Drum shells are the bread and butter of a drum kit setup. They provide the impactful tones to play rhythms, while cymbals add the flavor. Choosing a drum kit can be daunting with so many options available.
This guide will serve to show you some of the best drum kits and shell packs around. We’ve picked options to cover every budget, as well as drum kits that cover a wide variety of builds and tones.
- 1 Best Drum Sets: Our Top 3
- 2 Best Drum Sets: Individual Reviews
- 3 How to Choose the Best Drum Set
- 4 Final Thoughts on the Best Drum Sets
Best Drum Sets: Our Top 3
The Tama Starclassic Maple is our Overall Top Pick. It’s one of the most widely used professional sets in the music industry, especially with gigging bands. The drums have epic warmth with plenty of projection.
The Pearl Roadshow is our Best Budget Recommendation. It’s the best entry-level drum kit on the market, with a highly affordable price tag and a lot of value for beginner drummers. The included hardware is particularly good.
Lastly, the DW Collector’s Series Pure Oak is our Editor’s Choice. It’s one of DW’s most prized drum kits, with the pure oak shells being quite rare and hard to work with. It’s got so much power and volume, but its wide tuning range makes the kit very versatile.
Best Drum Sets: Individual Reviews
A reliable pro drum set with amazing tones and immaculate build quality.
This kit gives you everything from loud and warm shells to innovative hardware to stunning finish options. It’s truly a fantastic kit option for any drummer.
The Tama Starclassic has been a popular kit in the rock drumming world for years. However, we think it’s an amazing kit for any setting, considering how good it sounds in any tuning.
The three things we love about the kit are its tone, the hardware used on the shells, and the beautiful finish options that Tama gives you.
The maple shells are very thin, causing them to resonate a lot more than most drum kits out there. This makes the drums sing beautifully.
We’re big fans of the die-cast hoops on the drums, which enhance tuning stability but also control the resonating tones very well. All of Tama’s high-end drum kits have die-cast hoops, and they’re always a good addition.
Starclassic kits can easily be identified by their finishes. There’s something about them that just makes the kits look so clean and appealing.
We just wish this kit came with a snare drum. That’s something you’ll need to buy separately.
Verdict: The Tama Starclassic Maple is a beautiful drum set that feels incredible to play on. The toms are highly resonant thanks to their thin shells, but the construction quality makes the drums very durable. This kit is a highly popular option for rock drumming, but we recommend it for any style of music.
The best affordable drum set available to get beginners started.
Pearl has always been the leading brand when it comes to entry-level drum sets, and this kit continues that trend. The full shell sizes, included hardware, and low price tag make this a good set for people looking to start playing the drums.
The Pearl Roadshow provides the ultimate drum kit package. Not only do you get drums, stands, and cymbals, but you also get a drum throne, stick bag, and a solid kick drum pedal.
Out of all the entry-level sets that have been brought out over the years, this is arguably one of the best package deals. For beginner drummers, the poplar tones are perfect. You’ll get a few harsh overtones, but those can be fixed with a bit of muffling on all the drums.
The drum and cymbal stands are solid, thanks to their double-braced legs. They’re the kinds of stands that you can continue using after upgrading from this set eventually.
The big downside of this kit is the included cymbals. They’re cheap brass cymbals with no good tonal qualities to them. We suggest that even beginners upgrade the cymbals as quickly as they can when getting the kit to have a better drumming experience.
Verdict: The Pearl Roadshow is an amazing drum set for beginners that comes with everything you need to start playing after unboxing it. While the quality of the included cymbals is quite low, the value for money of the kit far outweighs any negatives. If you’re looking to start playing the drums, this is the best affordable kit you can get.
A premium set of drums with top-quality construction and some of the best tones you’ll ever hear.
One of the best drum kits that money can buy. The pure oak shells are thunderous, and the quality of all the drums is second to none. It’s a dream set for many drummers.
DW Collector’s Series Drum Kits are made in the US, and many of them are custom-made for drummers that put in orders. However, DW makes some Collector’s Series kits that are highly popular, so they get multiple units shipped out to the world. That’s what we’re looking at here.
This Pure Oak version is an incredible kit with unreal tonal quality. We found these drums to have very punchy attacking tones with a lot of volume, but they also have plenty of richness and depth to them.
This is the type of kit that will turn heads on stages and in studios when people hear you play it. The nickel-plated hardware is an excellent addition, making the drums look even more pristine than they sound.
While the obvious drawback of this set is its lucrative price tag, you should also know that the drums are quite heavyfrom the dense oak wood. You’ll have no issues with weight if the drums are sitting in a studio or practice room but carrying it to gigs may be a struggle if you do it often.
Verdict: The DW Collector’s Series Pure Oak is a dream drum kit. The thunderous tones, immaculate hardware detail, and overall playability make it one of the best kits that we can recommend. It’s incredibly expensive, but when you buy it, you’re getting a kit that will last a lifetime.
A good intermediate drum set that can easily be used in professional settings.
This drum kit has some of the best value out there. It’s very affordable compared to other professional kits, but its sound quality easily compares to them. The punchy birch shells are also a great feature that contrasts all the maple kits found in the same category.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced drum set that sounds for stage performances and studio recording, the Yamaha Stage Custom Birch is a compelling option.
The birch shells have boosted attacking tones. We found that these drums are a lot livelier than maple drums, making this kit stand out a bit more in live playing settings.
Even though the drums are very affordable, the kit has Yamaha’s YESS mounting system that gets used in most of their high-end kits. The mounting system makes it so easy to position the toms comfortably, and they feel more secure than most toms do on other mounting systems in this price range.
We found the stock drumheads to be quite weak, though. You’ll get much better tones and tuning diversity if you replace them with premium two-ply heads.
Verdict: The Yamaha Stage Custom Birch kit is an excellent option for drummers who want something affordable to play professional gigs with. If you have a set budget, you could save money by getting this kit and then spending a bit more on high-quality cymbals. You’ll just need to upgrade the heads as well to get the best tones out of the shells.
A good jazz kit with tones that cater well to other styles as well.
This kit offers you highly sought-after Gretsch features, such as their 30-degree bearing edges, 302 hoops, and North American maple shells. However, it comes at a lower price tag than Gretsch’s flagship kits.
The Gretsch Renown kit has truly unique tones compared to the other kits on this list. While the 7-ply maple shells are the main cause of the warm sounds, it’s more the shell makeup and hardware choices that got us interested.
Firstly, the shells have 30-degree bearing edges, which isn’t very common with drum shells. With less room between the drum shells and drumheads, you get a softer and more controlled sound.
We also love the 302 hoops. Gretsch designs these hoops to act like heavier die-cast hoops, but they don’t cut out the ringing tones as much as die-cast hoops would. This gives you drums that sing, and that’s why this kit is such agood option for jazz drumming.
This is an excellent drum kit if you’re looking for musicality with a bit less power. Just note that the kit doesn’t come with a snare drum. The Renown snare drum is fantastic as well, so it’s unfortunate that it isn’t part of the kit.
Verdict: The Gretsch Renown is a professional drum set with a reasonable price tag. The tones from the drums are slightly mellower than what most modern drum kits offer, making the kit excellent for jazz and other soft styles. The kit has popular Gretsch features that give it a vintage edge.
One of the best compact drum sets on the market.
A small drum set that you can use to play gigs in small venues. Even though the shells are small, they’re powerful and full of tone due to their maple construction.
If you’re looking for a good small kit, the Sonor AQ2 Bop is our top recommendation. The maple shells have warm tones, and we enjoy how they sound when tuned both low and high. You’d be surprised at how much projection comes from the 18-inch kick drum.
The thing that puts this kit above most other compact kits is its construction quality. Sonor makes immaculate sets, and you can feel the German-made construction when playing this kit.
We also value the included snare drum, as other compact kits typically have throw-away snares, but this one can be tuned to sound quite sharp and cracking.
The price tag is quite high compared to other compact drum sets, but it’s worth it if you want something that sounds and feels great.
Verdict: The Sonor AQ2 Bop is one of the best compact drum sets available. It’s a great option to get as a secondary kit to use at gigs with small stages. It’s also a premium kit for children to start learning on. Out of all the compact kits available, it has some of the best construction and tonal quality.
A professional drum set with hybrid shells that give it unique tones.
A fantastic drum set with many build features that you’ll only find in higher-end kits from other brands. The small construction details are what make it so good, with things like air vents, floor tom legs, and suspension mounts all containing premium components.
The great thing about Mapex drum kits is that they offer pristine features in their affordable drum sets. While this kit still sits in the professional price range, it has design features that you’d typically find in drum sets that are $3000 or more.
The hybrid maple and walnut shells are one of its biggest strengths. You get the warmth of maple mixed with the low-end depth of walnut. It’s an epic combination that makes this kit great for studio work.
We found that all the construction features can easily be missed, but they’re what makes the kit as good as it is. Mapex has designed the kit in a way that allows the shells to resonate as much as possible, and that’s what causes the drums to sing when you play them.
Our only gripe is that the kit looks a bit plain compared to other kits in its price range, especially with the white and black finish options.
Verdict: The Mapex Saturn Rock is an excellent hybrid shell kit with world-class construction features. It’s a good option for drummers looking for a bit of tonal diversity compared to all the maple and birch kits in its price range. It’s also a great kit if you want pristine features at a lower price.
A high-quality intermediate set that is good for creating a large drum kit setup.
A 7-piece drum set with powerful maple shells. It’s quite affordable, considering that you get seven drums. It’s a popular option for metal and gospel drummers, as those styles usually require a lot of tom work.
There are a few good 7-piece kits available on the drum kit market. Most of them fall under the intermediate category and have maple shells, so drummers are spoiled for choice. We’ve selected the Tama Superstar Classic as our recommendation as we love both the hardware and the finish options available.
Tama is definitely winning the game when it comes to finishes on their drum kits, as even their intermediate drum sets have highly appealing visuals. You’ll be happy with any of the finishes this kit has to offer.
We found the kick drum to be very punchy, while the toms are resonant but controlled enough to be able to play quick patterns. The snare drum is about as good as an inexpensive snare drum gets, so that’s the first thing you’ll want to upgrade to improve the overall sound of the kit.
Verdict: The Tama Superstar Classic is a 7-piece intermediate drum kit that is a good option for drummers needing a large setup. It’s ideal for metal and gospel drummers, but any beginner or intermediate drummer would be happy with these drums. A pro drummer may find the quality to be lacking compared to higher-end kits.
A large acrylic drum set modeled after John Bonham’s kit.
One of the loudest drum sets out there, with a 26-inch kick drum that fills a room every time you play it. The kit has some of the strongest attacking tones you’ll ever hear, making it ideal for heavy rock drumming.
The Ludwig Vistalite Zep is a truly unique drum set. We were shocked at how large the drums are. Their size, combined with the acrylic shells, makes them sound larger than life.
The setup is modeled after John Bonham’s. He was the drummer for Led Zeppelin and one of the biggest influences in rock drumming history. That also makes this kit an excellent collector’s piece.
It comes with a Ludwig Supraphonic snare to round the setup out. It’s one of the few high-tier drum kits we know of that comes with a snare drum, adding plenty of value to the kit. However, it’s still wildly expensive, and it’s one of the least versatile kits you can get.
Verdict: The Ludwig Vistalite Zep is an epic drum kit option for John Bonham fans. The loud tones make it good for heavy rock, but it sounds too aggressive for most other styles. So, we recommend this kit to collectors or drummers needing one of the loudest drum sets available.
A compact drum set with a unique bass drum size and a floor tom with snare wires.
A compact version of the famous Yamaha Stage Custom Birch. The drum shells are very shallow, giving the kit quick and punchy tones. The floor tom can also be used as an extra snare drum.
If you want a compact kit that still has a large 20-inch bass drum, the Stage Custom Hip is an ideal option. The depth of the kick is just a lot shorter to give it that compact feel.
We love the short depths of all the drums on this kit. They take away a lot of resonance typically found in other kits, making the drums sound short and distinct.
The biggest selling point is the floor tom. It has snare wires and a throw-off, allowing you to play it as a snare drum as well that has a very deep sound.
Verdict: The Yamaha Stage Custom Hip is another good compact drum set option. The short tones and dual snare drum/floor tom make it a fantastic kit to use when playing hip-hop. It’s also great for drummers who need a small kit but still want the feeling of playing a large bass drum.
The most affordable drum set in DW’s luxurious product line.
This kit has many features that are inspired by DW’s higher-end kits. It’s a professional drum kit that gives you the well-known DW quality at an attainable price.
The DW Design Series drum kit is an amazing option if you’re looking for something very reliable with excellent build quality. You get all the goods of DW’s hardware, including the True-Pitch tension rods and MAG snare throw-off.
Those features make the kit feel top-tier when playing it. The maple shells are some of the punchiest ones we’ve heard, and it’s quite easy to get a lot of volume from this set.
We love how the kit comes with a snare drum. DW snare drums are popular options in the drumming world, and this Design Series snare has a throaty growl with plenty of response.
The kit may seem a bit overpriced to many drummers compared to other kits in its segment, though. That’s something that a lot of drummers tend to feel about DW kits. However, it’s an incredible kit if you’re happy with the cost.
Verdict: The DW Design Series drum set is great for drummers who want DW construction quality in a kit that is more affordable than the brand’s Performance and Collector’s Series kits. It’s one of the few pro kits to come with a snare drum as well. However, some drummers may find it to be a bit too expensive compared to similar options.
How to Choose the Best Drum Set
Shell Packs vs Full Drum Sets
Some drum kits are sold as full packages with hardware and cymbals, but all intermediate and pro kits are only sold as shell packs. This means that they only come with toms and a bass drum. Many also come with a snare drum.
Only entry-level kits come with cymbals, and those kits are mostly intended for beginner drummers to use.
So, just note that you’ll need to consider getting cymbals and hardware if you don’t have those already. Hardware includes cymbal stands, a snare drum stand, a throne, and a bass drum pedal.
Drum Shell Material
The type of wood used to make drum shells is the biggest thing that affects their tone. The main woods you’ll find in drum kits are poplar, birch, maple, oak, and mahogany.
Each wood has different tonal characteristics, so it’s good to know what those are when buying a drum set.
Poplar is only used in inexpensive drum kits, and it gives drums a balanced tone that isn’t very rich or complex. Maple gives drums warm tones, and birch gives them sharper attacking tones.
Mahogany drums have a lot of low-end, while oak drums have heavy volume as well as rich tones.
You should check the size of each drum when buying a kit. Larger drums are louder with more resonance. Smaller drums have less of an impact, but they’re easier to transport.
The safest thing to do is to get a standard-size drum kit. This would include rack toms that are 10” and 12”, a snare drum that is 14”, a floor tom that is 16”, and a bass drum that is 22”.
However, getting sizes that are different from those may cater better to the settings that you play in. Compact drum sets have extreme size differences, and they’re great for setting up a kit in a tight space.
The construction makeup of a kit is the biggest determining factor of its quality after the shell material. The best kits all have premium hoops, lugs, bearing edges, and mounting hardware.
Every brand offers different innovative designs with their shell construction, so it’s good to read up on those things to see how they affect the kit.
The better the construction of the kit is, the easier the drums will be to tune. They’ll also stay in tune for longer.
This is also why higher-end kits don’t need to be muffled as much as cheaper ones do. It’s easier to get amazing tones without tampering with the drumheads.
The most reliable brands for drum kits are Mapex, DW, PDP, Yamaha, Tama, Pearl, Gretsch, Ludwig, and Sonor. You’ll be able to find excellent kits from any of those brands that cover a wide range of budgets.
Getting a kit from one of those brands is the best way to ensure that you’re getting high-quality and trusted construction. The more you spend on a kit, the higher its quality will be, but it’s good to know that the quality is good in the most affordable kits from the brands as well.
We highly suggest sticking with these brands if you want a drum set that will last a long time.
Final Thoughts on the Best Drum Sets
Choosing a drum kit is a highly personal experience. With so many options out there, you’re sure to find one that suits your budget and needs.
The Tama Starclassic Maple is our Top Overall Pick, thanks to its remarkable tonal quality and popularity within the music industry. The Pearl Roadshow is our Best Budget Option, as it comes with everything a beginner drummer needs with an incredibly affordable price tag.
The DW Collector’s Series Pure Oak is our Editor’s Choice. It’s one of the best drum kits that DW makes, and it’s a dream drum kit for so many drummers.