Top 9 Drum Heads — Best Options for Practice, Performances and Recording
Last updated: May 04, 2020
69Hours of Research
Guess what: perhaps you don’t need an entire new drum set to get the sound you’re after. The magic of drum heads is that they can transform what your current drum set is capable of. Even a relatively cheap drum kit can be instantly upgraded by simply adding one of the best drum heads on today’s market. Or perhaps you’re interested in drumming different genres of music? A new sound can be a drum head purchase away.
No matter the reason for your purchase, it’s wise to invest in high end drum heads, as they’ll last you longer and give you quality sound. To find out which drum heads are worth choosing, all you have to do is look at our in depth article. We looked at the popular brands and models available these days and picked the best ones around, such as our Editor’s Choice item, the Evans EMAD System Pack. Our reviews will tell you everything there is to know about diameter, the thickness of the film and coating. These all determine what your drums will sound like so we considered it all. Extra features are always welcome, right? We’ll tell you about them too.
Top 9 Drum Heads Review 2020
To help you ascertain which is best for your unique scenario, the information is showcased in three sections. Use the comparison table for a quick overview and find what you’re looking for. Read through the detailed reviews to determine which purchase will give you the best value for money. And if you’re new to the market, the buying guide will help you understand the industry better so you can make wise, informed decisions.
This purchase shot to the top of our list because of the versatility it affords drummers. This can be the best drum heads for metal but also for jazz since it caters for so many requirements. This is thanks to the system it was named after called EMAD. The externally mounted adjustable damping system gives you two foam rings to pick from. Each ring dampens sound in a unique way and you can add or remove them according to what you want out of your drums.
But let’s not forget quality. You’re backed by the experience Evans has after six decades in the business. The heads are manufactured in the US so you’re assured of quality. The company ensures its products pass quality controls.
Note that this is specifically bass drum heads, so you won’t be able to give your entire kit an upgrade. But if you’re after revamping your bass, you’ve probably found the best bass drum heads on today’s market. Simply be prepared for the slightly elevated price tag; but it’s worth it to get long lasting heads.
The kit does include both the batter head and the resonant head. The microphone port in the resonant head even makes it one of the best drum heads for recording.
Lastly, they look impressive too so will give you some flair on stage.
Here is another set that will make you feel like a top class drummer simply by looking at them. These uncoated drum heads look stylish with the black rings set on the transparent surfaces.
The double play (made of two 7mil thick layers) will give you a sound that may serve various genres if you’re not too picky. Mostly, it’s popular for those drummers playing rock music. These won’t easily play soft.
The set will give you new heads for multiple drums—floor and toms—and they’re reasonably priced. Just confirm with the supplier which units exactly you’ll receive as some sets include a snare drum head too, but products vary. Make sure you get what you think you’re paying for.
The heads are easy to tune and produce excellent sound, making this a wise option for upgrading cheap sets. The double ply also means it’s durable so you’re making a long term investment.
Durable double ply design
Heads for all your toms in one purchase
Brand not consistent in what’s included in package
Here is one of the impressive coated sets on our list and we love the black design. But the black color also means you’re getting a unique sound in a lower range. The unique coating leads to better attack in your low end playing. Part of the exceptional audio is thanks to the two ply design incorporating two 7.5 mil layers. You won’t get too much resonance, making it practical for impressing your audience during performances. Because there’s a good sustain balance the heads offer good compromise if your set must cater for playing various genres. Just note that there’s limited projection.
This is a set for your toms but the good news is that the brand also caters for the other drums with similar units. You can transform your entire kit and get a similar sound all around if necessary. Note that this is specifically designed for rock sets but Evans also has Fusion and Standard sizes on offer with a similar design.
This is another product produced in the US so you’re assured of exceptional quality compared to some imported units.
If you’re after a single-ply design you’ll probably end up purchasing this set. It’s not the cheapest ones around but compared to some others listed above they come at a very reasonable price. For a total of three drum heads you can upgrade your toms on a budget. The brand manufactures various sizes—Standard, Fusion and Rock—too so it’s an option no matter your type of set.
Once again you don’t have to be concerned with quality as the brand manufactures its wares in the US. The high standards mean even your singly ply heads will serve you well for a long time. As these are 10mil designs you can rest assured they won’t perish quickly.
Good news: the brand does manufacture coated versions of its drum heads too. You can shop on a budget and still get exactly what you’re after if you require a slightly different sound.
The heads can work for many genres, making them practical options for those offering drum lessons or session players that must be able to do it all.
Here’s a drum head with a unique feature: a built in muffle ring. This patented floating muffle ring will give you a dampened sound while still guaranteeing a natural audio. The only drawback here is that not all players want sound muffled. And unlike our Editor’s pick you can’t remove this muffler. But if you know you’ll always want it in place, this is a wise purchase since it’s much cheaper than the Evans unit showcased above. This may also be a wise option for recording studios where muffling is usually a standard requirement. Some users have commented that it’s much more muffled than the Evans counterpart, so if possible it’s worth testing it out before you buy so you know what to expect.
The head will last you a long time since it’s a doubly ply design. There are two layers of 7mil film that will give you excellent sound and last you a long time.
The stylish design will give any drum set a visual upgrade too. Just make sure whether you’re ordering a batter head or the resonant head as well, as this isn’t always stated clearly on all marketing.
With REMO’s stellar reputation in the drum heads market we simply had to showcase their wares and this design is one of their best. And lucky for you it comes in a wide range of sizes so you can fit them onto all your drums that need upgrading. You’ll also find both clear and coated versions, so pick the design most suited to your genre & playing preferences.
It’s only a one ply design, but since it’s a 10mil it’s still durable and will last you a while. It’s made from a Mylar film that many drummers enjoy playing on.
Whether you enjoy live playing or you’re working in a recording studio, this should work. Users are appreciative of the head’s sensitivity which gives you a lot of control over the audio you produce.
The coated version can give both volume and clarity to your play. Many avid drummers use this brand for both resonant and batter drum heads. The one unit can actually be used to replace either of the two heads, so simply keep some stock of this model and you’ll have replacement parts no matter your need.
Some users report buzzing when they play, but you may be able to fix that problem with proper tuning.
Here’s a unique approach to drum heads: it’s the only hydraulic type head we picked. That means you get two layers with oil between them. The role of the oil is to help manage overtones, giving you exceptional sound. Why invest in this type? Because it makes it much easier to tune your drum to the exact sound you’re after. For beginners it also makes tuning easier so you can start to enjoy quality sound without too much effort.
In the Evans head your play is further enhanced by the brand’s 360 Technology that will ensure you have a level play area all around the drum. This will affect the pitch and the technology even makes it easier to fit your new heads without too much effort.
You won’t get the best sustain and tone with this—some of the units mentioned above will deliver better in this regard—but you’ll enjoy the durability & attack.
A unique feature is that the brand manufactures different colors of the heads. Your band’s set can get some character and aesthetic attraction by you simply changing the drum heads.
The Remo brand went all the way in creating a durable drum head option. You don’t only get one 10mil layer but two. That affects your tone but definitely your new heads’ longevity too, making it a worthwhile investment especially for those who hit hard and play often.
Rock players usually hit hard and many of them prefer this Remo design because it can handle the rough playing. But the there’s more to it: the black dot ensures you still get warm tones in your playing.
Durability is key for playing rock music and this unit comprises of Mylar layers—they’re known for their longevity.
Note that this is specifically a snare drum head. You’ll pay a bit more than for other brands’ similar designs, but the sound you get is worth it.
Really heavy hitters may see the coat starts fading after a few sessions. This is normal, but of course this will affect sound. To maintain the same quality audio you will need to replace them, especially before a recording or major performance.
It’s a practical purchase too as these are reasonably easy to tune.
Another popular name in the drum market is Pearl, so you can’t go wrong in trusting these mesh drum heads. As a bonus it’s one of the cheapest options on our list. Of course, being mesh heads they’re more appropriate for practicing and using where you don’t want to make a lot of noise.
Part of the benefit of trusting an established brand is that you can get long warrantees and with this purchase you’ll get lifetime cover. You’ll play on them for years and still get use out of them. Since there’s no coating that can wear down they may not require replacement as often as some others on our list.
If you’re using them to practice it won’t help if they don’t give you a real experience. Luckily these Pearl mesh heads respond realistically so once you play on regular heads it won’t feel uncomfortable or too unfamiliar.
The brand does manufacture various sized units of these, so you can fit them to your whole kit if necessary.
Realistic feel during play
Long warranty period
Some players find them too bouncy
It’s one of the most important purchases you’ll make if you own a drum kit, so let’s help you get it right the first time. Our buying guide discusses all relevant aspects of drum heads so you can shop around like a pro. Whether you’re looking for the best drum heads for rock or are after a set for jazz, we’ll go into the features you need to look out for.
Why it’s worth investing in some great drum heads for your kit
Some of the items listed above may seem on the expensive side, but don’t get put off by price tags. Purchasing great drum heads comes with many benefits, so it’s worth the money in the long run.
For starters, you get a quick fix solution for improving the sound your drum kit can produce. You also ensure that your heads won’t split or break during a performance, because high end products will endure even some hard hitting.
The quality drum heads on the market will also last you a long time, so in essence you’re saving money since you won’t have to replace them soon.
Now, how do you identify which are the great ones around? Keep reading.
Features to consider when choosing a drum head
Drum heads are simple components, but many different factors determine the value you’ll get from them. You need a quality set that will give you the type of sound that suits your preferred music genre.
We listed the most important features you should vet when comparing different products. When you understand each one’s importance and the effect they have on your playing & audio quality you can easily pick the ideal one for you.
You can’t simply pick any drum head with a good reputation—you need one that fits the drum you want to upgrade. With some purchases such as the Evans G1 Tompack you get multiple units together. They will fit your set’s various sized toms.
While such a package can save you some money compared to purchasing them separately, not everyone needs this.
If you’re only thinking of upgrading one of your drums a whole set of heads may be a waste of money.
The others may end up in the cupboard, never to be used if they don’t give you the sound you need for your other sized drums. Rather opt for purchasing units separately. Some models are available in multiple sizes so you must simply pick the appropriate diameter.
Drums range in diameter from as little as 6” for some toms to as much as 28” on a bass drum. Measure yours before you start buying.
Thickness is extremely important as it determines the audio your set produces but also the longevity of the heads.
The first decision is whether you need a single ply or a double ply design. The latter simply means that there are two layers of the material the head is made of. This makes the head much more durable, which is an automatic benefit, but it also influences the tone.
Thicker heads can produce louder sounds than thinner ones and they’re the best sounding drum heads if you want to enjoy more attack. But be prepared for less sensitivity compared to playing on a thinner head and a thicker unit has less sustain. One other benefit of a thick drum head is that they often have a higher tuning range.
Heads can be very thin (3-5 mm) or up to 10mm. A double ply unit can be much thicker as it can contain two 7mm layers.
Drum heads can be made from various materials. While they were made from raw hide years ago, you also find polymers these days.
Part of the reason that raw hide isn’t the only option is that it easily detunes, especially if the weather changes. Modern innovation produced more practical solutions that are worth investing in. Popular options include plastics. Polyester versions such as polyethylene terephthalate are often used because they’ll perform well even if exposed to heat or moisture.
Finish: coated vs. uncoated
Walking down the aisle in a music shop you’ll notice drum heads look different from each other. They are either clear or coated. It’s important to know this isn’t simply for aesthetic reasons.
Firstly, clear heads such as the Aquarian Drumheads PF-A Performance II Tom Pack that are transparent are favorite options for drummers who are after bright sounds paired with a lot of sustain. The tone will also be loud compared to the coated types we’ll discuss next.
Coated units like the Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head are valuable for drummers who want warm sounds and enjoy bounce during their play. They’re also the best drum heads for jazz since they produce a unique audio when you swap out your sticks for brushes.
This also explains why it’s worth it for certain brands to manufacture both coated and uncoated versions of the same drum heads, as can be seen in the Evans G1 Tompack.
Which drums are you looking to upgrade?
As mentioned above, drum heads aren’t one size fits all. Start your shopping by making sure which of your drum heads need to be replaced. Then look for heads that come in the appropriate size and type for either tom, bass or snare drum.
If you need replacements for all of them, luckily the market caters for you too: brands sell sets of drum heads so one purchase covers all the units you need. Before you opt for this, make sure the characteristics of that design will help you get out of each drum what you’re after. If not, purchasing individual units with unique characteristics will give you a customized setup.
Batter vs. resonant heads
Both the top and bottom of each of your drums require heads. And important to note: they’re not the same types, so you need to know what you’re shopping for.
Batter heads are the top units you’ll shop for—these are the heads you’ll hit while you play. On new sets these heads usually have logos, making it easy to identify which side should face up. But on replacement heads, chances are that all heads will have logos on them, especially if you purchase high end products. The batter head is also called the batter skin.
On the bottom of your drum you’ll have a resonant head. Of course this unit won’t wear out as quickly as the batter head, as you’ll never hit this side with your sticks. Its name comes from the fact that when the batter head is hit, this head will resonate and bring forth sound. It’s important to have a quality resonant head as it determines tone and reverb. How the head is tuned also plays a huge role though.
How to install your new drum heads
Installing drum heads correctly is as important as the purchase itself. If you don’t get the tuning right for instance, you won’t get the sound you want. For the best end result, follow these steps:
Remove the old head
Prepare the new head and your drum set by wiping down all surfaces so there are no dust or wood shavings that can affect installation or sound.
Place your new drum head on the shell.
Turn it in place and ensure it can move freely.
Add the hoop.
Place the tension rods in the drum’s lugs.
Turn the lugs until they’re tight.
Tune the drum. Use two drum keys at a time, using them at opposite sides of the drum while you make adjustments. First you tighten to remove drum head wrinkles and then you start tuning for the right pitch.
Your type and frequency of play will always determine how quickly your heads need replacement. You may have heads for a few years without them splitting, but know that the sound will deteriorate over time. If you play regularly and want optimal audio at all times you’ll need to budget to replace the heads every six months.
Mesh heads are designed to produce very little sound. They resonate less than other types. They’re ideal for practicing if you don’t want to bother others with loud noise. They can also make for the best drum heads for church setups where you have to produce more muted sounds.
Get ready to upgrade your set. For a top of the range layout we suggest you pick our number one option, the Evans EMAD system pack. You can customize your play because the rings are removable and although they’re expensive, you’ll love the sound.
If you’re a fan of coated drum heads, try out the Evans Onyx 2-Ply Tompack Coated Rock Drum Heads that received a 9.5 rating. Once again you’ll spend a little more but since these cater for many genres they’re worth the investment, especially for teachers.
Found your favorite? Investing in some of the best drum heads around can upgrade your set, but also help you prove your worth as a drummer. Impress your audience!