Quality drum heads can dramatically improve the sound of your drums. In fact, even cheap acoustic drum sets can sound great when professional drum heads are used and tuned effectively.
Choosing drum heads is a lot simpler than you might think. It can usually be pretty safe to go with popular options from big brands such as Remo, Evans, and Aquarian as they are well known for their high quality. After that, it’s simply a matter of preference for what type of sound you want.
The material and style of the drum head will affect the sound and timbre of the drum. This article will explain everything you need to know.
Of course, you should be extra sure that the size of the drum heads matches the size of your drum rims before buying them. If you’re not sure, then just get out a measuring tape or double-check the information that came with your drum set.
In this article, we provide a simple explanation of different drum head types, their sound, and design characteristics, renowned manufacturers, the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Let’s get started with our top recommendations:
The Best Drum Heads for Snares, Toms, and Bass Drums – Our Pick
Snare Drum heads
Remo Emperor X Coated Snare Drum head
A product that comes from one of the world’s leading drum head makers is the first choice of so many famous players for a good reason. It offers excellent control and will last for a very long time. Many experts consider this one as the most durable drum head in the world.
It comes with a relatively simple design, with two free-floating plies. A thick 10 mil Mylar is the main reason why this drum head is so durable. It comes in several diameter sizes, from 10 to 14 inches and it is predominately used by rock drummers.
Evans EC Reverse Dot Snare Drum Head
The super-popular Evans EC Reverse Dot Snare Drum Head comes in several diameter sizes, from 10 to 14 inches. However, all heads feature the same thickness of layers. This is a classic two-ply drum head, which features an outer ply of 7 mils and an inner ply of 10 mils. Such a combination provides a great tone balance, so this snare will definitely free you from unwanted mid- and high-range overtones.
The reverse dot is actually positioned on the underside of the head and will give you both great attack and control. The manufacturer claims it works well with brushes as well. A model without reverse dot is available too.
Remo Ambassador Coated
The Ambassador is the most popular series of drum heads from this manufacturer, while Ambassador tom drum heads are probably the most popular tom heads in the world.
These are single-ply heads with 10 or 12-mil coated film. Besides amazing durability, these heads are also characterized by a warm and well-balanced tone, which deliver plenty of attack as well.
A great thing is that the company offers complete kits in various sizes. So, you can find 10”12”14”, 10”12”16, and 12”13”16” kits, or make your own combination.
Remo Pinstripe Clear drum heads
Another best-seller from Remo. Pinstripe series are hugely popular among Rock, R’n’B and Pop artists, due to their amazing balance between great overtone control and increased attack. The core of these heads is an interesting design solution.
It features a common two-ply design with 7-mil clear film. Between two plies, a reducing agent is applied, which keeps mid-range overtones under control. Like other Remo tom heads, it comes in kits that can be configured in different ways.
Some of the most common combinations are 10”12”14”, 10”12”16”, and 12”13”16”, though you can practically get anything from 6 to 30 inches.
Aquarian drum heads TCFX14 Coated Focus-X
When it comes to tom heads, some players like to ring, others prefer the muffled sound.
This product features a coated 10-mil single-ply which is additionally muffled with a uniquely designed ring, which will articulate your playing while keeping the sensitivity at the same time.
Of course, there are various diameters in the offer. Focus X series include Power Dot versions as well. A great value for the money.
Bass Drum heads
Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head
Evans develops and makes drum heads for more than six decades and bass heads are particularly amazing. The EMAD2 is definitely one of the most popular drum heads in the class and that is surely for a good reason.
Amazing quality is combined with some interesting design solutions. So, besides reliability, you can count on great sound characteristics as well. It is a double-ply head with 6.5-mil outer film and 10-mil inner film.
It also features Adjustable Damping system, which allows you to adjust attack and focus. I would highly recommend this one, no matter the music style you prefer.
Remo Powerstroke P3 Clear Bass Drum head
Remo’s palette of products includes all kinds of bass drum heads. Still, most players who prefer this brand like to keep things simple.
Therefore, the P3 Clear drum head is hugely popular. It features a single-ply design, with 10-mil film, which comes in a combination with a 10-mil inlay ring. It delivers a warm tone, but also gives a fine balance between response and control.
Evans REMAD Resonant Bass Drum Head
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a resonant bass drum head. This one comes from a renowned manufacturer and offers great overall quality. It comes in various diameters and all of them feature a single ply 7.5-mil film.
Also, it features a 4-inch hole, so air can out, but also allows you to mic the bass drum from the inside. The tone is quite dark and controls sustain and overtones very well.
Today’s industry is full of drum head manufacturers. Still, my recommendation would be to stick to renowned companies. You may pay more, but you can also count on a safe purchase. Here are some of the most famous brands on the market:
The famous crown-like logo is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions drum heads. This company was founded more than six decades ago by Remo Belli, who is considered a real legend these days.
Remo has brought so many innovations to the world of drums, including the first successful synthetic Mylar® drum heads, which is pretty much the industry standard these days. Through all these years, products of this company became an integral part of countless drum sets all around the world, no matter the music genre.
Today, the company has a wide pallete of various drum heads in the offer, as well as various kinds of percussions and drum accessories.
Evans is One of the world’s most renowned drum head companies. Just like Remo, this manufacturer is also present for decades. It was founded in the ’50s by Chick Evans and his inventions changed the world of drums forever.
He was the first guy who used a polyester film to make a drum head. A new, waterproof design set new standards in the drum industry. These days, the company is owned by the world’s biggest string maker, D’addario.
It has a wide palette of products in the offer. It makes pretty much every kind of drum head for classic drums and other percussions, as well as various kinds of drum accessories.
Founded by legendary drummer Roy Burns, Aquarian instantly became one of the most popular companies in the world, when it comes to drum heads. The company started to make drum heads in 1987. 30 years later, the list of famous artists is almost endless.
The reason is simple. Not only that Aquarian drum heads feature amazing quality, but the company constantly introduces new technologies and design solutions. Its palette of products is huge and includes not just drum heads, but all kinds of drum accessories as well.
Types of drum heads
Drum head makers use different approaches and technologies in a production process. Therefore, we can classify them in many ways.
The most common classification includes the following types of drum heads. Different designs have different effects on the sound, so consider your musical preferences before purchasing any type.
Single-Ply is the most common type of drum heads. Their design is quite simple and consists of just one Mylar layer. Different thicknesses can be found on the market, but single-ply drum heads have one common characteristic – lots of overtones.
With a very bright sound, these heads are perfect for lighter music styles, jazz in particular. The biggest drawback is durability. They don’t last as long, especially if you are a heavy hitter.
As you may presume, these drum heads come with two layers. Therefore, they are much more durable than single-ply drum heads. Such design provides a completely different sound effect as well.
The sustain is much shorter and there aren’t so many overtones. In practice, these are a perfect choice for hard rock, metal, and other loud musical styles. Of course, you can choose different thicknesses, which have a big effect on the sound, though superb control remains no matter which one you choose.
Clear vs Coated
Clear drum heads are louder, brighter and have much more attack. Coated heads are mostly used on snares, but it’s not a rare thing to see them on kick drums as well, especially among jazz drummers.
The secret is in a much more musical sound, compared to other muffling methods. On the other side, coated heads and brushes are a quite critical combination.
In the past, drummers used all kinds of “technologies” to muffle the drum head, such as placing a wallet on their snare drum. Duct tape has also been often used to muffle the sound.
Pre-muffled drum heads are now available, which are mostly used for bass drums. There are different types of these heads. The simplest way is to add a layer of Mylar to the top or underside of the outer edge. Other materials can be used too. One of the most interesting heads of this type comes from the renowned company Evans, which has developed a double-ply oil-filled head, characterized by a pretty unique sound.
Batter Heads vs Resonant Heads
Batter heads are placed at the top of the drum and hit by drumsticks or beaters. Resonant heads are heads that are placed at the bottom of the drum.
Once you hit the drum, the sounds go from batter head to resonant head and back many times.
The thicker the bottom head is, the more resonance you can expect. So, that’s what resonant heads do. You can count on much more resonance. The thicker the head is, the more vibration, overtones and sustain you get. Choose the thickness according to your preferences.
Drum heads and Music Styles
As you can see, different drum head designs give us different sounds. Therefore, each of them more or less suitable for specific music genres and styles of playing.
If you are a Jazz player, clear single-ply heads are perfect for you. These heads will give you a clear, very resonant tone with tons of sustain. Such characteristics will allow lots of dynamics in your playing. However, it won’t work well if your playing is more aggressive.
Double-ply heads are a perfect solution for Rock and Metal players. These heads allow much better control, though you can’t count on spectacular resonance and sustain. Also, they won’t work very well for swing and other light music genres. On the other side, this is a natural choice of most rock and metal players.
Most of us don’t want to stick to specific music styles. Therefore, the best choice would be something versatile. This means something that balances very well between resonance and control. This is the area where coated heads act great. The tone is quite good, as well as dynamics. Pre-muffled heads are used for the same reason, just on bass drums.
How to replace and tune a drum head
Replacing a drum head is quite simple although tuning one can be a bit of an art. A drum key is the only tool you need to replace and tune a drum head. Here is a nice video that explains the whole process.
Choosing the best drum heads is not as complicated as it may look at first. In this article we’ve gone through the characteristics of drum heads, the best brands, and our pick of the best drum heads available to buy online.
You pay for quality when it comes to drum heads. Don’t be fooled by low-grade heads, which may break easily and offer a poor sound.
Although you should always upgrade your drum heads from the stock ones that came with the drum set (unless they came with quality drum heads), it should not be a necessity to replace your drum heads very often after that unless you’re a very busy or hard-hitting drummer.
We recommend that you get your hands on some quality heads from good brands that suit the type of drumming you need. After that, it’s simply a matter of taste!