Alesis Nitro MAX Kit Review — Best E-Kit For Beginners?

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The Alesis Nitro MAX is the third iteration of the Nitro electronic drum kit lineup. The update features a larger snare drum pad and substantial upgrades to the Nitro drum module.

It’s a perfect introductory kit for beginners and young players. Alesis significantly upgraded the previous generation Nitro Mesh with four mesh drum pads, three rubber cymbal pads, the Nitro MAX drum module, and a solid aluminum rack.

The new drummer’s options for e-kits today are staggering, especially since many are so affordable. I remember the first kit I bought, my Yamaha DTX, being expensive. I just needed a kit to play in my college apartment. That was almost ten years ago, and my have things changed.

Alesis sells a ton of different electronic drum kits. There’s the Nitro, Surge, Command, Turbo, Strike, DM10, and others.

What’s the best one for me?” you may ask. We will help you figure that out. Today, we’ll be breaking down the Alesis Nitro MAX kit, giving the pros and cons and all features.

Editor’s note
Keeping with our goal of being the most accurate and up-to-date source in the drumming community, it’s important to inform our readers of the relationships between us and brands. The Alesis Nitro MAX was given to us on loan for evaluation from inMusic, but that has no impact on our objectivity.

Alesis Nitro MAX

The best introductory electronic drum set for beginners
Bluetooth compatible
The Alesis Nitro MAX is affordable, compact, and is perfect for learning with 90-days free to Drumeo, the best place to learn drums online. In my testing, I had fun playing the kit, but thought it was a little cramped—it’s more suited to younger drummers.
What We Like
  • 10″ dual-zone snare drum pad
  • Device holder on the drum module
  • Drum sounds from BFD
  • 90 days free to Drumeo
What We Don’t Like
  • Wobbly rack
  • Very compact kit
  • Module practice features not entirely useful

Alesis Nitro MAX: Key Highlights

  • 8-piece electronic drum kit
  • Premium mesh drum heads
  • Improved 10″ dual-zone snare drum pad
  • Realistic drum and percussion sounds from BFD
  • Bluetooth capability
  • USB MIDI connection
  • Practical practice tools

At first glance, the Alesis Nitro MAX looks to be an impressive kit. Included is the Nitro MAX module, four tunable drum pads, a small kick pad, three cymbal pads, a hi-hat controller pedal, and a kick pedal.

The kit is also one of the most affordable electronic drum kits available. It doesn’t have all the advanced features a top-of-the-line e-kit has, but you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for your e-kit.

Alesis also partnered with Drumeo to offer a free 90-day subscription to their online drum lesson platform as a bonus with the purchase of the Nitro MAX (as well as a 30-day trial to Melodics). Drumeo is the best online drum lesson platform, so remember to sign up if you pick up the kit.

Regarding the box size, it fits easily into the back of my Honda Civic. You don’t have to be afraid if you’re picking it up from the music store.

Alesis Nitro Max box in car
The Nitro MAX box fits easily in the back seat of most sedans.

Visual Reaction

The all-black design with the red wood grain finish looks fantastic. The build quality isn’t terrible, either. One would expect the kit to be made with cheaper materials, but Alesis has done a great job making quality affordable.

Alesis Nitro Max Finish
Red wood grain shells are an added bonus to the Nitro MAX

The Nitro MAX is the third upgrade in the Nitro series of kits. The last generation featured mesh heads with a smaller 8″ snare drum pad and fewer sounds on the drum module.

Features of the Nitro MAX

The Nitro MAX shares a standard design and look to other drum kits in Alesis’s catalog (the red sparkle on shells looks similar to the Strike line). Let’s take a look at some of the best features.

Eight Playable Surfaces to Drum your Heart Out

Alesis Nitro Max Top Down
From the top down view, the kit looks fantastic, especially with the white drum heads and black rims

The Nitro MAX kit is a standard five-piece drum setup, with four drums, a kick pad, and three cymbals. It feels compact when set up, so you may consider a larger e-kit for someone older or larger in stature.

The pads have a slim profile with a beautiful red wood grain finish, a massive upgrade from the previous Nitro Mesh design. The bottoms of the drum pads are also more open, making the pads much more lightweight, making the kit easier to move and store.

Dual-Zone Snare

The most prominent upgrade from the Nitro Mesh to the MAX is the new 10″ dual-zone snare drum pad. The previous Nitro Mesh snare featured an 8″ snare, which was a little small for most.

The mesh head on the snare drum feels excellent to play, albeit a little bouncy. For my play style, I tried tuning the mesh head a bit looser than it came from the factory and got a more realistic feel.

Dual-Zone?

The snare drum is the only dual-zone pad on the Nitro MAX, which lets you play a different sound from the mesh drum head and the outer rim.

For example, if you hit the rim of the drum, a preset on the module will play a rim shot sample. Playing in the center of the drum will result in a regular snare hit.

There are three sensors right in the center of the snare pad, making the middle more sensitive. As I played the drum, I noticed it gets less sensitive as you move away from the center and toward the edge. You should play in the center of this pad to get good hits (as we’re all taught to play the snare drum correctly).

To play rimshots, you must switch your technique from how you’d play them on an acoustic snare drum. Instead of hitting both the drum head and the rim simultaneously, you must solely hit the rim for the rimshot to trigger correctly. Hitting both the head and the rim results in a trigger sound from just the drum head, not a rimshot.

Three Cymbals

The kit includes three rubber cymbal pads: a ride cymbal, a hi-hat, and a chokable crash. All three cymbals are 10″ in diameter. The trigger zones face the drummer and can only be hit from the front of the cymbal.

Alesis Nitro Max Cymbal Up Close

The ride cymbal is a single-zoned pad that allows for two distinct sounds depending on how hard you hit the cymbal. You’ll get the typical ride bow sound and a ride bell sound on some presets, whereas on others, you’ll hear a ride crash sound on harder hits.

I found myself really having to lay into the cymbal to get the ride bell sound to trigger—I may have to do some sensitivity adjustments within the drum module.

The crash cymbal is a single-zone pad that has a choke feature. When we hit acoustic cymbals, we can “choke” them by grabbing the cymbal to stop the sound, creating a unique effect while playing for sections of music that need to stop abruptly.

The choke feature on this cymbal works, but I have to grab the crash cymbal pad firmly right at the edge for it to work correctly.

The hi-hat pad is a single-zone pad that works with the included hi-hat controller pedal. While playing, it moves too much. I want to clamp down on the wingnut more despite being unable to tighten it further.

Despite that, the hi-hat functions great and even allows for foot splashes, which I was shocked to learn. There’s no latency or delay between the hi-hat controller and the pad.

Three Tunable Tom Pads with Mesh Heads

Alesis Nitro MAX Snare and Module

The toms on the Nitro MAX are 8″ single-zone pads. They feature a slimmer design with a rim flush to the drum head—ideal since there isn’t much of a point to having a traditional raised rim, being they are single-zone pads.

The Nitro MAX also features beautiful white mesh drum heads. They feel identical to the previous generation’s all-black heads but look nicer to me.

Initially, the switch to mesh drum heads was a massive upgrade for the lineup. They used to be reserved for higher-end kits exclusively. Unfortunately, the tom drums are only single-zoned.

The sensors on the tom pads are different from the snare’s, positioned closer to the front edge of the tom, nearest you. Make sure you’re playing in the center of the drum. Sensitivity is good in the middle but less so as you move farther back on the pad.

Hitting directly on the sensor results in a far less dynamic range in volume, and it’s more challenging to play quietly. Playing in the center lets you play soft and loud and feels more realistic. Placing the sensors in this spot works well for the tom drums.

What are Mesh Drum Heads?

Simply put, mesh drum heads are a playing surface for electronic and acoustic drum kits made from strands of nylon woven together at a 90-degree angleThe heads are designed to be extremely quiet and are surprisingly durable.

Bouncy Drum Heads?

Mesh drum heads are superior to rubber pads in that they feel better to play on, in my opinion. However, they do place a false sense of realism on your playing.

Mesh drum heads act as a trampoline does. When switching back to an acoustic kit, you may have a more challenging time playing than usual, so I like to tune them down a bit from how they come shipped.

Noise Level from Mesh Heads

First, despite what I said earlier about electronic drum kits being quiet, they may still be loud. E drums may be significantly quieter than real drums, but they can still pose a problem.

I recall being in my first apartment and having my next-door neighbor quite upset with me playing my kit after a specific time.

Rubber pads are going to be much louder than mesh pads. That doesn’t mean that mesh heads will be the winner of the quietest playing surface. Yamaha makes an electronic drum kit with Textured Cellular Silicone that is far quieter than mesh drum heads. Take a listen to the noise comparison here.

With all this being said, if noise is a concern, you may want to check out one of Yamaha’s DTX kits with TCS.

Kick Drum Tower and Pedal

The Nitro MAX features a kick drum tower—familiar to many electronic drum kits around this price point. The kick tower features a 5″ rubber pad, adjustable spurs to keep it from sliding forward, and a velcro strap for additional grip.

The included Alesis kick drum pedal is okay at best. While playing, it performed better than many budget pedals included with other entry-level electronic and acoustic drum sets. Still, I suggest upgrading your kick pedal as soon as you can—a great choice is the Yamaha FP 7210A single bass drum pedal.

Alesis Nitro Max Kick Pad

I then tested my DW 9000 double kick pedal to see how two beaters would perform on the 5″ kick pad. While I had good results with consistent kick triggering, I cannot say for the best metal drummers who can play high-speed patterns. My double-kick skill isn’t up to par.

But from what I can tell, the Alesis Nitro MAX kick tower will support most double bass drum pedals. You may need to pick up smaller beaters if yours do not fit the kick pad.

The biggest issue I ran into was kick tower creep. I had the spurs screwed into the carpet, and my bass drum pedal was still sliding forward. I didn’t take time to use the velcro strap, though, the rug I am using may lend itself to the kick pedal sliding forward.

The Drum Rack

The aluminum drum rack of the Nitro MAX is by far its weakest point. The lightweight aspect of the aluminum is excellent for moving and storage, but this thing wobbles. While playing, however, I didn’t notice it.

When you have the far right and left legs spread out further, the rack isn’t as sturdy—bringing them in fixes the issue but results in a further compact setup with less room to move sticks from left to right.

Alesis Nitro Max Front Side

The rack clamps are plastic and almost feel as if they will break if you tighten down on them too hard. Metal clamps would be a welcome improvement to this kit design (albeit at a cost, I’m sure).

The biggest issue with the rack is the horizontal snare bar. The snare drum tends to sag as you play. You must then readjust and tighten the wingnut on the snare bar to bring it back to the proper height.

The Nitro MAX takes up little room compared to other electronic drum sets on the market. You’ll need about a 4×4 foot space to set the kit up, which includes the room for your drum throne (which you have to pick up separately, unfortunately).

Alesis Nitro Max folded up
The Nitro MAX easily folds up for storage in a closet.

Folding up the kit for storage is as simple as unplugging the cables, unscrewing some wing nuts, folding the arms in, and moving to the closet. Because of its small form factor, the Nitro MAX doesn’t take up much space when packed up.

Feel and Playability

You can’t beat what the kit offers for $400. In my experience, the Nitro MAX is a tad bit small for me. I feel claustrophobic while playing. All the drums sit close together, and it feels like I’m playing on a mini drum set.

I don’t see this being as big of an issue for young players and beginners. I’m used to a 22″ bass drum, 12″ rack tom, 16″ floor tom, 14″ snare, etc. My muscle memory is less accustomed to the layout of the Nitro MAX. The upgraded 10″ snare pad helps, but everything still feels a little too tight for me.

The height of the drum set alone can also be a big problem if you’re tall, say over 5 foot 10 inches. That being said, how high you sit on your throne can also have an impact. If you’re having an issue with drum heights, you should be able to find a DIY solution to raise the entire rack off the floor (like books or furniture risers).

The Nitro MAX Drum Module

The Nitro MAX has some fantastic new features compared to the previous drum module. Visually, the module is square with slightly rounded edges. It looks much more professional than the original Nitro drum module.

A device holder for your iPhone, iPad, or Android devices is also built into the module—a nice touch for those following along with YouTube videos or the included 90 days of Drumeo lessons.

Alesis Nitro MAX Drum Module

The module includes a cable snake input, additional tom and crash outputs (for the upcoming expansion pack), USB connection (only sends MIDI data, not audio), 1/8″ headphone jack, 1/8″ auxiliary input, left/right main output, power input, and Bluetooth.

The most significant upgrade to the module is the Bluetooth connection for jamming to your favorite songs via Spotify or any streaming service.

The presets included from BFD are some of the best I’ve heard on an entry-level Alesis drum module. But the original Nitro sounds still included sound pretty poor to my ears. I’m always a stickler when it comes to drum samples, though. Most beginners will have a blast jamming out on the Nitro MAX.

Overall Thoughts on Sound

As I’ve mentioned before, it is a great entry-level kit that serves a need for many young drummers or those needing a reliable drum kit to practice quietly with.

If you have a laptop, you can always pick up drum VST software like EZDrummer 3 and use your computer as a sound source.

Click play to hear one of the presets of the Nitro MAX drum module

The kit also includes the free BFD Player, which you can utilize alongside a Windows or Mac computer with a USB cable and headphones. The BFD Player has a premium sound pack with optional, ever-expanding drum sample libraries available for purchase (two are out now for $29 each).

Setting Up the Nitro MAX

Be prepared to spend a little time setting up your kit. You should be able to get up and running in a half-hour to an hour if you’re a seasoned drummer. If you’re a parent of a little drummer, setup time may be more.

Alternatives to the Alesis Nitro MAX

If the Nitro MAX seems too small and compact, I definitely suggest checking out either the Alesis Surge Mesh or the Alesis Strike Pro SE. These kits are more expensive, but you may get more mileage out of these instead of upgrading and spending money twice.

Alesis Nitro vs. Turbo?

The Alesis Turbo Mesh, while similar, doesn’t have as many features as the Nitro. In particular, the Turbo doesn’t feature a kick tower. Instead, you get a kick pedal that’s not as realistic as using a kick tower. The module is also more limited on the Turbo—some food for thought.

Why pick the Alesis Nitro Max?

The Alesis Nitro MAX is perfect for new drummers—it’s affordable and fun to play. The new sounds included in the module from BFD are much better than the original Nitro samples and the integrated practice tools work wonders for new drummers.

If you’re curious about all the kits that Alesis makes, I’ve created the ultimate Alesis comparison guide, packed with reviews, charts, features, pros/cons and more, so don’t miss that.

So, if you’re considering picking up the Nitro or any other electronic kit, I suggest shopping with Sweetwater or Guitar Center, not Amazon. Their customer service is far better, and you’ll often get better deals or bundles.

8.5Expert Score
DrumSpy Verdict

The third generation Nitro MAX is packed with great features for such an affordable electronic drum set. The upgraded BFD sounds are great and the 10″ dual-zone snare drum is a welcome addition. The kit also has Bluetooth, so you can play along to your favorite songs with ease. Alesis also partnered with Drumeo to give you 90 days of free drum lessons—a big plus.

Drumeo
29 Comments
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  1. Is it possible to plug these drums into a better module or are the connects proprietary?

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    • The cables are loomed together and connect to the Alesis module with a pin connector, so you’d need to get new cables (which wouldn’t be too big of a deal, really). I haven’t tested the pads with other modules, but I would think it would work.

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  2. It looks like there’s a USB port. Could I plug in to my DAW with USB midi and run a better-sounding VST (essentially using this as a MIDI controller)?

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  3. Yes, it works great this way in the setup I’m using. I run the drums to the computer via the USB on the module. I’m using Addictive Drums in Logic with the Nitro Mesh without any problems.

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  4. Hello,

    I want an kit to fit in my closet so can someone tell me the size of the full kit with all the features on it? For measuring purposes, i cant find this anywhere.

    Thanks!

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    • When I had it setup, it was approximately 4ft by 2ft. And when you collapse the stand with some of the pads still on the rack, it gets even smaller, so you can easily fit it in a closet.

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  5. This was a great review. Then at the end you have to crap on Jeff Bezos. While I’m no great fan of his, the man has done a great service by providing convenient retail goods during a time when it was difficult for many people to shop. He has earned his money. Just think if it were 1990 and there were no internet, much less online retailers, and we suffered through this pandemic. Also look at Amazon’s income statements and balance sheet, and then claim that they are swimming in cash. Bezos’ wealth is entirely based on the confidence that his investors have in the Amazon business model, not gouging consumers. THERE’S some food for thought. I’m not saying that other retailers aren’t worthwhile, but Bezos does not deserve this derision.

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  6. Tim… shut da f*** up

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  7. I think it is around 4 by 3 feet large.

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  8. Hey I just got up and mesured my Alesis Nitro mesh 8 pc drum kit as it sits in a playing pos. Now bear in mind your height and how far you would open up the drum frame work for your comfort when playing. I am 6 foot 2 in tall about 230 pounds so my kit is opened up all the way and I have added 4in in height to my framework . Kit was just a little too low for my comfort when on my throne. these are the Dim I just got off my kit as it sits. You would need 58 in in length 32in in width or depth and 50 in in height. my kit would fit as it sits for playing with all heads in playing pos in that amout of space. But could be folded to decrese that amount by about half if you removed heads and folded the frame work together. Like I said these dim are for my kit as it sits in playing pos. Hope that helps you out a little more in your quest for { the space required ? }

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  9. what you said ^

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  10. Reply
    Michael Schweitzer May 8, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    It’s not just small — it’s like a toy for kids. You will not be able to properly set the snare to the right height unless you are five feet tall. The rack is AT LEAST a foot too short. You won’t be able to match this kit to your acoustic kit unless you are a child playing with a child’s kit. It’s a serious issue because proper form is necessary for efficient and healthy drumming. As the the “feel” of the kit, it is nothing like an acoustic kit. This may be the best electronic drum kit for about $400, but I would not buy it unless you are a child.

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  11. Bezos deserves that derision plus a foot up his ass. I’d love to hear you say that again after working in one of his warehouses for a month. Confidence in his business model. Gimme a break…

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  12. Personally, I really love my Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit. I bought it a little over four months ago and itZ been great so far! I agree that the sounds aren’t the best. However, if you create your own custom kitZ, you can easily get really good sounds. The actual pitch of each voice iZ adjustable, which I find incredible for a kit in this price range. I sincerely enjoy playing this kit 🙂 Now, I must point out that I’m only using this kit for home practice… I’m not trying to play arenas with it. For my use, itZ an amazing electronic drum set. 😀☕🥁🥁🥁

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  13. I bought a used Nitro set. My only problem with it is that on the four mesh heads, there is one sweet spot, near the rim (directly across from the mounting hardware). If you stood the drum on it’s edge with the hardware facing up, the sweet spot is just inside the rim at the bottom of the drum, just above the tuning bolt. This makes playing impossible due to the rim height and the location of the sound trigger. I’d really like to know if there is a fix for this within the module, or perhaps by tuning the mesh somehow to even it out. Even on full volume, the drums are pretty quiet, but when the sweet spot is struck, it’ll dethrone you with the sudden jump in volume. I’m hoping for a reply, yet not planning on one given the very few comments here. Any solution to my problem will be appreciated.

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  14. Why do people who can’t be successful cry about people who have. Always looking for a opportunity to bash someone because you can’t except accountability for yourselves. If i want to read jealous opinions,i will log on Facebook. Stick to drum info,cry on your own time. Amazon bad!!! 😢Sweetwater good!!😂😂😂😂

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  15. You can take the heads off and move the triggers to the middle. I had this problem with my kick tower and doing this was an easy simple fix. Be careful not to put your trigger to close to your mesh heads. So i would check this out it usually is what it needs is the triggers being moved its an easy fix just be careful doing it. I hope this helps you out some.

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  16. If I Want to ADD a : Nitro – Drum & Cymbal Expansion kit……….WILL it plug in the the Existing Computer / Module or do I HAVE to Upgrade To FIT : Added Stuff.?

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  17. Thank you for a great in-depth review. Anyone have any thoughts on the best way to raise up the kit? I’m 6ft3 and I’m reading it is on the short side. Happy to add height but as a beginner, wondering if there are any standard ways to do this? Or do I just add some bricks? 🙂

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  18. Is the Nitro bass pad operational with a double kick??!!

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  19. i dont have the kit yet but from all the videos i’ve watched it cant be used with double kick

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  20. The mesh and rebounds are improved from the nitro mesh or the same?

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  21. Is there any way to record or export an mp3 (or other useable) file to another device using the Nitro Max outputs? For example, an unaccompanied click file of me playing drums OR me playing drums to a Bluetooth audio source fed through the module?

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    • To my knowledge, there is no way to record to an external device. The USB cable only sends MIDI information, not audio. The easiest way to record the Nitro Max outputs would be to pick up a cheap 2 channel audio interface, like the Presonus AudioBox or Behringer U-Phoria and then take two instrument cables from the main out into the audio interface to a computer with a digital audio workstation, like GarageBand, Logic, Cubase, Ableton, etc.

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  22. Between the Simmons Titan 50 and the Alesis Nitro Max which was do you prefer? Is it worth paying an extra $50 for the Simmon drum kit?

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