The future of music

10 Best Drum Sets

December 29, 2023
best drum sets

Are you a drummer looking for a new set, but don’t know where to look? No matter your skill level, we’ve got you covered.

There are so many great drum sets out there in 2023, and it’s important that you find the right one to invest in that’ll suit your needs.

But remember, the best doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive.

Depending on your skill level and requirements, different ranges may be best suited to different people.

We know that every drummer wants a high-quality kit that will last them for years through their drumming journey.

That is why we’ve comprised this list of the ten best drum sets in 2023 so that you can make an informed decision.

We will then discuss some key points about drum sets, and help to answer some of your burning questions.

1. Yamaha Stage Custom Birch

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch

The Yamaha Stage Custom has been a favorite mid-priced kit for years, and the birch shells have catapulted this even further.

The shells are 6-ply and 6.6mm in thickness, and Yamaha spared no detail with the diagonal seams and forty-five degree bearings.

Birch shells are well loved for their focused sound, and the toms and bass drum are full-on, and fat sounding.

The snare offers a bright performance, and the sound has been described as immaculate.

This great-looking kit comes in pure white, raven black, cranberry red, honey amber, and natural wood finishes, allowing it to suit any style of home with ease.

The solid engineering makes this a drum set that won’t let you down in a hurry, and the reasonably affordable price of $/£700-800 makes it well worth the purchase.

2. Ludwig Breakbeats

Ludwig Breakbeats

This mini-kit is known to be one of the best out there for those just beginning their acoustic journey.

The Ludwig Breakbeats is comprised of a sixteen by fourteen-inch bass drum, and ten by seven-inch rack tom, a thirteen by thirteen-inch floor tom, and a fourteen by five-inch snare.

With seven-ply poplar shells, this set feels solid to play and the hardware feels sturdy.

It has been praised for its distinctive vintage sound, its strong bass drum, and its crisp and gritty snare.

It is an intensely stylish kit, coming in white sparkle, black sparkle, azure blue sparkle, red sparkle, and SaharaSwirl finishes. 

This small set may not allow you to coax quite the same notes out as a larger set, but it does a pretty good job of holding its own.

Priced at around $/£600, it is affordable and perfect for a beginner acoustic drummer or even a child.

3. Tama Imperialstar

Tama Imperialstar

The Tama Imperialstar range is one of the most popular ranges for beginner and intermediate drummers, thanks to their affordable price and versatile sounds.

It features solid 7.5mm, eight-ply poplar shells, which produce a sharp and powerful sound.

Tuning is easy with its precision bearing edges, and there are even two configurations and three bass drum sizes to choose from.

This is an extremely customizable and versatile buying experience.

Poplar shells tend to be better value for money than birch or maple, however, they can sometimes lack in sound quality.

They still sound great, so for a beginner or intermediate player this isn’t a problem.

It comes in a range of finishes, including black oak, natural zebrawood, vintage white sparkle, candy apple mist, hairline black, and hairline blue.

This is a stylish-looking kit in a range of configurations and sizes, so it will suit crowded venues or just at home.

The kits range in price from $/£600-$/£1000, so you have a lot of choices depending on your budget.

Overall, this is a great drum set with versatility and style on its side.

4. Gretsch Catalina Club 

Gretsch Catalina Club 

The Gretsch Catalina Club is an affordable drum set that brings a vintage vibe.

With 7.2mm, 7-ply shells made out of Mahogany, the sound is beautiful if you can get the tuning right.

The fourteen-inch bass drum is one of the best things about this configuration, bringing smooth tones to pull your arrangement together.

The thirty-degree bearing edge adds some vintage flare, while the modern hardware is sturdy and hardy.

The finishes available are blue satin flame, yellow satin flame, bronze sparkle, gloss crimson burst, piano black, satin antique fade, and satin walnut glaze, so it is stylish and fits into any home.

It is affordably priced at around $/£600, making it a great investment for those who are looking for a drum set with a vintage twang.

5. Pearl Export EXX

Pearl Export EXX

The Pearl Export EXX expands on the former Pearl Exports with upgraded shells, new lungs, a new tom bracket, and a recreated hardware package.

This more compact model allows the shells to breathe better.

At a reasonably affordable price – $/£899 – many would assume that the shells are poplar.

However, they’re made from the esteemed Asian mahogany with an inner lining of semi-hard red wood, which creates a rich and warm tone.

The tom heads are transparent Remos made in China, which are known for their depth of sound.

The best thing about this kit is the way it has a sound of no lower quality than sets of higher prices, meaning you don’t have to suffer because of your budget.

It comes in smokey chrome, jet black, arctic sparkle, black cherry glitter, and high voltage blue finishes, with a colored wrap as opposed to the gloss finish of previous models.

Overall, this is an entry-level kit with an excellent hardware package and an awesome mahogany/popular mixture of sounds, all at a reasonable price. 

6. Mapex Saturn

Mapex Saturn

If you’re into gigging or recording, the Mapex Saturn is one of the best drum sets out there.

The Saturn features hybrid shells comprised of maple and walnut, and a SONIClear bearing edge. 

The inner edges are trimmed to forty-five degrees for the rack toms and sixty for the floor toms, and they have rounded out the edges to achieve greater contact between the head and shell which in turn coaxes maximum depth out of the drums.

The tom batter heads are dual-ply Emperors, with single-ply ambassadors on the resonant side.

These twin-ply heads contribute to the great sound, making the Mapex Saturn a great choice for gigging or recording.

On top of that, it comes in Satin Black Maple Burl, Cherry Mist Maple Burl, Amber Maple Burl, Deep Water Maple Burl, and Natural Maple Burl finishes.

7. Sonor AQ2

Sonor AQ2

The Sonor AQ2 is an excellent all-rounder that excels at just about everything.

It is basically a beginner-friendly kit that can do a lot of things that the more expensive sets can do.

The seven-ply, 7.2mm shells are made of maple, precisely four plies of Canadian maple and three-plies of Asian maples.

Sonor used its very own SmartMount system with a forty-five-degree bearing edge which gives it a modern and bright feel.

There are plenty of preset configurations available, but you can also buy the AQ2 drums separately to recreate your personal favorite configuration.

It also comes in gorgeous Titanium Quarz, brown fade, transparent black, white marine pearl, and aqua silver burst finishes.

Priced at between $/£700-$/£999, it’s a great deal for the rich tone and great quality maple shells.

8. Pearl Masters Maple Complete

Pearl Masters Maple Complete

Pearl created the Masters Maple Complete, which stands up against some of the more expensive models without breaking the bank.

It features a six ply all-maple hat, and the shells have been designed with a reduced thickness of 5.4mm.

The shells are made from cross-laminated North American maple, and their EvenPly nature created a responsive sound with high projection.

They also feature a forty five degree bearing edge, and the set boasts 2.3mm SuperHoop II hoops and bridge-style CL lugs.

The Pearl Masters Maple COmplete comes in Chrome Contrail, Ice Blue Oyster, Matte Caviar Black, Satin Sakura Coral, and Almond Red Stripe finishes for a tidy and modern look.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this set is just a shell pack, a snare is an optional extra.

Priced at between $/£1000-$/£2000, depending on where you buy it from and if you go for the snare, this drum set is one of the best.

9. Tama Starclassic Performer

Tama Starclassic Performer

Tama wanted to make a great performance drum set and they certainly delivered, mixing maple and birch shells and including the Starcast mounting system and die-cast hoops that we know so well.

The shells are six millimeters thick for the toms and snares and seven millimeters for the bass drum, and the clarity comes from the four plies of birch and five on the bass drum.

The two inner plies of maple provide warmth to the tone.

It comes in many preset configurations and sizes, however, you can order each part separately to customize your experience. 

Since this drum set is created for gigging, it comes in a multitude of gorgeous finishes including: 

  • Lacquer Phantasm Oyster
  • Lacquer Arctic Blue Oyster
  • Satin Purple Atmosphere Fade
  • Satin Burgundy Fade
  • Satin Sapphire Fade
  • Transparent Mocha Fade
  • Lacquer Ocean Blue Ripple
  • Molten Brown Burst, Piano Black
  • Jade Silk
  • Red Oyster
  • Ice Blue Pearl
  • Charcoal Onyx
  • Vintage Marine Pearl

It’s a little pricer than some of the other models in this list at $/£1099 and upwards, but we think it’s well worth it.

10. Gretsch Renown

Gretsch Renown

The Gretsch Renown got it right with its classic Formula maple shells and thirty-degree bearing edges, alongside resonance-prompting double-flanged Gretsch 302 hoops. 

This drum set feels and looks classy with tapered T-wing thumbscrews and Gretsch G cast memory locks.

The heads included are Remo P3s on the bass drum, clear emperors on the toms, and a coated ambassador on the snare toms.

At high tension, this drum set sounds funky and quirky, and at low tunings, it has a rich and beefy tone that is highly customisable.

It comes in Copper Sparkle, Turquoise Sparkle, Cherry Burst, Gloss Natural, Piano Black, Satin Tobacco Burst, Silver Oyster Pearl, and Vintage Pearl finishes. 

At just upwards of $/£1500, the Gretsch Renown is a tonal chameleon that is definitely worth checking out.

Now that we’ve completed our list of the ten best drum sets in 2023, let’s dive into some common questions about drum sets so that you have all of the information.

Buying Your First Drum Set

A starter drum kit is likely to be a five piece set, including a bass or kick drum, two rack toms, a floor tom, and a snare drum.

You want to avoid confusion as a beginner, and you’re likely not looking at the high-end kits.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many more professional sets won’t include a snare drum, and you’ll have to buy it separately.

You’ll also be looking at a set of cymbals and stands, which you should factor into the price.

Luckily, on the market in 2023, most retailers will offer a complete package of everything you need, often including drum sticks and a drum throne. 

How Should I Set Up My Drum Set?

Setting up your drum set properly is crucial since it establishes the foundation for all of your performance.

To produce the best sound and prevent harm, you must be completely comfortable. 

First of all, the drum stool or drum throne should be the appropriate height so that your legs are comfortably bent but not tucked in.

The bass drum should also be at sitting level.

The remaining drums and cymbals can then be set up so they are within easy striking distance.

To hit them effectively, you shouldn’t be extending or retracting your arm.

The majority of drum sets will have a manual or guide to help you set them up correctly, but if you’re unsure there are plenty of videos and guides online to aid you.

How to Tune Your Drum Set

Although tuning a drum set may not sound like a thrilling task, it is one of the most crucial tasks.

If it’s done poorly, you won’t get the most out of your set.

Of course, you could pay a tuner, but as you advance, it’s important to learn this skill. 

Compared to tuning a guitar or piano, for instance, tuning a drum can be a little less precise.

Each set will require a different tuning, and there isn’t always a right or wrong answer.

A drum key is typically included with sets.

The tension in that head will change every time you crank the drum key in the tension rod.

First, place the drum head on the drum and use your fingers to tighten all of the tension rods as much as possible.

This is known as “finger tight,” because it will provide even tension across the head.

Now you can gradually increase the tension while making sure that it is constant along each rod.

Basically, to increase the pitch, increase tension; to decrease the pitch, decrease tension.

A video or instruction can be found online if you’re unsure because tuning requires a lot of trial and error.

You might even be able to locate one for the particular drum set you own.

It’s crucial to remember that various tensions work best with various styles (such as jazz, rock, etc.).

Play around with it!

What Should I Expect to Pay for a Drum Set?

In general, beginner kits will cost you no more than $/£750.

Budget kits will feature basic shell material and while they may not have the same sound as more expensive kits, they can still sound pretty killer.

As an intermediate drummer, you may have a better idea as to what you’re looking for in a kit.

Upgrading to a more suitable set can cost up to $/£1500, and you’ll find that they are more likely to feature mahogany, birch, or maple.

An expert or professional will likely want to spend over $/£2000, which will get a far more sophisticated drum set made from only the best materials.

Some may even spring for custom-made drums, but that can put you back several thousand.

Acoustic vs. Electric Drum Sets

There’s a lot to be said about electric drums, and it really depends on your needs.

While they have digital features like recording and sounds, they simply don’t have the feel or sound of an acoustic (although some get pretty close).

An electric drum set can be a good stepping stone before you work your way up to an acoustic, so they’re worth checking out. 

Best Drum Sets 2023 – Final thoughts

From brands like Pearl, Tama, Sonor, Mapex, and Gretsch, there are hundreds of great drum sets on the market in 2023.

It can be difficult to know what to go for, especially if you’re looking for a starter drum set.

As you progress, you’ll find what works for you and what you find the best sound to be, so you can make an informed decision.

We hope you found a drum set in our list that is right for you, and our advice gave you some clarity.

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

view profile

best beginner electronic drum sets
Previous Story

10 Best Beginner Electronic Drum Sets

best beginner drum sets
Next Story

10 Best Beginner Drum Sets

Latest from Music Advice & Knowledge

best cheap drum sets

10 Best Cheap Drum Sets

Are you a drummer who wants the best quality drums without breaking the bank? Modern innovation has allowed the functions and features
best metal guitars

10 Best Metal Guitars

Calling all wild things, our list of the best metal guitars beckons. As a metal musician, you have your own unique ethos,