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Studio drum sets used for recording typically feature the very best materials, shell construction, and workmanship.
If you’re looking for a studio drum set, you’re going to need to look near the top of each drum brand’s product range.
All the best-sounding drums tend to work the best in studio environments. Every brand has a great studio drum kit, and we’re going to have a look at the best options.
In this guide, I’ll be reviewing five of the best studio drum sets that are used in recording facilities worldwide. Read on to explore what each kit has to offer.
- What are the Best Studio Drum Sets?
- In-Depth Studio Drum Set Reviews
- Studio Drum Kit Buyer’s Guide
- Features to Look For in a Studio Drum Set
- Things to Consider When Buying a Studio Kit
- Final Thoughts
What are the Best Studio Drum Sets?
In-Depth Studio Drum Set Reviews
The Yamaha Recording Custom is simply one of the most sought-after and widely used recording studio kits in the world. The latest version of it was designed with the help of legendary studio drummer, Steve Gadd.
The floor tom and kick drum are slightly smaller than on most kits, but the tuning range is surprisingly large on this kit. The 6-ply birch shells give it an open tone that is round and deep. That sound ends up translating extremely well through microphones.
The 30-degree bearing edges make the drums very easy to tune, and they offer a warmer response that I think sounds fantastic. They also tend to stay in tune for extended periods which is great.
Something unique about the Recording Custom is that it’s one of the few high-end drum kits that has rack toms mounted to the kick drum. It utilizes the YESS mounting system which manages to maintain the resonance of the kick drum and rack toms without any unwanted sound choking.
If you are looking for the best studio drum set, then the Yamaha Recording Custom is widely regarded as a dream kit for recording. It ticks all of the boxes sonically and is a complete workhorse designed to fit right in amongst any style of music.
- 6-ply birch shells
- 10” & 12” rack toms, 14” floor tom, 20” bass drum
- 30-degree bearing edges
- Legendary sounds are heard on countless recordings
- The drums have a wide tuning range and they are easy to tune
- Beautiful low-end tones excel in the studio
- No snare drum included
The DW Collector’s Series Purpleheart is one of the highest-quality drum sets you can get. You won’t find many kits that sound better than this one, making it the premium pick on this list.
The Purpleheart wood is fairly unique, and you won’t find it being used in drums by many other drum companies. It gives these drums an excellent balance of attack, sustain, and sensitivity.
Apart from the sound, another reason this kit works great in a studio is the size of the drums. It’s a 7-piece kit, so you have plenty of configuration options to choose from. You could set the whole kit up or mix and match the drums to get another comfortable setup.
It has all the high-quality features that you’d expect from DW such as the HLVT shell technology, True-Pitch tuning rods, and MAG throw-off on the snare drum. Not forgetting the exceptional build quality across the board.
The DW Collector’s Purpleheart is one of the best-sounding drum kits available, and it’s a pure delight both sonically and visually.
These drums will complement virtually any musical style, but they perform exceedingly well for pop, rock, metal, and other contemporary styles thanks to the bright attacking tones and excellent dynamic range these drums offer.
- Purpleheart shells
- 14” snare, 8”, 10” & 12” rack toms, 14” & 16” floor toms, 23” bass drum
- HLVT shell technology from DW
- Incredible sounding drums with excellent dynamic range
- Different setup options thanks to the large number of drums
- Impressive low to mid-range tones with lots of attack
- Spectacularly expensive
The Gretsch Broadkaster is another classic high-quality studio drum kit option. This kit has been used on hundreds of classic rock records over the years, and Gretsch recently did a rehaul of it by adding a few modern touches.
The drums have 3-ply shells that are a mixture of maple and poplar. The two outer plies are maple while the inner ply is poplar. The combination gives a great wide and open tone which is reminiscent of many vintage drum kits.
You’ll find 30-degree bearing edges on all the drums that help with tuning as well as give the drums a warmer sound.
This is a superb USA-made kit that oozes quality and this kit in particular is renowned for it’s warmer and vintage-style tones that best suits jazz, country, blues, folk, and pop music.
Similar to the Recording Custom, the rack tom also stays mounted on the kick drum. Overall, this is a great vintage kit that is ideal for jazz and rock recordings.
- 3-ply maple/poplar/maple shells
- 14” snare, 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
- 30-degree bearing edges
- Superb warm and vintage tones
- Drums don’t need muffling when tuned properly
- The Broadkaster snare is especially fantastic
- Gretch’s tom mounts aren’t as easily maneuverable as other drum brand mounts
- Not the most versatile drums due to retro sizes
The Tama Starclassic Maple is a professional drum kit beloved by many rock drummers. However, the maple shells work beautifully in studio settings for all styles of music.
The shells are thin, and this helps the drums to produce their powerful and attacking tones. The shells have a cross-lamination structure that helps prevent warping due to the shells being thin. The overall outcome is a solid drum kit with massively responsive drums.
The Tama Starclassic is one of my top recommended professional-level drum sets, and you can find these played by professional drummers both in studios and on stages worldwide.
I really like these drums because they tick all of the boxes. In addition to their excellent sounds, they look fantastic; coming in a wide range of modern finishes, and they are offered in many configurations too.
Furthermore, the swivel-wing tom posts are some of the sturdiest tom mounts that you’ll find, having very little movement whenever you play the toms.
Each drum is also fitted with die-cast hoops, giving them a bright attack and a very clear tone. The die-cast hoops enable them to hold their tuning exceptionally well.
The high-quality design features and the strong tones of the Starclassic Maple make it an ideal studio drum set and at a more affordable price than the previous flagship-level kits offered.
They even come equipped as standard with pro-level Evans G2 clear drum heads on the batter side and G1 heads on the resonant side.
- Thin maple shells
- 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum
- Die-cast hoops
- Excellent sounding drums with bright and attacking tones
- Die-cast hoops are an excellent addition and they hold tuning very well
- The kit comes equipped with pro-quality drumheads as standard
- Doesn’t come with a Starclassic Maple snare drum
The Yamaha Stage Custom is the budget option on the list, but do not be fooled- these drums have the potential to sound fantastic in the studio.
The shells are made from birch which gives them a bright, powerful, and punching tone. These drums sound great when recorded through microphones because of that.
Most of the design features of the Stage Custom are also used in the higher-end Yamaha models, further adding to the quality of this kit. Things like the YESS mounting system and the low-mass lugs all add to the value of the set.
The Yamaha Stage Custom shell pack offers best-in-class sounds as well as hardware.
With clear, punchy tones from lively birch shells, this is the best drum kit option for you to consider if you’re on a tight budget.
- Birch shells
- 10” & 12” rack toms, 16” floor tom, 22” bass drum, 14” snare drum
- YESS mounting system & low-mass lugs
- Most affordable studio kit
- Huge value-for-money, and these shells sound amazing for the price
- Fantastic snare drum included
- Stock drumheads will need to be replaced to get the best possible sounds
Studio Drum Kit Buyer’s Guide
There are numerous great options available when it comes to studio drum sets. Each kit has its own unique sound, and all of them work great in a recording environment.
It’s important to choose the right acoustic drum set for you, based on the sound you’re looking for and your budget.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll share some top things you should consider when looking to buy a studio drum set as well as some features to look for that will help you get the best sound possible when recording.
Features to Look For in a Studio Drum Set
The drum shells are what give the drums their sound, so be sure to choose a kit with shells that you like the sound of. The type of wood and the construction of the shells can make a big difference in the sound of the drums.
High-end recording drum sets utilize various wood types to achieve different sounds. For example, maple shells tend to produce a warm, round sound while birch shells tend to be brighter and have more attack.
Recording drum sets are also made from less commonly used woods like Walnut, Mahogany, Oak, Cherry, and Purpleheart. Each of these woods has its own sonic characteristics that can add a unique flavor to your recordings.
The bearing edges of the drums are also important for producing the right sound. Lots of studio drum sets feature more rounded 30-degree bearing edges than the typical 45-degree bearing edges. This provides them with a warmer tone with a strong fundamental note.
The quality of the hardware is also important. High-quality hardware is much more robust, easier to use, and aids with the overall playability of a drum set. This will help ensure that your drums stay in tune and sound great when recording.
The tension rods, lugs, and counterhoops all have an impact on the overall tuning stability, ease of tuning, and playability of your drums. I particularly like die-cast hoops, which help to produce a clear, defined tone when recording.
The type of tom mount mounting system and also other factors like the bass drum spurs a kit has can also make a difference to the ease of setting up and drum set positioning.
Things to Consider When Buying a Studio Kit
Be Selective with Drumheads
One of the most crucial aspects of a studio drum set is the selection of drumheads on all the drums.
The type of heads you have on the drums have the power to drastically change how the drums get picked up through microphones. So, make sure you put some top-quality heads on the kit.
Luckily, most high-end kits come equipped with high-quality heads already. However, many drummers tend to forget about the bottom heads. The bottom heads will change how the sustain of the drums sounds as well as a few of the overtones.
Every part of the kit gets exposed in a recording environment, so those bottom heads will make a significant difference.
Cymbals are Arguably More Important
While your choice of the drum set is important in studio settings, your choice of cymbals will have a bigger impact on your overall drum kit sound.
The cymbals have the power to make or break a drum mix, so you need to select them appropriately for whatever music you’re recording.
Unlike drums, cymbals cannot be tuned, and unless they are an exceptionally versatile cymbal set like the Zildjian A line, they may not work for all different types of music.
If you’re planning on recording drums often, you should get a decent drum kit that you can use for all of your sessions. You should then get a few varying cymbal options to use for different projects.
Shell Packs Will Often Not Include a Snare Drum
Recording studio kits are typically the flagship models of a manufacturer’s product line. And most often, the high-end drum sets do not include a snare drum.
This is because it is often only the beginner and intermediate-level drum sets that have a snare drum included. Drummers seeking a high-end kit will often already have a good-sounding snare, or even a selection of snare drums to play.
So if you’re on the hunt for a studio drum set, just remember it likely will not include a snare drum, and you’ll need to invest in one separately.
It’s Better to Get an Expensive Kit That Will Last Longer
While most of the kits that have been mentioned above appear to be quite costly, that’s typically the price you need to pay to have a good studio drum set. It’s good to think of it as an investment. The studio kit will stay in the recording space for years and be used for countless recording projects.
The money you pay for it will be well worth all the usage you get out of it. If you end up recording with it for paid projects, you’ll make your money back after a certain amount of time.
Higher-priced kits work better in the studio as they are built with premium woods that offer better tones. Those tones have an extra focus thanks to all the microphones picking the sounds up.
Most drummers dream of having a high-quality studio kit. There’s no better feeling than walking into a room that has a top-quality drum set on display. All the kits mentioned above will have this effect. They also have sounds to match the looks.
Each kit has shell properties that tend to work incredibly well in conjunction with drum microphones. The kits are easy to mix and EQ with as well.