Compact drums are all the rage, and basically every drum manufacturer is making them at this point. Ludwig seems to be the ones who really started this trend when their “Breakbeats” set first came on the scene back in 2013, and since then nearly every drum maker has got in on the game. I thought I would put together a little list of what I think are THE BEST compact drum kits!
10. Ludwig Pocket Kit -The Ludwig Pocket is TINY, cheap and sounds great! Though this set is targeted towards kids and new players, it is built well enough to make a great little portable player for any drummer! It features a 16″ Kick, 10″ and 13″ toms, and a 12″ Snare. The sound of this little monster is surprisingly great! It also comes with a really cheap pair of hi hats and a crash ride that sound pretty bad, but could be used as a stacker or something. It also comes with a cymbal mount for the kick drum, hi hat stand, bass drum pedal and throne all of which aren’t terrible. Though if you want to do real gigging with this kit you’ll probably want to use some better hardware.
Pros: It’s very inexpensive, only $269 BRAND NEW WITH FREE SHIPPING!, it sounds great even with the stock heads, comes with hardware and a throne! Drums sound great. Snare especially is just killer sounding!
Cons: It’s borderline TOO small. Having only a 16″ kick drum and not being on a bass drum lift, a full sized bass drum pedal will land very close to the top of the kick. Even with all the hardware extended all the way, it may not be tall enough for some people. This could be remedied by adding a good lift to the bass drum. Cymbals that come with the kit are junk and you may want sturdier hardware, though the hardware isn’t terrible.
9. Ludwig Breakbeats – The kit that started it all! Co-designed by Questlove. The Breakbeats is still a great choice for compact drummers. It looks awesome, sounds good, and is made to last. Similar in size to the Pocket, but this one does come with a lift. This one is in the $400-$500 range. Still a great deal for an awesome looking kit.
PROS: Looks absolutely amazing. The Breakbeats comes in all kinds of cool looking finishes like the one above, as well as sparkles and other retro looking finishes. Comes with good heads, so you can play it out of the box for quite a long time before having to replace any of the stock heads. Built like a pro kit at a budget price, mounting hardware and spurs are all excellent. This kit will turn heads and looks pro. Full sized 14″ snare drum.
Cons: Too small for some. Though this 16″ bass drum does come with a lift, 16″ still can lack the low end that even a 2 inches bigger 18″ can provide. Shell pack only, no hardware included (though most kits on this list will be this way)
8. Pearl Roadshow Jazz – If you’re looking for great price and great features, you may not have to look further than the Roadshow Jazz by Pearl. Similar to the Breakbeats and Pocket kits, but the Roadshow has an 18″ kick drum, which will give you more low end thump. It also comes with an awesome hardware pack that should last you years. These things are built like tanks and are roadworthy out of the box.
Pros: Built solid AF! These things are very well made and ready to be thrown in your car and taken to the next gig! Hardware rocks! You’ve got a kick mounting ride stand, nice hi hat stand, great snare stand, throne and kick drum pedal. They’re all built to last and are quite good for a $400 drum kit! 18″ Kick drum! This kick is big enough to sound big if tuned right and with the right heads, but still small enough to move around easily.
Cons: looks aren’t great. It doesn’t look bad at all, but not a work of beauty the way the Breakbeats is, and only comes in basic kinda generic looking finishes (though I would still pick the Roadshow Jazz over the BB just because of the kick drum size). Junk cymbals. Again, like the Pocket Kit, these things are just thin brass junk, but you could probably make a cool stacker out of them. Stock heads aren’t great. They’re usable, but if you want a pro sound you’ll wanna replace the batter heads on all the drums.
7. Sonor AQ2 Safari – Though the Safari is back down to a 16″ kick this thing is just beautiful. Sonor makes absolutely excellent quality drums and these kits are even bigger head turners than the Breakbeats! Size wise, they’re basically identical, but are going to cost you about twice as much. However, the AQ2 is a beautiful looking set, and every Sonor kit I’ve ever heard sounded amazing.
Pros: Looks absolutely amazing, comes in tons of great finises, has pro-level components, looks and sounds incredible, will last a lifetime if taken care of. Comes with wooden bass drum hoops instead of metal or plastic. Good stock heads. Amazing mounting hardware.
Cons: Only a 16″ kick, once again to me this is a drawback. More recent compact designs by competitors are coming with larger diameter, but shallower depths (see later in the list). This not only sounds better and more full in my opinion, but actually takes up less space when setup. It’s expensive for such small drums and only being a shell pack. Shell pack only, no hardware or other items.
6. PDP New Yorker – Rivaling the Sonor AQ2 in quality, but costing half the price, the PDP New Yorker is just a beautiful little setup and comes in some very classy and cool looking finishes like this ‘Pale Rose Sparkle’ seen below. The toms have more depth than all the other kits on the list up to this point, so will give them a bit more sustain if that is what you are after. Other than that, the sizes are still very similar to the Breakbeats and Safari kits.
Pros: Built to last, pro level drums at a very affordable price. Looks classy and amazing, comes in great finishes. Deeper toms than the Breakbeats and Safari, so will have more sustain. Wooden kick drum hoops, decent stock heads.
Cons: once again, only a 16″ kick. I know this is a compact list, but all of these kits could improve by taking two inches off the depth of the kick and adding it to the diameter. Shell pack only.
5. Tama Club Jam Flyer – Now is small is what you are after, it doesn’t get much smaller than the Tama Club Jam Flyer. Though in my opinion this kit is just TOO SMALL, but for some it may be just what they need. This kit features only a 14″ kick drum, 10″ snare and floor tom, and and 8″ rack tom. This thing is just microscopic. Don’t expect it to sound big, but it definitely doesn’t sound bad. It made it this high in the list just because of being so insanely compact, and looks great.
Pros: It’s Tama, everything they make is high quality. The cheapest most budget of all Tamas will generally last you a lifetime. They are one of the greatest drum manufacturers in the world. It’s TINY. When I say small, I mean it is SMALL, even smaller than the Ludwig Pocket! Looks great, nice finishes, wooden hoops, high quality components. Comes with a bass drum lift.
Cons: It’s TINY! I know this was on the Pros list, but the same thing can be a disadvantage to some (or most). It will be quieter, and definitely will not sound like a full sized kit. A 14″ bass drum is never going to give you much bass (though you could always trigger).
4. Yamaha Stage Custom Bop – Much like Tama, Yamaha does not make bad drums. Even their cheapest sets will be made with the highest quality and precision. The Stage Custom Bop, is a very basic 3 piece shell pack, but is moderately priced, and the sizes are just right in my opinion. 18″ Kick, 12″ tom, and 14″ floor tom. This is a tried and true combination of sizes and big enough to cover nearly all musical genres, as well as small enough to still move around.
Pros: Simple and functional design, no obtrusive metal parts sticking out everywhere, functional and classy. Moderately priced if all you need is a shell pack. 18″ kick. 12″ rack tom (a lot of the other compact kits have a 10″ tom which will give you a significantly higher rack tom pitch than a 12″. A 12″ tom is more practical in my opinion and is much more versatile than a 10″. Will last a lifetime. Yamahas are made very well and rarely do parts break or wear out even after decades of heavy use. Birch shells for a nice warm tone.
Cons: Shell pack only, no bass drum lift.
3. Yamaha Stage Custom Hip – Only one thing about this kit kept it from being higher on the list, and that is the 10″ tom. If it had a 12″ it could have quite possibly been a tie for #2. It’s still an awesome kit and has something none of the others do. First off, the sizes are great (except the rack tom). As I was saying earlier, kicks with larger diameter and a shallower depth are actually a far better choice for compact drums. First the larger diameter gives you a lower pitch. Larger depth in drums more greatly increases sustain more so than pitch, and on a bass drum, sustain usually isn’t desired by most players anyway. Having a 20″diameter, but only 8″ depth is the ideal compact size in my opinion for sound and footprint in the room. Even if you have a 16″ kick that is 12″ or 14″ deep, you’ll still be taking up more space in the room than a 20×8, and the 20×8 is going to sound bigger. The ultimate coolness about this kit is the floor tom is also a snare! Yep, you can flip a switch suddenly have a huge 80s snare sound. Check the demo below.
Pros: It’s a Yamaha. Amazing kick drum size, 20×8. Floor tom doubles as a second snare drum. Simple functional design. Birch wood. Build to last. Truly compact, but still sounds ‘real’. Functional and simple design. Affordable.
Cons: Tom diameter too small. Rack tom should be a 12″ and floor tom should be 14″
2. C&C Drum Company Super Flyer – Okay, well this one could easily be #1 so really I think this is a tie between this kit and the #1. The only thing keeping the Super Flyer from the top pick is price. Almost $2000 for a 3 piece shell pack is pretty darn steep, though I can understand why it costs as much as it does. No other kit on this list looks or sounds as beautiful as this C & C set. I absolutely love this thing and would totally buy one if I could. These are hand made in the USA of either maple or mahogany and just have an absolute coolness factor of 11. They have maple hoops on all the drums, have large diameter / shallow depth drums all around, and come in concert tom versions and double headed versions. They are all hand crafted, finished and assembled in the USA and made in small batches like microbrews.
Pros: Perfect sizes, compact where it counts. Highest quality wood, craftsmanship, and style. Will gain value over time if taken care of. Comes in beautiful hand painted finishes, all wooden hoops, extremely light weight, concert tom versions can nest inside each other, HUGE FAT SOUNDS from a tiny kit.
Cons: Too expensive, most people can’t afford them, or wouldn’t want to pay that much for a compact drum kit. TOO NICE, I would never take these drums to my crappy rehearsal space or to some danky club. Museum quality makes me afraid to play them.
1. Tama Superstar Neo Mod – As close as you can get to the Super Flyer in an affordable mass produced version. The Tama Superstar Neo Mod is a 100% Maple kit with shallow depth toms and kick, that are all relatively normal diameter, 20″ kick, 12″ tom, and 14″ floor tom. Like the Super Flyer it is also just a 3 piece shell pack, but it is about $1200 cheaper! It comes in amazing looking finishes, and is made with precision Tama quality. I’m fighting my urge not to buy one of these right now, even though I do not need it at all.
Pros: It’s a Tama. Maple shells. Affordable. Perfect sizes. Great finishes. Wood bass drum hoops. Pro quality.