If you’re shopping for your first drum set and you’re on a tight budget, it can be tempting to go online and search for and buy the lowest cost drum kit possible. I’ve had plenty of students do this an it usually ends up being a decision they regret as these kits tend to sound bad and quickly fall apart. So, in order to help you avoid this same mistake, I’ve put together some thoughts on kits to avoid.
Companies like Rogue, Pulse and Millennium make incredibly low quality and inexpensive drum sets which are a bad investment and should be avoided, even if you are just wanting a low-cost kit to try your hand at drumming.
I would instead advise you to spend a bit more money (around $400 to $500) and go with a reputable brand so that if your drumming interest doesn’t pan out into a full blown hobby, you’ll easily be able to resell the kit without losing a lot of money in the process due to poor resale value.
In this article, I won’t be reviewing some of the best brands for beginner drum sets, as there are plenty of articles to read about that. Instead, we’ll be discussing the specific brands to avoid and the factors to consider when you’re purchasing a drum set. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get right to it!
Why I Wrote This Post
I hesitated writing this article because it seems like a very pessimistic topic and openly bashes several drum set brands. That said, I felt it was important to publish this information for a few specific reasons.
The first reason is that all of these brands fall into a category of drum sets which I would call sub-prime drums. That is to say – they are all manufacturers or brands not specifically known for their drums – and all of them fall into a price category that would be practically impossible for a company that is even remotely focused on quality could match.
Additionally, the majority of brands I have specifically called out here don’t really even seem to be in the business of supplying drummers with quality instruments. Instead, the goal for them is to flood the market with low cost and low quality instruments that were cheaply made overseas.
“But I Just Want to Kick the Tires…“
I certainly understand the sentiment of buying the absolute cheapest drums (and yes, I meant to say cheap instead of inexpensive) available to see if the interest in drumming is fleeting and only lasts a few weeks verses a long-term hobby worth investing in.
But there’s a very simple and powerful reason why spending less is a bad move: RESALE VALUE.
By buying a $100 to $300 drum set with practically no name brand recognition for making a somewhat decent product, you are essentially throwing that money out the window. Why? If the interest in the drum set and becoming a drummer fades over time, you’ll have a much harder time re-selling these drums to a new owner than if you had a still relatively inexpensive drum set that was made by a reputable manufacturer.
Because of this, by increasing your budget to roughly $400-$500 for an entry level drum set, you’ll be able to buy decent starter kits from reputable drum makers such as Pearl, PDP, Yamaha, etc. All of these brands are well known and will help protect the resale value of your kit in the event that you decide to sell.
I did create a section of this website specifically focused on these types of drum sets if you want to go check them out.
Specific Drum Set Brands to Avoid
OK – let’s dig into a few specifics.
For this article I’ve selected a few specific drum sets that are currently available out there, which represent that ‘sub-prime’ market which I described earlier.
It is important to note that I have not listed EVERY manufacturer that falls into this category here, mainly because there are a lot of them. That said, in the next section I will go into detail about the types of things to look out for so that you can spot these kits yourself.
MENDINI by Cecilio:
Looking at Cecilio Music website, it’s clear to see that percussion is not a priority for them as they are primarily focused on stringed, brass and woodwind instruments. In fact, I don’t even see drums listed on their site. Regardless – these kits can be readily found on Amazon, Walmart, etc and are incredibly flimsy and lousy sounding. Tread lightly.
This is a very similar to Mendini because there is no readily available website to go to to look at these drums, but you are taken instead to big box retailers. Quality is, as expected, low and cheap.
This brand is slightly better than Pulse or Mendini, simply due to the fact that they actually seem to have a website and their drums look like someone actually tried to design some neat looking drums. The prices are incredibly low though and the quality is likely similar to all the kits called out here. This is confirmed by the few videos I’ve seen out there reviewing these drums.
These are Chinese made drums. The company appears to be quite active in music education and they offer drum sets and marching percussion gear. That said, the materials used in construction are inexpensive and not high quality.
I’ll classify Rogue in with Mendini and Pulse as to say that they are poor quality, retail box store imports not worth looking at.
A Couple of Exceptions to the Rule
I pride myself on creating content that is unbiased as possible in order to give you the facts as I see them. That is why I felt it was only fair to list out the only TWO exceptions to the rule that I could think of when it comes to this topic:
Junior Drum Sets:
There is a whole market dedicated to drum sets for kids which most of the big manufacturers don’t really address – for good reason. Most parent’s are not going to shell out big money for a drum set for little Timmy’s 5th birthday present. That is why, when it comes to these “Junior Drum Sets”, I think it makes a TON of sense to spend as little as possible because it is not a long term investment and they do sound slightly better than your kitchen pots and pans.
Deliberately Trashing Drum Sets On Stage:
If you just happen to be in a Nirvana cover band and you want to re-create the authentic concert experience of what it might have been like to see them play in the mid-90’s, you’ll definitely want to trash some gear on stage. Rather than focusing the lead singer’s rage on your pristine set of Drum Workshop drums – let the band destroy that $150 Amazon drum set.
Specific Issues to Inspect and Avoid When Purchasing a Low Cost Drum Set
Because I didn’t list out a massive list of brands to avoid, I also wanted to make sure that you have the tools necessary to spot these “sub-prime” drum sets yourself as you are browsing for your purchse.
There are a few tell tale signs that the manufacturer of a specific drum set took the cheap road in production and sacrificed quality for cost. I’ll detail a few of these items for you here:
Plastic or Metal Bass Drum Hoops:
Most decent entry-level drum sets will have wooden bass drum hoops. A very clear and easily spotted sign of cheap construction and product design is the use of either metal or plastic bass drum hoops. The metal ones especially can add quite a bit of rattle to the sound of the drum as the casting process usually leaves loose metal inside the hoop which ends up vibrating when the drum is played!
Single braced or low quality hardware:
It is actually VERY rare to find single braced hardware anywhere these days – but in case you find hardware with legs that only have one metal bar on their legs, skip it as extreme cost cutting was implemented during product design and production.
Furthermore, the hardware (stands, pedals, etc.) supplied with most of these extremely cheap kits tends to fall apart rather quickly. This is especially true for wingnuts and screws which can be stripped rather quickly if overtightened.
Most high-end or even decent quality entry-level drums are made from real laminated wood, such as birch or mahogany. If you don’t see a specific wood called out, or you see the word “composite” in the description for how the shells are made – run!
Additionally, watch out for poorly crafted bearing edges (the part of the shell that makes contact with the drum head). It takes a lot of effort and attention to detail to cut precise bearing edges into shells for optimal tone quality, which likely isn’t happening on inexpensive kits.
I’ve even seen some photos of these low cost drum sets where it looks like there are no bearing edges cut into the shells at all!
Chrome Quality of the Drum Hardware:
If you can actually get a closeup shot of a lug, spur or hoop – look for pitted and rough looking chrome, which is a telltale sign that poor chroming techniques were used (i.e. corners were cut). With high quality chrome finishes, you should be very few dimples or rough surfaces – but rather a mirror-like finish.
Which brand of drums is best? Look for Pearl, Tama, PDP, Ludwig, Sonar and Yamaha for the best budget kits. It is a loaded question, but these manufacturers are reputable and produce excellent products. Most major manufacturers will have acceptable low-cost, entry-level options.
What’s the best drum set for beginners? Check out my Recommended Gear page all about Beginner Drum Sets! I’ve laid it all out for you.
What is the most expensive drum set? One of Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drum sets sold at auction a few years ago for around $2.1 million! It’s a fascinating story and is well documented on Ringo’s Beatle Kits website, as well as a recent episode on Ringo Starr on the Drum History Podcast.