Electronic drum sets can vary wildly in pricing, some being quite expensive and others being quiet cheap. The more expensive sets are often loaded with more features both in terms of software and hardware, and usually offer better playability.
Hardware Capabilities of More Expensive Electronic Drum Sets
First lets take a look at how the hardware capabilities of an electronic drum set can affect the price. As a general rule, more capable hardware will cost more.
More expensive electronic drum sets usually try to offer a realistic playing experience, and hardware plays a big part in that. The drum and cymbal pads might be larger in size and feel more like acoustic drums when playing them. This could include features such as multi-zone cymbal pads, larger mesh drum heads, and more natural feeling kick drum pads.
More expensive cymbal pads will usually offer you more zones and may potentially have digital features to send more detailed feedback to the drum module during play. More expensive drum pads are the same.
Advanced Hi-Hat Pads
A good example of this is the hi-hat pad on electronic drum sets. Most budget electronic drum sets will have basic hi-hat pads that can maybe generate open/closed/half-open hi-hat sounds, with not much nuance in between those those positions or for different sticking techniques. More advanced hi-hat pads, such as the Roland VH-14D, offer much more in terms of expressiveness. They will offer much more resolution in the sounds between fully open and fully closed, they’ll respond better to stick positioning and even feel much better with foot techniques such as foot-splashes. A more advanced hi-hat pad is key to a more realistic feeling electronic drum kit.
Advanced Snare Drum Pads
Another good example is the snare drum pad. On cheaper electronic drum sets, the snare pad might be smaller in size and if you’re lucky it will have two zones (head and rim) with maybe the ability to play rim shots or cross-stick sounds by striking the rim separately.
A more advanced snare drum pad will be larger, usually at least 12 inches in size. It will have multiple zones such as the head and rim, but the rim features might offer more realistic rim-shot simulation and allow the ability to play cross-sticking techniques the same as you would with an acoustic snare. Basically, a more advanced snare pad will feel much more like an acoustic snare drum in terms of playability and with the sounds that can be generated from various techniques.
Racks and Mounting Hardware
More expensive kits often will have additional hardware upgrades such as larger or better drum racks or even drum hardware similar to what acoustic drums are mounted on. It’s not uncommon to see more expensive electronic drum kits, especially the acoustic design kits, that use standard snare drum and hi-hat stands, and maybe even regular drum and cymbal stands. This makes them look much more like an acoustic drum kit as opposed to a typical electronic drum kit.
More Advanced Drum Modules
Another thing that is found on more expensive electronic drum kits are more advanced and feature packed drum modules. This usually means more drum sounds, more sound design capabilities, more effects and more options for recording.
Bigger and Better Sound Libraries
A more expensive kit will usually offer a wider range of drum kits and drum sounds. Many electronic drum makers spend a good amount of time producing high quality drum sample libraries in quality studio environments, which they then package into their drum modules. Another feature you can find on advanced modules is the ability to load your own samples or drum sounds.
More advanced drum modules are where you are going to find more multi-effects options, and more flexibility in ways to apply the effects. This includes options like being able to assign effects like compression, reverb and much more to individual sounds or the entire kit. The scope and quality of these effects is usually better on more advanced drum modules.
A more advanced drum module will also offer more flexible connectivity options. There might be more outputs for individual sound channels or the ability to route multi-channel audio over USB. There might also be more inputs for expanding your kit and adding more pads.
Support for Advanced Pads
More advanced drum pads might require a more advanced drum module to work properly. Earlier we mentioned the advanced digital hi-hat pads from Roland. While those pads can be pretty sweet, not all drum modules support them. If you want to use a pad like the VH-14D, you’ll also need to have a kit that uses Roland’s TD-50 or TD-27 sound modules which have support for digital pads. And those modules are found on Roland’s more advanced and expensive drum kits.
Brand, R&D and Support
Some other factors that can affect electronic drum kit price are the brand or company behind the kit, the amount of research and development that went into designing the kit, and the amount of support offered after the purchase.
Roland is a good example of this. They have a reputation of being more expensive but also higher quality in general. They also own patents revolving around drum sensors, so they have that advantage in the market as well. They also offer better support than some other brands that compete at their price levels. This means if you go with Roland, for example, you might be paying a premium price but you’ll also get cutting edge technology and good support if you run into issues. That can be said about other brands as well, but not all.
Smaller Market Niche
Another thing to consider about the electronic drum market is that it can be quite specialized. Sure, there are some widely produced budget kits out there that can be had for cheap. But there are also lots of manufacturers that make more specialized, high-end electronic drum gear that might not be produced at a large scale. This can drive up prices a bit when you get into the more specialized sectors of the market.
You Can Spend as Much As You Want To
When it comes to electronic drums, there is a wide range of pricing and quality out there. If you are just starting out, you might be better off looking at electronic drum kits for beginners and save some money until you build up your chops and desire for better gear. If you want to spend on more advanced gear, there’s going to be plenty of options out there as well. So, while electronic drum kits can get pretty expensive, you don’t need to spend a lot to get into the game.