Music gear can seem very expensive when you’re looking to buy some for the first time. This is especially true when it comes to drums. Seeing a drum kit with a price tag of $100 may seem very attractive. However, it’s not a good idea to buy it. Let me tell you why.
In this review, I’m going to explain all the good and bad of the Simmons SD300 electronic drum set. It’s one of the cheapest electronic kits you can find, so you may be interested in getting one for yourself.
The Simmons Brand
Simmons was an iconic drum brand back in the 70s. Have you ever seen old videos of drummers who had hexagonal pads around their drum sets? Those were Simmons drums. The brand specialized in making electronic gear that produced sounds that acoustic drums weren’t able to.
Having these drums in your setup became a bit of a fad back then. Unfortunately, the fad died down, and drummers went back to using pure acoustic setups. Because of this, the Simmons brand ended.
However, Guitar Center owned the name, and they started producing Simmons electronic drums around 2005. Since then, a few Simmons drum sets have been pushed out to the drum market. They’re a lot cheaper than the popular electronic kits, but they’re all much worse in their sounds and features.
What is the Simmons SD300?
The SD300 is the cheapest kit from Simmons. It’s quite difficult to find as the SD350 has taken its place in the product line. However, you can still buy it from a few music stores that stock it.
While the kit used to cost a bit more when it came out, it currently retails for around $100. That price may want to make you buy it straight away. However, you should read this review before going through with the purchase.
The Simmons SD300 is an entry-level set. So, we’re going to see how it compares to the other entry-level electronic sets on the market. I’ll also give you a quick guide to choosing a good kit that you’ll end up loving.
What to Look for in an Electronic Drum Set
Let’s start with the guide. There are 4 main things that you should be checking out when buying a cheap electronic drum set:
- USB Connectivity
Naturally, none of these aspects will match the quality of higher-priced electronic kits. However, you may find that a cheap kit excels in one or two areas, making it worth a buy.
The pads should always be the first thing you look at when checking out an electronic kit. You need to distinguish whether they’re rubber or mesh pads. Mesh pads are the ideal option as they feel more responsive and similar to acoustic drumheads in how they react to sticks.
Rubber pads have harder surfaces. They’re easier to play fast patterns on, but they make your technique a bit lazy as their rebound is often too much.
Some companies, such as Yamaha, use silicone pads instead of mesh. The silicone pads are just as good as mesh in their responsiveness, though. At the end of the day, you should simply avoid getting an electronic kit that has rubber pads.
The module acts as the brain of every electronic kit setup. All the pads connect to the module, and then the module triggers different sounds from each pad. Most modules don’t just act as sound sources, though. They often include useful features such as recording tools, play-along tracks, and a metronome to practice with.
Cheaper drum modules are fairly limited. When buying a more affordable drum set, you shouldn’t be looking to see how many features the module has. You should instead be looking to see how easy it is to use.
All drum modules over a certain price tag have USB connectivity. It’s become a standard feature. However, cheaper drum modules may not have a USB port, so you always need to check for it.
There are two main reasons for having a USB connection. The first is giving you the ability to plug a flash drive into the module to play your own tracks through it.
The second, which is arguably more important, is the ability to connect a MIDI cable from your module to a computer. Doing this will allow you to run the drums through a VST and get better sounds than the ones on the module. Cheap electronic drums typically sound quite bad, so this is the best way of getting more quality out of them.
You need to establish your budget when looking for an electronic kit. Anything under $500 would be considered as an entry-level kit. You have a few worthy options when looking for something in that budget.
If you’re happy to go over $500, you’ll be able to find some superior options that may just last longer. Whichever budget range you choose, just know that the more expensive electronic kits will always be of higher quality. Buying the cheapest kit possible will lead to having the worst kit you can get.
Simmons SD300 Review
The Simmons SD300 has a full set of rubber pads. The snare and toms are all 8”, giving you a standard set of drum pads to play on. You won’t find many electronic kits with pads smaller than 8”, but it’s good that these pads are large enough to play comfortably.
The most unique thing about this kit is the bass drum pad. The beater is attached to the pedal and is angled in a way that leads it to hit a pad at the bottom of the pedal. This isn’t as ideal as a kick pad tower would be, but I prefer it to how bass drum trigger pedals feel.
Other than the bass drum pedal, there’s nothing too special about these pads. They’re not as responsive as I’d like them to be, but you can’t really expect more due to the price of the kit.
The module is quite small and easy to use. The layout is very simple, having two giant directional buttons to switch between kits. There are 10 preset drum kits to play with on the module. There are also 179 custom sounds to play around with and create your own drum kits.
I’ll put this very bluntly – the sounds on this module are very bad. They’re far too stiff and electronic, and you can’t play musically as the sounds don’t vary in dynamics. The drum set also struggles when you try to play fast and intricate patterns. It tends to cut sounds out that you attempt to play as the module can’t handle too much at once.
Luckily, the module has USB connectivity! You can connect the module to a computer and run better sounds through a program. However, the responsiveness and musicality of the pads still remain the same.
Even if you’re running the highest-quality VST through the module, you’re not going to be able to play fast and intricate patterns. This may seem like a non-issue for beginner drummers. However, you’re going to hit a wall when you start playing things like double strokes and flams.
The only way I can see this kit being somewhat useful is if you run the module through a VST and then use the pads as triggers for a hybrid acoustic setup.
As I said earlier, the cost is the most attractive thing about the SD300. It’s the only attractive thing about the kit if I’m being honest. If I have one piece of advice to give, it’s to never buy an electronic drum kit that costs less than $300.
While buying this kit may save you a lot of money, you’ll find yourself wanting something better very quickly. All the better kits cost over $300, so you’ll most probably end up buying one of those. Modern Simmons kits have terrible resale value, so you’ll struggle to make your money back from the initial purchase.
Pros and Cons
- One of the cheapest electronic kits on the market
- Kick pad is better than kick trigger pads on similarly priced kits
- Drum module is easy to use
- Onboard sounds are terrible
- Drums aren’t very responsive
- The module can’t handle fast patterns
- The kit has rubber pads
The Simmons SD300 is hard to find for a very good reason – not many people have been buying it over the last few years, so Simmons have stopped making them. Simmons sells an updated version of the kit that has mesh pads called the SD350. However, it costs the same as the entry-level Alesis kits, and those are far superior.
I highly recommend that you don’t buy this kit. If other electronic kits seem too expensive at the moment, it’s better to wait and save until you can buy something that will last and has better sound quality.
Better Alternate Options
Alesis Nitro Mesh
The Alesis Nitro Mesh is the kit that I always recommend to first-time electronic drum set buyers. It’s a highly affordable drum set with two fantastic selling points. Firstly, it has a kick drum tower pad. This means that you can use a standard kick drum pedal with it. Most kits in this price range have kick drum trigger pedals, which I’m not a big fan of.
Secondly, the kit has a full set of tuneable mesh pads. These pads feel excellent to play on, especially when you adjust their tension to feel similar to an acoustic kit.
There’s so much more to this kit such as the 40 preset kits and extensive module functions. However, you can read more about that in our full-length review.
One last thing I’ll say about this kit is that it acts as a fantastic MIDI controller. If you want a cheap kit that you can plug into your computer, this is the ideal one to get. I know a few professional drummers who use the Nitro Mesh for this purpose, and they love it.
- Best entry-level electronic kit on the market
- Full set of tunable mesh pads
- Very affordable
- Hi-hat pedal is a weak point
The Behringer XD8USB is another good cheap kit that can be heavily utilized as a MIDI controller. I’d suggest looking into this kit if you’re keen on getting something a bit different from the main 3 electronic drum brands (Roland, Alesis, and Yamaha).
This kit is fairly similar to the Alesis Nitro Mesh. However, I found the pads to be surprisingly more responsive. The onboard sounds aren’t as good, though.
Since USB is in the name, it’s clear that Behringer wants you to use this kit more as a controller than as a standard electronic set.
- Surprisingly responsive drum pads
- Ideal kit to be used as a MIDI controller
- Unique option compared to classic Alesis, Yamaha, and Roland kits
- Onboard sounds aren’t amazing
If you’re happy to spend a bit more money, the Alesis Surge is the better alternative to the Nitro Mesh. It has a larger snare drum that feels much better to play on. It also has a slightly superior drum module.
The thing I love most about the Surge is the sturdy chrome rack that holds everything together. These chrome racks are iconic parts of Alesis drum sets, and the Surge is the most affordable Alesis kit that has the rack.
Overall, the Surge looks and feels much better than the previous kits. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable electronic set that will last a long time. You can see our full review of it here.
- 10” snare pad
- Beautiful chrome rack
- Better suited for adults
- More expensive than the previous kits
The Roland TD-1DMK is one of the best electronic drum kits that cost under $1000. While the price may seem very steep compared to the price of the Simmons SD300, a kit like this is a much better investment to make.
You get the high-quality Roland sounds along with incredibly responsive mesh pads. This is one of my favorite electronic drum sets, and it’s the kit I suggest to all my students who can afford it.
The module has an extremely simple layout. It doesn’t offer too much, but the quality shines through in what it does offer. You get 15 preset kits that cover a wide range of different styles. You also get a metronome, coaching functions, and a recording feature.
If you want the best kit possible for the lowest price possible, this is what you need to get.
- One of the best electronic kits under $1000
- High-quality Roland sounds
- Highly responsive mesh pads
- Very expensive compared to the other kits in this article
Question: Why are Good Electronic Drum Sets Expensive?
Answer: The expense of an instrument always reflects how much it was to make it. The brands that sell these electronic drums need to make a profit, so they boost the price of their products. While $500 to $1000 for a good entry-level electronic drum set may seem steep, you should know that the top electronic kits cost up to $8000.
So, spending $500 on a kit is actually very reasonable. If you want the best kits for the lowest prices, you should check out everything that Alesis offers.
Question: Where Does Simmons Rank Amongst the Top Electronic Drum Brands?
Answer: Simmons was one of the most popular drum brands back in the 70s. Their popularity has dipped significantly since then, unfortunately. The top drum brands are Roland, Alesis, and Yamaha. If I were to rank Simmons amongst those, I’d say they’re 5th or 6th on the list after companies like Pearl and ddrum.
Simmons only makes cheaper electronic sets, so it’s difficult to rank them highly when their entry-level kits are inferior to the ones from the popular brands.
Question: Does Simmons Make Any Professional Electronic Drum Sets?
Answer: The current flagship kit from Simmons is the SD1250. It’s a large mesh pad kit that feels fairly decent to play on. However, the sample sounds from the module aren’t great.
I’d only suggest getting the SD1250 if you want to use it as a MIDI controller. Since it only costs just over $1000, it’s a better option to use as a controller than the kits from the main brands with similar pad sizes.
Question: Can You Get a Good Acoustic Drum Set for $100?
Answer: No. Good entry-level drum sets have starting prices of around $400. The only way you’re going to get a decent one for less is if you find a great deal on it secondhand.
You can usually find some cheap acoustic kits on Amazon. However, I suggest steering clear of those. It’s always going to be better buying an acoustic kit from an established drum brand such as Pearl, Tama, Yamaha, or Mapex.
Hopefully, you’ve seen from this review that buying a Simmons SD300 isn’t an ideal path to follow. If you want to get the best entry-level set that is affordable, I’d recommend the Alesis Nitro Mesh over anything else.
If you are keen on a Simmons set, consider getting one of their higher-priced models that has mesh pads.
For more interesting reading on drum gear, check out the following articles that we have here on the site: