12 Best Drum Sets (2020) – Professional and Intermediate Kits

Updated on by Brett Clur | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

Drums are one of the most intriguing instruments in the world. Not much can beat the feeling of taking out your frustration on some drumheads or just musically expressing yourself with rhythms.

Every drummer should have their own drum kit to practice on and use for gigs, and recording sessions. Everyone has a different budget. So, I have put together a list of some of the best drum kits for professionals and intermediate players, ranging in quality and price.

Best Drum Sets - Professional & Intermediate

The Pearl Session Studio Select is a great sounding shell pack from Pearl. Pearl has been producing high quality drum kits for years and this kit is aimed at drummers looking for a pro sound.

The shell pack has 10” and 12” rack toms, 14”, and 16” floor toms along with a 22” kick drum. There are 6 finishes to choose from when getting this kit. All of them look very sleek and modern.

The shells are made from a mixture of birch and mahogany woods. The birch gives the drums a focused sound that cuts through a mix. The mahogany balances out the tone and provides a lot of warmth.

These two things together make a really good tom sound that sounds almost EQ’d. The toms are full and fat and the kick drum has plenty of low end. The kit comes with mounts for the rack toms. These mounts latch onto cymbal stands and are extremely sturdy.

This shell pack doesn’t come with a snare drum, but Pearl does sell snares in the Session Studio Select line of drums.

  • Great looking finishes
  • Birch and mahogany give a really good drum sound
  • Very sturdy tom mounts
  • Doesn’t come with a Session Studio Select snare drum

The Yamaha Stage Custom is one of Yamaha’s most sold drum kits. The reason for that is that there aren't many kits out there that beats it when it comes to price and value. It’s an affordable kit that offers qualities similar to professional kits.

The shell pack comes with a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from pure birch, giving the drums a punchy tone. The toms sing with a lot of resonance while the kick drum produces a solid thud.

The snare drum has 10 lugs, allowing for a wide range of tuning options. Although the snare is very versatile, it doesn’t sound as good as the rest of the drums do. You’ll find that many pro players with Stage Customs have swapped out the snare drum for something better.

The best part of the Stage Custom is Yamaha’s YESS mounting system for the toms. You can position the toms in a bunch of different ways, allowing you to feel as comfortable as possible when playing. The tom mounts help to maintain the tone of the toms.

The biggest downside to this kit is the stock drumheads that it comes with. They aren’t the greatest and they limit how good these drums can sound. So, when getting this kit, you should get some new heads to go with it. That shouldn’t be a problem though, seeing how affordable this kit is!

All in all, the Stage Custom is definitely one of the best intermediate drum sets.

  • Seriously high value for the price
  • YESS tom mounting system is great
  • Toms sound really good and resonant
  • Stock drumheads aren’t great

DW is a company that is known for making seriously high quality custom drum kits. With the drums being made so meticulously, they come at a steep price. These drums are played by high profile drummers such as Thomas Lang, Aaron Spears and Tony Royster Jr.

The DW Design Series is the most affordable line of drums from DW. It comes with all the qualities of their more premium 'Performance series' at an accessible price.

This shell pack includes a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from maple, giving the drums a balanced tone with a punchy sound. This punchy sound is deep, pronounced and warm.

One of the best parts of the kit is the snare drum. It has a solid cracking sound without too much ring to it.

The solid build quality of these drums allows them to stay in tune for a long time, meaning you won’t have to constantly tune them with a drum key to get a good sound every time you play them.

The tom mounts of this kit need to be clamped onto really heavy cymbal stands, otherwise the toms will wobble too much.

  • Great snare drum
  • DW quality drums at an affordable price
  • Stay in tune for a long time
  • Toms will wobble if not mounted onto very heavy cymbal stands

At first glance, you will see that this kit is big. There are a lot of drums. 3 up and 3 down tom setups are common in metal settings, which is what this kit is great for.

This shell pack comes with a 14” snare, 8”, 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor toms, and a 22” kick drum. The thin shells are made from maple wood and have a firm attack with a wide projection. These drums are powerful, clean and full of resonance.

The kick drum sounds seriously beefy, making you feel a solid thump in your chest every time you kick the pedal. The mounted toms have a brightly rich tone while the floor toms are full of low end. The snare drum sounds great, but the toms are what make this kit really shine.

The bigger rack toms mount onto the bass drum while the 8” tom has a mount that clamps to a cymbal stand. This shell pack doesn’t come with a snare stand, so keep that in mind if you get it.

A lot of metal drummers play with a Superstar Classic. The powerful sound and the large amount of drums fit the style very well. Although not hugely expensive, it's still one of the best professional drum sets in my opinion.

  • Great for metal
  • Beefy kick drum
  • Easy to tune
  • Stock drumheads aren’t that great

As mentioned before, DW is known for making some seriously high quality drum kits. The DW Performance Series is their middle-range series of kits. It’s the perfect kit for a pro drummer that wants to invest in a great sounding kit that will last a lifetime.

The shell pack includes 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor toms and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from maple and have a nice snap and attack with a great pitch difference between each tom.

The build quality is what makes this drum kit expensive. The kit feels extremely solid and the drums stay in tune for what seems like an eternity.

The unique thing about this kit is that it comes with some really good sounding stock drumheads. This isn’t common at all and I salute DW for this. It can be really frustrating to buy a new kit and then have to buy new drumheads along with it.

The Performance Series has 12 finishes to choose from, with each finish having a unique quality that will make it look great on a stage.

  • Seriously high build quality
  • Great pitch difference between the toms
  • The drums stay in tune for long
  • Expensive

Pearl’s Decade Maple drums offer great sounding drums at an affordable price. I’d put this kit under an intermediate category of drums with this shell pack being high value for money.

It includes a 14” snare, 8”, 10” and 12” rack toms, 14” and 16” floor toms and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from maple which gives them a balanced tone that is great for many different styles of music. They have a warm low end when tuned low and a musical resonance when tuned high.

The great thing about this 7-piece shell pack is that you can break it down into a smaller kit if you want to. You have several different configuration options with this kit. It will work as a 4-piece jazz kit or a 7-piece metal kit.

The one downside is that the stock drumheads aren’t great, and it may cost a fair bit to replace 7 drumheads!

  • Versatile
  • Allows you to have different configuration options
  • Affordable
  • Stock drumheads aren’t great

The Mapex Armory kit is a drum kit that comes with many features of Mapex’s higher end kits, but at an affordable price.

 Its shell pack is composed of a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from maple wood with birch inner and outer plies. This combination of woods gives these drums a unique edge in which they are resonant as well as have a solid impact tone when hit with a stick.

The toms have a very wide tuning range, making this kit a versatile option for many different styles of music. They sound great when tuned low and boomy. They also sound great when tuned high with lots of sustain.

The steel snare drum is bright and articulate, responding well to dynamics and nuanced playing.

The one downside to this kit is that there are a few other similar kits from other brands that also include hardware along with the shell pack. If you already have hardware, then this kit would be a great affordable option!

  • High quality at an affordable price
  • Hybrid maple and birch shells make it very versatile
  • Build features from high end kits
  • Doesn’t come with hardware like some kits in a similar price range and quality range

Gretsch is one of the oldest drum manufacturing companies out there and has been selling drums for over 100 years. This tells you that they’re a big deal when it comes to drums. The Gretsch Renown is designed to be a versatile drum kit that will suit any style of music.

This shell pack comprises a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from maple wood which gives them a balanced tone that fits well with many different styles of music.

The drums have a warm and open tone that sounds really good to the ears. The kick drum has a very smooth deep end to it.

The kit has a great aesthetic look to it, with the hoops on the snare and toms being very thick. This thickness combined with any of the dynamic finishes that you can choose from make the Renown a great looking drum kit.

The one downside to this kit, which is a downside to a lot of Gretsch kits, is the tom suspension system. It feels quite awkward to mount the toms and there isn’t as much manoeuvrability as you’d expect with a drum kit at this price range.

  • Very versatile
  • Toms sound really good
  • Kick has a smooth deep end to it
  • Looks great
  • Tom suspension system isn’t great

The final kit on this list is a drum kit from Gretsch that is specifically designed for jazz drummers. The Catalina Club Jazz is one of the most loved drum kits in the jazz world and can be found everywhere at jazz festivals and in jazz clubs and pubs.

You will find a 14” snare, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom and 20” kick drum in the shell pack. The shells are made from mahogany that gives the drums some beefy low-end punch.

This low-end complements high tuning very well, which is why this kit is so great for jazz. The toms sing beautifully while the kick drum provides warmth to the drum sound.

The snare drum can be quite difficult to tune, but sounds great once it’s been tuned moderately well.

If you’re a jazz drummer, this is a great kit for you. It’s not the best option if you’re going to be playing other styles.

  • Great for jazz
  • Toms sing very musically
  • Sounds amazing in higher tunings
  • Snare drum can be difficult to tune well

The Pearl Masters series sits just under Pearl’s Reference and Masterworks kits in terms of quality. The Masters kit offers a lot of the same things, just without the customization options. This makes it a great kit for drummers looking for the specific sizes that it comes in.

Its shell pack is composed of 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from a maple wood that gives the drums good projection, sustain, and sensitivity. The drums have a lot of punch and volume, sounding especially good in a lower tuned setting.

The kick drum has a short and controlled tone that lets you really feel the attack when you play it. Pearl’s famous hardware quality keeps these drums durable and ready to take a beating.

Overall, these drums have a great mix of openness and punch. The only thing missing from this shell pack is a snare drum.

  • Great sensitivity
  • Good projection
  • Durable
  • Doesn’t come with a snare drum

The Ludwig Element Evolution offers a full drum kit with cymbals. It comes with the Element Evolution drums as well as Zidjian I cymbals and some really sturdy hardware. It’s an intermediate drum kit that comes at a very affordable price.

The kit includes a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The shells are made from poplar, giving the toms big boomy low end. The snare has a tight and cracking sound.

The kit then comes with a set of Zildjian I cymbals. This includes a pair of 14” hi-hats, a 16” crash and a 20” ride. These cymbals are quite heavy and harsh.

They’d work well in a rock setup, but wouldn’t work in situations where you need dynamics and nuanced playing. This means that they’re not the best options to have as intermediate cymbals.

The hardware that comes with the kit is seriously sturdy, with all the stands being double-braced.

Overall, this kit is a great budget option for an intermediate drummer.

  • Includes cymbals and hardware
  • The stands are double-braced
  • Affordable
  • Cymbals aren’t great for intermediate level

There are a few names that come to mind when we have a conversation about the best and most influential drummers of all time. John Bonham is definitely one of them. He was the drummer for Led Zeppelin and was famous for his ferocious back beats and clean triplet drum fills.

Ludwig has capitalised on John Bonham’s fame and produced a drum kit that mimics the kit setups that he played on for most of his career.

The Zep Set shell pack features a 14” snare, 10” rack tom, 16”, and 18” floor toms along with a 26” kick drum. You read that correctly, 26 inches. The acrylic shells have a huge attack that is great for rock and metal.

The most notable feature of this drum kit is obviously the 26” kick drum. It packs a massive sound that even the back row of a crowd can easily feel. The toms have a sharp and warm sound that is very articulate.

The shell pack includes a Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum which has an aluminum shell that delivers a crisp attack.

This kit is meant for low tunings, meaning it’s not the most versatile. If you’re going to play jazz, it won’t be the best option. It’s a rock drum kit through and through.

  • 26” kick drum packs a massive punch
  • Acrylic shells look cool
  • Same setup as the famous John Bonham
  • Very expensive

Things to Consider When Buying Drums

Shells

Different drum shells are made from different woods. Each wood has unique qualities and some woods are more expensive than others, making the drums more expensive. The most popular woods that you’ll see in drums are maple, birch, mahogany, bubinga, and poplar.

Maple is an all-purpose wood and has an even amount of highs, mids and lows. Birch is loud and cutting with big high frequencies. Mahogany makes the drums quite resonant. Bubinga gives the drums a lot of punch. Poplar has a smooth quality to it, while being the cheapest of all the woods.

Drum Kit Size

Drum kits come in all shapes and sizes. They can range from taking up a whole room to just fitting comfortably in a corner. The drum kit size you get should depend on what you’re going to use it for. If you’re going to be constantly set it up, play gigs, and pack up, then it would be more beneficial to get a smaller kit.

If you’re getting a kit that is just going to stay in a practice room or studio, then a larger kit would work well. You’d also need a larger kit if you’re going to be playing metal.

Sometimes it’s a good option to get a larger kit with more drums, allowing you to pick and choose what tom sizes you want to play with for certain situations. It takes up a bit of space having drums lying around, but it’s great to have options.

Shell Packs vs Complete Kits

Shell packs are just the drums by themselves. Shell packs don’t come with hardware or cymbals. Sometimes shell packs don’t even come with a snare drum.

Most high-end drum kits are sold as shell packs. So, if you’re buying your first drum kit, you’ll have to buy cymbals and hardware along with a shell pack.

Complete kits come with hardware and cymbals. You’ll usually see this happening with entry-level and sometimes intermediate kits. The drums themselves are cheaper, so it makes it affordable to add the cymbals and hardware to go along with them. Complete kits are great for first-time drum kit buyers.

Conclusion

A great drum kit will pretty much last a lifetime. I’ve seen a lot of drummers still playing their kits from the 60s. So, getting a high quality drum kit is a great investment that will last long and serve you well.

The better your kit sounds, the better you will sound as a drummer. Just remember that the best drummers can make poor quality kits sound really good, meaning your drumming ability needs to be up to scratch as well.

There are so many high quality drum kits from different brands, all offering unique nuances and features. So, go out, choose one and continue to grow your drumming career.

Brett Clur

About Brett Clur

Brett has been playing drums for 18+ years. He's a huge drumming gear enthusiast and also teaches drumming to his students. He's most active on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where he regularly uploads drumming videos.

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