Ok, dude, first check craigslist. Look and see if people are selling in your price range. Look for DW's and Ludwig Classic Maples first. These are the best drums out there. If there are none in your price range. Look on Ebay. Consider you will have to pay shipping too. You don't want to start out on to shitty of a set. There are many sets out there. Also, you'll have to get Cymbals. Do not get cymbals like Zildjian ZBT's or Sabian B8's even though they come with many cymbals, you want quality over quantity. Check craigslist or eBay again. Or check out saludacymbals.com for cheap, quality cymbals. Search the boards to see what people are raving about. I'm not the best person knowing about the hierarchy of sets, so I'll let others do that.
Remember, drumming is an expensive hobby, so don't be discouraged by the higher prices and remember, deals can happen everywhere.
Also, with craigslist, don't be scared to travel far from your vicinity. If there's no good deals by you but, some dude's selling a kickass set, a 2 hour drive away, drive for 2 hours!
Before you bid or buy, google the set you want and see if they're ripping you off or not.
I think that in between each major brand's high end kits there is no hierarchy of sets just taste at the elite level. There is nothing wrong with starting on an oldish Pearl export IMO. Above all I would recommend that you double think about why are you getting a drumset in the first place and may want to just start out on a practice pad. I don't know if you are a new player or this is just your first kit. In any case, to learn a great deal about woods, tuning, heads, and about every thing else I (like many on this board) recommend the drum tuning bible http://home.earthlink.net/~prof.sound/
Good Luck! Don't forget to post pictures on whatever you decide.
I have played friends sets before, Ive been playing guitar for 3 almost four years and just want to expand upon my instruments, I know its something i want to do, just wanted to get all the info i could before i dive into such a purchase.
kilometers has some good points but he also made a few mistakes in his post that could be misleading.
1. dw and ludwig are not not automatically the best...there are many, many great sets of drums out there and it is personal preference as to which you like best. for example, I like my yamahas better than any ludwigs or dw's I've ever heard. personal preference.
2. I would recommend strongly against you buying a dw or high end anything as your first set because you aren't at the skill level that requires a set that nice. you can get one if you want, and if you happen to find a dw set with high end cymbals and hardware all for 850 I don't know that I could tell you pass it up, but that doesn't change the fact that it is not a drum set for your skill level.
3. It's great that you first thought to check used because you can get some great gear cheap that way and may of us would have recommended that you look used first. since you already have that mindset you're in good position to get some nice drums for a great price.
4. I would suggest you look for something midline to start with, pearl exports, mapex m birch, tama superstars or rockstars, ludwig accent cs, gretsch catalina, etc... with high end cymbals. if you can find a complete set you'll be better off.
I hope any of that helped. if you tell me where you are I'll even search your local craigslist and see if I can find any good deals to recommend to you.
Yeah, I have to apologize for stupid mistakes made during that post, it was rushed and I was tired. Mid-line sets are the best to go for at your price point and will be good sets to go for. Ludwigs and DW's will be good sets to go for if and when you're serious. But those would be the ones that I want. Just try to go for quality stuff, that isn't bottom of the barrel.
id go with the pearl just my opinion. ive played an export for many moons, and with the right heads and tuning they sound right up there with big dogs, and you dont have to be afraid to lug em around and scratch em cause they are cheap. great on the fly gig drums
Most important to remember is skill. A good player sounds like a good player on ANY kit, an inexperienced player, well they could make my kit sound like shit. 8) Happy hunting. And also remember that good head selection and tuning can make middle of the road sound top of the line.