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Best Drum Set Under $1000: Pearl vs. Yamaha vs. Tama vs. Gretsch

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, sell your soul, or trade your firstborn child for a quality set of drums. In fact, there are many entry-level drum kits available that are ideal for beginners or amateur players and even lend themselves well to upgrades if you are looking to bump up the quality without breaking the bank.

Things to Consider Before Buying One

Investing in a drum kit will be a significant purchase for many people, so you want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck. Here are a few important aspects of your purchase you should be mindful of.

Size

Most drum sets under $1000 will have a basic configuration of 4 to 5 drums plus 2 to 3 cymbals and will provide you all the necessary hardware. Smaller drums will do well for music like jazz, whereas larger kits work better for loud rock music. Most manufacturers aim for somewhere in the middle, making starter kits that are versatile and perform well for many types of music. As you progress in your musical journey, you might want to upgrade your kit to suit your particular musical style and give you the type of sound you are looking for.

Style

If you are just starting out, you probably already have a good idea of the type of music you are eager to play. Most drums and cymbals have a specific tonal range that works well in certain musical genres. A 14-inch snare will sound fuller than a 10-inch snare, and a thinner cymbal will be less bright than a thicker cymbal. Knowing what sounds will suit your style of music will help you enjoy playing all the more.

Material

The materials used in drums and cymbals also affect their sound.

For drums, the wood plays a big part in the sound. Maple wood gives you deep low-end with warm tones, birch is good for darker tones, mahogany lends itself well to a rich low-end sound, and poplar is good for loud, bright sounds.

Cymbals are made of metal and can be categorized as sheet cymbals, or cast cymbals. Sheet cymbals are what most starter kits will come with. Sheets of metal are stamped to make these cymbals, and while they are perfectly fine from an operational standpoint, they will have less presence and sustain than cast cymbals. Molded molten metal is what cast cymbals are made out of, and because of the higher quality and labor-intensive production, they are the more expensive option.

Price

You will see a wide range of pricing when it comes to drumming kits under $1000. When it comes to most instruments, the higher the dollar value, the higher the quality. It is advisable to invest in the best quality drum kit you can afford. This will make any future parts swapping a little bit easier on your wallet, as you might want to upgrade a snare, but the toms and kick drum sound fine. Or, you want to replace your cymbals, but you have good quality stands already, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Investing in quality music gear will benefit you in the long run.

Acoustic vs. Electronic

A lot of beginner drummers will weigh the pros and cons of buying an acoustic kit vs. an electronic kit. Let’s take a look at what each offers.

Acoustic drums kits are the traditional way of playing the drums. The drum shells are made out of wood and have a mylar skin (or head) that is struck with a stick, mallet, or brush to produce sound. The cymbals are stuck the same way but are made of metal. They are big and loud, and do not lend themselves well to portability or to regulated noise levels.

Electronic Kits are the polar opposite. They use thin pads as drums and silicone-encased cymbals. The drum pads are made of mesh or rubber, and when struck, they trigger a sound via a computer that is output through headphones or an external speaker. Due to the materials used, electronic kits are much quieter than their acoustic counterparts. Playing a wide range of musical genres is easy to do with the different pre-loaded kit sounds they come with, adding a ton of flexibility if you want to play jazz, blues, rock, hip hop, reggae, or techno. In addition, using e-drums for home recording is much more efficient than setting up multiple microphones for tracking acoustic drums, and they are also more portable if you need to bring your set to different rehearsal spaces or studios.

Best Drums Under $1000

Pearl Roadshow 4-Piece Drum Set Review

This new fusion 5-piece set from Pearl comes with everything you need to get started at an affordable price. Available in multiple colors, the kit provides sturdy hardware you don’t normally find in entry-level kits, and also gives you a comfortable throne, and responsive hi-hat and kick drum pedals. The bass drum is nice and punchy, the toms are bright, and the snare does its job well. The cymbals do leave a lot to be desired (one cymbal doubles as a crash/ride), but it’s not so bad that it will leave you frustrated. Setting it up can be a bit tricky as there are no instructions included, but with a little online research, you should be able to figure out how to put it together.

All in all, this is a really good kit for beginners or those that are looking to freshen up their chops.

PROS:
  • Great beginner kit
  • Good sonic characteristics
  • Multiple color options

CONS:
  • Cymbals of low quality
  • Snare lacks deep tones
  • Lack of setup instructions

Read Review of Pearl Roadshow 4-Piece Drum Set

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Review

The Yamaha brand has always been synonymous with making really great drums, and their Stage Custom backs that up in a big way. With each drum crafted out of 100% birch wood, when properly tuned you will be hard-pressed to find something that sounds as good in this price range. Their YESS mounting system not only provides minimal contact between hardware and shell, but it also connects in a way that won’t interfere with drum vibration, ensuring you get full tone while playing. Rubber-dampening die-cast claw hooks reduce noise, and the kick drum legs are easily adjustable and do a fine job to prevent slipping. The hardware is an optional add-on, but if you do decide to spring for it, know that it is the same stuff Yamaha uses on its premium kits.

You also get the option of choosing from 5 different colors, as well as 3 different kick drum sizes, making it a very customizable purchase.

PROS:
  • Excellent quality birch shells
  • Multiple colors
  • Customizable kick drum size

CONS:
  • Hardware sold separately

Read Review of Yamaha Stage Custom Birch

Pearl Export Drum Set Review

The Pearl Export series is one of the most popular kits in drum history, and running down the specs you will quickly see why. Sold as drums and hardware, the price of this intermediate kit is still under $1000 if you decide to buy the cymbals too. The shells are fashioned out of a poplar/mahogany wood blend for a nice deep tone, and you have a few color options to choose from. A lot of attention is paid to the 22-inch bass drum construction, with foam-padded lugs for protection, a pre-ported head, and a well-made Demonator pedal that offers a mix of high-function, as well as protection from damaging the drum. 2 racks, mounted toms stay in place with Pearl’s opti-loc suspension system, keeping them stiff so they can resonate uninterrupted, and the boom cymbal stand offers adjustable flexibility for your crash.

Definitely one of the top picks for beginners, intermediates, or anyone doing light-gigging.

PROS:
  • Excellent construction
  • Great sound
  • Sturdy hardware
  • Multiple colors to choose from
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS:
  • Cymbals are an add-on
  • No throne included

Read Review of Pearl Export 5-piece Drum Set

Tama Superstar Classic Review

If you are looking to upgrade your drum shells, this Superstar Classic Custom shell pack from Tama is a very attractive option. Crafted out of 100% maple, you get 7 drums that play lively, have a lot of punch, and look beautiful with the mahogany burst throwback finish. Two rack-mounted toms attach to the beefy 22-inch bass drum, with a third rack tom attaching to a boom cymbal stand (not included). Double floor toms at 14 and 16-inch sizes give you a total of 5 toms you can use in a variety of ways to add color and excitement to your songs. The 14 x 6.5-inch snare has a really good tone, with excellent projection and volume, and the provided stock heads offer a surprisingly nice sound that you don’t normally get from drums straight out of the box.

All in all, an excellent choice for rock drummers, or anyone that is looking to build a customized kit.

PROS:
  • 7-piece configuration
  • 100% maple shells
  • Lively sound
  • Very good stock heads
  • Beautiful finish

CONS:
  • Does not come with stands, cymbals, or throne

Read Review of Tama Superstar Classic

Gretsch Energy 5-Piece Review

Gretsch’s 5-piece Energy kit is constructed from 7-ply poplar to keep the cost down while maintaining a good quality product in form and function. Tone ratio from low to high is good throughout the kit, and it comes with a boom stand, as well as a straight cymbal stand. The 22-inch bass drum is full-sounding, and the provided adjustable kick pedal has a 2-sided beater (one side felt, one side plastic) that can customize your bass drum sound depending on your preference. The wing nut locks for the tom mounts give you a wide range of motion so you can angle them however you need to, and younger players can have them positioned very low to the bass drum, making them easier to reach.

Double-braced stands provide sturdy support for the Zildjian cymbals, making this a kit that you can have a blast on powering through your music.

PROS:
  • Great value for the price
  • Excellent for kids
  • Can position rack toms low
  • Customizable kick-drum sound
  • Zildjian cymbals

CONS:
  • You might want to upgrade heads

Read Review of Gretsch Energy 5-Piece Kit

PDP by DW 5-Piece Review

This 5-piece kit from the DW brand Pacific Drums and Percussion is a shell pack at a very reasonable price for the quality of the drum they produce. The maple construction gives you a lot of flexibility with the sound of this kit. From nice and warm to big and deep, it can be tuned to your liking and covers all the tonal bases, making it an excellent studio or live kit. The dual-turret lugs and true-pitch tension rods will keep it in tune for long periods of time, and make for precision tones. A high-quality MAG throw-off with copper wires is included on the 14 x 5.5-inch snare, replicating what you would find on high-end models from DW, and PDP uses their STM suspension system for the toms, locking them in place to allow full tone expression. With multiple color options to choose from and great attention to detail, at under $1000 this is a superb value for a more boutique-style kit.

PROS:
  • Well-priced
  • High-quality parts and finish
  • 100% maple shells
  • Excellent bells and whistles
  • Multiple color options

CONS:
  • Does not come with stands, cymbals, or throne

Read Review of PDP by DW 5-Piece

Sawtooth Command Series 4-Piece Review

The Sawtooth Command Series is a decent entry-level option for those that aren’t really sure if they want to invest a ton of money into a kit but are looking for a bit more quality than the super low-end entry-level kits. This 4-piece comes with a snappy 14 x 5.5” snare, booming 24” kick drum, 16” floor tom, and 13” tom that attaches to the boom cymbal stand via a heavy-duty suspension mount. The 6-ply poplar shell construction delivers a classically punchy tone, and the heads are all 10-millimeter texture coated.

The hardware is of decent quality and includes hi-hats and snare stands, a straight cymbal stand, and the aforementioned boom cymbal stand. Zildjian supplies the 14/16/20-inch hats/crash/ride, and the chroma-cast drum throne supplies your posterior with enough support for hours of playing.

PROS:
  • Good value
  • Affordable
  • Zildjian cymbals
  • Good quality hardware

CONS:
  • Bass drum has no tom mounts

Read Review of Sawtooth Command Series 4-Piece

Conclusion

While there are a lot of drum kit options under the $1000 price tag, there is a fairly big jump in quality from kits that cost a few hundred dollars, to those that are just under $1000. While most sets can accommodate the swapping out and upgrade of parts like drum heads, cymbals, or pedals, the biggest part of your sound (that you can’t customize) is 100% dependent on the wood the shells are constructed with. This is why a lot of manufacturers will offer shell packs upfront. It’s a long-term strategy that allows customization down the road but also gives you immediate gratification. Of course, if you are just looking for something that will do the job, the low-cost, entry-level kits aren’t bad at all.

Further Reading

How to Assemble a Drum Set?

How to Clean a Drum Set?

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