Last Updated on December 9, 2020 by Dave Tudor
Because we’re at the low end of the drum spectrum here there are inevitable compromises between price and quality. It’s unavoidable. After all, a decent Zildjan cymbal could cost as much as an entire cheap drum kit. Something’s got to give somewhere.
We feel your pain. Trying to find a cheap drum set that’s decent quality and fun to play without vexing the bank manager is challenging. Luckily we’ve done all the legwork for you and unearthed seven of the best drum kits around aimed squarely at the beginner.
Can’t wait? The overall winner is: the Pearl Roadshow New Fusion five piece drum set
Cheap drum kits exist mainly for one specific purpose: to establish if you like drumming or not. All the kits in this review can be upgraded relatively cheaply so once you’ve had a taste and you’re hooked, you can spend a few extra bucks and prolong the shelf life of the kit.
If not, you can take up the cello!
The observant among you will see a common thread with all the kits in this review: they’re all a bit lacking in cymbal and drum head quality – and there’s the compromise folks. The good news is that this can be easily remedied pretty inexpensively.
- First we had to establish what we considered to be a ‘cheap drum set’? We decided on an upper limit of $500
- Another consideration was what actually ships with the drums: cymbals, sticks, stools, hardware, pedals?
- We focused on the drums rather than the cymbals which is a known Achilles heel with beginner drum kits. The winners in this review actually sound pretty decent
- Following on from this, can the kits be upgraded comparatively easily and cheaply?
1. Overall Winner: Pearl Roadshow New Fusion
With the Peal Roadshow 5-piece we’re stepping up a notch in terms of quality and even the horrible cymbals that have blighted practically all of the kits in this review are a bit less horrible with this drum set. This means for the beginner it’s totally usable.
The Pearl is an all-in-one solution for wannabe drummers comprising bass drum, two toms, a floor tom, snare, two cymbals – crash/ride and hi-hat – all hardware and pedals, stool and sticks. Nice touches include dual-reinforced stands, double-braced legs and interlocking tilter adjustments to keep everything where it should be.
9-ply, 7mm bonded hardwood shells have been used to produce this kit so it’s tough enough to square up to hard hitting drummers. The drums sound crisp and deep and the kick in particular features an extended tuning range for an altogether trouser wobbling low end.
As with all the other cheap drum sets in this review, you will, at some point want to change the cymbals and heads but we reckon the Pearl will give you a bit longer before that time arrives. That’s a definite positive.
Staying with positive, there’s some excellent videos on YouTube covering all important aspects of getting the best out of the Pearl Roadshow, like assembly, hardware assembly and tuning. The presenters are no slouches either: Nate Morton, drummer for the house band of NBC TV’s The Voice, and Korn’s drum meister Ray Luzier.
- A well-constructed, solid kit with good hardware
- Properly tuned, It’s a very nice sounding kit
- Mediocre rather than dire cymbals. Yes this is a positive
- Really helpful YouTube videos for assembly and tuning advice
- Good value for money
- For the money hardly any. You’ll outgrow the cymbals and skins at some point
The Pearl Roadshow is a little more expensive than the really cheap drum sets included in this review, but as we’ve emphasized, everything has its place. This is a definite step up and the extra outlay is totally worth it.
We think this is the best beginner kit currently available.
2. Recommended: Mapex Rebel
Mapex have emerged as a key player in the drumming universe and deservedly so. Their kits are well-made, sound excellent and are competitively priced.
The Rebel is targeted at the budget end of the market you get a fair old bang for your buck: drums, cymbals, stands, sticks, stool and pedals for hi-hat and bass drum. This is a relatively cheap drum kit that’s not short on quality. And it won’t break the bank.
The shells are manufactured from 7.2mm thick, 9-ply poplar so they’re impressively substantial offering good tone and resonance. It’s a conventional five piece kit – with two toms, floor tom, kick drum, snare, 14” hi-hat and 16” crash/ride. Double braced stands for rigidity are a nice touch.
The bass drum/pedal combo works especially well – the poplar bass drum shell paired with the soft muffling Remo bass drum head provides loads of bottom end.
The Remo drum heads aren’t the best but they’re adequate. They’re easily (and cost-effectively replaceable). It’s the same story with the cymbals. This tends to be the area where compromises are made but cymbals on the Rebel are much better than many we’ve seen on budget kits.
Properly tuned, there’s not much to choose between the Mapex Rebel and the Pearl Roadshow. On sound alone we’d say the Pearl has the edge – but only just. The cymbals are marginally (but not crucially) a bit better on the Pearl.
- Great value for money
- A drum throne is included
- High quality shells with lots of lugs. Makes tuning more precise and quicker
- Sounds better than a sub-$500 kit
- Hard to be critical. We expect low quality cymbals and skins with cheap drum kits
Definitely one of the best budget drum kits in this review. This is one of the top beginner kits around. Our runner-up behind the Pearl Roadshow.
3. Best Value for Money: Lagrima 5-piece Drum Set
Price-wise, with the Lagrima 5-piece drum set we’re down as low as we really want to go – but for the money, it’s hard to complain. Aside from the Best Choice Products 1263, it’s the cheapest kit in this list.
What you get here is essentially a gilt-edged opportunity to dip your toe into the world of drumming. If you like it, you can upgrade the cymbals and skins and transform this into a half decent kit. If you don’t – well you haven’t really lost much.
For not much cash though you do get real wood shells finished off in high gloss which is a good foundation to build on. Skins can easily be replaced and there’s no shortage of choice from manufacturers like Remo and Evans . There’s a 22 x 16” kick drum; 12” x 10” and 13” x 11” tom toms; a 16” x 16” floor tom and a 14” x 5.5” snare. The toms are adjustable which is a nice touch at this price. Completing the inventory is a rather rickety drum stool, a set of sticks, bass drum pedal, a crash/ride cymbal, hi-hats and cymbal stands.
The nice thing about this kit is that whilst it’s labelled as an adult sized drum set, it’s perfectly fine for kids as well – we would say from about nine years old upwards. There are things you can do to make even a cheap drum set sound better. This video is certainly worth a watch.
- Quite simply the price is the standout feature. For adults and kids alike it’s a really cost-effective way to sample the delights of bashing away on a real drum kit. It’s not pro quality; hell it’s not even intermediate quality; but it doesn’t pretend to be
- It’s actually quite a solid kit. Cymbal stands and hardware is pretty sturdy. Bass drum pedal works fine. It’ll withstand quite a bit of abuse
- The cymbals and drum skins, as with most budget kits are where most manufacturers save money and the Lagrima is no exception. You get what you pay for – but you can upgrade pretty inexpensively
- The drum stool is terrible and likely to disintegrate mid-performance. You need to be comfortable and well-supported during your drumming endeavors so treat yourself to something like this
- The instructions are non-existent. You get a link to a video which isn’t much help. Fortunately it’s pretty easy to put together
- The drums are prone to ringy overtones and sound a bit wild – but you can dampen down the bass drum with towels and use strategically placed duct tape on the drum heads. That should improve things
We think that on the bang-for-buck-ometer, this Lagrima 5-piece kit on the money. As long as you accept it for what it is – a total noob kit – you won’t be disappointed. Just have fun playing it. It really doesn’t matter that you’ll probably want to change/upgrade this kit with better cymbals and drum skins after about a year. It wins our value award because, cutting to the chase, we reckon it represents one of the most painless routes there is into playing the drums.
Ludwig has been manufacturing high quality drum kits since 1909 so it knows a thing or two about great sounding drums. Perhaps its two most famous users are none other than Ringo Starr and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
The Ludwig Accent five piece kit is its entry-level offering. The drum shells are manufactured from five ply hardwood and comprise two toms (8” x 10” and 9” x 12”), a 16” x 16” floor tom, 5” x 14” snare and 16” x 22” kick drum.
All hardware is included along with frying pans (cymbals), a drum throne and sticks.
You’ve probably guessed by now we don’t like the hi-hat and crash cymbals. They’re cheap, sound pretty awful and you’ll need to replace them – but you knew that already. Ludwig could do themselves a big favor by hiking the price by $100 and including some decent cymbals.
The real strength with the Ludwig Accent however is the quality of the drums themselves. Properly tuned, they just sound good – full and loud. Overall a great beginner set. They’ve got that quality that just makes you want to play them – and they feel really durable and hardwearing.
The now standard pillow stuffed into the bass drum will improve its sound no end. It’s far too clangy and resonant played undampened.
- The price is worth is for the drums alone. Expect to shell out another $100 on cymbals
- The name. Ludwig is an iconic brand
- Those cymbals
- Non-adjustable stool
- No instructions included but some good tutorial videos on YouTube
A pretty good kit let down tragically by you know what. Trash the crash, hoof the hi-hat and you’ve got yourself a good, cheap drum set that’s really fun to play.
OK, so this is a cheap drum set by anyone’s standards but the nice thing is that everything is included. Take it out of the box, assemble and bash away to your heart’s content.
It’s all there – snare, bass drum, two rack toms, floor tom, high-hats and ride cymbal, drum stool/throne, drum sticks, bass drum pedal, chrome plated hardware, sturdy shells, chain-driven pedals and a partridge in a pear tree!
So this is a drum set that was designed with one thing in mind – to enable budding tub thumpers to play a half decent kit whilst they decide if they like it or not. For that, it ticks all the boxes and it looks pretty decent, but don’t get too excited.
At this price compromises have inevitably been made. The drums sound half decent but the cymbals are pretty awful – especially the crash. You’ll want to upgrade before long – and it’s the same with the skins. Consider shelling out (pun intended) on something like Reno Ambassadors – and throw a towel in the bass drum to tame those resonations.
- Ideal for beginners. This is the target market and it’s fit for purpose
- You can spend a little extra on better cymbals, sticks and skins and improve the sound immensely
- It’s actually pretty well constructed and relatively easy to assemble
- Pretty dire sounding cymbals, especially the crash
- The stool. Don’t trust it if you weigh more than a bag of sugar
- We’ll lay money on you outgrowing this drum set sooner rather than later
It’s hard to be over critical about this Best Choice Products drum set because it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, but we can’t recommend this unquestionably cheap drum kit for anyone other than a beginner.
However for this target audience it’s fine and it can be improved significantly with better cymbals and skins. Personally we’d rather spend a bit more to start with.
The Bottom Line
We can’t emphasize enough that all of this drum sets listed in this review will sound dreadful if they’re not properly tuned. Take some time to learn how to do this; it’s a skill that will serve you well throughout your entire drumming life. We like this precision drum tuner from DrumDial.
This video is a great reference point:
The Pearl Roadshow New Fusion is our worthy winner with the Mapex Rebel in second place, but overall, from a general perspective, we were mightily impressed by just how much you get for your money with any of the contenders on this list.
There’s literally no excuse not to give one of these kits a try.