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.
5 Drum Pads and 3 Cymbal Pads
This kit gives you a nice collection of drum pads to get you going.
- An 8-inch mesh snare pad with two zones – you can hit the pad for one sound and the rim for another sound. This is great for configuring rimshots, for example.
- 3x 8-inch mesh tom pads with single zones – unlike the snare, the toms only have one zone to hit: the pads.
- A mesh kick drum pad – which can mount onto a standard kick drum pedal. And this kit includes a basic chain-drive pedal, which is nice.
- A hi-hat pad – which connects to an included pedal to control the hi-hat open/close action.
- A crash cymbal pad with a choke zone – meaning you can grab the cymbal with your hand to choke the sound like a normal crash cymbal.
- A ride cymbal pad – which can generate a ride-bell sound if hit with harder force.
The mesh drum pads have a great feel, and people who own this kit like the feel of the mesh compared to rubber or other harder styles of electronic drum heads. The mesh heads provide a more natural feel, which can feel more like a real drum head.
In addition, the mesh reduces the overall acoustic ‘tapping’ sound that you normally hear when playing rubber drum pads, to pretty much no sound at all. Another thing to consider is that the cymbal pads have rubber zone to hit, so they will make a little more noise than the mesh heads on the drum pads. This can really be nice for apartment dwellers or situations where you really need to keep the sound down.
Some owners of the drum kit say that playing on the mesh heads can take some getting used to, and these pads are only 8-inch in diameter which can be a smaller target than normal drums. With any dual zone pads, you will need to get used to the fact that hitting the rim can generate different sounds than hitting the mesh pads.
The dual zones are a little different way of thinking compared to live drums, but it can offer some interesting flexibility with sound generation from the kit.
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.
Feel and Playability
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.
Works with Double Kick Bass
People who want to use a double kick pedal will find that it works well. You may need to adjust the beaters to be a little closer together to both fit towards the center of the kick pad and to get both beaters hitting the sweet spot on the pad, but it does work and many users are able to make it work well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.