I’m not a firm believer in the glory of excess. Grandmothers the world over used to say “a poor workman blames his tools,” and with that mantra residing close to my heart, I, in turn, don’t think spending an absurd amount of money on a drum kit will make you a better drummer.
Obviously, there are some asterisks attached to this rule and the biggest one is that I’m not saying “a $50 kit you found at a second-hand shop is as good as a Pearl Masters.” That would be ludicrous, but even that point isn’t straightforward.
What an average joe could get out of a junk kit and someone with an incredible amount of passion (and time) for turning coal into diamonds could achieve is a wide margin.
Generally, a decent kit is gonna set you back about $500 and if you have absolutely no interest in maintaining or improving that kit, you’re likely to sound worse than an alternate version of you who’s really into drum heads.
With all that said, here as some badass kits you can purchase for less than a grand, from some of the major players. By the way, I won’t be including cymbals because they too can set you back a pretty penny.
Gretsch Catalina Club
I bloody love a Catalina Club. I’ve played versions of the jazz-size kit less than a handful of times, but they leave such a mark on my world-weary soul. I have an incredible urge to describe them as “nifty”, but not in a passive-aggressive, kind of sarcastic way.
For just under $800, you can score the shell pack, which might come as a bit of a blow if you’ve only got $1000 max to play with. Hopefully you’ve garnered quite the collection of hardware by now in your drumming career, but if not, perhaps this choice isn’t for you.
Looking at the specs, we’ve got 4 a piece shell pack – snare (14”), rack tom (12”), floor tom (14”) and kick (18”) – all made of 7 ply mahogany in South Carolina (a state possibly known for its 7 ply mahogany!). Available in 4 colours currently, but you’ll likely come across a heckload of now discontinued colours from this kit’s lengthy tenure as a must-have.
As a side note, one of my favourite things about reading drum specs and blurbs online is that they’re all written with the goal of selling a kit to every kind of drummer, regardless of the specificity of the kit.
For example, this one is for jazz, an advanced drumming style, though the official write up claims it “offers a great learning experience for beginner and intermediate drummers, whilst offering the high-quality components and features which more advances drummers require.” So, everyone then?
Tama Superstar Hyperdrive
I guess I’m just going with shell packs, huh? It doesn’t matter to me – I already have hardware (and I’m not actually buying anything on this list).
This one is on the cheaper end of the (sigh) Superstar Hyperdrive spectrum and features no snare drum or hardware (other than stuff integral to the kit, like tom arms and legs). Hilariously, Tama’s official statement on the shell pack suggests that leaving you with the burden of completing the kit is actually a desirable problem.
For a mere sliver beneath the upper price boundary of $1000, this dream of a kit could be yours.
This hot dog has a 22” kick, 10 and 12” racks and a 16” floor tom, all with maple shells. One standout feature of this design is the stubby rack toms (12×7” and 10×6.5” respectively) which offers less resonance but allows for easy lower positioning.
The biggest con attached to this kit is the laughably bad name that you’d be embarrassed to say when asked, “This kit is great. What is it?”
Pearl Decade Maple
It seemed weird to not include a Pearl entry in this list, so here’s the Decade Maple! It’s the only kit on the list to include hardware and a snare, and at same price as the previous entry ($990), it’s a bit of a trade off with value and quality.
I don’t know if you’ve priced decent hardware recently, but it ain’t cheap. The Decade Maple bundle rids you of that problem, supplying you with the always reliable Pearl 830 hardware pack.
The 6 ply maple shells consist of a 20” kick, 10 and 12” rack toms, 14” floor tom and snare drum, the latter of which is surprisingly well-received. In terms of the Pearl hierarchy, this range comes in just above the EX series but below the Masters.