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Loud and punchy drums are the tell-tale sign of heavy metal music. Drums designed to be part of a heavy metal kit are generally larger in size and have a distinctly deep yet powerful sound. Cutting through a mix full of distorted guitars and vocals (as well as massive synths, in some cases) is the biggest challenge that heavy metal drum kits have to overcome.
Being part of a heavy metal band means you’re going to be beating on those drums pretty hard, so durability is an important factor to consider while purchasing a heavy metal drum kit. Whether it’s a live performance or a studio recording session, every part of the kit must sound right if you want to push off in the right direction.
For the perfect heavy metal drum kit, you want a bass drum that delivers depth to your sound, some crispy cymbals, and let’s not forget about those snappy snare drums for attack. Drummers had to customize their kit with individual parts back in the day, but luckily for us, many brands are offering pre-assembled kits with the most preferred hardware for heavy metal music.
If you have been thinking about starting a heavy metal band or practicing some killer drum combos, you’re going to need a drum kit that suits your playstyle. We aim to help beginners and seasoned drummers alike with this guide, highlighting some of the best drum kits for metal right now and their qualities.
A Brief History of the Genre
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new genre of music emerged that was darker and heavier than traditional rock and roll, known as heavy metal. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath are considered the pioneers of heavy metal music for pushing the sound of rock into unchartered territories with their eclectic approach. Some even consider Blacks Sabbath’s debut self-titled album, released in 1970, as the first heavy metal album ever recorded.
By the early 1980s, heavy metal had developed a monumental following and established itself in the music industry pretty well. Bands like Motörhead, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden were playing faster, louder, and technically inclined stuff that was unmatched by any other style of music. Drummers found themselves playing louder and more aggressive to match the intensity of distorted guitars and shrieking vocals.
Today’s finest drummers grew up listening to bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica, whose sound was powered by twin kicks and an array of toms. The sound of double bass has become so iconic in the heavy metal scene that nearly every kit packs one of those bad boys these days. Drummers putting together eight or nine-piece kits isn’t out of the ordinary when it comes to heavy metal.
The Major Differences Between Electronic and Acoustic Drum Sets
Electronic drum kits have advanced to the point that it’s nearly impossible to tell their sound from acoustic drums. Drummers often run into the conundrum of choosing between electronic or acoustic kits, so here are some notable differences to help you make a decision:
- Electronic drum kits are substantially quieter, making them an ideal choice for practice, whereas the sound of acoustic drums can penetrate through walls at a significant range, making it virtually impossible to practice in apartment complexes or quiet neighborhoods.
- Hands down, electronic drum kits have the edge when it comes to sound control and customization (but often require external amplifiers to be heard in live scenarios), whereas acoustic drums are loud enough by themselves for live and studio sessions.
- Recording with an electronic drum kit is much easier because of their ability to connect directly with a mixer or computer, whereas recording acoustic drums is an extensive process often requiring multiple microphones and soundproofing.
- When it comes to developing dynamic control and an organic understanding of drums, acoustic kits take the cake, whereas electronic kits lack in delivering a natural feel and response to your hits due to the rubber or mesh pads.
- A decent electronic drum kit without an amplifier will set you back by $500, whereas the cost of a standard acoustic drum kit will easily cross a couple of thousand dollars (and goes up as you add more components).
What Makes a Great Drum Set for Heavy Metal?
The secret behind the sound of heavy metal drum kits lies in the choice of materials used for the construction of the drum shells, as well as the drum heads. Seasoned drummers often sway towards metal for the shell material, ironically enough. Steel and brass components seem to provide a great balance between low to high frequencies for that edgy sound needed to scythe through a barrage of guitars.
When it comes to kicks and toms, a variety of options pop up. Maple and birch are among the most common, as the former provides a certain warmth to toms, which is much-favored in the thrash metal scene. If you’re looking for a rather piercing sound that goes well with down-tuned guitars, though, then you may want to go with birch.
Your choice for the drum heads will massively impact the tone of your drum kit. Since we are all about metal here, we want our drums to sound tight without any ringing issues or unnecessary overtones.
You might be thinking to yourself that thick heads will get you a heavier sound, and it is a safer bet when it comes to snares and kicks drums. However, for toms, you want to strike a balance between lively response and focus.
The Advantages of Heavy Metal Drum Sets
If you have been wondering about the areas in which your heavy metal drum kit shines the best, here is a small list of those instances:
- Heavy metal drum kits are massively loud by themselves, which eliminates the need for much of the post-processing and amplification.
- The thicker drum heads on heavy metal kits offer steady and organic feedback to your hits, which is a great way to understand the dynamics of hand techniques and develop good muscle memory.
- We can all agree that heavy metal drum kits do indeed look stunning on live stages due to their sheer size. The bigger and louder a drum kit, the more attention it grabs from the audience.
- When it comes to the sound of a heavy metal drum kit, you really can’t compare it against traditional drums. Something about the way the drum shells and heads are designed gives their tone a unique character, which is much-needed to stand among a wall of distorted guitars.
- Drum kits designed for heavy metal music are usually multi-piece kits, which can be a great fit for practicing rudiments and expanding your vocabulary of accents.
The Disadvantages of Heavy Metal Drum Sets
Heavy metal drum kits come with their own set of disadvantages for the average player, but none we thought were actual deal-breakers. Here’s a shortlist of some of the downsides you may face:
- The Size: Heavy metal drum kits use bigger drum shells on purpose to amplify the overall sound and resonance. The more pieces you add to your kit, the bigger it gets, both in terms of the weight and the floor space needed for the kit.
- The Sound: Heavy metal drum kits feature thicker drum heads, which allow you to get that focused and punchy sound out of them. This feature, however, may backfire on you if you decided to play other genres of music for a change. This is especially true for jazz or blues, where a rather warm drum tone is preferred.
- The Noise: Acoustic kits in general are deafening without proper volume control equipment. Since you’re dealing with even bigger and louder drums in the case of heavy metal kits, then you’re going to have to double down on your noise control measures.
- The Recording Difficulty: The more complex your drum rig is, the harder it is going to be to mic up and record with that kit. Professional drummers are accustomed to the ups and downs of recording with an acoustic kit, but if you’re a beginner, using programmable drums or electronic drum kits might be a better choice for you.
- The Cost: Most of us are already aware of the fact that heavy metal drum kits can cost you a lot more money than buying standard drum kits. If finding the right size and finish wasn’t already difficult, some particular drums can end up costing you upwards of thousands of dollars each if you’re chasing high-quality sound and durability.
The Best Drum Sets for Heavy Metal (2022)
Before we introduce the best drum sets for heavy metal, we first wanted to share with you our evaluation criteria. If any metal drum set didn’t meet all of our requirements, it simply did not make it onto the list.
Our Evaluation Criteria
The questions we asked ourselves for determining the best drum kits were:
- Was it a shell pack or a complete set?
- What was the shell size?
- How many pieces were included?
- What type of wood was used?
- How much did the drum set cost?
Shell Pack vs. Complete Set
While some brands sell you the complete drum set, including cymbals and hardware, others will only sell you a combination of drums (commonly known as a shell pack). Shell pack drums are typically higher quality, and they’re mostly used by drummers to mix and match various drum sounds in their kit.
The Shell Size
To a large extent, shell size determines the tonal strength, as well as the character, of your drums. Standard rock kits feature larger shells compared to a jazz kit, which has smaller shells better suited for lighter playing styles. The common sizes for each drum are listed as follows:
- Kick drum: 22″ x 14″
- Rack toms: 12″ x 8″ and 13″ x 9″
- Floor toms: 16″ x 16″
- Snare: 14″ x 6″
The Number of Pieces
Depending on the style of music, drum kits can vary from a simple four-piece setup that jazz players prefer to a monstrous 10-piece kit used by rock gods like Joey Jordison. If you’re a beginner, you’re better off with a simple 4 or 5 piece setup, which can be expanded later as you learn and grow.
The Wood Used
The type of wood used in the construction of drum shells will mainly determine the tone as well as the cost of your kit. Popular choices include maple, birch, and mahogany, but you may come across rarer woods in certain high-end kits like beech, cherry, walnut, oak, or Bubinga.
Cheaper drum kits often feature woods like falcata, poplar, and basswood to bring down the cost of the entire unit. Some drummers have been known to experiment with metal shells (usually for snares) made from steel, aluminum, copper, or bronze too.
The Overall Cost
The average cost for a 4-piece setup is between $400 to $1500, whereas a high-end kit can easily cost you north of $10,000. We were aiming to cater to a large audience with this guide, which is why we decided to feature drum kits ranging from entry-level to high-end models.
Our first pick is an eight-piece shell pack from Pacific Drums and Percussions (PDP), which is a sub-company of the famous drum manufacturer DW. This shell pack features a double-kick configuration and Remo heads made from 6-ply poplar woods.
Even though poplar is not considered the best quality wood for drums, its tone has close similarities to birch and mahogany. Described as one of the best entry-level drum sets for metal drummers, these drums offer a great deal of sustain and punch in the sound.
Double-kick configuration has its upsides and downsides, so if you don’t have much experience with tuning or enough floor space in your jam room, we’d advise you to overlook this option. On the flip side, if you’re comfortable with tuning your kick drums every session, then you can get a pretty decent bang for your buck with this shell pack.
- Drum Set Type: Acoustic
- Double Bass Drums: 22″ x 18″
- Three Rack Toms: 8″ x 7″, 10″ x 8″, 12″ x 9″
- Floor Tom(s): 14” x 12”, 16” x 14”
- Remo Drum heads
- Drum Shell Material: Poplar
- Double bass drums
- Three rack toms
- Great range of sound with ample sustain and punch
- Cymbals and hardware need to be bought separately
- Beginners can struggle with tuning and floor space for the twin-kicks
Our next pick is a community favorite, and we resonate with their choice. The Tama Starclassic fuses the two perfect kinds of wood for drums, birch, and walnut, to create a sound that has great range, depth, and attack to it. This shell pack is a successor to Tama’s birch/Bubinga line, which was popular back in 2019.
You get the desired amount of warmth in the low and mids due to the walnut and crispy clean high frequencies as a result of birch. It also features premium die-cast zinc hoops that provide ultimate tuning stability and superior tone. This is a solid choice for heavy metal drummers who are looking for a great-sounding and aesthetically pleasing drum set.
- Drum Set Type: Acoustic
- Bass Drum: 16″ x 22″
- 2 Rack Toms: 8″ x 10″, 9″ x 12″
- 2 Floor Toms: 12″ x 14″, 14″ x 16″
- Shells Material: Walnut/Birch
- Premium die-cast zinc hoops for better tuning and resonance
- Rubber-based claw hooks for noise-free operation
- Evans Drum Heads: Evans Genera G1 1-ply clear bottom heads and Genera G2 2-ply clear batter heads
- Great sound with incredible warmth and high-end resonance
- Bass drum spur bracket with memory markers for easier setup
- Only a shell pack (snares, cymbals, and hardware needs to be purchased separately)
- Fairly expensive
If you’re familiar with Roland’s reputation, then you already know that their products can deliver what they claim. The VAD503 is the latest iteration in their innovative line-up of electronic drum sets. This product is arguably one of the best in the market when it comes to combining electronic features with the look and feel of acoustic drums.
Roland is using poplar for the shell material and lacing their V-drums acoustic design, with a ton of incredible features like pitch, compressor, and numerous other effects. This kit features mesh heads that provide ultra-stable dynamics and full-range sound, making every performance fun and rewarding.
One of the highlights of this kit is the Roland RDT-RV drum throne, which employs an ergonomic design to keep you seated in the most comfortable position. Additionally, you also get a Roland RDH-102 double bass drum pedal and a Roland RDH-120 hi-hat stand as part of the accessories kit, making this an ideal selection for metal drummers.
- Drum Set Type: Acoustic-designed electronic drum set
- Bass Drum: 20″
- Shell Material: Poplar
- Number of Toms: 3
- 2 Roland Pm-100 drum monitors
- Roland TD-27 drum module
- Roland RDH-102 double bass drum pedal
- Roland RDH-120 hi-hat stand
- Roland RDT-RV drum throne
- Variety of sounds and effects
- Acoustic design
- Good response from the mesh pads
- Digital snare and ride
- Somewhat pricey
- Cymbals don’t sound natural
Finding a drummer who’s never heard of Pearl might be hard, as the Export is one of the most-sold drum kits in all of drumming history. Pearl has been holding their position at the top of the charts for a while now, and the Export is their flagship product. This series has had many variations in the past, out of which the EXX728DB/C is the one specifically designed for metal drummers.
The twin-kick setup ensures that your low end is super tight and punchy, just as intended by metal drummers. The drum shells are made from poplar and mahogany, which delivers a bright tone with plenty of sustain.
The kit also comes with Pearl 830-series hardware and pedals. Apart from the missing cymbals, there’s nothing you would need to add to this kit before you can start working on your chops.
- 2 Bass Drums: 20″ each
- 3 Rack Toms: 8″, 10″, and 12″
- 2 Floor Toms: 14″ and 16″
- Snare Drum: 14″
- SST (Superior Shell Technology) for durability and optimum resonance
- 830-series hardware for easy positioning
- P-930 drum pedals
- Superior Shell Technology
- Hardware included
- Great sound and durable equipment
- Value for money
- Cymbals not included
- Stock heads don’t sound that great
Last but not least, we have a charmer from the Ludwig Accent series, a budget drum kit for entry-level players and those who are looking to get a practice kit. This 5-piece kit comprises a bass drum, two rack toms, a floor tom, and a snare drum.
Ludwig went with select hardwood shells on this kit to achieve that ultra-choppy attack, yet not lose out on any of those harmonic overtones. If you’re not impressed yet, then take a look at the upgraded hardware package that comes included with this kit. It includes a stand for the snare, hi-hat, toms, cymbals, and a kick pedal.
- Drum Set Type: Acoustic
- Bass Drum: 22″ x 16″
- 2 Rack Toms: 10″ x 7″, 12″ x 8″
- 1 Floor Tom: 16″ x 16″
- Snare Drum: 14″ x 5″
- Select hardwood shells
- Cymbals and hi-hat included
- Great compact design
- Upgraded hardware package
- Impressive sound and response
- Cymbals don’t sound great
What Are Our Top Two Picks?
Pearl Export EXX728DB (Best Double Bass Drum Set Overall)
If you want to look the best and sound the best on stage, this is the kit you want to go with. The two bass drums don’t just look killer, but they also offer the unrelenting tightness to your sound that every heavy metal drummer dreams of achieving. The subtle combination of poplar and mahogany is great for down-tuning your drums and captures every note perfectly.
You also get your hands on some top-notch hardware from Pearl with this kit, especially the bass drum pedal. Overall, this kit is really well built and totally road-worthy. Upon reviewing its performance in the studio and live venues, we can confidently tag it as a flawless kit.
Ludwig Accent 5-piece Complete Drum Set (Best Budget Drum Set)
This drum set is great for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players. We’ve seen Ludwig keeping the pulse behind some of the biggest names such as Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Cream. The familiar sound of the 5-piece Accent drum set reminds us of our idols who came before us and their contributions to the metal scene. This kit has everything you can ask from a heavy metal drum set, and at a reasonable price tag, to boot.
Important Heavy Metal Drumming Tips
Keep it clean
From time to time, thoroughly clean your drum kit avoiding sensitive bearings and hinges, with a clean cloth and grease removing agent. Windex works great for drum kits and can even remove those tough to get to smudges. You should also consider covering up your kit with a bed sheet or any lightweight cloth when not in use, to avoid dust accumulation.
Lubricate the bearing edges
When cleaning your kit, it’s a great time to take a look at the bearing edges as well. Use a light coat of wax or Bearing Edge conditioner to avoid rusting. This will also aid in seating the drum head properly and tuning.
Refresh your heads (top and bottom)
Drum heads aren’t designed to last forever and will wear out rather quickly the more aggressive you play. If you’re starting to notice dents or deep scratches in the heads, it is time to change them. Many drummers often overlook their bottom heads thinking they don’t need as much care, since you don’t hit them. Bottom heads can lose tensile strength over time due to stretching. If you’re having a hard time turning them, or they are giving out undesired resonance during playing, it’s time you replaced those bad boys.
Wipe down the tension rods
Be sure to wipe down the tension rods every six months or so to avoid rusting. Once clean, run down a couple of drops of oil over them to stagger the oxidation process. This will make sure your tension rods stand strong and operate smoothly.
Tighten the screws
Be sure to check that all the screws holding the parts of the pedals and drum shells are securely in place. Prolonged beating on the drums can render these screws loose which is a recipe for disaster if you ask us.
Check the foot pedals
Before you attach the beater to the kick drum, check it thoroughly to ensure that the shaft is clamped tightly. If the beater head is held by a nut, tighten it periodically, and if it’s a machine fit, make sure it isn’t loosening up.
Take care of your cymbals
You can keep the sound of your cymbals fresh and crispy, just like the day you bought them if you care for them adequately. Nearly every brand offers cymbal cleaners and/or polish, and there are a ton of aftermarket solutions as, well. You want to use the cleaner to get rid of any dust or grit, then polish them afterward.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Cymbals are most commonly used for expanding the range of your sound and making it brighter. Some percussionists prefer to have a subtle sound, but when it comes to heavy metal, you want to be as aggressive as possible.
Metal drummers love incorporating many different kinds of cymbals in their setup, but at the bare minimum, you want to have a pair of hi-hats (14″ -15″), a ride cymbal (20″ -22″), a variety of crash cymbals (16″ -20″), and a Chinese cymbal (18″ -20″) or cymbal stack.
Answer: The choice between acoustic and electronic drums comes down to how you’re planning on using them. If you fancy playing around with different drum sounds and effects, you want to go with an electronic kit, since it offers tons of great features for drummers (apart from the ability to practice quietly).
If a natural drum sound and resonance is what you crave, then going with an acoustic drum kit would be wiser. These kits are a tad bit harder to maintain and tune, but once you get around that part, the result will be worth all the trouble.
Answer: You will come across drum finishes in two basic varieties:
• Wrapped: A plastic covering wrapped and afﬁxed to the shell
• Finished: Paint, oil, or lacquer applied to the wood
There’s a lot of speculation out there regarding the sound, with many claiming that unwrapped finishes sound better and fuller. However, unless you have a knack for minute details, it’s fairly hard to tell.
Wrapped finishes are considered more durable and don’t scratch easily, making them an ideal choice for drummers who move their kit a lot. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference, so go with what looks and sounds the best to you — and don’t let anyone sway you otherwise!
Answer: Crash symbols are mainly used for accents, such as producing a loud “crash” or a sustained swelling to add background dynamics. On the other hand, ride cymbals are used to play steady patterns, often in a similar fashion to hi-hats. Ride cymbals tend to be larger in size to produce that shimmering sound.
Answer: While some brands sell you the complete package (meaning drums along with their respective stands), if you’ve purchased a shell pack, then you’ll need to purchase all that hardware separately. The most important component of drum accessories is, without a doubt, the drum throne.
If you’re planning to travel with your drum kit frequently, make sure to grab some high-quality and durable stands for your cymbals, hi-hats, and toms. You also want to watch the weight factor when assembling your kit, as traveling with a heavy kit has its list of downsides.
Our Final Thoughts
A good drum kit does much more than just deliver a great sound and feel. It also inspires you to become a better drummer, too. If you’re thinking of buying a drum set for metal, then make sure it checks all of those boxes before bringing it home.
Our personal favorite is the Pearl Export EXX728DB, but there are many more out there that you can choose from. A lot of factors need to be considered when putting together a drum kit, but at the end of the day, we all know it’s all about the sound and the looks. And with your heavy metal drum set in tow, you can make the incredible music you’ve always dreamed of playing!
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