Roland and Alesis are the two big names in the electronic drumming world. Whether you’re a beginner drummer or someone who’s been playing for decades, these are the two names that will come up most often when looking for a good e-kit.
I’m going to take you through a Roland vs Alesis brand comparison. We’ll see why these brands are so popular, look through a few of their top products, and explore the main differences between them.
Bottom Line Upfront
Roland is the top electronic drum company in the world. For decades, they have innovated in the electronic drumming world, always being at the forefront of newly introduced technology.
They have the best sounding samples and the most expensive kits. Alesis is a brand that offers all the goods of electronic drums for lower and more attainable prices. Even their cheapest kits have tunable mesh head drum pads. Their sample sound quality isn’t as good as Roland’s, though.
Main Differences Between Alesis vs Roland
- Roland kits are expensive, whereas Alesis kits are often very affordable
- Roland has high-quality sample sounds across all their modules, whereas the cheaper Alesis drum modules don’t have great sounds
- Roland only has mesh pads on their higher-priced kits, whereas Alesis offers mesh pads on kits that cost as low as $400
- Roland kits have longer lifespans, whereas Alesis kits tend to break faster
- Roland kits have high resale value, whereas Alesis kits don’t sell for as high the second time around
- Roland kits are ideal for experienced players, whereas many Alesis kits are excellent for beginners
Key Features of Roland
Roland kits have a very distinct feel to them. It’s something that I only understood after playing multiple Roland kits and comparing them to other brands. Roland was the company that created the mesh head, and this has led to their mesh-head pads feeling extraordinary, especially in their higher-tier kits.
I’ve found that many drummers I know love Roland kits thanks to their long lifespans and upgradability. When I’ve gone to people more experienced than me and asked for electronic kit buying advice, people have always suggested Roland.
There’s a saying in the drumming community that it’s better to buy a secondhand Roland kit rather than a cheaper kit from another brand. The brand’s reputation for durability is the biggest reason for this.
However, Roland kits are expensive. The cheapest kit you can buy from Roland at the moment costs over $500. You can get decent entry-level kits from other brands that cost much less than that.
- High-quality sounds on all their modules
- The best mesh pads on the market
- All Roland kits last decades
- Roland kits can easily be upgraded with extra parts
- All new Roland drum kits are expensive
Roland currently has two flagship drum sets, the Roland TD-50KV2 and the Roland VAD706. The TD-50KV2 has the classic appearance of the V-Drums that everyone knows. You get thin mesh pads around the kit and a more compact setup.
The VAD706 has the appearance of a big acoustic kit. However, the acoustic shells are layered with mesh pads. This kit is the most expensive on Roland’s product line, and it plays very similarly to an acoustic kit.
Both kits use the Roland TD-50X drum module, which is the most powerful electronic drum module in the world.
Roland’s cheapest kit, the TD-1K, isn’t so glamorous. It costs over $500, has a full set of rubber pads instead of mesh, and it doesn’t have a dedicated kick tower for a pedal. I’d say it’s a drum set only suitable for children as it’s small easy to navigate. Not having mesh pads or the platform for a standard kick pedal makes it a kit I wouldn’t suggest most drummers get.
If we look at the upgraded version, the Roland TD-1DMK, then we’ll see I kit I can get behind. That’s a much better entry-level kit. However, it costs over $700.
Key Features of Alesis
The Alesis brand isn’t as popular as Roland. However, their drum kits have increased in popularity over the past few years thanks to their affordable price tags. Most Alesis kits have mesh heads and large sizes, which is their biggest drawcard.
Their drum sets that cost between $200 and $800 are some of the best drum sets for beginners that I know of. You get a lot more value for your money than you do with Roland kits of the same price.
The downsides are that the sound quality on these kits isn’t as good as the sound quality on Roland sets. They also don’t have lifespans that are as long.
- Very affordable compared to Roland kits
- Even the cheaper kits have tunable mesh pads with large sizes
- Great kits for beginner drummers
- Alesis kits often have quality control issues, especially the cheaper ones
- Sound quality isn’t as good as Roland on the cheaper kits
The Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition is the prized kit of Alesis. It aims to do everything that the Roland VAD706 does. However, it costs less than half the price. That’s an incredible difference! While the sound quality isn’t as detailed, I think the Strike Pro is an excellent option for anyone who wants the best electronic kit they can get without spending almost $10 000.
It’s an incredible drum set, having large cymbal pads, six drums with acoustic shells, and a highly extensive drum module. While the cheaper Alesis kits have a few quality control issues, the Strike Pro plays in the big leagues and easily competes with Roland’s top products.
Alesis has several entry-level kits in the $100 to $1000 range. These include the Alesis Debut, Alesis Turbo, Alesis Forge, Alesis Nitro Mesh, and Alesis Surge. Out of all of those, the Nitro Mesh would be my top pick for getting the cheapest kit with the most value.
It’s an excellent beginner kit that has a full set of high-quality mesh pads. As it’s a cheaper kit, the sounds on the module aren’t amazing. However, I know several beginner drummers who own this kit, and they don’t worry about the sounds as they’re not experienced enough to need something better yet.
Alesis undoubtedly wins when it comes to the entry-level drum set category.
Other Alternative Brands to Consider
In the electronic drumming world, there are three brands that are seen as the “big three”. While we’ve looked at Alesis and Roland, we haven’t yet looked at Yamaha. Yamaha electronic drums don’t seem to be as popular due to their acoustic line of drums taking the spotlight. However, Yamaha makes incredible electronic kits that are highly worth checking out.
Like Roland, Yamaha e-kits can be quite expensive. The entry-level Yamaha kit is the DTX402K, and it costs around $500. That’s $200 more than a similar kit from Alesis that also has the benefit of mesh heads while the Yamaha kit has rubber. However, Yamaha’s drum sounds are superior to the sounds from Alesis.
Yamaha uses samples from the acoustic drums to create preset kits for all their drum modules, and they’re some of my favorite preset kits out of any electronic drum brand.
Yamaha’s flagship electronic drum set is the DTX10K. There are a few versions of the kit available, and all of them have acoustic shells to give a closer visual resemblance to an acoustic kit. They all cost around $5000, which is a fair amount cheaper than the $8000 price tag of Roland’s flagship kits.
Pearl is primarily an acoustic drum brand, but the company has released a few electronic kits over the years. There’s only one e-kit from Pearl that is currently available that is called the e/Merge. While the Pearl brand isn’t a huge competitor in the electronic drum kit world, I’ve put them here as the e/Merge is a viable option in the high-tier electronic drum kit realm.
There’s a full review of the kit on the site which you can read here.
You can never go wrong if you pick either a Roland, Alesis, or Yamaha electronic drum set. However, there are other electronic drum set brands around that aren’t as well known. They have a few products that tend to stand out more than others, adding them to your list of options when looking for a new kit.
One of these lesser-known brands is Simmons. The Simmons electronic drum brand used to be incredibly popular in the 80s. If you’ve ever seen an electronic drum kit with hexagonal pads, it’s most likely a Simmons kit that you saw. The brand went dormant for a while, but they’ve released a few decent kits in the past decade.
They’re nowhere near as good as kits from the big three brands. However, you should still read about them to know if they potentially offer what you’re looking for.
Here’s a review on a Simmons kit that only costs $100.
Answer: Yes, you can replace the pads on an Alesis kit with ones from Roland. However, it doesn’t work with all Alesis drum modules. So, you need to make sure that they’re compatible with each other before buying new Roland pads for your Alesis kit.
Also, some pads work, but they don’t work well. For example, attaching Roland drum pads to an Alesis Nitro Mesh module will work decently, but Roland cymbal pads connected to the same Nitro Mesh module won’t work well.
Similarly, Alesis pads will work with a Roland module. However, you need to make sure that the pads you’re using are dual-zone if the module offers dual-zone sounds.
Answer: No. The closest thing to acoustic drums that the two brands make are their electronic kits with acoustic shells. Even though they have acoustic shells, they don’t produce acoustic sounds. Those shells are just there for aesthetic purposes.
It’s arguably better that they don’t make acoustic kits as it allows the brands to focus on making the best electronic kits possible.
The brands that make both acoustic and electronic kits are Pearl and Yamaha. Pearl only has one available electronic kit while Yamaha has a long list of them.
Answer: Roland’s top electronic drum sets are the Roland VAD706 and the Roland TD-50KV2. These are the brand’s two flagship kits, and they’re undoubtedly the highest-quality electronic drum sets in the world at the moment.
The top kit that Alesis offers is the Alesis Strike Pro SE. It’s a high-powered electronic drum kit that has acoustic shells. It’s incredibly affordable compared to the professional e-kits from other brands, leading many drummers to choose it over the others.
Answer: The answer here is undoubtedly Roland over anything else. Roland kits have a strong reputation for lasting incredibly long. I know so many drummers who have owned their Roland kits for ten years or longer. Even the cheaper kits from Roland tend to last very long.
If you buy a cheaper kit from Alesis, it’s only going to have a lifespan of a few years. After that, the trigger senses on the pads will stop working. This is why you shouldn’t buy an Alesis kit secondhand. Their kits are so affordable already, so you should wait to buy them new.
I love the Alesis brand. Their electronic drum kits are continually getting better as they get released. However, I don’t think they’ve reached a point where they strongly contest with Roland kits yet. If money isn’t an issue for you, a Roland kit will be the better option every single time.
If you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a professional e-kit, the Alesis Strike Pro SE is one of the best kits that I’ve played on that won’t completely break the bank. Alesis is also a good brand to go with if you’re a complete beginner drummer. Their entry-level kits offer a lot more than the ones from Roland.
For more interesting reading about drum gear, check out the following articles:
- How to Find the Best Kids Drum Sets: Our Top Picks!
- Learn to Play the Drums: The Quickest Way to Learn
- Best Drum Solos of All Time!