Things to know when buying an electric drum amplifier

VD November 11 2021

Let's be honest: As drummers, making noise is in our blood - controlled noise, of course, which ideally moves at the highest artistic level. Even a jazz musician knows the grandeur of a rimshot neatly placed on the snare drum, which causes the window panes to tremble with its sonic power. But if you want potential listeners or maybe band members to enjoy more than just the monotonous clapping on the drum pads, you need an electronic drum amplifier system.

What are the advantages of e-drums and how do you find the right set? In addition to an always identical sound, which depends on various factors in an acoustic set, e-drums can be monitored via amplification systems, active speakers, or headphones. So you don't necessarily have to move into the bunker or the basement at home, use in the apartment is basically possible.  The only problem is, you have to hear it.

The first question should be "what type of music do I want to play?" Just for the record: If you are a Heavy Metal drummer, you don't need an amplifier. The sound of an e-drum just cannot compete with drums that are beaten to death by sticks. Also difficult is the interplay with other instruments in particularly loud bands, which results in your specific drum sounds being almost completely drowned out.

But even if you are part of a more melodic culture or maybe playing drums for beginners, there are certain requirements that can make all the difference between success and failure when buying an electric drum amplifier system. With us you get information on power output, how big the drum monitor is, the number of speakers, the controls, whether it's wired or wireless, and what you need for a setup.

How electronic drums are made

The pads of an e-drum set are either made of rubber or special mesh fabric, a kind of net that is pulled over the frame of the pad. Mesh heads offer a softer and more comfortable feel and are not as hard as pure rubber pads. While the tom pads are usually mono and can only output one sound, the snare uses a stereo pad so that two different sounds can be played and output.

The cymbal pads have a slightly different structure and are made of rubber. Depending on the quality of the set, you can also trigger and implement different sounds such as a bell, rim, and more.  

The bass drum pedal stands upright and is played either with a conventional pedal machine or a kick pedal that is part of the e-drum set. Everything is then attached to a metal rack. The electronic drum brain is located in the middle of the rack and sends the sound signals via a USB or other interface to a computer or PA system.

In order for an acoustic set to be amplified, at least one microphone must be attached above each pad. They send the sounds from the e-drum to a mixing console via cables. If you want to play without amplification, there are two possibilities: either headphones or active speakers that do not require power.

The advantage of active speakers is that they can reproduce complex sounds such as percussion or scale instruments with different harmonics very well, while headphone drums only have one dominant frequency range due to their size and lack any warmth in higher frequencies. The quality of sound largely depends on whether it's in-ear or over-the-ear noise isolation: in-ears offer a better sound for less money, but in return require an amplifier to drive the headphones.

With over-the-ear headphones, you get by far more power and sound quality, but this leads to notably higher costs when purchasing the drums. Also important is whether it's wired or wireless. The latter makes wiring ridiculously complicated, also because of the batteries that need to be taken along and recharged at regular intervals. This not only takes up space but can also quickly become annoying if you don't always have access to an outlet. Wireless sets, therefore, apply for fixed installations such as bands without room acoustics where several drummers play next to each other and no one has to hear anyone else.

How to choose an electric drum amplifier?

Rock stars big and small get their money's worth with an electric drum amplifier! The drum amplifiers are one of the most important elements that electronic musicians need to make music. The amplifiers are ideal for beginners and professionals alike. In addition to size, performance and weight play a major role here. 

In the first step, you should be aware that different styles have different demands on the amplifier. For jazz music you need a drum amplifier with a sound that is as undistorted as possible, for rock music, on the other hand, it should be stronger and not so smooth. And if you practice in your home and not in a rehearsal room, the mini amplifier should definitely have a connection for headphones. Your neighbors will thank you! 

The subject is not that easy, which is why it makes sense to first get an overview of the differences, advantages, and disadvantages. Perhaps you are looking for a drum amplifier with remote control or a drum amplifier with Bluetooth, but you do not even know that yourself. 

The combo electronic drum amplifier incorporates the basic principle of this type: the housing and amplifier are built into one another and, thanks to their low weight of 5 to 19 kg, ensure that the amplifier can be transported without any problems. This is useful for rehearsals at music school or with friends. This type of amplifier is available for as little as $100.

Practical: Many electronic drum amplifiers are battery-operated. In contrast to classic amplifiers, you do not need a cable or a power connection. So if you like to play outside, a mini amplifier is for you. 

The top parts that are placed on a loudspeaker box are absolute professional equipment. These are mostly tube amplifiers, but some are also transistor amplifiers. They are connected via cables and can be combined with other tops and boxes. The top parts are very powerful and ideal for use on stages. This is also reflected in the price, as it starts at $300 but can also quickly go up to $1000 and more.

It is also interesting how the speakers differ in size and number of speakers. The bigger the speaker, the stronger the sound. This may not be as desired in classical music as it is in rock or punk music. At concerts, professionals usually use boxes with four 12-inch speakers. This results in a very powerful sound, which is why you should be aware that even the drum amplifier has to be suitable for it.

The weight of the box depends on many factors, such as power and size. The bigger the basses are, the heavier they will also become. But if you want to transport your set more often than not, there are other options available for you:

  • A combo drum amplifier with speakers' top boxes can offer everything necessary for performing at concerts. The big advantage of this type of electronic drum is that both components are combined into one unit so no additional equipment is needed. In addition, these models have an especially high output power and a deep bass voice due to the large speaker boxes installed inside them.
  • If you travel a lot with your drum set, it is best to buy a combo electric drum amplifier. This also ensures that no additional components are required. It has one advantage over classic amplifiers: the entire bass system is already built into the cabinet.

An even cheaper alternative is transistor amplifiers which are available for under $200 but lack some of the functions of more expensive models. But if you want to begin practicing without having to think too much about costs, they will certainly get their job done!

Do not forget that all these types have different price ranges. If you start small, this does not have to be an obstacle on the way to your big dreams!