If my first drums had been an electronic kit, I might have given up drumming before I even got started at it. I know that sounds like an awful way to begin a review of an electronic drum kit, but a fact’s a fact.
A good half the reason I wanted to play drums was to make as much noise as possible. The other half was to annoy my parents. And electronic drums aren’t going to cut it for either. But that’s me.
These days, a great electronic drum kit is a dream come true. I want to experiment with different sounds and rhythms without driving my family and neighbors crazy. And the Alesis Surge Mesh kit might be the way to do just that. So here’s my Alesis Surge Mesh Kit review to help you decide if this is the kit for you, too.
Alesis Electronic Drums
Alesis is an American company started in Hollywood and is now headquartered out of Rhode Island. They’ve produced a lot of classic instruments and devices in the past, such as keyboards, midi controllers, drum modules, drum machines, and PA systems.
Nowadays, they’re deep into the world of electronic drum sets. Right now, Alesis has 12 different electronic drum kits on the market at different price points and geared to different target groups of players. The Surge Mesh Kit is one of them.
Just to lay all the cards on the table, Alesis drum kits are designed in the good ol’ US of A but manufactured in China. What’s not these days? I’m not going to make a judgment either way, but I just thought you should know.
Alesis Surge Mesh Kit Overview
In the world of electronic drums, the Surge Mesh kit is considered an 8-piece kit. Normally, acoustic drum kits only count the drums, so this kit compares to a standard 5-piece drum kit with three cymbals. You’ve got a snare, three toms, and a kick drum. This is supplemented by the usual suspects – hi-hats, a crash, and a ride cymbal.
How is this kit set up?
Like most of Alesis’ drum kits (like their child-size models), the Surge is all set up on a 4-post rack. This rack is sturdy chromed metal and connects through strong clamps hand-tightened with wing nuts. The front rack bar supports two of the 8” toms and the crash cymbal.
One side holds the 10” snare, the hi-hat boom arm, and the drum module. On the other side, you’ll have one more 8” tom, this time simulating a floor tom, and the ride cymbal. Of course, you can set the whole thing to play lefty or righty, just like you can with a normal drum kit.
Not everything is up on the rack…
The hi-hat pad is up there, but it has an outboard pedal on the floor to simulate the control of a real hi-hat stand. You can stomp this pedal to chunk away on the hi-hat or hold it in closed, partially open, and fully open positions for different sounds.
The kick is also on the floor – duh! While cheaper Alesis kits use a simple footswitch or a rubber pad, Surge is different. It has a heavy base and a tower pad with a mesh head. Also, unlike some Alesis models, the Surge comes complete with a kick pedal.
This helps to save you the trouble of finding an appropriate pedal for the mesh head (most felt beaters are too soft). At the same time, some players would prefer to save the extra cost and buy their own pedal.
Different strokes for different folks!
It’s important to mention now that all the drums except the kick are connected by dual-zone triggers. This means you can program them to have two sounds depending on where you strike them. You’ll get a center zone sound and a rim-shot sound, so this can add more texture and realism to your playing.
The 10” hi-hat pad itself is single-zone because the pedal controls the other sounds it can make. The crash and ride cymbals are also single zone, but they have another cool feature. You can grab the cymbals to choke them off, just like real cymbals. Cool.
To sum it up…
This kit is set up like a real acoustic kit. The mesh heads do a great job of simulating the feel of acoustic heads. Plus, you can tighten or loosen them to get the tension perfect for your playing style.
The cymbals don’t exactly feel like real cymbals. They have a bit more bounce, thanks to the heavy rubber coatings on them. But for heavy hits like crashes and keeping time on the hi-hat, they feel good and give you less fatigue than real cymbals.
The Alesis Surge Drum Module
Now that we’ve gone through the details of the body, it’s time to talk about the brain. In normal Alesis style, the Surge kit is controlled by the Alesis Surge Drum Module.
Now, what’s inside that pretty little head?
Alesis starts you off with 24 pre-programmed drum kits ranging from rock to jazz, to fusion, and on to electronic weirdness. You have room for another 16 user-programmed kits that you can assign any of the 385 onboard sounds to.
This might sound like an insane amount of sounds, but remember that the drums are dual-zone, and the hi-hat has four sounds. So it takes 15 sounds to program a full kit.
These sounds are also all editable. You can manipulate reverb, pitch, EQ, and more for each sound to get your kits sounding perfect. As a result, this is one of the best electronic drum kit modules on the market. And considering it’s from Alesis, that’s no surprise.
On top of all these kits and sounds…
The Surge module comes with 60 play-along practice tracks. This curated selection of songs is aimed at the intermediate drummer. The idea is that you’ll listen and play along to the songs to get the drum parts down pat.
Once you’re ready, you can hit the “Drum Off” button to mute the drums on the track and lay down your own drums instead. You can even record your playing and listen back to see how well you’re progressing.
There’s also a coaching mode…
This function gives you some beats to copy and practice. Then you can take an exam, and the module will score you on how accurate your timing is.
On top of this mode, Alesis has teamed up with Melodics.com to offer an additional 60 drumming lessons. You get these by downloading the Melodics App and registering your product code. These are both quite handy functions for intermediate drummers trying to increase their scope.
On top of what I’ve mentioned already, there are some really important features to mention.
The Surge Mesh Kit comes with a built-in metronome. You can set different time signatures and different tempos to really nail your timing. You can record yourself playing and play it back right away to give you a good chance for self-critique.
How will you listen to all of this? The Surge has a Phones Out 3.5mm (8”) jack that will take any stereo headphones. Of course, you can always play out to an amp instead, using either or both of the ¼” Stereo Out jacks.
If you want to lay tracks down on your desktop DAW, it’s easy as pie to run MIDI via USB out to your computer. But there are also MIDI In and MIDI Out 5-pin connections if you want to do things the old-school way.
You can use these to connect up to other MIDI devices, like sample trigger pads, keyboards, and other controllers. All of which makes this one of the best MIDI compatible electronic drum kits you can buy.
There are two more inputs on the back of the module labeled Tom 4 and Crash 2. But there are only three toms, and one crash included, right? True, but you can expand this kit by adding either or both of these extra pads. Therefore, making this is one of the most versatile electronic drum kits around.
The thing I like the best about Alesis modules is the pads on the module. These buttons are laid out in the same configuration as your kit (for a standard righty anyway). And you can use them to trigger all of your sounds without touching your sticks.
This makes it easy to try out voicings right on the module itself. You can even disconnect everything and use just the module itself as a drum machine for live programming in tiny spaces too small to swing a cat.
This intermediate kit retails for about what a bottom-of-the-line acoustic kit with terrible cymbals does. It’s a bit over $500, which puts it in the middle of the Alesis market as well.
So far, everything has been peachy keen, sunshine, and roses. But there are a few things to complain about too.
The bass pad is just barely big enough for two beaters, which means you could use a double bass pedal on it. However, this will mean neither of your beaters is exactly centered. That reduces the sound of the pad when triggered, so you will end up with double bass, just quiet. Quiet is not what double bass pedals are for.
All the cables are included, and Alesis even throws in a pair of sticks to get you started. However, I’d like it even better if it came with a throne, something most people don’t just have laying around the house, and maybe some headphones too. Maybe the company will package these together in the future.
Some of the connectors slip. The snare is probably the biggest culprit. Its clamp has to be re-tightened pretty frequently with heavy playing. Not the end of the world, but it can be a bit annoying. If you’re a light touch, though, you might not have any issue.
Alesis Surge Mesh Kit Review – Pros and Cons
- Mesh Drumheads.
- Good Hardware Quality.
- Great variety and number of sounds.
- Dual-Zone Drumheads.
- Rack Adjustability.
- The dynamics are good but not amazing.
Looking for Great Electronic Drums or Other Percussion Items?
We have you covered. Check out our in-depth Alesis DM10 MKII Review, our Alesis Drums Nitro Mesh Kit Review, our Yamaha DTX562K Electronic Drum Set Review, and our Roland TD-25KV Electronic Drum Set for awesome electronic drums currently on the market.
Also, have a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Cheap Beginner Electronic Drum Sets Under $500, the Best Electronic Drum Sets for Kids, the Best Electronic Drum Amps, the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Portable Drum Kits, the Best Snare Drums, the Best Bass Drum Pedals, and the Best Drum Thrones you can buy in 2021.
Alesis Surge Mesh Kit Review – Final Assessment
The Surge Mesh is a good kit for a good price, targeted at serious beginners or intermediate players. It has enough voices and kits to keep most drummers happy, and most of the sounds are realistic.
It plays and feels like an acoustic kit, without all the noise, of course. But when you need it to be loud, you have all the connections you need to plug into any set-up.
There are larger, stronger kits out there with bigger sound banks. There are also a lot of wimpier and much more limited kits. For one of the best intermediate electronic drum kits, I think the Surge is right where it should be.
Until next time, may the beat go on.