- Find the best drum kits for beginners
- Low budget to semi-pro price options included
- Full-size acoustic drum kits covered
Entry-level drum kits have come a long way in recent years, and you can get a lot of bang for your buck. The trick is to pick the right kit because the upswing in quality is far from universal.
In this article, we’ll size up the best drum sets for beginners to help you make an informed choice.
We’ll evaluate these full-size acoustic kits based on value for money, features, and build quality.
If you have a child who can’t play with a full-size kit (say early elementary school or younger), then you’ll want to look at our 5 Best Drum Sets for Kids article here.
What is the Best Drum Set for Beginners?
The best drum set for beginners is the Tama Imperialstar, which has everything you need to get started and offers a great kit for under $900 (USD).
The best budget drum kit for beginners is Pearl Roadshow – a super affordable kit in many configurations, including cymbals and hardware.
Lastly, the best premium drum set for beginners is the Pearl Export EXX, which is tough, sounds great, and won’t need to be upgraded any time soon.
The best drum kits for beginners are:
- Tama Imperialstar (Our Pick)
- Pearl Roadshow (Best Budget)
- Pearl Export EXX (Best Premium)
- Ludwig Breakbeats
- PDP Center Stage
1. Tama Imperialstar (Our Pick)
Buying a "budget" set of drums can sometimes feel like a bit of a gamble. But you just can't beat the value of these kits, which come with a complete set of stage-ready TAMA hardware and quality Meinl cymbals.
- Ships with three Meinl cymbals
- Includes hardware and throne
The Tama Imperialstar is the best drum kit for beginners, combining quality shells and cymbals at an affordable price of under $900 (USD). It also looks amazing!
The team at Tama has outdone themselves with the finishes for the six-ply poplar shells. The seven finishes on offer look superb, particularly for the price.
Four kit configurations are available, and all versions have a 14” x 5 “ snare drum.
The basic five-piece setup has a 22″ x 16″ bass drum and the following toms: 10″ x 7″, 12″ x 8″, and 16″x15″ (floor).
There’s also a six-piece version with a 22” bass drum and two-floor toms (14” and 16”). Tama also offers two additional five-piece setups – one with a 20” bass drum and one with an 18” bass drum.
These last two five-piece setups are differentiated by their floor tom – both have a smaller 14″ x 13″ floor tom. Remember to replace the cheap stock heads to get the kit purring like a kitten.
The cymbal setup is excellent value and is more extensive than many starter setups.
The Tama Imperialstar has Meinl HCS cymbals: 14” hi-hats, 16” crash, and 20” ride, to be exact.
While they aren’t pro cymbals, they’re a lot better than the no-name cymbals you get on many starter kits, and you also get a full three-cymbal setup rather than just hats and a crash.
- Full setup package included
- Cymbals are better than many entry-level kits
- Great value for money
- Looks great
- Cheap stock drum heads
Don’t forget to check out 5 Best Tama Drum Kits (Top Picks For All Budgets)
2. Pearl Roadshow (Best Budget)
Get your show on the road in one complete package with Pearl's Roadshow 5-piece drum set. Formed from multiple plies of bonded hardwood, Roadshow drum shells feature 6-ply poplar shells for optimal tone.
- Several configurations and colors to pick from
- Cymbals and hardware included
- Four-piece kit for around $560
The Pearl Roadshow is the best beginner drum set for adults on a tight budget because you get everything you need to get started in an ultra-affordable package.
The kit is available in four-piece (around $560) or five-piece versions (around $660), and there’s a range of great-looking finishes available.
All kit versions have a 16” brass “crash/ride” and 14” hybrid hi-hats. Note that these cymbals are not good quality – you aren’t going to find good cymbals included in a kit in this price range.
Pearl offers four kit configurations, all of which have six-ply poplar shells. These configuration options cater well to different styles of music.
There’s a standard five-piece modern rock setup with a 5.5” x 14” snare, 16” x 22” bass drum, and the following toms: 8” x 10”, 9” x 12”, and 16” x 16” (floor).
There are also two setups with smaller drums that seem designed for jazz/pop/funk – one is a four-piece, and the other a five-piece. There’s also another five-piece setup with bigger drums that would be perfect for hard rock.
Pearl includes all the required hardware and stands, a throne, and even two pairs of drumsticks!
So if you like to have lots of options in terms of setup and also don’t want to stuff around buying extra bits and bobs to complete your kit, the Pearl Roadshow is for you.
Keep in mind there are a lot of inclusions here for the asking price, though, so some corners were cut concerning durability.
- Four different configuration options
- Hardware and cymbals included
- Great value for what you get
- A lot of kit for the money, so some sacrifice on durability
- Cymbals on the cheaper side
3. Pearl Export EXX (Best Premium)
Upgraded shells, hardware, and more make this Pearl Export EXX 5-piece drum set an upgraded version of one of the most popular and affordable drum kits around.
- Five-piece kit with hardware (no cymbals)
- Available in different configurations and colors
The world’s best-selling drum kit has seen many changes, but it remains a great, reliable workhorse that can be picked up for around $930.
The Pearl Export EXX is one of the best drum sets for beginners who can afford to splash a bit of cash.
It’s definitely on the premium end of the entry-level market, but you get a very reliable, solidly-built kit that sounds great when tuned up right.
The Pearl Export EXX is made of six-ply poplar / Asian mahogany, lighter woods that are common on budget kits.
The standard version of the Pearl Export EXX features a 5.5″ x 14″ snare, 18″ x 22″ bass drum, and the following toms: 7″ x 10″, 8″ x 12″, and 16″ x 16″ (floor).
This is the standard modern rock/pop setup and will have you covered for just about everything.
There are various different configurations available. If you prefer a 20” bass drum or a 14” floor tom, Pearl has you covered.
There’s also an eight-piece double bass version, or you could expand the smaller versions with add-on 14” or 18” toms.
Pearl ships the Export EXX with the P-930 bass pedal, tom holders, and 830-series cymbal stands (hi-hat, straight stand, and boom stand).
You’ll have to provide the cymbals yourself, though, so that’s an added expense.
- Solid Pearl hardware included
- Numerous different configurations are available
- Good quality – getting into semi-pro territory
- Buying cymbals for it takes the cost well over $1000
4. Ludwig Breakbeats
Designed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, Ludwig’s Breakbeats Series combines a small footprint and a portable drum kit design with high-quality construction.
- Compact four-piece setup
- Stylish looks
- Around $500 for a shell pack
- Quality Remo heads included
The Ludwig Breakbeats is a collaboration with The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and there’s a lot to love about this compact, four-piece kit, which can be picked up for around $500.
The Ludwig Breakbeats is a four-piece kit that features a 5″ x 14″ snare, 14″ x 16″ bass drum, and the following toms: 7″ x 10″ and 13″ x 13″ (floor).
These small dimensions make the kit great for a quick and easy setup and gigging on the go.
Don’t confuse this portable setup with a miniature kit. Ludwig does offer a mini kit in the form of the even more affordable Questlove Pocket Kit.
The Breakbeats ships with Remo Pinstripe heads, which are good quality heads. This saves you the hassle of replacing the stock heads as you do on most beginner kits.
The hardware setup for the Breakbeats is very minimalist. The pictures shown by most online retailers are misleading, as you don’t get any cymbals, and the hardware is limited to the following items: Tom mount with ride clamp, floor tom legs, and bass drum riser.
Note that the bass drum riser is a bit fiddly, and if not connected perfectly, it can loosen or detach during playing.
You can pick up a Ludwig 400 series hardware pack for around $250, which includes all the parts you’re missing with the kit: A snare stand, bass drum pedal, hi-hat stand, straight cymbal stand, and boom cymbal stand.
Once you pick up the cymbals as well, you’ll be looking at a minimum spend of around $1000 if you buy everything new. You could reduce this by picking up used items to complete the kit, which are relatively easy to find online.
The Ludwig Breakbeats has seven-ply shells made of “hardwood.” This is an evasive way of listing the specs because every wood used to make drum kits is technically hardwood, so it’s very likely a cheaper wood.
Don’t let that turn you off the kit, though, as the drums sound great and have a modern, snappy sound perfect for funk, pop, and jazz.
It’s a bit on the small side for hard rock but could work for lighter rock styles.
There are three finish options (silver, blue and black – all versions are sparkle), and every option looks great.
- Sounds great for the price
- Comes with Remo Pinstripe heads
- Classic looks
- No cymbal stands or cymbals included
- The cost is closer to $1000 once you get all the extras required
- The bass drum riser is fiddly
5. PDP Center Stage
The PDP Center Stage shells are made from poplar, which delivers a resonant and warm tone that you'll absolutely love. This drum set is an incredible value since it ships to your door with hardware that's normally reserved for PDP's top-end drums.
- Five-piece kit with two cymbals
- Hardware and throne included
- Around $500-600
The PDP Center Stage is similar in price and features to the Pearl Roadshow. The price goes up and down on these, but if you’re lucky, you may get it for closer to $500 than $600.
All versions of the PDP Centre Stage ship with a 5” x 14” snare, while there are two different configurations for the bass drum and toms.
One version has a standard rock setup, with a 16″ x 22″ bass drum and the following toms: 7″ x 10″, 8″ x 12″, and 14″ x 16″ (floor).
There’s also a version with smaller drums, which would likely be popular with players in lighter styles of music. This version has a 14” x 20” bass drum and the following toms: 7” x 10”, 8” x 12”, and 12” x14” (floor).
The drums are made from poplar, although PDP doesn’t list the ply specs. To get the best sound, you’ll want to replace the cheap stock heads.
The PDP Center Stage ships with 13″ hi-hats and a 15″ “crash/ride,” as well as all the required stands and a throne.
Now, there is some sacrifice on quality with the cymbals and hardware. You get what you pay for, but you also have the advantage of getting into playing quickly without wasting time shopping around for extra parts.
- Everything you need to get started is included
- Unbeatable value
- Cheap cymbals and skins
- Durability is an issue with such a cheap kit
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