Moving to an apartment feels like a moment of doom for drummers. If you’re like me, you’ve run the gamut of soundproofing and space-saving solutions; electronic kits, blankets over the snare drum, removing excess hardware. Ultimately the drum set is clunky, and not exactly something you can take out for gigging.
This is what inspired me to research compact and portable acoustic drum kits. I wanted to find something that would fit in a cramped apartment, could be volume-reduced, yet also would feel and sound like real drums, and could be used at shows. I came across 3 very tempting kits, but ultimately settled on the Ludwig Breakbeats.
BEST COMPACT PORTABLE DRUM SETS
Here’s why I picked these 3:
- Standard price: Less than $425, which is a pretty standard price for a quality drum kit.
- Real acoustic kits: They’re made of a wood and laminate with standard drum heads; there’s no cheap plastic, or weird electro-acoustic materials being used here.
- Reputable brands: All are well-known and reputable drum brands, with the exception of Odery, which is more of a wild card.
COMPACT DRUM KIT SIZE COMPARISON
If you have a tight space to fill, one of the most important factors when choosing a compact drum set is how small it actually is. This includes its dimensions when packed up and, say, driving to a gig, as well as its dimensions when assembled in your practice space.
Note: Assembled dimensions are approximate since drum spacing varies with personal preference.
The Odery CafeKit is by far the most compact thanks to its 14” kick drum, which is the size of most floor toms, and its dual cymbal-drum stands. The hi hat stand attaches to the snare, and the crash/ride stand attaches to the tom. This allows you to space things closer together.
The Pearl Roadshow and Ludwig Breakbeats are larger, but still very compact compared to a standard 4-piece drum kit. The Pearl has a slightly larger kick and floor tom, but features a cymbal stand built into the kick drum to save space. The Ludwig has smaller drums, but requires standard cymbal hardware.
The next most important factor is how these drums actually sound. You can build drums as small as you want; the challenge is ensuring they still sound like drums.
Ultimately, I was impressed by how all 3 sounded given their compact sizes. However, there was a clear winner in my book.
Odery CafeKit Demo
Right off the bat, I was impressed by how much this tiny kit actually sounds like a kit. You can absolutely use it to practice, write music, even play shows. The one thing I wouldn’t do with it is record. The kick drum and floor tom do not quite have enough “boom.”
Pearl Roadshow Demo
The Pearl Roadshow is a big step up. It has a much deeper kick drum and tom drums, which gives you a more classic drum tone. I thought the kick and snare could’ve used a little more punchiness, but it’s possible some tuning tweaks could improve that.
Ludwigs Breakbeats Demo
The Breakbeats don’t just sound good for a portable drum kit -- they sound good compared to any kit. I was blown away by how deep and punchy the kick sounded, the tightness of the snare, and the deep “thud” of the toms. Skeptical, I went to the music store to try it myself and yes, even a kit straight off the shelf sounded this good.
he Pearl Roadshow is the only kit that arrives fully complete, including cymbals, a throne (stool) and sticks. The Odery includes hardware, but still requires you to purchase cymbals and a throne separately. The Ludwig includes none of these, meaning you’ll have to budget $200-300 extra if you don’t have accessories already. (As a conciliatory gesture, it does include travel bags for taking the Breakbeats on the go.)
If you’re a beginner, or just somebody who doesn’t have spare drum parts laying around, the fact that the Roadshow comes complete is a huge plus.
SO WHICH IS THE BEST PORTABLE DRUM KIT?
I ultimately chose the Ludwig Breakbeats because I loved the sound. I thought downsizing would mean sacrificing some tone, but the Breakbeats sounds even better than my full-sized kit. It’s perfect for the home studio that needs a top-notch compact drum set for recording.
If you’re not quite as picky about the sound, the Pearl Roadshow is a really strong alternative. Frankly, it still sounds great. It’s equally compact and portable as the Ludwig Breakbeats, yet includes all cymbals, hardware and accessories. This saves you a couple hundred bucks, and a few hours of effort compared to buying everything separately.
Last but not least, if space-saving is your ultimate goal, the Odery CafeKit is truly a marvel of design. It’s really as compact as you can get while still qualifying as a legit hardwood drumset. The tone may not be quite as rich, but it will absolutely suffice for practicing, gigging, and recording demos.