Alesis has done a great job here with providing an electronic drum kit with mesh drum heads for quite an affordable price. Back when I got my first electronic drum kit, nothing like this was available for even close to this price, so I’m somewhat surprised to see where the electronic drum kit market is going.
Let’s take a closer look at the Alesis Nitro Mesh Drum Kit, and see what’s good and bad about this one.
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The Drum Pads & Cymbal Pads
This kit come equipped with mesh drum heads for the snare and toms and rubber cymbal pads. The inclusion of mesh drum heads at this price point is pretty nice, even if they are a little smaller and more basic. The rubber cymbal pads are also pretty basic but they work well for a budget kit. Let’s take a closer look at each of the pads.
The Mesh Drum Pads
The snare is utilizing an 8 inch dual zone mesh drum pad. This pad can generate sounds from both the head and the rim. The mesh head doesn’t feel exactly like a real drum head, but it’s got a good feel to it and the rebound is fairly natural. The 8 inch diameter size may feel small to some drummers, but you get used to it pretty quick.
The toms are all single zone 8-inch mesh pads. They are basically the same as the snare except that you can’t generate sounds by hitting the rim. The 8-inch diameter size is a little small for some drummers, but on a budget kit these pads get the job done.
Kick Drum Pad
The kick drum is a typical kick tower style with a small rubber pad. The pad works well with single kick pedals if you center the pedal properly. The kick pad, acoustically speaking, isn’t super quiet and has a small thump to it during play.
Double kick drummers may have mixed results with this kick pad. The hit target is fairly small. Drummer who have had good luck are usually able to position their beaters closer together and get them both as close to the center as possible. You may also need to turn the sensitivity on the pad up much higher. Other drummers haven’t had as good of luck with this pad and have said it produces inconsistent hit recognition and dropped notes during aggressive double bass parts. If double bass is super important to your play style, you will want to tread lightly here unless you are confident your kick pedal will allow you to closely center both of the beaters.
The Cymbal Pads
All three cymbal pads are 10-inch pads with rubber trigger zones all facing the drummer. The pads look the same, but function a little different for each cymbal.
The hi-hat pad is a single zone pad and works along with the included foot pedal. This isn’t a terribly dynamic pad to play, but it gets the job done for a budget kit. The foot pedal is a little springy and doesn’t feel very much like a real hi-hat pedal. But once again, it does its job. The hi-hat sounds like it is either open, half-open or closed with not much else in-between.
The crash pad is also a single zone pad and it also has a choke. It plays like a basic rubber pad and there’s nothing really all that special here.
The ride pad is also a single zone pad. It can generate a bell sound on the module though by playing it harder. So harder strikes will make a bell sound while softer strikes will make a typical ride cymbal bow sound. Once again, this is a pretty basic pad for a ride, so it gets the job done but it’s nothing special.
This kit includes a sturdy aluminum, 4-post rack. You will get three bars to mount your drums and cymbals onto – one bar in the center and one bar each on the left and right. The rack can be folded up and collapsed into a smaller size if you want to transport it without taking your whole kit apart.
Owners of this kit say the rack is sturdy, and they don’t find any major issues with it. Initial setup and assembly of the rack can be a little tedious, but once you get the rack put together it’s just a matter of attaching the rest of the pads and cabling up.
You have options on how you can set up the pads and cymbals. It’s quite adjustable with the design of the rack, so you should be able to find a configuration that feels natural to play on with a little time tweaking the placement of the pads and the stance of the rack.
This is a fairly sturdy electronic drum kit, as most are these days. People who really hammer on this thing don’t find it to wobble too much or get loose once they’ve broken it in and take the time to tighten all the lugs and connectors appropriately.
If you play hard, this kit should hold up well, just realize that you can’t really hammer on an electronic kit like you can an acoustic kit – if you play like David Grohl, for example.
To keep the kit from sliding around while playing you should set it up on a flat, sturdy, carpeted rug as well. That’s just good standard practice for any drum kit, acoustic or electronic.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit has a pretty small footprint, and takes up a lot less space than a normal drum kit would. You will need roughly a 4-foot by 3-foot space to set up the kit, more if you like to spread out or flail your arms while playing drums.
Feel and Play-ability
The mesh pads feel pretty good to most drum players. The mesh heads have a more natural spring-back response compared to some of the harder rubber types of drum heads.
The cymbals are just rubber-padded plastic, and probably the weak link as far as feel goes. It feels like you are tapping on hard rubber with drum sticks instead of hitting a hard metal surface like real cymbals.
The Nitro Drum Module
This kit comes with the Nitro Drum Module, a drum sound module branded for use specifically with this electronic drum kit, which includes a good range of sounds and some neat features for practicing and adjusting the feel of the drum pads.
There are a total of 385 sounds, along with 40 kits to cycle through if you just want to dial in a quick kit to play on. There’s controls to start and stop songs, adjust kit sounds and to use the click/metronome. You won’t find any individual instrument faders or anything like that on this module, like some more expensive kits have.
Here’s what the module has for inputs/outputs and connections:
- The cable snake input – which connects to a single cable snake which then has connectors for all the pads on this kit.
- The Tom 4 and Crash 2 outputs – for if you decide to add another tom or crash cymbal pad.
- USB connection – to connect to a computer.
- 1/8-inch Headphone jack – so you can be nice to your neighbors and roommates.
- 1/8-inch Aux Input – useful for plugging in MP3 players or things you would want to play along with.
- Left/Right 1/4-inch Stereo Monitor output – to connect to speakers or studio monitors.
- Midi In/Out – To connect either an external controller to control the module, or to output to an external sound module or sound source.
- Power Adapter Connection
There is also a power switch so you can leave it plugged in and just turn it on or off during use.
Getting to playing is easy. Just turn on the module, hit the kit button, select a kit, and start playing.
Here’s a quick rundown of this module’s basics:
There are several advanced functions that can be useful, let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights.
- Edit sounds and make your own kits – 16 of the 40 drum kits in this module are editable, meaning you can change the sounds of each of the pads to any of the sounds available in the module, and save your changes to these kits.
- Kit settings – you can adjust the volume, the amount of reverb and high/mid/low eq’s, which lets you dial in some more space or get the sound right where you want it.
- Pad settings – for each pad you can choose a sound and then adjust the sounds volume, pan, pitch and reverb. You can also choose which midi note the pad works on.
- There is a learning mode – play along with built-in songs, and record yourself playing with them.
- Plenty of utility settings – which are important to help dial in the right feel of the pads for your personal tastes. For each pad, you can adjust the following:
- Sensitivity – responsiveness of the pads, or how hard to have to hit it to make it play louder.
- Threshold – how hard to have to hit the pad to make it make a sound at all.
- Crosstalk – pads can sometimes be triggered if a nearby pad generates enough of a vibration when hit, tweaking the crosstalk can help adjust this.
- Velocity Curve – you can select different force curves, to make it easier or harder to play dynamically on the pads.
- Rim Sensitivity – this controls how sensitive the rims of the pad are when hit.
- A Metronome/Click Track – having a built in metronome is awesome for practicing.
This sound module can work well on it’s own, or it can work as an output controller for another sound module. For example, you can output the midi from the sound module to a computer, and play a VST drum kit via the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit. Keep in mind that this would require a midi input on your computer and software that can play VST plugins or instruments.
Sound Quality and Sounds
Even though this is a really good kit for the price, people with discerning, picky or critical ears might not be completely happy with the built in sounds. It’s obviously subjective, but when compared to how some of the higher-end electronic drum kits sound, this one can come up short.
One thing people who play this kit note is that there is less variation within the dynamics of each of the sounds, which can contribute to a less dynamic overall sound when playing. For example, it’s mentioned that the hi-hat only has three sounds: closed, half-open, and full open – as opposed to some kits where you get more of the variations in sound between closed and open.
Ghost hits on the snare is another thing that is mentioned as sounding less natural by some users do to the lack of range/variation in the dynamics of the sounds.
One thing that can easily remedy any sound complaints you might have is to either upgrade the drum module to something different or hook your drum kit up to a computer and use the midi to control a VST drum kit with a different sound library.
That’s the beauty of electronic drums and midi, you’re never really stuck without options.
Songs and Recording
The Nitro Drum Module includes 60 built in songs to play along with. There are songs within a lot of genres, such as jazz, funk, reggae, latin, swing, big band, pop, etc. The quality of the songs is actually pretty good, even though they do have that generic-built-in-song feel to them.
You can turn off the drum parts on the songs and jam along with any of them. You can also record your own drum playing along with the songs, so you can listen to and analyze your own playing.
Here’s a little more about what the song/record modes can do:
The songs can work great as practice tracks to hone your skills with various styles. If you want to play along with something like Metallica though, you’ll need to run your MP3 player into the aux inputs and play along with that, as I don’t see any heavy metal on the list of songs.
You can also record yourself playing along with just a click track, which is another good way to analyze your playing.
The manuals that come in the box don’t really have lists of the songs/sounds that are in the Nitro Drum Module, and it’s nice to be able to have that as a reference. It can also be helpful to see what’s in the module before you buy.
Our disclaimer is that there is the possibility that this information isn’t 100% correct for the Nitro Drum Module, so please keep that in mind! But apparently it’s pretty spot-on according to many, and is a good reference for the list of sounds/songs that are included in the module.
In addition to the rack, the pads and drum module, here’s what else is in the box:
- Connectors and hardware – all the stands and hardware that you will need to mount your pads to the rack
- Kick pedal – having a kick pedal included with the kit is great since kick pedals can be kind of expensive on their own
- High-hat pedal – the pedal connects to a cable to electronically control the high-hat open/close sound
- The cable snake – to connect all your pads into the module
- Cable wrap strips – for clean cabling aficionados
- A drum key – used to adjust the rack clamps and drum heads
- Drum sticks – hey it even comes with sticks!
- Power supply – to power up the drum module
- Module user guide – the built in user guide is ok, see our note below about more detailed, unofficial user guides
- Kit assembly guide – an outline of the hardware parts and how to connect them all together
- Safety and warranty info
As you can see, you get just about everything you need to get playing.
No Drum Throne
Keep in mind that this kit doesn’t include a drum throne. It’s kind of a “duh” moment when you get your kit set up and realize you don’t have a throne yet, but it can catch you off guard when buying this kit if you don’t think about it.
It’s not a huge deal, as it’s easy to just grab a chair or something to get by right away if you’re in a pinch. But you should know that you’ll need to buy one if you are going to want to use an adjustable drum throne, which is most ideal to get positioned properly in front of your kit.
If you need a recommendation for a good drum throne that offers good balance of value, comfort and sturdiness, the Gibraltar 6608 drum throne is a good choice.
Setup & Assembly
There’s quite a few parts to put together here. The manual that comes with the kit isn’t exactly a super-detailed step-by-step guide, but it will help you get the job done. Pay really close attention to how the connectors and joints for the stand are mounted, and you should be ok.
There are also videos out there to help you with the setup of this kit. Here’s a good one, for example:
As far as setup goes, just be patient and don’t rush it. We also recommend to not tighten all the lugs to full tightness right away during setup. You will need to go through and tweak the adjustment and placement of everything to get the kit positioned to your liking after you get it set up for the first time, and that’s a lot easier to do if you don’t already have everything cranked tight.
Also, many of the connectors are plastic. It’s a very durable, high quality plastic, but be careful of really cranking your lugs too tightly. Only tighten as much as you need to hold something firmly in place.
All the pads are labeled on the bottom as to which is which (snare, tom, etc.). The cables are also labeled clearly so it’s easy to figure out how to plug it all in.
Remember to recycle the cardboard when you’re done unpacking.
- Affordable price for what you get
- Mesh pads feel great and are fun to play
- Sturdy design
- Very playable
- Sound quality is lacking compared to more expensive kits
- Ride doesn’t have a bell zone
- Cymbals have a rubber pad feel
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The Alesis Nitro Mesh Drum Kit is a pretty nice kit for the amount of money you will pay, especially considering that it includes so many pads along with mesh drum heads. Of course there will be some concessions in the department of sound quality and zones on the pads, but that is to be expected for under $500. You really do get a lot of kit here and about the only other thing you’ll need to buy to get playing is likely a drum throne.
If you are picky about sound quality, and do have more money to spend, you might want to take some time to look at some of the higher-end kits. Experienced drummers who need something to practice on or record digitally with can find this to be a good affordable option. Beginners and those who just need something for practice will likely find this to be quite a useful kit and easy on the pocket book.
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