Buyers' Guides

The Best Compact Drum Kits for A to E Drum Conversions

Smaller drum shells are ideal for converting into electronic drums, matching the smaller sizes of electronic cymbals. Check out our round-up of the best compact drum shell packs here.

If you’re looking to build your own acoustic to electronic drum conversion but don’t yet have a set of drum shells to convert, you might consider buying a compact drum kit. Compact drum kits, also known as bop or jungle kits, make for ideal candidates for an a-to-e conversion in my opinion. Electronic cymbals are typically smaller than acoustic cymbals, so opting for smaller drums helps to keep things in proportion. Plus, you can still benefit from one of the advantages of an electronic kit, which is the smaller footprint. 

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best compact drum kits for an a-to-e drum conversion, including the kit I used for my first eDrum conversion.

Can you turn an acoustic drum set into an electronic set?

It is easier to convert an acoustic drum set to electronic than you might think and can be done without soldering or fabricating bespoke parts. The main things you need are a set of drum shells to convert, a set of mesh heads, a set of internal eDrum triggers, a drum module, electronic cymbals, and the right cables to connect everything together.

Read our full guide on how to convert an acoustic drum kit to electronic, and more details on how to make your own DIY electronic drum pads in our guides.

Remember, if you decide that converting your own drums to electronic isn’t for you, there are now a wide range of electronic drums that look acoustic such as the Roland VAD range or ATV aDrums series.

How to choose an acoustic kit for A to E conversion

There are three things to consider when buying an acoustic drum kit specifically to convert to electronic: size, price, and finish.

What size drum is best for an electronic drum conversion?

When it comes to size, my view is that smaller drums are better for a-to-e conversions. Smaller drums tend to work better with mesh heads, as the larger the drum, the bouncier they are. Typically I look for kits with up to a 13-inch diameter snare and/or floor tom and 16-inch bass drum.

It’s true that the bouncy effect can be mitigated on larger drums by using centrally mounted trigger cones, however the downside here is the high chance of striking the trigger cone itself causing the input level to spike. This is known as ‘hotspotting’ among the eDrumming community.

This effect can be avoided by using side-mounted triggers such as the Jobeky side trigger.

For bass drums, you’ll need to dampen the head in some way. Some trigger systems will include a dampening system using foam pads, or if you’re using a simple side trigger, you can simply stuff the drum with pillows for the same effect.

How much should you spend on drum shells for an electronic conversion?

The good thing about electronic drums is the drum shell itself has no impact on how the drum actually sounds, unlike with acoustic drums. That means you can save money by buying a cheap drum kit, as expensive woods are wasted on your eKit.

My advice is to still look for a name-brand drum kit as you will still want dependable and reliable drum hardware but can cut some of the cost on cheaper wood. With this in mind, the kits I’ve listed below are in the $400-580 or £380-500 price range aside from one.

Picking a drum finish

The final consideration is the finish on the drums. As you’re converting acoustic drums to electronic you probably care about looks, so choose a finish you like. At the relatively low price range of kits in this article, you’ll find that most offer wrapped finishes instead of more expensive lacquered finishes. Wrapped drum shells tend to feature sparkle finishes, you generally won’t find drums with a wood grain effect as this is typically reserved for lacquered finishes.

The best compact drum kits for A to E conversions

Below are my top picks for compact electronic drums that are ideal for conversion into electronic drums. These are the kits I evaluated when building my own A-to-E drum conversion, along with a couple of new options released since then.

The kits are in my preferred order, but the truth is that each would make a great kit for converting to electronic drums. You may also have a preference on brand, finish, or spot a unique feature that’s more important to you.

Pearl Midtown

The Pearl Midtown compact drum kit in black gold sparkle

The Pearl Midtown is the kit I chose for my electronic drum conversion. This kit comes with a 13×5.5 inch snare, 13×12 inch floor tom, 16×14 inch bass drum and 10×7 inch rack tom and three finishes: black gold sparkle, black cherry glitter and mirror chrome.

The Pearl Midtown is essentially a miniature version of the Pearl Export, a beginner-intermediate level kit renown for its durability and the starting point of many drumming careers.

The shell pack comes complete with a mounting arm and bracket for the rack tom, I liked the fact that the arm’s tube diameter is the same as those on the Roland MDS-9V rack. That means if you want to use a Roland rack to mount your eDrum conversion, you can do so by pulling out the L-arm tom bracket and sliding in the Pearl tom arm.

Like other kits in this list you’ll also get a bass drum riser to bring the small 16-inch kick up so the bass beaters can strike in the middle of the head. The batter side bass drum hoop also has a rounded cut out to give enough clearance for your bass pedal’s chain.

Unfortunately in the years since I purchased my Pearl Midtown, prices have gradually risen above the other options on this list, and is no longer the stand out kit for value and quality. That said, the kit has given me many years of reliable service, and I’m a big fan of the black sparkle finish.

Ludwig Breakbeats

The Ludwig Breakbeats compact drum kit in silver sparkle finish

The Ludwig Breakbeats kit is the best compact drum kit choice if you’re looking for a portable kit and will be moving it regularly such as for gigging. That’s because it comes complete with a set of velvet storage bags, as it was conceived primarily as a gigging kit for use in the city.

The kit comes with 10×7 and 13×13 inch toms, a 16×14 inch bass drum and a 14×5 inch snare. The snare size is the only odd thing here as it does not match the 13-inch floor tom, though it’s no issue if you’re not as OCD about drum sizes as I am. For a larger diameter snare such as this, you may want to consider a 3-ply mesh head to help keep bouncing under control.

Modern Ludwig drums use 10.5mm L arms (Older ones used 9.5mm), which means the tom mounting arm is compatible with Roland mounting brackets if you want to mount your converted rack tom on a Roland rack.

The Breakbeats come in finishes including blue sparkle, black sparkle and silver sparkle, but my personal favourite is the sahara swirl, which looks a little bit like the oyster finishes found on Ludwig’s higher end drum range. It is also unique among this range of compact kits.

PDP New Yorker

The PDP New Yorker compact drum kit in Pale Rose Sparkle finish

The PDP New Yorker now comes in the same sizes as the Ludwig Breakbeats (10×8,13×12, 14×5 snare, 16×14 bass), but before its 2020 update, it came in a configuration featuring a 13-inch snare and 18-inch bass drum.

Personally I’m more of a fan of the older configuration for eDrum conversions, as the 18-inch bass offers more stage presence and the 13-inch snare matched the floor tom sizing. But given this kit is designed for portability, I can see why PDP switched to a smaller 16×14 bass drum.

The Tom mount uses a 10.5mm diameter L rod, which is the same as those used on Roland mounts and pads. That means you can safely mount your PDP rack tom on a Roland drum rack if you need to.

The New Yorker comes in three finishes: pale rose sparkle, electric green sparkle and black onyx sparkle.

Sonor AQX Jungle

The Sonor AQX Jungle drum kit in blue ocean sparkle

Sonor is widely recognised as the inventor of these compact drum kits with their original Sonor Jungle kit in the 90s, with the jungle name catching on as a way to describe this class of mini drum kits.

The AQX is Sonor’s latest entry level kit and offers a Jungle configuration including 10×7 and 13×12 toms, a 16×15 bass drum and a 13×6 snare drum. The AQX has been well reviewed with particular praise for its build quality.

The included tom mount uses a hexagonal L arm, unlike the round L arms found on other kits here. This means you may not be able to mount the rack tom directly to a Roland rack. The tube on the Tom mount is 19mm while the thicker Roland attachments for tubes are 22mm. This means you may use a multiclamp to mount your rack tom from a cymbal stand or rack if you don’t want to mount it on the bass drum (which might cause crosstalk triggering issues when the bass drum is played due to the vibrations).

The kit comes in three finishes: black midnight sparkle, blue ocean sparkle and red moon sparkle.

Tama Club Jam

The TAMA Club Jam kit in natural finish

The original club jam is a kit that combines portability and large shell diameters by using shallower than normal shells. The kit comes complete with a 13×5 snare, 10×7 tom, and shallow 14×7 floor tom and 18×12 bass drum.

The shallow bass drum in particular could be of interest if you plan to maximise space in your drum room by facing your kit against a wall. The 12 inch depth on the bass drum gives you around two inches extra space to play with compared to other kits here. This doesn’t sound like much but can make a difference in a small space.

The kit comes in five different finishes – the most of any kit featured in this list. They include:

  • Satin blonde
  • Cream marble wrap
  • Aqua blue
  • Charcoal mist
  • Candy apple mist

Each kit is finished off with vintage-inspired dark wood hoops which contrast with the finish on the drum shells. The result is that each kit in this range has a unique look and could be a great choice for drummers looking to evoke a vintage look on stage.

Tama Club Jam Flyer

The TAMA Club Jam Flyer in Aqua Blue

The Club Jam comes in another configuration – the even smaller Flyer version. This kit features a miniscule 14×10 bass, 8×6 tom, 10×9 floor tom and 10×5 snare drum. While the small sizes imply this kit is more of a toy, it comes with all the same quality hardware and fixings as the larger Club Jam, and is intended as a uniquely compact travel kit.

For eDrummers looking for an acoustic kit to convert to electronic, the Club Jam Flyer is best for anyone who’s really limited on space but really wants their eDrums to look acoustic, or as an ultra-compact gigging kit for small venues.

With drum shells between 10 and 8 inches across, the drums are roughly on par with the average low to mid-range electronic drum kit. Meanwhile, the bass drum is surprisingly spacious despite only being 14 inches across, and is large enough to support a double kick pedal (check out double kick pedal options for eDrums here)

The kit comes in just two finishes: aqua blue and candy apple red. Personally, I love the aqua blue for its vintage vibe and the better contrast between the blue shells and the wood hoops.

Yamaha Stage Custom Hip

the Yamaha Stage Custom Hip drum kit in raven black

The Yamaha Stage Custom Hip is another compact drum shell pack based on shallow drums, like the Tama Club Jam but with a larger diameter bass drum. The kit comes with a shallow 20×8 bass drum, 13×8 and 10×5 toms and a 13×5 inch snare.

This could be a good option for an A-to-E drum conversion if you want a full sized bass drum but need more portability than a standard 14 to 16 inch deep bass drum.

This kit costs slightly more than some of the other options listed here due to the shells being made from birch. Birch is a better wood than the poplar or undefined “hardwood” used on some of the other kits here. For eDrummers who want to convert drum shells to electronic, the type of wood is not really a consideration unless you think you might want to convert your kit back to acoustic in the future.

The Stage Custom Hip’s floor tom is also equipped with snare wires and a snare bed, allowing it to be converted to a second snare drum for a wider range of acoustic sound possibilities.

The kit comes in three finishes: matte surf green (which to me is more of a green/blue), natural wood and raven black. All three feature natural wood hoops, resulting in a vintage look to the green and black kits.

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.