Update 5/8/2018: Roland just released their new TD-17 series electronic drum set. Instead of adding it to this list I wrote a separate full review here. It's my new top pick!
With so many options out there it can be hard to narrow down which electronic kit is best suited for your needs. Before reading the reviews down below, there are 3 main questions you should try to answer that will help trim down the playing field.
What’s your budget?
The most obvious question, and often the most overlooked. This will let you know how high up the chain you can go. It’s easy to get sucked into the high-end features and come out paying more than you originally planned on, so come up with a budget and stick to it before you start looking.
Do you prefer mesh or rubber pads?
This one is a personal preference, however you will notice that all of the high-end choices come with mesh pads - and for good reason. They resemble hitting a real drumhead closer than rubber pads and they are much quieter. You might like the way rubber pads feel though, so I would suggest going to a music store nearby and trying out both mesh and rubber pads to see what type of feeling you prefer. I would recommend getting a mesh head for the snare drum at the very least if you can. Having the extra trigger options will lead to a better experience for you as you play.
Do you plan on using the built-in sounds, or bypassing the module and triggering sounds from drum software on your computer (like Superior Drummer)?
If you plan on going straight to your computer and using drum software, you don’t really have to go all out on the premium kits. You are paying more for the module than anything else, so if you know that you’re going to be bypassing it then that can save you quite a bit of cash. Just make sure the module you are getting has a MIDI-out connection.
Here’s the kits from cheapest to most expensive:
Great for the drummer on a budget or beginner, the TD-1KV is a compact and simple electronic drum set. As an upgrade to the TD-1K snare rubber pad, the TD-1KV comes with a PDX-8 mesh-head snare which is a great way of retaining the authentic feel of hitting a real snare drum. I think that even if you prefer rubber pads, the snare is the one piece of the kit you should upgrade to mesh for the separate head and rim triggering.
This kit comes with a beaterless kick drum pedal which can be a good thing if you are looking to keep the noise down for any neighbors below, however you always have the option to upgrade if you want to down the road. Just keep in mind that with the stock beaterless kick drum you won’t be able to play double bass.
The TD-1KV comes with audio input and output capabilities. You can plug in any audio device via stereo-mini cable and jam out, and you can run it straight into an audio interface via stereo-mini or USB cable to record yourself to a computer. You can even use a USB-MIDI cable to connect into a DAW and use drum software to expand your sound options.
If you plan on using the module primarily, it comes with 15 drumkits and 15 different built in songs. There’s not a ton of options here but if you are looking for something very basic and simple to use then this is your best bet. Using the kit alongside Roland V-Drums Friend Jam and V-Drums Tutor is also a joy once you connect to your computer.
If you are just starting out on drums and deciding if it's right for you or not, this is my pick for best electronic drum set for beginners.
Roland Portable TD-4KP
In some ways, this is an upgrade to the TD-1KV, but in other ways it’s worse. Some of the things this kit has that the TD-1KV doesn’t have is quick recording, ambience effects, more kits (25 total), tuning, muffling, pad volume, panning, and the ability to create custom kits. It has a very small footprint, and it can be broken down to take on the go or store in a small place.
Unfortunately, there are some major downsides which make this my least favorite kit out of the bunch. With the kick pad being mounted right onto the frame, using it causes the entire frame to shake and become unstable. In addition, the kick pad is so small that it only allows room for 1 beater head meaning that playing double bass is out of the question unless you come up with a creative approach like using the hi-hat controller as another bass drum pedal.
Coming stock with a rubber snare pad is another major downside. You are definitely going to want to upgrade this to a mesh pad which means you’ll be shelling out more cash.
If you prioritize transportation and size of the kit above all else, I think this can be a good option for you. Otherwise I would save up and go for the TD-11KV, or go a step down with the TD-1KV (going into a DAW if you want more sounds).
Roland TD-11K / 11KV
Being their most popular low/mid-range kit, the TD-11KV is a solid choice no matter what your drumming skill level is. This 5-piece kit comes with dual trigger mesh pads, dual trigger crash cymbals, and a 3 way trigger ride (bell/bow/edge).
It comes with a Roland KD9 kickdrum pad which can accommodate a double bass pedal, and a PDX8 dual zone snare drum. The difference between the TD-11K and the TD-11KV is in the toms and cymbals. While the TD-11K comes with PD-A8 rubber pads, the TD-11KV has PDX-6 and PDX-8 mesh pads. Just keep in mind that there is a plastic ring around all the mesh pads which makes the actual playing surface a little smaller. Still, I would highly recommend the mesh pads over rubber if you can afford the $600 difference.
The biggest difference in my opinion is the cymbals. The TD-11K comes with CY8 cymbals which aren’t the most amazing. There's no bell on the ride so getting used to hitting the edge of the cymbal to get a bell sound can be a little tricky. The ride on the TD-11-KV is upgraded to a beautiful 13 inch CY13R with a 3 way trigger for realistic playing.
The TD-11 module is a huge step up from the lower end models. It features 50 kits, a 4 band equalizer, and 9 pad inputs (plus the ability to use a cable splitter).
It’s been 6 years since this kit has come out though so the sounds are definitely aging with time and it will probably be replaced soon. This problem can be solved though by going straight into a DAW with the MIDI connection and getting access to all the sounds of the most recent drum VST’s with the mesh pads.
If you are really considering this purchase I would either wait a little bit to see if an upgrade is going to come out or try to buy it used. I would honestly say that if you are going to be using 3rd party drum software then go for it, but otherwise save up for the TD-25KV for the upgraded module, snare with positional sensing, and full hi-hat which all make a huge difference in playability.
Roland TD-25K / 25KV
The TD-25KV is really an incredible drumkit, and I would categorize it as a mid-top level electronic drum set. The TD25 module is a streamlined and simplified version of the TD30. It couldn’t be easier to use as it comes with 3 presets each for Standard, Rock, Metal, Jazz, Funk, and Electric. You just switch between them all with 1 knob and then you can fine tune each kit piece with tuning, muffling, level, or even switch it out completely for a different kit piece.
You get a bunch of built in songs to play along with, a click track, and it’s very easy to hook in your own music via 1/8th inch audio cable or connect MIDI out to your computer.
As far as hardware goes, the TD-25K and TD-25KV are similar for the most part. The difference is that the TD-25KV comes with upgraded toms and an extra cymbal. The TD-25KV is the way to go here and definitely worth the upgrade on the toms since they play much nicer.
The 25 series is a big step up from the aging TD-11 in many ways. For one, it comes with the VH-11 hi-hat. You do have to buy your own hi-hat stand to use it, but it’s so much better than using a floating hi-hat pedal. It mimics the real thing so much that you sometimes forget that you’re playing on an electronic set.
The snare is another huge upgrade. The PDX-100 has positional sensing which means as you hit the head out toward the edge of the drum it actually behaves the way a real snare would and the sound of the drum changes. On the TD-25KV you also get a PDX-100 on the low tom which is another great addition. Just keep in mind that if you plan on getting a PDX-100 upgrade for older Roland modules you need to check first to see if it supports positional sensing. Some of the older modules do not.
If you are planning on connecting to a DAW and playing through drum software, this is about as high up the Roland chain as you should go, and it’s a great choice. You get all the benefits of the great hardware to use with MIDI, a solid module with great built in sounds in case you decide to revert back to it, a real hi-hat stand, and a nice kick drum pad that supports double bass.
As you go with higher end Roland models from here you are paying more for the module itself, and the actual drum hardware upgrade benefits start to get very minimal.
If I didn’t have an electronic drum set today and I wanted to get one, the Roland TD-25KV would definitely be it because of the price, hardware, and ease of use.
Roland TD-30K / 30KV
Adding on an extra $1500 will bring you up to the TD-30K, or even more for the TD-30KV if you can find it in stock anywhere.
Let’s talk about hardware differences first. Moving up to the TD-30K will give you 3 large PDX-100’s with positional sensing for all the toms, an upgraded PD-125BK for the snare (more on this in a minute), a large upgraded KD-120BK mesh kickpad, an upgraded CY-15R ride cymbal with positional sensing, and an upgraded crash cymbal.
As for the snare, it’s worth noting that the PD-125BK is exactly the same as the PDX-100 on the TD-25KV kit with the exception of a larger playing surface and a different looking shell. They have the same triggering and positional sensing technology.
If you decide to shell out for the TD-30KV you’ll get upgraded to a PD-128S-BC snare with new rim sensor technology, an extra tom (all upgraded with better sensor technology), and a VH-13 hi-hat. The new hi-hat adds a pressure sensor so that when you press down harder on the pedal it will actually sound like its real life counterpart and pitch-up the sound. The only downside though is that since it’s now 2 separate cymbals stacked on top of one-another it’s much louder than the VH-11 due to the hollow space between.
Moving onto the module, you’ll be able to tell immediately due to its weight and build quality that it’s a big step up from the TD-25. It comes packed with 1,100 sounds and 100 kits, 15 inputs, 8 direct outputs, 16 fader sources, MIDI in/out, and too many effects to mention. This module is by far the biggest difference between the TD-25 and TD-30. Something to note is that you can expand your kit a lot with 10+ more pad inputs than the TD25 if you use cable splitters.
So for almost double the price of the TD-25KV, is it worth upgrading to the TD-30K? You are basically getting larger cymbals, larger toms, a larger snare, and an upgraded module. The rack is different as well but the TD-25 rack is built so solid that you wouldn’t notice the difference.
I feel like with the module being the biggest difference you should listen to some playthroughs of presets on both kits and decide for yourself if you need the extra kits and sounds of the TD-30, or if you’d be fine sticking with the limited amount of kits with the streamlined TD-25. This all comes back to the original question - “What is your budget?” The TD-30K will be better in many small ways, but many people will find the price jump too large to justify.
The TD-50KV is geared toward the drumming professional and to those who have lots of money to spend. The biggest differences between this and the TD-30-KV are the ride cymbal, snare, and module. Other than that they are similar in many ways.
The TD-50KV comes with a very nice 18” CY-18DR ride cymbal. It feels great to finally have a larger ride that emulates an acoustic kit a little closer, and the trigger response is a huge step up from the lower models. Just keep in mind that it’s USB powered meaning you can only use it with the TD50 module.
You get a large 14” snare shell with a new three-layer mesh head for better playability. The new multi-element sensor system picks up even the smallest strokes, and cross-stick technique is automatically detected based on your hand position. Like the ride cymbal, this new snare is USB powered as well which means it can only be used with the TD-50.
With the module you can finally import your own samples, it has XLR outputs, and it sounds better as a whole with Roland’s newly developed Prismatic Sound Modeling.
One strange thing is that Roland decided to exclude the 2nd high-tom and instead use 2 low floor toms. This is how modern drummers tend to play nowadays so I can see why they did it, but for the price I would have liked to see an extra tom thrown in.
If money is no option or you are a drumming professional then of course I would say go with the TD-50KV since it’s the closest you can get to playing an acoustic drum set. For the price they are asking though, you can buy 3 of the best acoustic drum sets on the market so you’d better have a really good reason to be sticking to an electronic kit at this price range.
Roland Electronic Drum Set Reviews Conclusion
When it comes to electronic drum set reviews it’s tricky because of course the features will get better as you spend more money, but there is a point you reach where the returns aren’t as great. What is that point? It really comes down to what your personal budget is and if you plan on using drum software which is still the king when it comes to realistic drum sounds.
If you are a mid-level drummer or plan on using drum software I would say go with the TD-11KV, TD-25KV, or TD-30KV (if you really need the larger pads) depending on your budget and what you can afford. If you are a beginner, on a strict budget, or getting this for your kid I would say the TD-1KV is a good option. Otherwise, if money is no obstacle or you are a professional drummer than go for the TD-50KV.
As for my personal choice for best electronic drum set for the money? TD-25KV all the way. When it comes down to it at the end of the day, most drummers will just want to sit down and play and not spend hours fiddling with drum sounds and pages of settings. The TD-25KV let's you do just that with it's streamlined and simple interface and great sounding drum presets right out of the box.