The Highest Rated Electronic Drum Sets Under $500
Alesis Debut Kit
- Button style pedals are a bit finnicky
- Can be outgrown quickly because of its small size
- Compact drum kit for small spaces
- Student friendly features
- USB MIDI out for drum education software
- Great feeling mesh heads
First on our list we have the Alesis Debut Kit. Aimed squarely at younger beginners and smaller players, this kit is designed to be the ultimate learning tool with a tiny footprint for small budgets.
It sports mesh heads, a plethora of sounds, and 60 free lessons from Melodics. The module comes with 10 preset kits, a built-in metronome and an integrated drum coach feature to help build your timing. It also comes with everything you need to start drumming, including the sticks, headphones and the drum throne.
Along with the great feel of the mesh heads, the USB midi out is useful for triggering drum kits and drum education software on their PC and tablets.
The button style pedals are a bit finnicky to trigger with your feet. They could have done more with the Melodics partnership with users reporting only 5 minutes a day of free lessons even with the promo code. I feel this is a missed opportunity to provide value beyond just promoting another product.
The Debut would be a perfect choice for all budding musical families, if not for its small size which makes it slightly unergonomic for larger players. Still, this is a good pick if you have drastic space limitations.
Good to start for younger players but due to the limitations in size, you might outgrow this kit fairly quickly. If you want that Alesis goodness with better ergonomics for adult sized beginners, I'd recommend the Nitro Mesh.
- 4 x 6-inch Adjustable Mesh Head Drums
- 3 x 10-inch Cymbals
- Bass Drum and Hi-Hat Floor Pedals
- Sturdy metal mounting rack
- DM-Lite drum module with 10 kits and 120 sounds
- Connect to a computer or music player for play-along via USB-MIDI Output
- 2 x 1/4" Output, 1 x 1/8" Headphones Output, 1 x 1/8" Aux Input
- Drum throne, sticks, headphones, and cabling included
- Melodics learning software included
Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit
- Mesh heads can be springy if not tuned properly
- Cables are a bit thin
- Needs headphone amp for high impedance headphones
- Good value for money
- Tunable mesh heads
- Versatile sound options and easy to use
- With USB and MIDI connectivity
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit gives you quite a lot for the money. As the name implies it features all-mesh pads along with a hi-hat, crash cymbal and ride.
The 8" dual-zone snare features mesh material that gives it a feel closer to an acoustic snare than regular rubber pads. The same material is also used on the kit's three 8" mesh toms. Completing the set are three 10" cymbals, a hi-hat pedal and kick pedal with a tower. All of these are mounted on its four-post rack, which is a definite plus if you like to strike your drums hard. While the posts are tough, the cables are a bit thin, so proper handling and cable setup is needed.
The mesh heads have a springy trampoline feel to them that might not be for everyone, but they're tunable so you can mitigate this somewhat by dialing in the tension to taste.
All of these connect to the Alesis Nitro drum module which offers 40 drum kit sounds, 385 individual sounds, and 60 play along tracks right out of the box. More importantly, all these features are easy to access, making this kit viable even for those zero e-drum experience.
Other features include built-in metronome, headphones out, Aux input, USB and MIDI connectivity. Its included MIDI input/output separate from the USB-MIDI output and 2 inputs for pad expansion provides unrivaled connectivity in its price range. Note that the headphones out is meant for low impedance earphones. Volume will be noticeably lower when using high impedance headphones, or when you use headphones with built-in mics and a non-TRS plug. You'll need a dedicated headphone amplifier to achieve proper volume levels. I personally use an Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for quiet practice.
All things considered, the Nitro Mesh is what I personally recommend. It is the best electronic drum set for under $500 you can get barring the second hand market. Good job Alesis! I've gigged with this and it's very usable for an entry level kit. The sounds are limited and I wouldn't go as far as to say that they are "real" sounding but I would use it in a pinch for live performance like I did in this video:
Me playing the Alesis Nitro Mesh in a live recorded performance:
- 1 x 8" Dual-zone Mesh Snare Pad
- 3 x 8" Mesh Tom Pads
- Kick Pad Tower
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- 10" Crash Pad
- 10" Ride Pad
- Hi-Hat Pedal and Kick Pedal
- Alesis Nitro Drum Module with 385 sounds
- 40 Preset kits
- 60 built-in play-along tracks
- USB/MIDI connection for using it as a MIDI controller with your computer
- 2 x 1/4" Output, 1 x 1/8" Headphone output, 1 x 1/8" Aux Input, 1 x MIDI Input, 1 x MIDI Output, 2 x 1/4" Pad Expansion Input
|Music Radar||Tom Bradley||80/100|
- Older release that still uses rubber pads
- Single-zone snare
- Reliable and durable beginner friendly drum kit
- Responsive rubber heads with good rebound
- Seamless integration with drum software
- Chokeable cymbals
The Yamaha DTX402K was released in 2018 and while not quite as popular as the newer Alesis options (likely due to being priced higher than them) it has been well received by those who bought it.
This is one of the entry-level descendants of the electronic drums I currently have at home, the DTXpress 1 launched in the year 2000. And it retains what's good with Yamaha electronic drums, with rubber heads that are responsive and durable - a no-frills solution to triggering.
They don't feel like real acoustic drums, but in this case they don't have to, because thy are good enough for novice to intermediate level drumming. I even use the pads with the module turned off, the rebound is nice enough to get a late night drum workout. While this kit is aimed at students, even experienced drummers like myself still find good use with this kit.
It lacks a dual-zone snare but partly makes up for that with chokeable cymbals - a feature beginners are more likely to use. The rubber pads can be a deal-breaker for those who prefer the feel of mesh heads.
Another good feature of this kit is its seamless integration with drum sample software. Being able to edit and create your own kits on the drum module (using the DTX402 Touch App) gives this more tweakability than some of the cheaper options.
An old photo of my Yamaha DTXpress 1 that features similar rubber pads. Apart from the slightly louder sound I've never had a problem with the feel.
If you want a bit more flexibility with your sound setup, and you don't mind the rubber pads, this is a solid option from a reputable company.
- 1 x 8" Single Zone Snare Pad
- 3 x 8" Single Zone Tom Pad
- 2 x 10" Cymbal Pads With Choke
- 10" Hi-Hat Pad
- Hi-Hat Pedal
- Kick Button Pedal
- DTX 402 Drum Module With 10 Customizable Preset Kits
- 415 Percussion Sounds
- 9 Reverb Types
- 10 Play-Along Songs
- 10 Training Functions
- USB-MIDI Output
- 1/4" stereo out for Headphones
- 1/8" Aux Input
- iOS and Android app for training features and customization
- iOS only Rec'n Share App for recording and publishing YouTube videos
I know this is beyond our price range but this list would be remiss without mentioning the top brand in electronic drums, Roland - so I wanted to place this as an aspirational choice in case your budget can accommodate it.
Roland V-Drums TD-1DMK
- Basic module with just 15 kits
- Limited audio output options
- Great feeling 2-ply mesh heads
- Responsive chokeable cymbals and kick pad
- Professional and authentic sounding kits
- Reliable and feels solid
Straying a bit from our hypothetical budget of below $500 is the Roland TD-1DMK. For the extra money, you get a great Roland kit with 2-ply mesh heads. It doesn't come with a kick pedal, drumsticks, throne or external speaker but you do get a great quality electronic drum set.
The strength of this kit is its quality mesh heads, which feel much closer to an acoustic drum head. It has good bounce and has impressive sensitivity, similar to more premium e-drum kits. The kick pad is also quite good, it's small and attached to the main rack, but it has good sensitivity and wide enough to accommodate double pedals. You also get good control over your sound on the chokeable cymbals and hi-hat. I'm not a fan of the hi-hat pedal, it would've been nice if it used a mechanical hi-hat stand.
Configuration wise it might be similar to the offerings of Donner, I wouldn't be surprised if Donner patterned it off this and other Roland e-sets, but the quality and robustness of this kit more than makes up for the price bump.
The main downer for this kit is the limited features found in its module. It only has 15 kits, and there's not a lot of customization available. It doesn't have a 1/4" or XLR output, the only audio output is a 1/8" out for headphones, and even that requires a dedicated headphone amp to work properly. It's like you're getting professional quality heads and cymbals, paired with a basic practice module. Thankfully, the included 15 kits sound professional and authentic, which at the end of the day, is the most important factor. The module can be swapped to a stage ready one, but they are priced much higher.
Given that this is from Roland, it's a given that this kit can last you for years. So if the brand means anything to you, it might be worth it to jump up to the TD-1DMK. This is a good albeit pricier option for beginners, if you want to explore other options at this price range, do check out our guide to The Best Electronic Drum Sets.
Roland TD-1DMK set up on stage
- 1 x 8" Dual-zone Snare Pad With 2-ply Mesh Head
- 3 x 6" Single-zone Tom Pad With 2-ply Mesh Head
- 1 x Kick Pad Compatible With Double Kick Pedal (Kick Pedal Not Included)
- 3 x 10" Dual-zone Cymbal Pads With Choke(Plus Hi-hat Control Pedal)
- Four-post type rack stand, MDS
- TD-1 Drum Module With 10 Trigger Inputs, 15 Drum Kits, 15 Songs
- Coach, Metronome and Recording Functions
- 1/8" Stereo Input
- 1/8" Stereo Output
Electronic Drum Set Still Not Quiet Enough?
The rubber drum pads found on electronic drum sets are much quieter than acoustic drums, mesh pads even more so, but sometimes the sound transmitted through the floor from the pedals and rack can still be troublesome.
To prevent as much noise as possible being transmitted to the floor it's best to have a mini drum riser with some isolation padding between your drums and the floor. This is often done by sandwiching tennis balls between two sheets of plywood or MDF.
Here's a video showing a basic home-made sound isolation drum riser that didn't require tools other than a drill:
Here's a more complicated option, but more stable:
Things To Consider When Buying An Entry-Level Electronic Drum Set
- Most electronic kits don't include a few of the essentials you need so make sure to leave room in your budget for any of the following items that you don't already have:
- Drum Sticks These come in different weights with 5A being the most popular - check out our Drum Stick Guide.
- Drum Throne This is what a drummer's stool is called - they are much better than regular chairs and you can find the highest rated ones in our Drum Throne Guide.
- Headphones or Amplifier Most electronic drum kits don't provide sound on their own, instead you have to plug your drum's brain or sound module into headphones or an amplifier. To practice quietly (and not annoy the neighbors) get yourself a set of closed-back headphones - I personally use the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. If you're going to play with other musicians or just want to enjoy the sound of your drums in the room, you'll need an amplifier. There are a range of different amps that are good for drums - see our guide to Drum Amps and for further information read Things To Consider When Buying An Amplifier For Electronic Drums.
- If you want to use it as a MIDI controller or to record drums directly on your computer then you'll need one that sends out MIDI, which in this price range will usually be MIDI over USB. All of the kits on this list have this feature. This is the best way to break free from the built in sounds of your e-drum kit and start getting into the world of music production.
- Drum pads with multiple zones are ones which you can hit in different areas to trigger different sounds. Zones are usually concentric circles. For example a snare pad with multiple zones allows you to play regular snare sounds as well as selecting a rim-shot sound for the outer circle. The more zones you can get the wider the sound pallet is that you can work with in a single preset or custom kit saved in your sound module.
- Some electronic kits come with cymbals you can choke - this means that after you strike them you can grab them with your hand and the cymbal sound will immediately stop just like with an acoustic kit. Some of the cheaper models don't have this option so read the details carefully if this is something you want.
- Some electronic drum sets come with a kick drum pedal that is triggered by a button on the bottom of the pedal and some that act more like a conventional kick drum pedal with a tower trigger that is struck with a beater. There are some pros and cons to each variation like the conventional kind (kick tower) is closer to the feel of acoustic drums but can produce a louder sound than the kick button type, so be sure to consider this when making your selection.
Complete List of Gear You Need to Start Drumming
Kick Tower or Kick Button Pedal
Beginner Electronic Drum Set Selection Methodology
The first Edition was published in 2016 and the current Edition was published on April 21, 2022.
We looked at all electronic drum sets currently selling at major American online music gear retailers for less than $500 and placed the 20 most promising on our short-list for closer analysis - see the list in the Music Gear Database. We then looked at ratings, reviews, videos and forum discussions about them, which tallied to over 15,700 sources from regular users and experts, including the most recent data up to late mid April of 2022. All these data were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. Finally we selected the highest rated options to recommend above. For more information about our unique methods please read How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. I also studied music for 6 years majoring in percussion and jazz studies with a minor in classical piano.
The drumming gear I use includes Zildjian Cymbals, Gretsch Drums (acoustic), Yamaha electronic drum set, Evans Heads, Pearl Hardware and Vic Firth Sticks and Earplugs.
The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.
Except for the Yamaha DTXpress which was photographed by Alden Acosta and the Roland TD-1DMK set up on stage which was photographed by Alexander Briones, the individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.