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Many drummers love the Simmons electronic drum sets because they realize you get what you pay for. However, many others are generally disappointed with what Simmons has been producing lately.
In this article, I’ll take a brief look at the various kits from Simmons. I’ll try to point out what it is that owners like and don’t like so you can judge for yourself whether a Simmons drum kit is for you or not.
Update: As of this January, 2022, update, none of these Simmons drum sets seem to be available at Amazon. Sad day! You can still click through and shop for similar sets.
If you’re in a hurry and just want to check the pricing and availability of these Simmons drum sets on Amazon, you can click a link in the list below.
If you want to skip ahead to a certain section of this Simmons review, you can click a link in the box below. Otherwise, just keep reading as usual.
Problems with the Simmons Website
Before I look at the individual kits Simmons currently offers, I should mention something about the company website itself.
Before I started writing this article, I did a Google search for Simmons drum sets. When the Simmons website appeared in the results, Google attached a note saying they thought the site might have been hacked.
As of this writing, something has changed so that warning is no longer there. I have visited the Simmons website and have had no negative results from going there. Whatever Simmons did to fix the problem seems to have worked. (Or else Google realized the original warning was in error.)
You currently should have no qualms about visiting the Simmons site, but – and this is true of any site – you might want to go through Google to get there, just in case something changes again in the future.
That said, their site has caused lock-up problems with my (Chrome) browser, so there may still be some sort of problem there.
Obviously none of this affects the quality of the drum kits themselves, so let’s take a look at them now.
Which Kits Does Simmons Offer in Electronic Drums?
There are 5 models currently shown on the Simmons website. You may find others elsewhere online, but I’ll stick to these 5 here.
The most basic kit is the SD100. It seems this set is intended for the beginning drummer.
There are just 10 built-in drum kits and 100 drum sounds from which you can choose. There is no mention of user kits, so I don’t think you can create and save your own.
This is a compact kit that doesn’t allow you to move pieces around much, if at all. Simmons calls the area where most of the signature hexagonal pads are located the “drum bar”. That’s an appropriate name because it’s much thicker than the usual rack posts and arms.
The snare is front and center, as opposed to the normal left hand position. The sound module is embedded in the bar just behind the snare. The toms and hi-hat spread out from there.
Maybe Simmons intends that you face more to the right side of the kit to make the snare feel more in its usual place, although you won’t see that in the video below.
If you’re not used to playing these items in those positions, it will take some getting used to. On the other hand, if you’re a beginning drummer, you have nothing to compare it to, so you probably won’t care.
However, if you ever move to another drum set, you’ll have to make adjustments at that time because the drums won’t line up with what you were accustomed to on this SD100.
Check out this video demo.
A small step up from the SD100 is the SD350. (You may see the SD300 available in various locations, but not on the Simmons site.)
Simmons calls this a compact kit as well. What is rather unusual here is that the pads are mesh instead of rubber. This is not something you usually find on low-end kits. This applies to the snare and the three toms, all of which measure 8 inches in diameter.
Assuming the mesh is of good quality, this is actually quite an improvement over the previous kit. Mesh heads are often found only on premium quality kites.
The sound unit expands to 170 sounds. There are still only 10 preset kits, but now you get one user kit too. There is also space for one user song.
The pieces get a little bigger in the SD500, so this is not a compact kit like those above.
The snare is 9 inches and is dual zone. The toms are still stuck at 8 inches though.
The hi-hat and crash are each 10 inches, while the ride is 12. I would have thought they would have increased the size of the crash before the ride.
Starting with the SD500, the pads have what Simmons calls Variable Attack Response (VAR). This is a feature that manifests itself when you hit a pad at different velocities. Instead of just increasing the volume of a given sound, Simmons actually has its sound module produce a different sample depending on the force you use.
That said, Simmons says they use “Round-Robin alternating samples on [the] snare and ride cymbal.”
I haven’t heard this in person, so it’s hard to comment on, but I’m not sure it’s something I would appreciate. They seem to be saying that (if there are 2 samples for the snare) every other time you hit it, you get the same sound. Then on the in between hits you get a second sound.
I’m sure the alternating sounds aren’t all that much different from each other – not like a snare and a bongo or some such – but it still could be a little unsettling, if my interpretation of their statement is correct.
The sound module now has 50 drum kits total, 10 of which are user kits. There are 60 songs total, and 10 of these are also for the user’s creations.
At this point you might want to check out this promo video from Simmons.
Besides having more sounds and kits, as you would expect, there seem to be 2 main differences between the SD1000 and lesser Simmons sets.
The first is the use of S1000 pads for the drums and cymbals. Simmons claims that these “offer realistic response, higher sensitivity, and less false triggering between zones.”
While all that is good, it does say something about the lower cost kits. And that brings us to the second main difference. The less expensive sets apparently have false triggering problems between the zones.
“The SD2000 is the first Simmons kit to feature advanced, tension-able mesh heads with variable attack response [VAR] technology for expressive performance and nuanced playability. Each SimHex® drum is fully adjustable to personal playing positions thanks to the revolutionary Spherical Isolation Mounting System™ (SIMS).”
Many other kits let you adjust the playing position of the pads, so I’m not sure what is so “revolutionary” about this SIM system. And again, I’m not totally convinced about the VAR.
The snare is now triple zone and 11 inches across. The toms have added an inch and are now at nine.
The crash cymbal is a 13 inch, dual zone, chokeable pad. The ride is a 15 inch, triple zone pad. Simmons thinks a lot more of their rides than their crashes.
You can expand this kit by adding another identical crash cymbal and a 9 inch floor tom that come together in a separate package. You may see such a kit referred to as the SD2000XP.
What’s the Verdict on Simmons Electronic Drum Kits?
As you might have guessed from some of the comments above, users do tend to have problems with crossover, especially with the less expensive kits.
There is also a sound balance problem at times. Some of the pads simply sound louder than others even when you apply a similar amount of force. Sometimes tweaking the sound module will help, but not always, and you really shouldn’t have to make such adjustments.
User reviews at other online sites are very mixed. This makes me think there is a quality control problem at the manufacturer. Theoretically, all the kits should be great, or they all should exhibit the same problems. A mixed bag looks like a QC issue.