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Drum Sets Reviews
Drum Sets Features
Drum kits are comprised of many parts: drums, cymbals, and hardware. Features worth noting on cheap drum kits include the type of wood and the number of wood layers used to make the drum shells, and the thickness of the cymbals.
Drum Set Drums.Cheap drum kits, or starter sets, usually include a bass drum, a snare, a floor tom, and two rack toms. The bass drum is the largest and ranges in size from 18 inches to 23 inches; the bigger the bass drum, the more booming the sound. Among the cheap drum sets on our list, the Ludwig LC125 Accent CS Combo Drum Set w/ Zildjian Cymbals (starting at $499), Gammon Percussion 5-Piece Complete Set (starting at $209, Amazon), ddrum D2 5-piece Drum Set (starting at $375, Amazon), and Pearl Vision VX 5-Piece Shell Pack Drum Set (starting at $495, Amazon) all feature 22-inch bass drums.
The rack toms range in size from 10 to 13 inches and produce a higher sound than the bass drum. The two drums usually differ in size by a couple of inches and are both mounted above the bass; the hardware can be adjusted to the angle you prefer. The floor tom in inexpensive drum sets measures 14 to 16 inches and has its own stand.
The snare drum, another stand-alone component, typically measures 14 inches across and is generally positioned to the left of the drummer. Metallic snares on the bottom drumhead give this drum its signature bright snap.
Drum Kit Woods.The shells on good cheap drum kits are made of wood, (the shells on the very cheapest drum sets, which are more toy than instrument, are often made of metal or plastic). Because woods vary in hardness and thickness, the type of wood used affects the drums' sound and durability. Cheap drum kit shells are typically made with birch, beech, poplar, and occasionally, mahogany.
Birch, featured in the Ludwig LC125 Accent CS and the Pearl Vision VX, gives the drums a comparatively hard bright tone, with some punch and good sustain; the brighter the tone, the better the sound moves through the air and the louder it seems. Poplar, used in the Pacific Drums by DW Z5 Complete Kit (starting at $344, Amazon), is a medium-hard wood that gives off warmer tones that may not sound as bright depending on the room you're playing in. The drum shells in the Gammon Percussion kit are made of nato wood, which produces softer and lower tones that are somewhat reminiscent of mahogany. The ddrum D2 shells use mahogany, which produces rich lows and smooth middles. Maple is another medium-hard wood with a warmer tone than birch but less body than mahogany; although a preferred wood type for drum shells, maple is rarely found in inexpensive drum sets.
Each drum shell is made by fusing together a number of wood plies, or layers; a six-ply drum, for example, has six layers of wood. The rule of thumb, according to an expert at Drum Junction, is the more plies in a shell, the less the drum vibrates and the louder the sound created by the drum head; bass drums and snares have relatively thick shells and thus produce louder sound. Fewer and thinner plies cause the drum to vibrate more, so you get richer tones at lower volumes. The Pearl Vision VX drum kit features an 8-ply floor tom and bass drum and 6-ply rack toms; all the ddrum D2 shells are 9-ply mahogany and the Ludwig Accent also features 9-ply drums.
Drum Sets Cymbals.Cymbals are a basic piece of equipment for a drummer, but many cheap drum sets come up short in this regard. Some budget drum sets, like the Pearl Vision VX, don't include any cymbals at all; others can be had with or without cymbals. Some sellers of the Ludwig LC125 Accent CS include a set of low-end Zildjian cymbals, which is a good name brand at any price level; without the cymbals, this model costs about $100 less. Our other top picks come with a hi-hat (two cymbals that sit next to the snare drum) and a crash cymbal. But be forewarned -- the cymbals in inexpensive drum sets are usually stamped, and in some are so thin that they tend to splinter or buckle with use. Higher quality cymbals are cast from a mix of metals; they're thicker and deliver a noticeable improvement in volume and timbre.
If you need to buy cymbals either because you want to upgrade or because there aren't any in the set, you can save money by opting for a ride/crash combination cymbal. This cymbal is a cross between the standard crash cymbal and a ride cymbal, which is a bigger and thicker cymbal used for jazz; the Paiste PST5 18-inch is a good ride/crash cymbal that starts at about $110. The Sabian B8 2-Pack includes all the cymbals you need -- a pair of hi-hats, a ride/crash, and a splash -- and will set you back about $200. Cymbals are about as expensive as the drums themselves, so prioritize.
Drum Sets Hardware.With five drums and a few cymbals to manage, you obviously need a framework to hold it all together. The critical pieces of hardware include a snare drum stand, mounts for the toms, a bass drum pedal, a hi-hat stand, cymbal stands, and a drummer's throne. Many cheap drum sets don't offer much in the way of hardware, but the budget drum sets on our list, with the exception of the Pearl Vision VX, come with everything you need to set up. The hardware should be flexible enough to position the drums and cymbals so you can comfortably reach them and sturdy enough to hold the instruments steady.
But as with cymbals, the hardware that comes in inexpensive drum sets is not top quality -- the stands may wiggle a bit, the metal may be brittle and hard to adjust, the tightening mechanisms may weaken with use, and the throne may collapse -- but it's good enough to get you going. If your cheap drum set is really a shell pack (no hardware, no cymbals), you'll have to buy the hardware yourself. You can get an entry-level bass drum pedal, snare drum stand, one cymbal stand, and hi-hat stand for about $100; better quality hardware kits that often include an extra cymbal stand start at about $200. As for your throne, a kitchen chair will do in a pinch.
Pearl Vision VX 5-Piece Shell Pack Drum Set Review
Ludwig LC125 Accent CS Combo Drum Set w/ Zildjian Cymbals Review
Gammon Percussion 5-Piece Complete Set Review
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