Do you Need an Amp to play Electronic Drums?

You can use an amp to play electronic drums, but there are other options.

To hear your electronic drums you will need either an amp, speaker system, or a set of headphones. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of amps vs headphones and how to choose between the two!

Should you use an amp to play electronic drums?

Others can hear what you’re playing, rather than just the tapping of your sticks on the drum padsSize, weight and electricity usage are higher than with headphones
The volume needs to be higher to overcome the sound of your sticks hitting the pads

Can you use a guitar amp with an electronic drum kit?

Before you go out and purchase an amplifier, be sure to get the right type. If you’re a guitarist, you might think you can use your existing guitar amplifier. A guitar amp will work, but it won’t sound great at all. That’s because guitar amps are specifically designed for the mid-range frequencies of an electric guitar. Meanwhile, drums need to produce sounds ranging from the low end of a bass drum to the high shimmer of a crash cymbal.

Ideally, look for a drum amplifier or drum monitor. These are specifically designed to be able to reproduce the wide range of frequencies demanded of an electronic drum kit.

However, at a pinch, a bass amplifier can be used with electronic drums, just don’t dial up the volume too loud!

Can you use a speaker system with an electronic drum kit?

An alternative to an amp is to use a speaker system, such as one designed for a PC or even a Hi-Fi. Most electronic drum modules have a master out, which sends a ‘line level’ signal out to the speakers, allowing you to adjust the volume on your speakers themselves, rather than on the drum module. This also helps to maintain the sound quality.

You may need to buy some new cables to enable this. Most drum modules will use dual mono 6.35mm outputs, while stereo systems typically use a stereo 3.5mm plug or dual RCA sockets. Fortunately, cables and adaptors between these different standards are readily available on sites like Amazon or your local electronics store.

Should you use headphones to play electronic drums?

Headphones muffle out the sound of your sticks hitting the padsOthers in the house can only hear you tapping on the drum pads and not the music you’re playing
Quieter for others in the same house

Headphones are generally a better option for eDrummers who want to produce the least noise for others in their household. When using an amp or a speaker, you need to set the volume to be louder than the sound of hitting the drum pads. With headphones, the sound of striking the pads is isolated, so you can hear more of the drum sounds being generated by the drum module.

This is quieter for others in the same building, though one possible downside is they can’t hear what you’re actually playing – just tapping and thudding on the drums.

Browse the best headphones for eDrums in our roundup.

Do you need an amp to play electronic drums live?

If you’re looking to play your electronic drums live, then it is generally best to have your drums hooked up to a PA system instead of using an amp. If it’s your first time gigging, then usually venues provide an audio engineer to ensure the right volume and mix for the venue.

Usually, the audio engineer will want to take the signal from the master line-out on your drum module, and connect this to a DI box, before incorporating this into the venue’s PA system. Almost all drum modules offer a stereo master line-out, while higher-end drum modules such as the Roland TD-50 offer multi-channel output. This means that each drum can have its own channel, making it easier for the audio engineer to mix your drums to sound great with the rest of the band.

It can be a good idea to keep a kit of cables, adaptors, and maybe even a DI box for your electronic drum module’s master output into common connector types such as XLR, to ensure there are no issues with connecting your drums to the house speaker system. Alternatively, it is good practice to speak to the venue ahead of the gig to ensure you have all the right equipment. It is common for gig venues to reach out to each act for this purpose, as they are as keen to put on a good show as you are!


Featured image by Thomas Litangen

By Seb Atkinson

Seb has been a drummer since 2004 and an eDrummer since 2008. He founded eDrumHub to provide information on electronic drums for other drummers who can't justify an acoustic drum kit for practice at home.

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