Drums are one of the most intuitive and fun instruments to play and are deeply challenging to master. Drum sets are key elements of bands around the world and so it's no wonder why there are so many brands bringing superb drums to the market.
When it comes to choosing the best kit (or single drum for your kit), there are plenty of options. In this article, we'll consider the top 11 best drum brands in the world today.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Variety of drums/drum sets
- Performance of the drums
- Longevity of the drums
- The company/brand must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The top 11 best drum brands in the world are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best drum brands. I’ll share their country of origin; a bit of history; an example of a notable drum set, and a link to their official website.
Pearl was initiated in Japan in 1946 as one man’s dream. This man, named Katsumi Yanagisawa, manufactured microphone stands for four years before opting to follow his true passion for making drums in 1950.
Seven years later, rock and roll took over the world, and the demand for quality drum kits worldwide exploded exponentially. Thus, Katsumi saw an opportunity to grow and commissioned his eldest son, Mitsuo, to create a division to export Pearl’s products worldwide.
Although they started selling the inexpensive “Stencil Series” drum kits, by 1966, the first series of professional drum kits began production under the name of “President Series”. As they say, the rest is history.
Today, Pearl exports worldwide and is one of the top drum brands on the planet. You can easily spot the entry-level series in rehearsal spaces and small stages, as well as Dennis Chamberlain’s Masterworks drum kit commanding the sonic starship of the Dave Matthews band.
Flagship drum set series: Pearl Masterworks (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
Getting a Pearl Masterworks drum kit might be a synonym to a badge saying “you made it”. This is because each is completely handmade, and the customization options are in the hundreds.
You get to pick the wood type, thickness, bearing edge type, and how many layers of what material you want your drum kit to have. On top of that, you can also select the finish, the colour, the material, and the design of the hardware (gold is always an option).
But what if you want the experts at Pearl to create the best drum kit for you? Well, they can surely employ all their knowledge and give you the recipe for the perfect tone at any stage of the process. Finally, design the ideal snare to go with the kit from a vast gallery of sounds and finish your dream drum kit.
The Pearl Masterworks is always just as good as you make it to be. To see one in action under master hands, take a look at this video by Dennis Chambers.
Pearl Musical Instrument Company was founded in 1946 by Katsumi Yanagisawa in Tokyo, Japan. Today the company is headquartered in Yachiyo, Chiba, Japan.
Official website: pearldrum.com
Do you know what Charlie Watts, Taylor Hawkins, Mitch Mitchell, Matt Sorum, and Vinnie Colaiuta have in common? Yes, they are all drummers, but they all play Gretsch drums.
This legendary company was founded by a German immigrant named Friedrich Gretsch in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883. He started his own musical instrument shop and soon after was selling drums and guitars (Gretsch guitars are utterly famous too) in the streets of New York City.
The company was sold in 1967 to the Baldwin Company and only recovered by the family in 1985. It was during this time that the famous Ridgeland, North Carolina factory was built. That is the exact spot where all Gretsch drums are manufactured to this day.
Nowadays, the company is still run by the Gretsch family but is owned by Drum Shop, the company of the Lombardi Family.
Flagship drum set series: Gretsch Broadkaster (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
From the roaring 0s to the rocking 0s, this was Gretsch’s flagship drum kit. Fun fact, they beat Leo Fender to the name, who had to re-baptize his creation “Telecaster” because the name “Broadcaster” was already taken by this drum kit.
One of the secrets to “That Great Gretsch Sound,” as the company calls it, is how thin the three-ply shells are. These are made utilizing exclusively North American woods in a union of maple, poplar, and more maple.
To make up for thinness, the interior-ply scarf joint provides added structural strength. The company also finishes each shell by hand with the Gretsch-exclusive reverse round-over bearing edge. This increases surface contact achieving warmer, deeper sounds.
This drum kit is a timeless classic you can’t go wrong with, regardless of your musical style.
Gretsch was founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch in Brooklyn, New York, USA. In 1967 Gretsch was sold to Baldwin Pianos, which went bankrupt in 1984. In 1985, the company was acquired by the Gretsch family once again. Though Gretsch remains its own company, since 2002, much of its development, distribution and sales are handled by the Fender Musical Instruments Company. Gretsch is headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, USA.
Official website: gretschdrums.com
Gretsch is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
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This brand, founded in the USA in 1909 by two brothers, reached its peak due to an English drummer from a band you might have heard of; his name is Ringo Starr, and the band is called The Beatles.
Theobald and William Ludwig were the sons of a German immigrant. William was an accomplished drummer, so he and his brother opened Ludwig & Ludwig, a drum shop in Chicago, Illinois.
They became the largest manufacturer in the world by 1923. But after his brother's death and WWII, William sold the company to CG Conn, and much of the company's early glory was lost. This was until February 9th, 1964, when Ringo played his Ludwig at the Ed Sullivan show. Seventy-three million people witnessed that historic moment.
Today, the company is owned by Selmer, and production comes from Monroe, North Carolina. The legacy is intact, the quality is supreme, and the world recognizes them for it.
Flagship drum set series: Ludwig Legacy Maple (link to check it out at Reverb)
The Legacy Maple is a statement by one of the biggest drum brands in the world. They set out on a challenging mission: to give a modern twist to a timeless classic. How can you update the sound of a legendary drum kit without killing its soul?
To begin with, the company stayed true to the maple-poplar-maple construction. While the vibrant resonance of maple projects the sound, the poplar core adds focus and warmth. On the top and bottom of each shell, the company also added a solid maple ring to reinforce and add sustain to the sound.
Also, the 30-degree inner cut and the quarter of an inch radius give the shells the sonic footprint to achieve that warm, lively, focused sound with tons of attack and character.
Every Legacy Maple leaving the factory is another proof that Ludwig is still among the top manufacturers in the world in terms of sound and quality.
Ludwig Drums was founded in 1909 by William and Theobald Ludwig in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In the late 1920s, the company was sold to the C.G. Conn instrument company, which eventually, through acquisitions over time, became owned by Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. Today the company headquarters is located in Monroe, North Carolina, USA.
Official website: ludwig-drums.com
Parent company: Conn-Selmer, Inc. (Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.)
British Drum Company
The story behind this company is a particular one. Furthermore, since BDC is still taking its first international steps as we speak, it is relatively recent. Let’s rewind a little to the end of the nineties and the suffering acoustic drum scene in the UK.
By the 2000s, with the surge of retro rock and bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Jet, and such, drum kits were back in high demand. Among this rising, there was a man named Keith Keough with a small endeavour called KD Drums formed in 2003. The only big drumming company standing in the UK was Premier.
In a bold and unexpected move, Premier bought KD Drums in 2010. Together, they started making one-off, premium-quality drum kits for famous Premier players. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) was one of the endorsers blown away by Keith’s craftsmanship.
Although it meant a step up for Keough, he wanted more. Thus, in 2015 he opened his own shop, an 11,000 square-feet facility in Manchester, and employs 26 people. Nicko McBrain announced himself as the global ambassador of this brand on the rise.
Time will tell if they get a seat next to the giants. What can be said is that their products earn them a spot on this list already.
Flagship drum set series: British Drum Company Legend Series (link to check it out at Reverb)
The heart of every drum kit is made of wood. The wood selection and manufacturing process for every shell is what sets BDC apart from the competition. They utilize a process known as cold-press moulding in which they refrain from using microwave ovens to dry the shells and let them follow a natural drying process; thus, the timbre and strength are exceptional.
In the Legend Series, every kit is hand-built utilizing Scandinavian Birch. This wood is cross-laminated to form a 6mm shell, and the shells are reinforced with 2-ply rings and given 45-degree bearing edges. The result is a kit with an aggressive attack and a warm mid-low set of frequencies.
Finally, the hardware borrows the art-deco motifs from early Ludwigs and is the perfect finishing touch for a unique-sounding drum kit ready for any stage in the world.
British Drum Company was founded in 2015 by Keith Keough and Al Murray. The company headquarters is located in South Reddish, Stockport, England.
Official website: britishdrumco.com
From Stewart Copeland (The Police) and Roger Taylor (Duan Duran) to Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), and Dave Grohl (Nirvana), Tama has been a part of the soundtrack of our lives for decades, regardless of the bands in it.
Originally from Japan, Tama was founded in 1974 as a part of the Hoshino Gakki Musical Instruments Company. The main headquarters where most of the R&D still occurs are in Sato, Japan. While the most expensive models are also manufactured there and in Bensalem, PA, in the USA, Tama also owns facilities in Guangzhou, China, for the hardware and less expensive models.
It wasn’t an overnight success story for Tama, but its turning point came upon purchasing the Camco Drum Company as a joint effort with DW drums. As a result, Tama kept all patent rights, designs, and engineering. Together with Tama’s quality craftsmanship, this leverage propelled the company to what we know today as one of the biggest, most important, and influential drumming brands in the world.
Flagship drum set series: Tama Star Walnut (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
The Star line is Tama’s flagship drum kit. The reason for its name is that Hoshino, the initial owner means “Star Field” in Japanese. The Star line, introduced in 2013, came as the cherry of the pie above the Starclassic line that had given Tama much recognition in the drumming world.
The shells on this drum kit are made of six layers of Japanese Walnut. This gives the instrument a unique timbre that sets it apart from the rest of the drums in the market. Indeed, the dark, mid-low tone projection this kit is capable of can cut through any mix while adding warmth to the end result. Plus, the lines in the wood are just too beautiful.
Finally, each Star drum kit leaving the factory is fitted with the most modern technology from Tama. Good examples could be the patented Super Resonant Mounting System and the minimum shell contact of the lugs with extremely low mass and the same uncanny response.
If you are ready to hit the big leagues, you should take a Tama Star with you.
Tama Drums was founded in 1974 by Hashino Gakki. The company headquarters is located in Seto, Aichi, Japan.
Official website: tama.com
Parent company: Hoshino Gakki
Mapex is an acronym meaning Music And Percussion EXcellence. It was founded in 1989 in Taiwan by KHS Musical Instruments. KHS is still today one of the most prominent players in the world when it comes to instruments and accessories. They employ over 4,000 people across the globe.
Thus, Mapex got instant recognition and had some early endorsers the size of Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), which helped propel the brand forward. Moreover, soon after launching worldwide, in 1996, Mapex announced its US branch, which currently operates in Nashville, Texas, inside a 100,000 square foot space shared with Jupiter, Altus, Majestic, and Walden (all KHS brands).
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to spot a Mapex drum kit in even the most demanding stages in the world, as well as the tiniest rehearsal room or garage.
Flagship drum set series: Mapex Saturn Evolution (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
Mapex created the Saturn line to address the needs of the professional player. So, they applied the best technology in hardware and the best woods for the shells.
The Saturn Evolution drum kit comes in two main configurations: maple-walnut and birch-walnut. These differences in wood selection give each kit a particular sound. The first option mixes the low rumble of walnut with the aggressive attack of maple, making it a highly versatile, dynamic instrument. On the other hand, birch puts the accent on the extremes, emphasizing both high and low frequencies. The maple still gives it a ton of attack, and the result is a more out-there rocking kit.
Finally, the “Halo Mount” attaches toms under the lug line and from the sides, making the entire drum kit much more resonant. A Saturn Evolution can be the perfect companion for all scenarios requiring great-sounding drums.
Mapex Drums was founded in 1989 as a brand of the Taiwanese company KHS Musical Instruments. Today the company is headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan.
Official website: mapexdrums.com
Parent company: KHS Musical Instruments
Established in 1875 in Berlin, Sonor is one of the oldest percussion manufacturers in the world. Part of the legendary status of this brand comes from the fact that it invented the screw thread drum construction and the metal snare drum. Moreover, a young William F. Ludwig borrowed these ideas in Germany before exploiting them in Chicago, Illinois, under his own brand.
The company drew great attention in the 70s and 80s for manufacturing some of the heaviest drums in the world, literally. The shells featured a thickness of up to 13mm, utilizing a beechwood interior and topping them with furniture-quality material such as bubinga or rosewood.
The eighties gave way to the nineties, and changing trends made Sonor go for thinner builds called “Sonorlite”. These thinner, highly-resonant drum kits fitted the bill better for the music of the era. Also, at that time, the company launched their iconic X-Ray Acrylic drums, which even had acrylic hoops!
Nowadays, Sonor is referred to as one of the most significant percussion brands globally and can be seen in the stages of the biggest festivals, especially in Europe.
Flagship drum set series: Sonor SQ2 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Similar to what Pearl offers with their Masterworks Series, Sonor allows the buyer to select the materials and build exactly his or her dream drum kit.
When ordering a Sonor Q2, you begin by choosing the material for the shells. The company offers four options: Scandinavian Birch, North American Maple, German Beech, and German Acrylic. This will determine the sonic spectrum.
Once you've chosen the material, it is time to select all the other components: finish, colour, interior and exterior lacquer, lugs, mounts, and hoops. Once your order is made, the skilled craftsmen of Sonor will get to work. Your dream-come-true drum kit shall be in your hands soon after.
All drums are hand-polished and hand-tuned for perfection before leaving the factory.
Sonor was founded in 1875 by Johannes Link in Weißenfels, Germany. Today the company headquarters is located in Berlin, Germany.
Official website: sonor.com
Don Lombardi founded drum Workshop (later DW Drums) in 1972 as a teaching studio. One of his students proposed to start a small drum equipment sales operation to cover the costs of the studio. The world’s first height-adjustable drummer seat (Lombardi’s idea) came from that small operation. This resulted in explosive growth for the brand.
Soon after, they bought Camco along with Tama, and the famous DW5000 nylon-strap pedal was born. The double bass pedal and the cable remote hi-hat stands came soon after establishing DW as a hardware brand.
When they started building drum kits, they came up with the idea of grouping drum shells together by the note they produced before sanding. To this day, that note is still stamped in the interior of each shell.
By 2015, the company acquired Gretsch Drums, Ovation Guitars, Latin Percussion, Toca Percussion, and Gibraltar Hardware. By 2019, these brands were also joined by Slingerland Percussion, recently acquired from Gibson.
They endorse drummers in all styles and DW Drums can be spotted in all major stages in the world.
Flagship drum set series: DW Drums Collector’s Series (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
This drum kit by DW Drums is close to the Pearl Masterworks Series in the sense that the customer can order the kit to his or her taste. This is what other brands call “custom shop”.
For starters, the customer can choose between solid or hybrid shells in a wide variety of materials, including solid stainless steel. In this initial moment, customers also choose the type of toms they want. Then, it’s time for the sizes and finish, which could be high-end polished wood, lacquer finish, or a plethora of other options.
Finally, customers need to define what hardware and heads will be on their dream kit. Once it is done, the people at DW will manufacture and send it. Feeling like Dave Grohl while you drum the night away on the kit you designed yourself sounds like a dream indeed.
Drum Workshop was founded in 1972 by Don Lombardi. The company headquarters is located in Oxnard, California, USA.
Official website: dwdrums.com
Natal is an English drumming brand founded by Alan Sharp and his wife, Nataly, in 1958 in Bletchley, England. They were in the epicentre of the Rock revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Santana, and even the Rolling Stones used their revolutionary fibreglass congas and other cutting-edge Latin percussion instruments.
Soon after, they decided to start building drum kits, but with the electronic drum mania of the eighties, the brand almost perished. In 2010, and after being purchased by Marshall, it began a slow but steady rise, not only in sales but also in brand name recognition among non-drummers.
Flagship drum set series: Natal Originals Series (link to check it out at Gear4Music)
The Original Series represents the pinnacle of Natal’s drum kits; it is the company's flagship line. They are available in maple and walnut. While the walnut-made kit is dark, focused, and delivers a full-bodied sound, the maple version is more moderate, allowing a more dynamic approach that can suit a myriad of music styles.
Both kits feature the trademark round Sun lugs made out of zinc and offer many different finishes and sizes to choose from. Finally, each Natal Original Series drum kit ensures the lucky owner premium craftsmanship, durability, and legendary sounds.
Natal Drums was founded in 1965 by Alan Sharp and was acquired by Marshall Amplification in 2010. The company headquarters is located in Bletchley, England.
Official website: marshall.com/natal-drums
Parent company: Marshall Amplification
A brand like Yamaha needs no introduction. Moreover, they excel in every field they have a presence in; the name and logo of these Japanese giants ensure top-notch quality standards.
Yamaha’s history with drums goes back to 1967 when a division of the Yamaha Corporation set out to build acoustic and electronic drums and drumming hardware. The manufacturing process took place in the company’s facilities in Osaka, Japan, but soon expanded to three extra locations in Hamamatsu (Japan), China, and Indonesia.
The company acquired Premier in 1987 and attempted to get heavily into the European market. They tried to teach the “Yamaha way” to English builders but failed and sold the shares back to Premier in 1992.
Flagship drum set series: Yamaha PHX Series (link to check it out at Reverb)
The PHX series represents the top of the crop in drums for Yamaha and the rest of the world. If you look at the price tag alone in these instruments, you’ll realize you’ve stepped into the big leagues.
As you might know, Yamaha started working with wood two centuries ago. This leverage allowed them to venture into unknown territory and find new tonewoods to add to their drums. The first is Jatoba, a Brazilian species known for its hardness, which takes the core spot.
The core is surrounded by Kapur, a Malaysian hardwood, on both sides. Finally, the outer and inner layers are made of North American Maple. The result is as unique and musical as the combination itself.
But that’s not the only technologic achievement Yamaha included in this kit; you also get their Y.E.S.S. II Shell Mount System, the vent holes, and the company’s hook lug system.
Each Yamaha PHX leaves the factory ready to make history in the right hands.
Yamaha Corporation was founded in 1887 as Nippon Gakki Co by Torakusu Yamaha. Today, Yamaha’s headquarters is located in Nakazawacho, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan.
Official Website: yamaha.com
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DW Drums wanted to commercialize their products at competitive prices; hence, they founded PDP in 1999. The company manufactures its products exclusively in China and uses some of the methods popularized by DW but applied to computerized machinery and mass-production techniques.
PDP started as an entry door for drummers to make their way up to authentic DW Drums but recently began offering models made of solid woods that can captivate the middle section of the market as well.
Those looking for an entry-level instrument manufactured with the leverage of one of the best drum brands in the world might find it here.
Flagship drum set series: PDP Concept Maple (link to check it out at Sweetwater)
This drum kit series aims to the mid-tier, which means players who are proficient on the instrument but not professionals yet. To compete in this challenging niche, the company utilized a mixture of mass-production techniques and some expert technology borrowed from DW (for example, the Suspension Tom Mount System).
Each of the shells is made with 7-ply European Maple and the snare, included in the package, is a 10-layer piece. The snare also features DW’s acclaimed DW MAG throw-off, which is a great addition at this price point. Finally, all shells receive DW’s True Pitch tension rods and REMO drum heads.
You might not be ready for Wembley Stadium yet, but this PDP can make you shine in the local club.
Pacific Drums and Percussion was founded in 1999 as a brand of Drum Workshop (DW Drums). The company is headquartered in Oxnard, California, USA.
Official website: pacificdrums.com
Parent company: Drum Workshop