Jazz drumming is a great way to express your musical creativity, but not everyone has the space for a full-sized drum kit. Fortunately, compact drum kits offer an excellent solution.
They are small, lightweight, and portable, making them perfect for practice, small gigs, or even recording sessions.
In this article, I’ll be comparing five popular compact drum kits: the Pearl Midtown, Tama Club-Jam, Ludwig Breakbeats, Sonor AQ2 Safari, and Gretsch Brooklyn. I have played on the each of these compact drum kits in various music clubs throughout Japan.
I’ll examine the features of each kit and share my recommendation at the end. Let’s get rolling!
Pearl Midtown Compact Drum Kits
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The Pearl Midtown is a compact drum kit that delivers big sound. It features a 16×14-inch bass drum, 10×7-inch and 13×12-inch toms, and a 13×5.5-inch snare drum. The kit is made of 6-ply Poplar wood and comes in three different finishes.
One of the most significant advantages of the Pearl Midtown is its versatility. It can handle any genre of music, from Jazz to Rock, and everything in between. It also has a compact footprint, making it easy to transport to gigs or practice sessions.
I own the Pearl Midtown drum kit and it has paid for its low price many times over. I use it for clubs, concert halls and recording sessions. Sound and recording engineers are always amazed at how such a small kit can sound so good!
The overall sound of the kit is balanced and really blends well with whatever music you like to play. I also did a review of this kit and my compact hardware setup on my YouTube channel.
The Tama Club-Jam is another compact drum kit that packs a punch. It features a 16×15-inch bass drum, 10×7-inch and 12×7-inch toms, and a 13×5-inch snare drum. The kit is made of 7-ply Poplar and comes in three different finishes.
One of the unique features of the Tama Club-Jam is its adjustable tom mount. This allows you to position the toms at different angles to suit your playing style. The kit also has a compact design, making it easy to transport.
This drum kit is great for beginning drummers but I wouldn’t recommend it for gigs. I found that the toms and snare have a thin sound and the bass drum is a bit like a cannon. It’s hard to balance the huge sound of the kick drum with the thinner sounding toms and snare drum.
Ludwig Breakbeats Compact Drum Kits
The Ludwig Breakbeats kit was designed in collaboration with Questlove, the drummer of The Roots. It features a 16×14-inch bass drum, 10×7-inch and 13×13-inch toms, and a 14×5-inch snare drum. The kit is made of 7-ply basswood and comes in four different finishes.
The Ludwig Breakbeats kit is known for its warm, punchy sound, and it’s perfect for drummers who want to play funk, hip-hop, or R&B. The kit also has a compact design, making it easy to move around.
This is a great kit and one that I would feel comfortable gigging with in certain musical situations. The thinner snare drum at only 5 inches (even with the 14-inch diameter), doesn’t work well for Jazz drumming but I can definitely use it when I’m playing a Hip-Hop or funkier music.
Sonor AQ2 Safari
The Sonor AQ2 Safari is a compact drum kit that offers professional sound and quality. It features a 16×15-inch bass drum, 10×7-inch and 13×12-inch toms, and a 13×5.75-inch snare drum. The kit is made of 7-ply maple and comes in six different finishes.
The Sonor AQ2 Safari has a unique mounting system that allows you to adjust the toms’ angle and height to suit your playing style. It also features high-quality hardware and produces a warm, full-bodied sound.
Like the Tama Club-Jam, I found that the bass drum depth makes it much louder than the toms. The snare drum depth however, is really great. It gives you a nice fat sound for only a 13-inch drum.
Overall, this is a good drum kit for Jazz drumming and heavier funkier music as well. Just go easy on that bass drum.
Gretsch Brooklyn Compact Drum Kits
The Gretsch Brooklyn Micro is a high-end compact drum kit that features a 18×14-inch bass drum, 12×8-inch and 14×14-inch toms, and a 14×5-inch snare drum. The kit is made of 6-ply maple/poplar and comes in four different finishes.
The Gretsch Brooklyn is known for its warm, vintage sound and excellent build quality. It’s perfect for drummers who want a compact kit without compromising on sound. However, it’s also the most expensive kit on this list.
This is really a gem of a drum kit and it should be for the price you would have to pay. The only downside is the 5-inch depth on the snare drum. I really wish they made it at least 5.5 inches for Jazz drumming applications.
The Gretsch Brooklyn feels a bit heavier than the other kits on this list because of the Maple added to the wood. Just something to factor in if you have to load in and set up your own drums.
Still, if you’re looking for a kit that is both compact and has an overall warm, melodic sound, this compact drum kit will do the trick.
My Recommendation: Pearl Midtown
So after all is said and done, I recommend the Pearl Midtown as the best compact drum kit for most drummers. It has the perfect balance between sound quality, versatility, portability and price.
The Pearl Midtown has a compact design that makes it easy to transport, but it doesn’t sacrifice sound quality for portability. It’s made of high-quality materials and produces a full-bodied, rich sound that can handle any genre of music. It’s also perfect for beginners and professional drummers alike.
The Tama Club-Jam is my least favorite overall while the Ludwig Breakbeats and The Sonor AQ2 Safari compact drum kits are excellent choices if you’re looking to play Hip-Hop or Funk.
The Gretsch Brooklyn is our high-end kit that produce excellent sound quality. However, it is a bit heavier and a lot more expensive than the other kits on this list.
So, if you’re looking for a versatile, high-quality compact drum kit that won’t break the bank, the Pearl Midtown is the way to go in my opinion. It’s an excellent choice for Jazz drumming and perfect for beginning drummers, intermediate drummers, and professionals alike.
At the end of the day, whichever compact drum kit you choose, just remember to drum responsibly and swing like there’s no tomorrow!