Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500

$500 may seem like a good amount of money to be spending on an entry-level instrument and it is, but unfortunately you have chosen one of the most expensive instruments to learn! This shouldn’t deter you though, as there are some incredible sets for under $500 and if you read our top 10 overall review page you will see that we strongly recommended you look at this price range first. You will be shocked at how much you get for $500 these days and not just in terms of the hardware and the shells, but how much drum you get for your dollar. These are serious sounding kits and hold up against some of the big boys.

If you are completely committed and know that you will be drumming for years to come then you may want to look at the best drum sets under $1000, where you find will mid-range priced kits with a high-end sound. However, we don’t feel that this amount is necessary before you have even picked up the sticks. Spending up to $500 is more than enough and will in no way impact your learning experience. If the $500 is still a bit too high for your budget which is pretty common then you should look at our best budget drum all reviews of which are under $300.

These sets are all for people around 5ft tall and up. If you are a junior and still growing then that’s great news as you can get a great set for less, all the way down to under $200.  As with all our drumming reviews we have based it on a number of criteria which can be seen here.

Top 8 Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price
Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500

Pearl Roadshow

Score:    (4.75 / 5)

Perfect kit for beginners. Comes with hardware and cymbals. Best low-mid range complete kit
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
PDP Encore

   PDP by DW Encore

 Score:    (4.60 / 5)

Great budget beginner set. Fantastic quality at low price. Best low-end complete kit
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
 
Ludwig Accent Combo with Zildjian Cymbals

Ludwig Accent Drive   

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Budget kit with Zildjian cymbals. Easy to play. Real beginners kit. Great low-mid range complete kit
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
PDP Z5 with Meinl Cymbals

PDP by DW Z5  with Cymbal 

  Score:    (4.50 / 5)

Fantastic starter’s kit with Meinl cymbals. Easy to play.
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
 
PDP Z5

PDP by DW Z5 

Score:    (4.60 / 5)

Same kit as above without the cymbals for $170 less
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
 
SPL Unity Birch

   

Sound Percussion Labs Unity

Score:    (4.45 / 5)

Good quality birch shells. Full sound. Solid  first kit
 
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove

Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Well designed for travel. Compact kit. Funky low-mid range 4-pc shell pack
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
ddrum

ddrum D120B MB D Series

Score:    (3.85 / 5)

True budget kit. Perfect for a beginner testing the drumming waters
AMAZON
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
 

 

Pearl Roadshow (Best drum set under $500!)

Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500
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In our number one spot is one the Pearl Roadshow and it thoroughly deserves its place. At this price it would be easy to think that the set will compromise on sound and quality and that once you get it home and unpack it, you will wish you hadn’t. This is not the case. As a beginner, we would say look no further. This is a complete kit that you can start playing the minute you get it – it includes sticks, a throne, stands, a pedal, ride and hi-hat cymbals and the shells, all for under $500. You will want to change the cymbals eventually as they aren’t great but they will do for the first few months. Even taking into account the cost of a new cymbal pack these are still unbeatable for a beginner.

Pros

  • Cymbals aren’t great
Cons

  • Pearl’s quality and technology at a budget price
  • Easy to set up (see full review)
  • Solid Hardware
  • Well constructed, stylish finish and surprisingly well-rounded sound.
  • Punchy, crisp snare

PDP by DW Encore

PDP Encore
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This charming kit flew in to our top 3 due to the quality of drums and sound you get at such an incredibly low cost. You also get all the hardware and cymbals with it! PDP are part of world-renowned drum makers DW and were created to produce high-quality sets at an affordable price and they have done so fantastically. Loaded up with the quality and features of DW, but without the hefty price tag. This kit really is a beginner’s dream. It may not compare to the Mapex Mars or the Tama Superstar whose shells could take you through to a professional level, but as a first drum set, there is no beating the PDP by DW Encore, which is good enough quality that you won’t need to upgrade it within 6 months.

Pros

  • Entry-level price with high-end DW features
  • Incredible sound and shells
  • Slick finish with 4 styles to choose from
  • Complete pack with hardware
Cons

  • Cymbals, sticks, heads and hardware are not the best
  • Can be tricky to set up and no instructions

Ludwig Accent Drive with Zildjian Cymbals

Ludwig Accent Combo with Zildjian Cymbals
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The baby brother and more affordable version of the Ludwig CS series. At an incredibly low price for a kit that includes 2 fantastic Zildjian cymbals and as well as sticks, cymbal cleaner, drum polish, a polish cloth, literally everything you need to start playing. The Ludwig Accent’s were not too far away from the top spot in terms of best value for money set, let down slightly by the shells and hardware which are by no means bad. A solid first kit for any beginner to get to grips with drumming. You can take the cymbals on to your next set so all you will need is the shell pack and some stands making it very easy to upgrade. Great to learn on, even if you will outgrow it quite quickly.

Pros

  • Complete set – all hardware, sticks and Zildjian cymbals
  • Good quality shells
  • Good resale value
Cons

  • Not tuned well to start and heads need to be replaced
  • Shells are ‘select veneers’ and not birch like CS series
  • The hardware feels cheap and unstable
  • Throne needs replacing

PDP by DW Z5 with Meinl Cymbals

PDP Z5 with Meinl Cymbals
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Another PDP set in the top 5 and rightly so. As we said for the Encores in at our number 2 spot DW created PDP to bring more affordable beginners set to first-time drummers without drastically reducing the quality and they have done so again with the Z5s. Whilst PDP got a bad rep in the early days for their plys coming apart, poor bearing edges and shell construction, we can now view this as teething troubles as they seemed to have mastered the art. You are getting a complete pack, with good quality shells and Meinl Cymbals for under $500. If you want anything more than that then shame on you! You may want to replace the heads when you get a chance as it will be the difference between a decent first set and the set really singing. Get some Evans EC2s for the toms, they sound great.

Pros

  • Meinl cymbals and hardware for under $500!
  • Bass drums and toms sound great
  • Perfect beginners kit
Cons

  • Hardware is not that sturdy
  • Heads are not great
  • The snare is ok but not amazing

PDP by DW Z5  (No Cymbals)

PDP Z5
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No this is not a glitch in the matrix. This is the same set as our number 4 however this is without the Meinl cymbals and is $170 cheaper as a result. Some people have their own cymbals already or want to pick up some 2nd hand. This gives you that freedom and keeps things very cheap. This pack includes all the rest of the hardware including the cymbal stands so the only thing you will need to worry about it buying a set of cymbals. Check out the review above for details on the drums themselves.

Sound Percussion Labs Unity 

SPL Unity Birch
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This kit really is a bargain at under $500. Sound Percussion Labs (SPL) are known for making entry-level kits that get kids and first-time drummers off to a good start. With solid birch shells and decent hardware, this pack contains everything a beginner needs to start playing straight out of the box (apart from sticks). These drums don’t sound cheap and won’t need to be replaced 3-6 months down the line. They are perfect for learning the techniques you need as you progress to bigger and better things. Given the price tag, you get a surprising amount of drum for your dollar and a really nice sound and response.

Pros

  • Incredible value for money
  • Warm birch sound with great resonance
  • Everything you need to start playing
  • Double braced stands, pedal and throne all fairly good
Cons

  • Cymbals are poor

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove with Tama Throne

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove
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This compact kit is the only 4-piece that made it on to our list. Inspired by Sonor who started making micro kits in the 90s and who feature in our jazz section, Ludwig have teamed up with the king of groove, Questlove to create a set a fraction of the size with all of the kick and they have done so fairly well. The compact Breakbeats are great for small apartments or studios and extremely portable. They are also for obvious reasons great for kids and beginners. Overall an extremely affordable kit that lives up to its vision (and for only $10 you get a Tama throne with this combo!)

Pros

  • Small stature, big sound
  • Good range for a small kit
  • Extremely affordable budget kit
  • Looks groovy, sounds groovy
Cons

  • Toms feel a bit flimsy
  • Riser shifts
  • Ludwig/Questlove logo looks a bit cheap

ddrum D120B MB D Series 

ddrum
Shells and heads:  
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>Scraping in at number 8 as the most budget complete drum pack on our list are the ddrums and considering their incredibly low price, they shockingly aren’t a complete waste of time. Don’t expect any frills or wonderfully constructed shells, but at the same time, you can expect the ddrum to give you a good enough sound out of them that a beginner can start practicing their rudiments without throwing them out the window. They should keep a first time player going for a good few months before showing too much sign of wear and tear.  These won’t feel as cheap as the Gammon or Mendinis, although for less than $50 more you can get the PDP Encores which we think is a no-brainer. However, if you have a budget in mind and this is at the top end then these will be perfectly fine to get to grip with the drums

Pros

  • Incredibly cheap for a full kit
  • Compact scaled down size so great portability
  • Decent sound, although a bit boxy and flat
  • Look good
Cons

  • Need a lot of tuning
  • Hard to assemble
  • Heads, cymbals and hardware feels cheap.

The Perfect Start

You have seen from the reviews that these drums are in no way cheap when it comes to sound and quality. Whereas with the best drum set under $300 you may have to start to compromise on a few things, these are exceptional kits.

You may have your heart set on a particular set that falls into the more expensive category and if so we can’t stop you, but we would highly recommend keeping your first set at this budget. As you get to grips with playing and your style, you may decide you want to switch cymbals in 3 months as you don’t like the ride or that the floor tom’s feedback is not right. You will be much more willing to pay for a new element if you haven’t spent up to a $1000.

You may decide that you want to switch to electronic drums as you love their features. Spending less now means you are probably more willing to spend more later.

What About Second Hand?

Yes – great idea. At this price you can get a higher-end drum at a lower-end price. The best, used drums will be a perfect set to learn on, but be careful when buying as you don’t want to end up with a $500 pile of junk on which you have to replace off the heads, the cymbals are cheap and the pedal is wonky. Here is what you should look for:

  1. Changed from original condition – have there been any modifications, additional holes or non-standard hardware or poor quality replacements. Before buying check how it should be sold brand new on the internet
  2. Shell condition – Check its strength, the condition of the edges (where you would hit), wear and tear, signs of poor care, any extra holes and that it has retained its round shape
  3. Hardware condition – clean, functional and no pitting (pitting is the deterioration of the chrome leaving the surface unsmooth)
  4. Missing parts – any worn or missing parts – if any, how easy are they to source and replace? What is their cost?
  5. Wrapping – It may well be that the shell’s wrapping is worn and needs to be re-wrapped. This is quite common and not too expensive but you will need to take that into account.

Be Careful

It is likely even if you try your best to check that you will find a problem when you take it home and get it all set up. Unfortunately the owner won’t give you 20 minutes alone with the kit to take it apart and inspect it, but these points above are a good indicator of how well they have treated it and its general condition. Just make sure to check the price of it brand new before making an offer. A great way to protect yourself is by buying from a reputable 2nd hand shop or online seller such as Guitar Center who will give you a no hassle return if there is anything wrong with the kit or even if you don’t like it.