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A Guide To The Top Drum Brands For Every Drummer’s Needs

Brett Clur  /  Jun 3, 2024

While there are countless drum brands around the world, only a few have gained worldwide fame. This comes from a combination of innovation, good marketing, and general popularity across the drumming community. 

Which options are the best, though?

And if you were to buy a new drum kit today, which names should you be looking at?

Here’s an ultimate list of all the top drum brands. Every single one of these brands has made it through the Drumeo doors, so I’ll also give some personal thoughts as we go along. 

Top Acoustic Drum Brands


Pearl is a Japanese drum company. At one point, I remember Pearl being the most popular drum brand in the world. This was around the early 2000s. 

My very first drum kit was a Pearl Export, and I’ve spoken to dozens of drummers who had the same experience. 

One of the standout things I’ve always loved about Pearl is the quality of the brand’s entry-level sets. Whether you’re getting the Roadshow or Export, you’ll likely be good with your choice until you hit the point of needing something more professional. 

These are the two kits I recommend most to my drum students. 

With that said, you’re going to see the true highlights of the brand when looking at the higher-end options. 

The go-to professional Pearl line is the Masters Series. Those kits have premium maple shells made with Pearl’s SST (Superior Shell Technology) system. 

The Pearl Masterworks line is also one that many drummers dream of owning. It’s a completely custom line where you can place an order through Pearl to make a kit for your exact specifications. 

Here’s Greyson Nekrutman playing on a Pearl Masters Maple set: 

Greyson Nekrutman Hears Sleep Token For The First Time


Yamaha is another Japanese powerhouse. While the brand has a long musical history, they started creating drum kits in the 60s. 

The biggest thing I love about Yamaha’s drum kit range is the visual consistency. 

For the average drummer, it can be hard to tell the difference between the Stage Custom and the Live Custom when looking at them. However, one of those kits costs under $1,000, while the other costs over $4,000. 

There are a few minor cosmetic upgrades, but you’re mainly paying for better tonal quality and control, along with more stability in the shells and hardware. That’s the trend you see with most Yamaha kits as you go up the product line. 

With that said, the budget Stage Custom kit is actually one of the best picks for gigging drummers who need an affordable option. The punchier birch shells work incredibly well on a stage. 

I’d say Yamaha’s main strength is reliability. No matter what your budget is, every single one of the brand’s drum sets is a home run. 

Here’s Larnell Lewis playing a Yamaha Live Custom Hybrid Oak kit: 

“What About Me?” (Larnell Lewis Drum Performance)


Let’s move on to the third and final Japanese drum kit brand – Tama. 

When I hear Tama, the first thing I think of is the Tama Starclassic drum set. The Starclassics have come in a few different shapes and sizes over the years, but their top-tier sound quality and unique finishes are always the highlight. 

I also think of die-cast hoops, as most of the brand’s professional kits include those on the snare drums and toms. Die-cast hoops are basically thicker and heavier hoops to control tones a bit better. Other drum kits typically have triple-flanged hoops, which are lighter and let the shell resonate more. 

Below the Starclassic range, you get more affordable kits like the Superstar Classic and Imperialstar. These are pretty much the only Tama kits without die-cast hoops, besides a few limited edition sets here and there. 

Now, let’s get to the real star of the brand — the Tama STAR

The STAR line includes some of the most beautiful drum sets available right now. They’re very pricey, but the construction quality and workmanship are out of this world. 

Check this video of Simon Phillips playing a huge STAR kit. I’d take a guess and say it’s one of the priciest kits to be filmed for Drumeo: 

The Iconic Drumming Behind “I Will Remember” | Toto Song Breakdown

Gretsch Drums

Gretsch is an older brand that was started all the way back in the 1880s. The drum kit didn’t even exist as we know it back then, so a few of the modern drum kit innovations came from here. 

I’ve often heard musicians assume Gretsch kits are great for jazz drummers, most likely due to the brand’s long history. 

However, you’ll regularly see rock drummers using them, so I wouldn’t actually lock the brand to a specific style. Taylor Hawkins was one of Gretsch’s biggest artists before he tragically passed away, and he was a full-on rockstar. 

With that said, Gretsch kits are amazing for the vintage-like tones they offer. You get thin shells from kits like the Gretsch Brooklyn and Gretsch Broadkaster. The flagship Gretsch USA Custom is a bit more modern. 

Most of the kits also feature 30-degree bearing edges on the shells. The flatter design also helps create a vintage sound. 

Some of the best Gretsch sets I’ve heard have been played by Mark Guiliana:

Mark Guiliana Drum Solo (Drumeo)


Speaking of drum kit history, you don’t get any brands bigger than Ludwig when it comes to popularity in the 20th century. 

I love the story of how the brand’s sales doubled after Ringo Starr was seen playing a Ludwig kit on live TV. That was one of the biggest reasons a Ludwig drum kit became one of the most popular options for any drummer at the time.

I’m a huge fan of the Ludwig Classic Maple line. It’s just a solid maple kit with high-quality design features. 

The brand offers many other options, though. The Vistalite is a loud and proud acrylic kit, while the Element Evolution is a decent beginner/intermediate drummer option. 

Those are just drum kit picks, though. Most drummers will agree with me when I say the ultimate value comes from Ludwig’s snare drum range. 

The Black Beauty and Supraphonic are two of the most recorded snare drums in history. 

Domino Santantonio is one drummer that instantly comes to mind when thinking of good Ludwig drum sets: 

Domino Santantonio Hears Slipknot For The First Time

DW Drums

While Ludwig and Gretsch are both proudly American drum brands, many drummers will argue that the ultimate US brand is DW. 

In fact, it’s not unusual to hear drummers mentioning DW as the top drum brand overall. I’ve even seen huge pro drummers like Matt Garstka, Chad Smith, and Dave Grohl switch from other brands to DW in the last two decades. 

DW kits are known to be quite pricey, but they’re made with incredible precision and craftsmanship by John Good, Don Lombardi, and the guys at the Oxnard Factory. 

I love the simplicity of the brand’s drum set lines. You get the Design Series, Performance Series, and Collector’s Series

The Design Series kits are budget professional options. The Collector’s Series kits are the top-tier picks with all the high-end tones and features. The Performance Series kits fall somewhere in the middle. 

Check Chad Smith playing one of the more unique Collector’s Series kits: 

Chad Smith Plays “Under The Bridge” | Red Hot Chili Peppers


PDP is technically the same brand as DW, but the whole idea is that PDP kits offer many of the DW designs at much cheaper prices. 

This mainly includes the True-Pitch tension rods and MAG throw-off designs on the snare drums. Apart from that, PDP kits are made in China, and the wood types used for the kits aren’t as high-quality. 

With that said, the PDP Concept Maple is a solid kit that many pros still love to use. I’m also a big fan of Concept Maple Classic, which is a version of the kit that features wooden hoops for a warmer sound. 

While the brand isn’t nearly as popular as its DW counterpart, there are some solid pieces of gear available. 

Check how good this small PDP setup sounds, played by Scott Pellegrom:

3-Piece Drum Solo – Drumeo


Mapex is a Taiwanese drum kit brand. While it’s one of the youngest drum brands I’ve mentioned so far, many of the kits have made quite a big impact on the drumming world since being released. 

My main love for Mapex comes from the fact that most of the kits utilize hybrid shells. This is when two different woods are used to make the drums, leading to unique tones. 

The Mapex Armory kit is one of the most affordable options on the market to feature birch/maple shells. I just love that mixture, as it gives warmth from the maple and punchy power from the birch. 

The Mapex Saturn Evolution is one of high-end options that you’ll see pros using. It also has hybrid shells that include walnut and maple plies. 

While the top-end Black Panther line is quite pricey, Mapex is typically seen as one of the more affordable drum kit brands. 

Dom Famularo was a big ambassador for the company: 

World’s Happiest Drummer Plays “Eye Of The Tiger” (Drum Cover)


Sonor is a big German drum brand known for offering immaculate build quality across all their products. Some of the best-sounding drum sets I’ve ever played have been Sonor kits, and I’ve always been especially impressed by the tonal quality of compact kits they offer. 

If you need a small drum kit to use in pubs or restaurants, I highly recommend checking out the Sonor AQ2 compact line. 

When looking at the brand’s higher-end sets, you get the Vintage Series, SQ1, and SQ2 drum sets. 

Sonor is one of the few drum brands to still use beech wood in a few of their products, which is another big highlight for me. The pronounced highs you get from the shells are great, and it’s a unique wood that just sets the brand apart. 

To hear some great Sonor kits being played, check out drummers like Benny Greb, Jost Nickel, and Chris Coleman

Top Electronic Drum Brands

When talking about drum brands, I’ll naturally start speaking about acoustic options. However, not all of us are lucky enough to own acoustic kits and play them freely. 

This brings us to the electronic drum kit market. E-kits have just been getting better and better in recent years, and there are a few notable brands that everyone should keep track of. 


There’s no doubt that Roland is the ultimate electronic drum kit brand. It’s been this way for years, with the most innovative kits on the market always having the Roland name on them. 

Roland is the brand that invented mesh heads, which is what you see on almost every e-kit these days. That just tells you how influential and impactful each Roland product is. 

In the brand’s current lineup, you get the V-Drums and VAD line. The V-Drums are traditional electronic kits. The VAD kits mimic acoustic kits in their size and design. 

Your main professional options in the V-Drums line are the TD-17, TD-27, and TD-50 kits. On the VAD side, you’ll mainly look at the VAD307, VAD507, and VAD706. Those kits all mirror each other, using the same module in each segment. 

However, the quality and features get much higher as you go up the line. 

Something I’ve always loved about Roland kits is the PureAcoustic Ambience and Prismatic Sound Modeling technology. Those two features basically give you unlimited control over sounds. 

Roland kits are known to be very expensive, though! That’s why the next two brands are very viable options. 

But before getting to those, check this video of Michael Shack jamming on one of Roland’s older TD-30 models:

Electronic Drum Solo – Roland TD-30KV (Drumeo)


Yamaha is the next big electronic drum kit brand after Roland. The biggest difference you’ll find between the two is that most Yamaha kits come with silicone pads instead of mesh ones. 

These silicone pads just feel slightly different when you strike them. Some drummers prefer them, while others prefer the mesh pads. I personally can’t feel too much of a difference between the two, though. 

If you want a good Yamaha e-kit, you’ll need to look at the DTX6, DTX8, and DTX10 lines. 

The thing I love most about Yamaha’s e-kits is the DTX-PRO module. You get this module with every kit. However, the DTX10 has an un-upgraded version. 

I find this particular module to be a lot more user-friendly than the Roland ones. It also has fantastic features with app integration. 

I’d argue that these DTX kits perform quite similarly to the Roland options, but they’re a bit more affordable. So, they’re great options to check out. 

Ulysses Owens Jr. even put the DTX10 to the test by playing jazz on it: 

Can You Play Jazz On Electronic Drums? | Ulysses Owens Jr.


While there are plenty more electronic drum brands out there to choose from, there are three big ones that have the most diverse product ranges. 

Wrapping up the trio is Alesis, which is actually known as the “budget” brand when comparing the three. 

Alesis is, without a doubt, the best electronic brand for beginner drummers. The Nitro Max is the cheapest e-kit you can buy that offers everything you need when you start playing. 

I’ve just always seen Alesis as a brand for newer drummers. However, they recently introduced the Strata Prime as their new flagship kit, and I’m more impressed by this kit than anything the brand has released before. 

When I got to play it, the module was the first thing that stood out to me, and it’s since become my favorite electronic drum module on the market. 

I’d easily say that the sounds compare to what you get from Roland and Yamaha options with similar price tags. You just get a bit more value for your money in this segment from the Strata Prime set. 

If you’re a beginner, I couldn’t recommend anything more than the Nitro Max. You could even get one of the special Drumeo designs: 

Everything You Need To Start Playing The Drums

Final Thoughts

I’ve been able to play kits from each one of these brands over my two decades of drumming. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that no brand is better than another. Each drum brand offers particular things that certain drummers may enjoy more. 

For example, if you love die-cast hoops, you’ll be spoiled for choice with Tama drum sets. If you like vintage tones but need modern hardware designs, Gretsch would be my top recommendation. 

Also, you don’t need to stick with just one brand. For several years I’ve been using a Tama kit in my studio and a Pearl kit to play gigs. It’s worked out really well.

It’s worth experimenting and seeing what you like!

Brett Clur Brett Clur is a drum teacher and has been playing drums for over 20 years. He's passionate about explaining difficult drumming concepts in simple ways. When he's not playing or teaching the drums, he's writing about them. You can find his many videos (over 700) on his YouTube channel or follow him on Instagram.

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