by Danny

February 19, 2021

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Gone are the days when the only use of electronic drums was as silent drum sets for practice, e-kits are now being used to rock thousands of stages into a crazy frenzy. With ever-improving technology, these drums are getting more and more prevalent in live performances and small gigs. Therefore, you are going to need an amplifier to perform in these stages. We have discussed the two primary ways through which you can amplify your drum set along with answers for a few frequently asked questions.

By Use of Drum Amps

As you can guess, using a drum amplifier is the most straightforward way to amplify electronic drums. They perform excellently with drum sets as they are specifically designed for them; you can expect much better sound than you might get with other amplifiers. For example, bass amps are not capable of adequately replicating the high-pitched sounds of cymbals. On the other hand, a guitar amp is optimized for the midrange, and you will suffer enormously in the bass department.

Not only is a specialized amplifier optimized for the wide frequency range of an electronic drum set, but it is also able to achieve this in a compact setup. With just a subwoofer and an amp, you can get a fantastic sound. These amplifiers also have various knobs to EQ your sound, so you can quickly and easily optimize them. The relatively low cost of drums amps compared to a PA system is also a bonus.

If you are shopping for amps, try to see if you can buy an amp from your kit’s manufacturer. You can expect better optimization and comparability in this manner. However, this doesn’t mean an amplifier from another company will not work with your drum set. Just get an amp that meets your drum kit’s specification requirements, and you will be good to go for the most part. If you can try getting a higher watt amp, these can deliver much higher volumes and be a sound investment in the long term.

How To Connect Your Electronic Drums To An Amp

The process of connecting your drum set to an amp is one of the most straightforward setup processes in an e-drum kit. 

  1. Make sure that the drum amp and e-drum are turned off before you proceed. 
  2. You have to plug one end of an ¼” cable into the “out” of the drum module and plug the other end into the amplifier’s input. For those who are new to this, the “out” is located on the back of the drum module
  3. Do not connect the wire into the headphone output as the signal comes preamplified and, therefore, should not be used with an amplifier.  
  4. If your module has two separate left and right outputs, you can use a single ¼” cable from the left, which will send a Mono signal. 
  5. Alternatively, you can connect both the left and right outputs to the drum amp and get a dual channel output. However, make sure you get an amp that supports dual channels. 

By Use of a PA System / Mixer

A PA system (public address system) is always a little more expensive than a drum amp, yet many drummers use it to amplify electronic drums. This is because a PA setup is much more versatile than an amp. A mixer (part of the PA) will have plugs for many inputs, while an amplifier is typically limited to just one of two imports. 

This multitude of inputs is hugely beneficial for drummers who work with bands. Every band member will be able to plug his device into the mixer, unlike an amp which is only limited to you. You could even use it for performances in small and mid-sized venues. It also has better connectivity, and you will be able to plug your phone or a turntable into it if required. Another advantage is that it can also produce a much higher volume than an amp.

The only disadvantage is that a standard PA system won’t have the rich and deep bass you would get with a drum amp. You will need to purchase a subwoofer if you want that heart-thumping bass, which does add extra cost. However, once you get the subwoofer, you will get pretty much the same sound quality from both the PA and amp.

Passive Speakers vs. Active Speakers

Speakers are an essential part of your setup, so you should spend some time finding the best one for you. A significant decision you would have to make is whether you will get passive speakers or active sparkles.

An active speaker( also known as powered PA speakers) has a built-in amplifier, and therefore all you need to do is connect them to a mixer, and they’ll be able to function. A Passive speaker, on the other hand, requires an external speaker amplifier to function. While a passive speaker does give you a little extra flexibility, an active speaker is more worth it.

Another thing you should consider is the wattage of your speakers. Make sure that your amplifier can handle the wattage without any issues. If you buy a speaker with a wattage much higher than your amplifier can handle, you will be left with a speaker that sounds feeble even at max volume.

How To Connect Electronic kits To a PA System

There are two standard methods for you to connect your electronic kit to a PA system. 

The first method is pretty much the same one we mentioned before for connecting e-drums to amps. 

You take an ¼” cable and plug one side of it to the “out” of the drum module. You should then plug it into the mixer’s ( also known as the soundboard) single input. You could also use two separate ¼” cables for L and R output if you aren’t a fan of the mono output. If your module has a dual output, but you want a mono output, connect your module’s left output to the system; it will act as a mono signal.

The second method makes use of XLR cables. XLR cables are better than your standard ¼” cable as their signal doesn’t compromise even when you use a very long wire. 

  • However, to convert the ¼” output of your module into an XLR. You will need a direct box. A direct box(DI) has an ¼” input and an XLR output and will take care of the conversion. 
  • You need to plug the output of your module into the DI, and you will then be able to plug the XLR output of the DI into your mixer. Typically direct boxes only come with a single input. 

However, there are ones with multiple inputs available, and you can use them if you need multiple channels.

Some mid-tier and nearly all high-tier modules typically have separate direct outputs for each of their components like the cymbals, toms, snare, and bass. Since a mixer has a massive amount of inputs, you will be able to run a ¼” cable from each of them to it. This is a significant advantage for performances as your sound engineer will be able to adjust the level of each instrument to mix in with the rest of your band correctly. This is something you simply cannot find in drum amps.

The cheapest way to amplify e drums

To put it bluntly, there isn’t anything cheap about amplifying an electronic drum set. While you can buy cheap components, they will be nothing more than a waste of your money. For example, if you buy a low-cost guitar or bass amp, you will end up with horrendous sounds. If you buy a cheap speaker system, it will mostly end up blowing up in a few days. Simply put, if you cheap out on your amplification solution, you will be wasting the hundreds or thousands of dollars you invested in getting a great electronic drum kit.

Your only appropriate solution to amplify e-drums is either an amp or a PA system, and neither of them comes cheap. Even if you buy one used, they will not be cheap. Actually, even building an amplifier and speakers system by yourself will not only sound subpar, but the parts needed to build those will also actually end up costing as much as a mass-market product. Your only way of getting a PA system for cheap is if you find someone who owns one and needs to get rid of them immediately, and you haggle with them.

However, the truly cheapest way to amplify electronic drums is by using headphones. We do not mean that you should buy a pair of cheap headphones; instead, a pair of high-quality headphones will be cheaper than a good amp or PA system. Cheap headphones are like cheap amps and will not deliver good quality sounds. If you are on a budget, we recommend getting a good pair of headphones and saving money until you can afford a suitable amplifier or PA system.

Frequently Asked Questions


What amp is good for electronic drums?

The best amp for electronic drums is one with a loud sound and an appropriate frequency range. Not all amps are suited for e-drums, and buying an amp blindly will lead to a bad experience.

If you want to get the best out of your electronic drum set, you should buy specialized drum amps. You could also try out keyboard amps that have support for multiple channels. Both these amplifiers can produce high volume and are capable of handling a wide frequency range, making them suitable for your electronic kit. Also, consider the wattage of your speakers and buy a suitable amp for them.

How do you amplify an electronic drum kit?

You can amplify your electronic kit by using equipment like a PA system or drum amp. Once you are done positioning all your equipment, you must connect all the various cables into their respective ports. Note that this must be done before you turn on the power.

All you have to do is find the output port on the module and connect that to the input jack of your amplifier using, usually, an ¼” cable. Then you can use another cable to link the amplifier’s output to the input of the speakers. If you are using active speakers, you can directly connect the drums to the speakers without having to use an amplifier.

How can I make my electronic drums sound better?

You can make your e-drums sound better by tweaking the various settings present in your drum module. No two speakers are the exact same, so the presets in your module can only get you so far. Only if you spend some time adjusting all the major and minor settings to suit your speakers and surroundings properly will you be able to get the best sound. This includes adjusting the volume of the low, mid, and high sections, playing with the timbre of the notes, and plenty more. You could even spend some time playing with the various treble and bass knobs in your amp. By spending a little time optimizing your settings, you can improve the sound significantly.

Alternatively, you can use a sound mixing board to get better control of your sound. If your sound still isn’t as good as you want it to be, you should consider upgrading either your module or your amplifier.

Conclusion

Both the methods to amplify electronic drums have their own pros and cons. A drum amplifier is ideal for small venues or for practice sessions. Not only are these cheaper, but they actually deliver incredible sound quality. However, make sure that you only get drums amps or maybe keyboard amps, but avoid guitar and bass amps at all times. You might think you are saving money, but all you are doing is producing lousy sound. 

A PA system, on the other hand, is ideal when you are performing with your band or are performing in a large venue. They have much better connectivity and flexibility when compared to drum amplifiers. However, they are more expensive than a drum amp and have a worse off bass unless you upgrade the subwoofer.

About the author 

Danny

I am Danny. A Father, Hubby, Full-Time Drummer, and Part-time teacher. I have been drumming for 10 years and on average gigs 150 times a year. Drums are my passion. I play for local and some regional bands too. Aside from that, I started this blog to share my knowledge about musical instruments.

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