The Nitro and Surge are two of the entry-level electronic drum sets that Alesis offers. Both are excellent kits, but there are a few key differences between each one.
I needed to get an affordable electronic kit for my students at the school I used to work at, so I ended up looking very deeply into these two kits. From that experience, I learned the ins and outs of both. So, I’m going to use that knowledge to help you understand the differences. At the end of this article, you’ll have no doubt about which one to choose.
Bottom Line Upfront: The Alesis Surge is slightly more expensive than the Nitro. For the extra cost, you get a larger snare drum pad and more input options if you ever wish to add extra drums.
The toms on the Surge are also dual-zone while the Nitro has single-zoned toms. Both kits have the same drum module and cymbal pads. The final notable difference is that the hardware on the Surge is a bit sturdier.
Alesis Nitro Mesh
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is a top seller from the brand. It’s one of their most affordable drum sets, so many beginner drummers gravitate toward it. It’s one of the cheapest electronic kits that you can get that has mesh pads, making it incredibly sought after.
Here are the specs of the kit:
- 8-inch dual-zone mesh snare pad
- 3x 8-inch single-zone mesh tom pads
- 10-inch hi-hat pad
- 2x 10-inch cymbal pads
- Included bass drum pedal
- Alesis Nitro Module
- One of the most affordable mesh head electronic kits
- Fantastic option for beginners
- Feels good to play on
- Comes with a bass drum pedal
- Not a great kit for tall people
- Drum sounds aren’t the best
The Surge is the next product up in the Alesis product line. Because of this, it shares many of the features of the Nitro. However, there are a few upgrades.
Here are the exact specifications:
- 10-inch dual-zone mesh snare pad
- 3x 8-inch dual-zone mesh tom pads
- 10-inch hi-hat pad
- 2x 10-inch cymbal pads
- Alesis Surge drum module
- Chrome rack
- Also includes bass drum pedal
- Large snare drum
- All the drum pads have two trigger zones
- Sturdy kick drum tower
- Ride has a bell sound
- Sounds aren’t great compared to similarly priced kits from Roland and Yamaha
The first thing that you may be thinking of is the drum module. After all, the drum module is typically the most important part of an e-kit as it controls everything you hear. While the drum modules have different names on the Nitro and the Surge, you should know that they’re exactly the same.
They look the same, have the same internal features, and have the same number of inputs and outputs at the back. The only clear difference will be the names that are written on the front of the modules.
This means that both kits are going to have the same 40 preset drum kits with 385 assignable sounds. You’ll also get 60 play-along tracks.
Unfortunately, this also means that both kits have the lower-quality samples that Alesis offers. While the sounds are passable for beginners, more experienced drummers will be frustrated with the preset kits.
When I was teaching on an Alesis Nitro kit, I found that my students loved it, but I personally wasn’t a fan of the samples. I knew I’d need something better if I were to ever buy a new electronic kit.
In conclusion, the module isn’t what you should be looking at when comparing these two kits.
The drum pads on the Surge are far superior to the ones on the Nitro. The first notable difference is that the Surge has a 10-inch snare pad compared to the 8-inch one on the Nitro. If you’ve ever played on an electronic kit before, you’d know that it’s always better to play on larger pads. It feels better, and the larger surface allows you more space to hit.
Both kits have 8-inch tom pads. However, the pads are dual-zone on the Surge. This means that you can play the surface and the rim to get two sounds. You can’t do that with the tom pads on the Nitro.
The final drum pad to take note of is the bass drum pad. The tower on the Surge is 8 inches, making it larger and sturdier than the one on the Nitro. Alesis claims that you can play double bass on the Nitro but from what I’ve seen, it’s not ideal. If you’re a double pedal player, the Surge would be the clear option thanks to its larger kick tower.
The cymbal pads are physically the same on both kits. However, the ride on the Surge can be choked. You also get a bell sound if you hit it hard. It would be great if you got a bell sound from actually hitting the bell, but something is better than nothing. You don’t get a bell on the Nitro.
The Alesis Nitro costs between $400 and $450 depending on where you buy it. The Surge costs about $150 more. With the Surge being more expensive, it’s obvious that it has better features. However, is the extra cost worth it?
If you want larger pads and more trigger zones, then it’s highly worth it. Those extra features may not be noticed by beginner drummers, though. So, I’ll still give the Nitro the title of being one of the best beginner kits.
Whichever one you choose, there are some other kits on the market with similar prices that may be better options for you. So, pay attention to my alternate options list below to see what you could potentially get.
Alesis is known as the brand that offers affordable drum kits with mesh heads. You won’t find kits from Roland or Yamaha being sold for such low prices. Whichever kit you choose, know that the value-for-money is excellent.
There are two very important things to note about the hardware of these kits. They have the potential to make or break the kit for you, and I found that out the hard way.
Firstly, the Surge has a heavy chrome rack while the Nitro has a lightweight aluminum one. The rack on the Surge is a lot sturdier while the Nitro’s rack is very easy to move around. If you want portability, the Nitro is ideal. If you want as much stability as possible, the Surge is a better option.
Here’s what I found out after I already got the kit – the Alesis Nitro’s rack has a very low maximum height. Even when you raise the drums as high as you possibly can, the Alesis Nitro sits quite low.
I wouldn’t say it’s a dedicated children’s drum set, but more children will be comfortable with it than adults. If you’re a tall drummer, the Nitro isn’t going to work for you as it will be too low. The rack on the Surge can be raised a lot higher, making it more ideal for many drummers.
The last thing to mention about hardware is that both kits come with a bass drum pedal. There isn’t any distinct difference between them in terms of how they feel. They just look different. I love how the pedal on the Nitro looks compared to the one on the Surge. That’s my preference, though, and you may feel differently!
Which Kit to Choose
If you’re not limited by budget, I’d suggest you go with the Alesis Surge. Since the drum modules are exactly the same, the Surge is the clear superior option thanks to its larger pads and sturdier frame. It can also accommodate a double bass pedal while the Nitro can’t.
The Alesis Nitro is a good option for beginners. Beginner drummers won’t notice the upgrade quality of the Surge, so the cheaper Nitro will be more attractive to them.
The one downfall of both these kits is their sound quality. Again, beginners won’t worry about that.
If you’re an experienced drummer, you could get the Nitro and then spend about $100 on a high-quality VST to get better sounds via MIDI USB. That would amount to the same price as buying the Surge.
The price of the Yamaha DTX452K is a bit higher than the Alesis kits. However, the sounds you get from the module are a thousand times better. Even though the pads are made of rubber, they’re a lot more responsive, giving you a higher dynamic range.
The drum module you get on this kit is incredibly simplistic. You get 10 preset kits with over 400 sounds to work with. You don’t get more slots for custom kits. If you make a custom kit, it will override one of the preset ones.
One of the biggest upsides of this kit is the connectivity with the Yamaha DTX app. You get so much more control, and you can use it to record yourself playing as well.
Overall, the kit doesn’t feel as good to play as the Alesis Surge, but it sounds and performs a lot better.
- High-quality drum module sounds
- Yamaha DTX app is great to use
- Very sensitive pads
- Pads are made of rubber
- More expensive than the Alesis Surge
The Roland TD-1DMK is one of the best electronic drum sets to buy that costs under $1000. The pads on this kit are unmatched compared to pads from other brands.
They’re a bit smaller than the Alesis pads with the snare being 8” and the toms being only 6”. However, they’re much more responsive, and they cater incredibly well to the complex level of detail that the drum module offers.
Like the Yamaha kit, the module on the TD-1DMK is quite simplistic. You get 15 preset drum kits, and each one of them sounds incredible.
The cymbal pads on this kit are also a lot better than any kit that I’ve previously mentioned. They’re all multi-zoned, and they sit on ball-and-socket joints that make them a lot easier to maneuver comfortably.
The downside to this kit is the bass drum pad. It’s a small pad that is attached to one of the legs of the rack. The other kits have dedicated bass drum towers, which feel much better to play on. However, you have the option here of buying a Roland bass drum pad separately and connecting it to the kit. It will just cost a bit more to set that up.
- High-quality Roland sounds
- Mesh pads feel amazing to play
- Multi-zoned cymbals
- Extremely durable
- Small bass drum pad
- Also more expensive than the Alesis Surge
Answer: The entry-level kits from Alesis are fantastic options for beginners. They’re also good for anyone wanting a practice kit that won’t be used much. If you plan on heavily utilizing your electronic kit, or you want the best sounds you can get, you’ll need to buy an Alesis set that costs over $1000.
Otherwise, you’d need to get a kit from Roland or Yamaha as the ones under $1000 have far better sound quality.
Cheaper Alesis kits also don’t last very long. They’re known to have their parts fail after a few years. If you’re looking to buy a kit that will last a decade, entry-level Alesis kits like the Nitro or Surge aren’t good options.
Answer: Yes. You can connect the drum modules of both kits to a computer via a MIDI USB cable. This allows you to record the drums using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). It also allows you to run a VST (Virtual Sound Technology) program to get better drum sounds when playing the kits.
The Alesis Nitro and Surge don’t have the highest-quality drum sounds, so using a VST is something many drummers do to get better use out of the kits.
Answer: The cost of making electronic drums is very high. Drum companies need to make a profit on their products, so the selling prices are raised to counter their production costs. A lot of sound technology is used with e-kits, and that isn’t a cheap process.
However, electronic kits have progressed incredibly far in recent years. A decade ago, you would have had to pay a lot to get a relatively decent e-kit. Nowadays, a great entry-level kit only costs a few hundred dollars.
Unfortunately, Alesis kits are known to come with an expiry date. If that worries you, then you should consider getting the Roland or Yamaha kits that I suggested. Don’t let that fact completely deter you, though.
The Nitro and Surge are excellent drum sets, especially for beginners and first-time drum kit buyers. The Surge is the better option, but the Nitro is fantastic if you’re on a tight budget.
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