chinese company’s products can still be found on Amazon in addition to its own website which offers worldwide shipping.

The Backbeat is the most expensive of Donner’s e-kits by quite a margin at $/£1,399. The range also includes the DED-80 ($349.99), DED-200 ($599.99) and DED-500 ($799.99). Aside from the show-stealing light-up pads (which we’ll get to shortly), there are a number of additional noteworthy features which elevate the Backbeat to justify this higher price bracket.

These standout features include a touchscreen module, dual-zone mesh pads, Bluetooth connectivity and multi-track USB audio. It’s commonplace to find separate head and rim (dual-zone) triggers on a snare pad, but to feature it on each of the toms as well is a welcome treat. This is something that even Roland and Yamaha don’t offer in the same price bracket. 

The 10-channel USB audio support is also quite a flex on Donner’s part in comparison to Roland’s 2-channel USB on the TD-07 module. This allows each instrument to be recorded to a computer in complete isolation. In Roland’s defense though, the TD-07KVX does come with an extra cymbal pad and a more realistic hi-hat pad that uses a real stand (something which wouldn’t go amiss here).

Donner Backbeat review: Performance & verdict

Donner Backbeat kit

(Image credit: Tom Bradley)

The Backbeat’s configuration includes two 8” rack toms, a 10” snare, 10” floor tom, 10” hi-hats, 12” crash and ride cymbal pads plus a sturdy 10” kick tower which is ample size for a double bass drum pedal. The kit comes with a single bass pedal which matches the standalone hi-hat controller pedal. Everything you need is in the box except for a drum throne (there’s even a pair of sticks thrown in).

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The four-post rack has an interesting design twist in that the module’s wiring loom is hidden inside. The module mounts directly onto the top of the end post, simultaneously connecting the loom neatly. Small patch bays can then be found at the end of each horizontal post which minimises the length of cable needed to connect the pads.

As a result the upper part of the rack folds out and stays as one piece which then just leaves the legs and snare arm to be attached before we’re up and running. 

Naturally the first thing we can’t wait to check out is the customisable LED lights and it doesn’t take long to witness a demo. When we first turn the kit on each drum pulses blue in sequence which, if we’re honest, is as exciting as it sounds. In the menu there’s a surprising number of options for not only colour but also customisation over how the drums react when struck. These include having the light on and then flashing brighter when struck, or only illuminating when triggered. There’s also a funky setting where the colour circles around the shell and an ambient mode which fades the light up and down, essentially turning the kit into a rather expensive lamp.

The colour of each drum and cymbal can be changed independently which has great potential for teaching, particularly when it comes to younger students. My kids had a ball endlessly tweaking with the colours, which is possible not only from the touchscreen module but also from the Donner Music app via Bluetooth - nice touch Donner, nice touch. The shells are a dark grey perspex which not only disperses the light effectively but also gives the kit a clean look when the lights aren’t on.

Donner Backbeat kit

(Image credit: Donner)

The module’s touchscreen works fairly well although some of the menu items are a little small which can be fiddly if you suffer from sausage-finger-itus like this reviewer. Of the 50 inbuilt kits, the samples are a little hit-and-miss, with some kits being noticeably weaker than others. The trigger settings also need some tweaking out of the box in order to dial in a more realistic response. With around 1,100 total samples in the module, there is a good mix of styles and presets plus the ability to edit effects such as reverbs, EQ, compression and delays.

Overall the kit is of a respectable standard and has some surprising tricks up its sleeve but doesn’t stand up to some competitors in terms of general playability and quality of samples. The touchscreen is a blessing and we’d like to see this more commonplace with newly released e-kits. Depending on the user, the lights will either be a major selling point or a gimmick - if in the latter camp, the Backbeat might not be the kit for you.

Donner Backbeat review: Hands-on demos


Nick Cesarz

Donner Backbeat review: Specification

  • Module: 7” touchscreen, Multi-channel USB audio, app control, Bluetooth audio in, full mixing tools and FX groups
  • Features: Intelligent light control drum and cymbal pads, internal cable management system
  • Pads: All mesh pads. Dual-zone snare, toms and cymbals. 10” snare and floor tom pads, 8” rack tom pads, 12” crash and ride pads, 10” hi-hat pad, 10” bass drum tower. Space for two additional pads (crash 2 and tom 4)
  • Contact: Donner
Tom Bradley

Tom is a professional drummer with a long history of performing live anywhere from local venues to 200,000 capacity festivals. Tom is a private drum tutor, in addition to teaching at the BIMM Institute in Birmingham. He is also a regular feature writer and reviewer for MusicRadar, with a particular passion for all things electronic and hybrid drumming.