Alesis vs Roland vs Yamaha Electronic Drum Kits – Best Brand?

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Picking a drum kit to buy is a daunting task. There are so many options out there that narrowing your choice down to just one can often seem impossible. That’s why it’s good to keep a few options open.

If you want an electronic drum kit, your main options are going to be kits from Yamaha, Alesis, and Roland.

These are the leading electronic drum brands in the drumming industry, and you’re likely to find their products a lot easier than you will any others. What’s the difference between kits from each brand, though? Let’s find out.

Best Electronic Drum Brands

Electronic drums are an interesting aspect of the drumming niche. They cost a fortune a decade ago, and only the most expensive ones sounded any good. As technology has evolved, so have the drum kits made by electronic drumming brands.

At this point in time, you can easily find an electronic kit at an affordable price that is more than good enough to learn and practice on. Many of them are even good enough to play professional live gigs with.

Deciding which electronic drum brand to go with will determine which sounds and settings you may get. Not all drum brands use the same sound and construction technology, so you’ll feel a noticeable difference between different sets from these brands.

Pricing structures are also slightly different. While Yamaha and Roland tend to stay competitive with each other, you’ll see that Alesis tends to price their kits a lot lower. While that may make you want to choose them over the other brands, you should weigh up all the pros and cons of each before making that decision.

Alesis

As I alluded to earlier, Alesis is the most affordable electronic drum brand. They’re one of the only brands that offer entry-level drum kits that have mesh drumheads. Mesh heads are used instead of rubber on e-drums, and they make the pads feel a lot more natural. You can also tighten them to get your preferred amount of responsiveness.

The amazing thing about Alesis is that they have several electronic drum kits on offer that are relatively similar in price. So, if you have a set budget, there are multiple kits to choose from within that budget.

When it comes to their mid-tier and high-end kits, all the drum pads are quite large. It’s common to get an Alesis set with 10” drum pads, whereas other brands will have pads as small as 6” on competing sets.

The downside of Alesis drum sets is their sound quality. While all the modules are very extensive, the sample sounds don’t sound as good as the ones from Roland or Yamaha. Out of all the Alesis kits I’ve played over the years, only one has ever made me think that I could possibly use it for a live gigging scenario.

The sound quality won’t matter as much to beginner drummers, which is why Alesis kits are such great options for first drum sets.

Roland

Roland is the top-dog electronic drum brand. They’ve been paving the way for decades, and there’s no sign of them stopping any time soon. Most of the design features that you see on modern electronic drums started with Roland kits. The brand invented the mesh head, and that changed the history of electronic drums.

High quality comes with a high price, though. Roland e-drums are known to be quite expensive. Out of all their products, only a few of them cost below $1000. So, you’ll need a fairly sizable budget if you want to buy a Roland drum set.

Top 3 - Roland Electronic Drum Kits


The brand splits their products into two lines of drums – the V-Drums and VAD line. The V-Drums are the classic electronic drum kits that most people associate the brand with.

The VAD line consists of acoustic drum shells that have electronic drum pads connected to them. The VAD drums are meant to look like classic acoustic kits, but they have all the benefits of electronics.

Something important to mention about Roland is that all their products have incredibly high resale value. Selling a used Roland kit is a lot easier than selling one from Alesis or Yamaha. This also means that you can arguably find more good deals on secondhand kits than any others.

Yamaha

Yamaha is one of the most popular brands in the world. They offer a wide array of musical instruments, and their electronic drums form only a fraction of those choices. They’re the only brand here that also make acoustic sets, and their acoustic sets are all incredible.

The cool thing about that is that all their electronic drum samples are taken directly from their extensive line of acoustic drums. If you love the sound of a Yamaha Tour Custom kit, you could play with one on a Yamaha electronic drum set.

The brand recently did a complete overhaul of their electronic drum kit line, making it a lot more streamlined and easier to understand. This is my favorite aspect of Yamaha’s electronic drums, as each higher-tier kit has clear improvements over the one just under it.

Most of Yamaha’s electronic drum kits use the brand’s TCS pads, which are silicone drumheads. They perform quite similarly to mesh heads, but they feel a bit different. Some drummers prefer them, while others opt for mesh heads instead. The brand’s latest flagship kit, the DTX10K, has the option of coming with mesh heads or TCS pads.

In terms of pricing, many of Yamaha’s kits are in close competition with Roland. However, the brand takes the middle ground, as Roland’s flagship kits are a lot more expensive than Yamaha’s.

Reliability

Reliability is incredibly important to think about when buying electronic drum kits. Due to the nature of digital gear, these types of drums don’t last as long as acoustic drums do. But it’s good to know which brands are the most reliable, as you want to make a good buying decision.

I’ll start off by saying straight away that Alesis kits are the most unreliable out of the three brands. The company has a bit of a bad reputation for quality control issues, and the lower-priced Alesis kits tend to develop more faults than any drummer would like. Their hi-hat triggers are particularly bad.

However, when getting an inexpensive electronic kit, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to upgrade within a few years anyway. So, the lifespan of the affordable Alesis kits is more than enough for most drummers who start out with them. This just means that you may struggle to sell the kit after you’ve moved on to something better.

The higher-end Alesis kits are a lot more reliable and durable, so don’t worry too much about these issues if you choose to go with one of those.

Yamaha comes next on the reliability chart. Their kits are built to last, and you can feel it when you play them. However, you may struggle to find support for the Yamaha kits that have been discontinued. All the newer ones are excellent, though.

Roland wins the round here. The brand is famous for their long-lasting kits, and that’s why the used market for Roland sets is so big as well. Roland drum sets are built amazingly, and they maintain their quality for years. If you run into issues, Roland’s customer support service is excellent.

Which One is the Best Budget Electronic Drum Brand?

Alesis is, without a doubt, the best budget brand. They have several kits that cost under $1000, and all of them have large pads with mesh heads. If you’re a beginner drummer with a small budget, I’d happily recommend any Alesis kit. Their entry-level Nitro Mesh is incredibly popular for a good reason.

However, know that you’re not going to get the greatest sounds or quality control from the brand with cheaper kits. They’re fantastic for learning, though.

I wouldn’t consider Roland and Yamaha as budget brands because their bottom-line entry-level kits are missing kick pedals. Their most affordable sets have kick triggers, which don’t give you the same feeling as playing an actual bass drum.

If I were to recommend a beginner kit from those two brands, it would be the next step up in each line, and those kits cost around $700. I wouldn’t classify that as affordable!

Alesis also wins here because their high-end kit is almost half the price of Yamaha’s and Roland’s high-end kit. The Alesis Strike Pro is an incredible drum set, and it’s more attainable for pro drummers with a smaller budget.

Which Brand is Better for Higher-End Electronic Drum Kits?

Roland and Yamaha are in tight competition with their mid-tier kits, but Roland’s top-end kits are the winners for me. Nothing comes close to the TD-50 Series and VAD706 kit. Both kits are powered by the TD-50 drum module, which is the most intricately fantastic drum module on the market. Just note that both those kits cost over $8000. They’re elite drum kits with elite price tags.

Roland has a few lower-spec kits that are still considered as high-end. Their TD-27 kit is more than capable of handling any professional setting, and the TD-17 kits are perfect for intermediate drummers.

While Yamaha’s top kits aren’t as good as Roland’s, many people prefer them, mainly thanks to the lower price tags.

Who Makes Kid-Friendly Models?

All three brands make electronic drum kits that are suitable for children. However, I’d recommend the Alesis Nitro Mesh kit more than I would any other. It’s a standard kit, but it’s a lot shorter than any other full-sized electronic drum kit that I know of. This makes it the perfect option for a child. Since it’s a standard kit, a child is also able to grow into it as the years go by.

Roland sells the TD-1K, which is a suitable kit for a child. However, I’d still recommend the Alesis kit over this one as the Alesis has more standard drum kit aspects. Yamaha’s DTX452K is similar, but I found that it can’t be positioned as low as the Alesis and Roland sets.

While those kits are all suitable for kids, they’re also usable by adults. You don’t get pure children’s electronic drum sets as you do with acoustic sets.

Can You Make Cheap Electronic Drum Kits Sound Better?

Yes, but it takes a bit of working around. The quickest way to make an electronic drum set sound better is by tweaking the audio settings on the module. Most entry-level sets don’t come with this feature, though. You should first check if it does. If it doesn’t, you can move on to the next step.

You can connect the drum module to your computer and run a VST (Virtual Sound Technology) program. Since electronic drums can trigger MIDI notes, the VST will replace the onboard sounds with its own every time you hit the drums. VST sounds tend to sound a lot better than onboard module sounds, as they’ve been specifically designed for this purpose.

You’ll need to buy a VST if you want to get the best sounds possible. Some popular ones are Superior Drummer and EZdrummer.

Just note that you’re going to be limited by the quality of the drum pads that you’re using. While the standard trigger sounds will get better, the responsiveness of the pads won’t. You’ll only get intricate musicality from the pads when using a higher-end electronic kit.

Wrap Up

All three brands have their pros and cons. The great thing is that they cater to a wide array of drummers.

If you’re just starting out and you have a small budget, an entry-level Alesis drum kit will be your best option. Yamaha has plenty of mid-tier and pro-tier kits that you may love.

They all use the famous Yamaha acoustic drum sounds. You can never go wrong with a Roland kit. The quality and durability they have are unmatched. You’ll just need to be prepared to pay a slightly higher price.

Weigh up all these factors and choose a brand that resonates most with your current situation. You can always go with another brand on your next kit purchase if you want to switch things up.

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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