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While beginner drum sets are great, all drummers grow out of them after a few years of playing. If you want to play gigs and do recordings, you’ll need something that sounds and feels a lot better quality.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best drum sets on the market for 2023. I’ve compared design, sound, performance, and cost to give you my top recommendations.
These drum sets represent some of the best kits the drumming industry has to offer, and I’ve included selections for different price ranges. You can be sure that all of these kits will feel wonderful to play and will sound great for years to come.
- What are the Best Drum Sets?
- How I Tested and Selected the Best Drum Drum Sets
- The Best Acoustic Drum Kits Reviewed
- The Best Drum Sets Buyer’s Guide
- Why Upgrade to an Intermediate Drum Set?
- What’s Included in a Drum Set Shell Pack?
- Things to Look Out for When Buying a Drum Set
- Drum Set FAQs
What are the Best Drum Sets?
How I Tested and Selected the Best Drum Drum Sets
I’ve been lucky enough to play on what seems like hundreds of drum kits throughout my career. I’ve owned several, and I’ve sat on house kits from dozens of drum brands on stage.
There are so many factors to consider when picking a drum set to buy, and I did my best to include all of those when putting this list together.
When playing each drum set, I first looked at the sound quality of all the shells. This is always going to be the main thing that establishes the overall quality of a set. I then checked out all the hardware features and how they affected the performance of each drum set.
I selected drums made from hardwoods such as maple, birch, or mahogany, to ensure the drums deliver a rich and musical tone. I’ve tested these drums to ensure they deliver consistently for practice, recording, and live performances.
Finally, I took the design into account, which included comparing finishes and configuration options to suit different kinds of drummers.
Balancing build quality with affordability was my goal with these selections. Below you’ll discover my selection of drums that offer excellent value for money, and are accessible to a wide range of drummers.
The Best Acoustic Drum Kits Reviewed
The Pearl Session Studio Select is one of Pearl’s most value-packed drum sets. It looks and performs like their brand’s high-end options, but it comes with a relatively low price tag compared to those.
The defining feature is the 5.4mm shells that are a blend of mahogany and birch.
I love how the mahogany wood gave the drums their strengthened low-end and warmth, while the birch sharpened the attack. The toms truly sound superb.
This combination of woods gives you drums that are powerful but have a lot of body.
The mahogany really shined in the two floor toms and the kick drum, as they sounded the best when tuned medium or low. This is one of the big reasons I’ll always recommend this kit to drummers that want powerful floor toms.
Pearl has put 60-degree bearing edges on these shells, which put a bit of focus on mid-range tones as well. Those are combined with SuperHoop II counter hoops to strengthen the durability as well as sharpen the tones even more.
This truly is a premium kit design, and it’s a great option for drummers that want a serious gigging and recording tool.
The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a Session Studio Select snare drum, even though Pearl produces those and sells them separately.
The last thing to mention is the OptiMount tom suspension system. The rack toms mount to cymbal stands with arms and clamps that are seriously sturdy. They feel great to play on, and the kit has a professional appearance with the toms not sticking into the bass drum shell.
- Snappy tones with plenty of low-end warmth
- Top-tier shell construction quality with beautiful finish options
- Having two floor toms offers great depth
- Convenient port hole in the resonant bass drumhead
- Pearl’s Session Studio Select snare drum is sold separately
DW offers three main drum kit lines, including the Design Series, Collector’s Series, and Performance Series. The DW Design Series is the most affordable line out of those, and it gives drummers with a lower budget access to the world-renown quality that DW offers in their kits.
It’s by no means a lower-quality kit, though. This set offers all the premium tones you need for professional settings, and the build quality is outstanding, with premium North American hard rock Maple shells and DW features throughout.
Having played both kits, I think it’s hard to distinguish between the sound of the legendary Collector’s Series and Design Series drums without knowing which one you’re listening to.
The Design series drums have the distinctive warmth and musicality you can expect from DW drums. Yet I thought that they sounded surprisingly explosive as well. Whether I tuned them high or low, they oozed with musicality in the resonating tones.
Tuning the drums was quite easy, thanks to the True-Pitch tension rods. You’ll find these on all DW drum sets, and they hold tuning very well.
The big cosmetic difference that separates this kit from the higher-end lines is the mini turret lugs. The lugs are a lot smaller here, making the kit a little less noticeable as a DW kit. However, that doesn’t affect the tone, so I don’t think it’s a problem for most people.
I love how this drum set sounds and how it feels to play. In my opinion it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck drum sets available right now.
This kit can be used for any musical situation, and it will deliver exceptional tones for any style of music. It performs equally well for live shows as well as in the recording studio.
The only thing that might put some folks off is that most configurations don’t include a snare. Design Series shell packs used to include them, but it looks like DW and retailers have taken that option away to keep the cost a bit lower.
- Reliable DW build quality
- True-Pitch tension rods make tuning easier
- Hard rock maple sounds incredible
- Excellent kit for recording
- The floor tom is quite difficult to tune
The Yamaha Stage Custom Drum Set has been an institution for over 30 years in the drumming world as one of the best drum sets of all time. It’s arguably the most sold drum kit in Yamaha’s product range.
Yamaha employs a 100% premium birch shell for these drums and the very same lugs and hardware used on their flagship drum sets.
The all-birch shells produce a punchy and bright tone, and I’ve always loved how the drums deliver a powerful and focused sound. They are incredibly versatile and have sounded excellent both in live gigs and recording sessions that I’ve been a part of.
Inspecting these drums you can tell that the quality of the construction of these drums is tremendous. It is apparent that the craftsmanship and quality control undertaken by Yamaha is first-rate.
The resonant tone achieved from the premium birch shells is very impressive, and the quality of the lugs and hoops with the drums is the same premium quality used on Yamaha’s top-end range of drums.
The toms are open and bright, whilst the snare drum delivers a strong attack with a lot of snap. The kick drum and floor tom have an equally strong response with heaps of low end and punch.
The Yamaha Stage Custom drum set is an excellent choice for both the aspiring drummer and seasoned professional looking for a great sounding drum set at an affordable price point.
- Bright and focused tones are great for live gigs
- Excellent hardware and tom mounts improve the playability
- Versatile enough for any musical setting
- Accessible to many drummers thanks to the affordable price tag
- Snare lugs are a bit less durable than the ones on the toms
- Stock drum heads are not that great sounding and could benefit from an upgrade
Up next for review is the PDP Concept Maple drum set, featuring 100% maple shells with high-end components to match.
This drum set sounds great across a diverse range of tunings, and it will fit well into any musical application. The high-quality maple shells allow the drums to sing and the kit really does deliver fantastic looks and sounds at a great price point.
This is one of the more attractive intermediate level drum sets, in my opinion. I can see similarities in aesthetics between this PDP set and a top-level DW Collector’s drum set.
PDP has inherited some high-end DW features for this drum set, including the classic MAG snare throw-off and true-pitch tuning rods for all of the drums.
Additionally, PDP has also utilized specific graduated counter-hoops for each individual drum offering greater shell resonance.
The 10-ply snare drum delivers a lot of snap and attack as well as articulate ghost notes. The toms produce a warm, balanced sound, while the kick drum is the standout part of this drum set for me with a powerful low-end thump.
- Great drum sounds in every tuning range
- DW’s MAG throw off makes controlling the snare wires very smooth and easy
- Excellent drum hardware keeping everything together
- There are a few build quality issues in the shells with some models
The new Gretsch Catalina Maple drum set is a fantastic kit. Gretsch has made some necessary improvements to really bring a new lease of life to this model.
The new and improved hardware adds functionality as well as providing this model a contemporary new look.
Gretsch’s Catlina Maple drums produce incredibly warm and open sounds, which can be credited to the premium maple shells and rounded 30-degree bearing edges given to each of the drums.
I’d describe it as quite a vintage sound but with a modern edge.
The drums are quite low in pitch, but there is enough attack and pop from each of the drums to really make its presence known in any musical style. This drum set is diverse enough to perform brilliantly across any live music or studio application.
If you are looking for the classic Gretsch sound on a budget then the Gretsch Catalina Maple is hands-down one of the best value drum sets available.
Like the PDP Concept Maple, this kit comes in a variety of configuration settings. After playing all of them, I was mostly a fan of the 5-piece option, as the 7-piece had a small rack tom with a wonky mounting design.
- Vintage sound from the 30-degree bearing edges combined with a modern touch
- Sturdy shell hardware that keeps everything secure
- Warm and open sound that sounds great in high and low tunings
- Fairly expensive for it being one of Gretsch’s low-end drum sets
The Gretsch Renown kit is an excellent option for drummers looking for a fusion setup, meaning it comes with a 14-inch floor tom and 20-inch bass drum. It’s also designed a bit differently compared to the other kits on this list, meaning it offers unique sounds.
It has 7-ply maple shells, which are typically meant to offer both warmth and power. However, the shells also have 30-degree bearing edges. These bearing edges soften the attack a bit and boost the warmth more.
The Gretsch Renown drums offer exceptional musicality and resonance. These drums sing beautifully when I play them, and I think this kit works brilliantly in jazz settings where you want vibrant and melodic tones.
The kit also performs well in older styles of music due to its vintage tonal inspiration.
All the toms are equipped with Gretsch’s 302 hoops. These perform similarly to die-cast hoops, but they allow the shells to resonate more. You get the benefit of durability, but they don’t muffle the drums as much as die-cast hoops do.
With slightly lower volume, this kit isn’t as effective in heavier musical situations. It can also be a bit tough to control the toms if you don’t want them to ring as much.
I’ve heard quite a few Gretsch artists speak praises of this kit. Those guys have access to the really high-end options, so that just tells you how good this more affordable drum set is!
- Excellent kit for jazz and older styles of music
- Wonderfully musical tom tones
- Boosted resonance from the 302 hoops
- Wide tuning range
- Not the most popular choice for heavy styles of music
The Best Drum Sets Buyer’s Guide
So, you’ve worked hard to become a great drummer, and you have outgrown your first drum kit.
Now you want a better quality drum set that looks and sounds the part… something that you’ll be proud to show off on stage and even start recording drums with.
The good news is that drum manufacturing has come a long way over the years from all of the best drum brands, and you can achieve a professional level sound at an affordable price.
These drum sets featured are not the flagship ranges, but they do however inherit plenty of high-end features one would expect from a premium kit. With correct tuning, you can obtain a sound that it is genuinely hard to distinguish between the professional level kits used by pros.
It also helps to put fresh drumheads from Evans, Aquarian, or Remo on most of them. Drum brands often keep costs down by providing lower-quality stock drumheads. While these work relatively well, they don’t allow these kits to achieve their highest-quality tones.
You’d be surprised at how much of a difference a set of high-quality drumheads will make compared to the stock ones. So, just keep that in mind when you’re budgeting for a set.
Why Upgrade to an Intermediate Drum Set?
There comes a time in every musician’s journey when he has made full use of his entry-level drum set. Maybe you feel limited creatively, or are unhappy with the sound of your drums. When the time is right, it is certainly wise to make the decision to upgrade.
Buying new musical equipment is very exciting. It provides the framework for capitalizing further on your passion for playing the drums.
Playing great sounding equipment will, in turn, allow you to feel like you are performing better and this will increase your overall satisfaction.
Owning quality musical equipment also provides a real sense of ownership, and the responsibility of owning, maintaining, and caring for musical equipment is both a valuable lesson and very rewarding.
You also get far more choices when picking an intermediate set. Beginner drum sets are very limited in the sounds, shell types, and colors offered.
By the time you start looking at professional kits, you’ll have an idea of what you like and don’t like. The experience of looking for different sets to buy is a highly rewarding one when you eventually land on something you love and are proud of.
What’s Included in a Drum Set Shell Pack?
All of the drum sets in this product guide are sold as “Shell Packs”. This means that all you receive is the drums, and most of the shell packs included in this list include:
- 1 Snare Drum
- 2 Rack Toms
- 1 Floor Tom
- 1 Kick Drum
- Tom mounts
This is standard practice when purchasing one of the best drum sets on the market. It is generally only beginner drum sets that will include hardware and cymbals, and these will often be low-quality items.
Also, not that some of the kits mentioned above don’t come with a snare drum. Drum companies leave these out to cut costs a bit on those drum sets. The chances are high that you can get a matching snare drum from that series.
However, I’d also recommend looking at standalone snare drums to get that offer something a bit different. A snare drum with a metal shell could be a great addition to your set, for example.
Things to Look Out for When Buying a Drum Set
You can choose between a few wood types when looking at all the best drum kits. Each wood offers various sonic qualities, and that affects how the drums sound when you combine them with certain drumheads.
The most common types of woods for intermediate and pro drum sets are birch and maple. But you’ll also regularly see mahogany wood being used. Those are the three wood types that we saw in the kits that I mentioned above.
Here’s how each wood type affects the tones from the drums:
Maple drums have warm and balanced tones. They offer smooth sounds across every frequency range, making maple the most popular type of wood that you’ll find on professional drum sets. These kits can do everything, as they’re very versatile.
Birch drums are a lot punchier. Birch wood causes the drums to have stronger attacking tones, making them livelier. The sounds are very crisp and focused. You get the impression that birch drums are a bit louder, but it’s just because they’re stronger in the initial impact of your strokes. All birch sets make great gigging options.
Mahogany drums have deep low-end tones. These drum sets sound amazing when tuned low, as they produce booming sounds that can fill a room. Mahogany drum sets tend to have the best sounding floor toms and bass drums.
Beginner kits only offer poplar shells, which aren’t as responsive or musical in their sounds.
Shell hardware refers to all the bits and pieces that hold the drum shells together. Shell hardware is typically quite weak in quality with beginner kits, so you’ll feel a big upgrade and difference when switching to an intermediate or pro kit.
When looking at shell hardware, you’ll be looking at things like counter hoops, tension rods, lugs, snare drum throw offs, and snare wires. Some people like to put bearing edges into this category as well, but those just refer to the shape of the shells themselves.
Certain shell hardware parts affect how the drums perform. For example, die-cast counter hoops tighten up the tones of drums, and they make rimshots sound a lot louder.
Different drum brands offer various lug designs, and those lugs affect how the tension rods interact with the drumheads. Some lugs make tuning easier than others, while other lugs just look a lot better on the drum shells.
A big design feature to look at on a kit is how the rack toms get mounted. Most kits in this category have rack toms that mount directly to the bass drum. A few have toms that mount to cymbal stands.
When the rack toms mount to cymbal stands, the bass drum is referred to as a virgin bass drum. In the past, virgin bass drums offered fuller tones. However, drum companies have evolved their designs to allow bass drums to sing freely even if they have toms mounted to them.
Cymbal-mounted rack toms are a bit easier to position, so they offer more comfort. You just need to have strong cymbal stands to hold them.
Another thing to look at is how the rack toms can be angled. Brands like Pearl offer L mounts, while other brands offer ball-in-socket mounts. The latter option gives you more maneuverability, but the former option feels a lot more solid.
With beginner kits, you’ll find most of the same shell sizes with all your options. As you look into higher-end options, you’ll see various shell sizes being offered.
Most people refer to kits with 22-inch bass drums as standard sets. Drum sets with 20-inch bass drums are typically referred to as fusion sets. Those kits usually come with a 14-inch floor tom as well, and they offer higher-pitched sounds.
You’ll also find drum kit options with differing numbers of toms. A kit with two rack toms, a snare drum, a bass drum, and a floor tom is referred to as a 5-piece set.
A 4-piece drum kit will only have one rack tom, while 6-piece and 7-piece drum sets will have added rack toms and floor toms.
A finish refers to the color of a acoustic drum kits. You get far more color options with intermediate and pro sets compared to beginner ones. They also look a lot sleeker and more eye-catching.
One of the best things about buying a higher-quality set is having more options of how it looks. Some brands offer dozens of finishes for their drum kits. Others only offer a few, but those few finishes have immaculate details.
You’ll find kits that have single-color finishes. You’ll also get ones that have combined color finishes. You get various options, including fades, lines, and sparkles.
It’s up to you on which finishes you choose, but you should carefully choose one that you like. You’re going to pay a good amount of money for your new drum set, so you need to get one that has a finish that appeals to you and your tastes.
Drum Set FAQs
What is the Best Brand of Drum Set?
There are many great drumming brands you can trust! These large global enterprises are very experienced with drum and cymbal manufacturing, and some have existed for centuries. In fact, the cymbal manufacturer Zildjian is one of the world’s oldest companies, having been formed in 1623!
In terms of strictly drum set brands, here is a list of some of the most famous names you might be familiar with. They have mastered the techniques associated with producing great-sounding drums ‘off-the-shelf’ for the mass market.
- Gretsch Drums
- Drum Workshop
There are many other great acoustic drums manufacturers, but these are but a few of the most famous names out there. You will likely see these brands’ logos on the front bass drum head of drum sets you see at concerts, large music festivals, and even on TV.
All these brands have a reputation for creating high-quality drum kits. So, you’re guaranteed to make a reliable purchase if you choose an option from one of their product ranges.
These top-tier brands also have great quality control. If anything is wrong with the kit you purchased from them, it’s usually quite easy to get your issue sorted directly or through whichever music store you got the kit from.