Even the most seasoned drummer will be amazed by the difference the best drum heads of 2019 can make to their playing. The drum heads you will find discussed in this article boast enhanced durability, superior overtone reduction, and, more often than you might expect, remarkably low price tags.
The bass drum is the heart of any drum kit. For that reason, every drummer should be sure to invest in a quality bass drum head that they will be able to rely on for years to come. Allow the Evans EMAD to be that bass drum head. Its defining externally mounted damping system will allow you to create a tone that is uniquely yours. Meanwhile, its power and resistance despite its single-ply body means it can be relied upon by rock and heavy metal drummers without fear of wear and tear.
If you don’t have the budget to purchase a top drum head, you should consider going with the Remo Ambassador Hazy. Designed to be fitted to the bottom half of a drum, the Ambassador Hazy is not intended to be struck, be it with drumsticks or brushes. Despite this, it will help balance the sound produced by your top drum head, resulting in a consistent and distinct tone that will add another dimension to your music. Rarely exceeding the $15 price mark, the Remo Ambassador Hazy is a great choice for drummers looking to step up their game without dropping a lot of cash.
The 10 Best Drum Heads
1. Remo Ambassador Coated (Best Snare Head For Jazz)
It’s a difficult time to be a jazz musician. As contemporary musical tastes stray further and further from the genre, many jazz drummers – particularly those in smaller towns and cities – are having a hard time finding work. Some are even experiencing difficulty finding quality equipment. Thankfully, there is this offering from Remo to save the day.
Despite the aforementioned decline in interest in jazz, the Remo Ambassador Coated snare head actually ranks as the best-selling drum head on Amazon, if not in the world. This is largely owing to Remo’s reputation for excellence and the drum head’s affordable price tag. Rarely exceeding $20 in price, the Remo Ambassador Coated is ideal for novices who are too inexperienced to justify the purchase of a more expensive alternative. Although most who own this head don’t use it for playing jazz, it is actually suited to that genre more than any other. We say this because of its warm tone and controlled sustain, which blend together to wonderfully recreate the sound of jazz classics. Additionally, its single-ply and 10-mil coated film design lends itself perfectly to softer playing. Remo manufactures this drum head in a number of different sizes, with bass and tom models available to complement the popular snare design.
Although many aspiring rock drummers have purchased the Remo Ambassador Coated to get them started on their drumming journey, doing so is actually quite ill-advised. We say this because this head is markedly thinner than what is required to effectively play rock or heavy metal. Strike it too hard too often and you will likely find it beginning to cave after only a couple of playing sessions. It should also be noted that some who have purchased this drum head have reported struggling to get a suitable response from it. We have read several reports of drummers actually making alterations to the head to make it more responsive. While these players are in the extreme minority, their complaints are something to be mindful of if you’re considering the Remo Ambassador Coated.
2. Aquarian Modern Vintage (Best Drum Head For Brush)
- Retro design
- Ideal for brushes
- Heightened sustain
Just as jazz drummers tend to have a harder time finding a drum head to fit their playing style than those who play rock and heavy metal, drummers who incorporate brushes into their performances may experience some difficulty tracking down an appropriate drum head. Thankfully, there is the Aquarian Modern Vintage, which is considered by many in the know to be the best drum head for brushes.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Aquarian Modern Vintage, is its unique design. A throwback to the drum heads of 50 years ago, it is perfect for drummers who wish to create a retro aesthetic for their stage shows. But it is not only the appearance of the Aquarian Modern Vintage which invokes the drum heads of yesteryear. The sound which it produces is all encompassing without being overwhelming. Its heightened sustain will add a dimension to your playing that is soothing and comforting. Of course, this drum head still has some applications in modern music. We have heard many stories of drummers experimenting with it to take contemporary creations in a new direction, allowing them to appeal to audiences of all ages. It is also a popular choice among drummers looking to master playing with brushes, which is a lot more difficult than you might think. This drum head is available in a number of sizes, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding an appropriate model for your drum kit.
The Aquarian Modern Vintage is not limited to brush playing. Those who wish to alternate between brushes and drumsticks – or even to use drumsticks exclusively – are free to do so. It is important to remember, however, that the head is quite thin. Striking this head too hard could damage it beyond repair, so more energetic drummers should take their search for a drum head elsewhere. It should also be pointed out that this drum head is a little more expensive than many similar models from rival manufacturers. While we’re not saying it isn’t worth the money, drummers on a budget could probably find a more affordable drum head without sacrificing much in terms of quality and performance.
- Available in multiple sizes
- Safe for drumsticks
- Suitable for multiple genres
- Too delicate for energetic drumming
- More expensive than rival drum heads
3. Evans EMAD (Best Bass Drum Head For Rock)
- Externally mounted damping system
- Level 360 technology
- Compatible with multiple foam damping rings
Rock is one of the most taxing genres for a drummer. It can also be pretty taxing on a drum head. The powerful strikes that are so synonymous with rock drumming necessitate a drum head that is capable of withstanding immense punishment. This is especially true when it comes to bass drums. Enter the EMAD from Evans.
The Evans EMAD is one of the most unique drum heads on the market and is arguably the best bass drum head you’re ever going to find for rock. Its remarkable endurance allows it to make it through even the most intense performances intact. Of course, what is most noteworthy about the Evans EMAD is the externally mounted damping system from which it takes its name. Short for “externally mounted adjustable damping”, the drum head’s EMAD system utilizes a foam ring to provide the player with greater control of its attack and focus. Evans makes two damping rings available, a thin model and a wide model. The thin model will give you a choppier tone, while the wider alternative will grant you a more authoritative attack. Evans also frequently touts the Level 360 technology with which this drum head comes equipped. In its most basic form, this Level 360 technology greatly simplifies the tuning of the drum head. Drummers with large kits and little time to dedicate to setting up will particularly appreciate this feature.
Largely as a result of its many features, the Evans EMAD will set you back quite a bit more than many other bass drum heads on the market. You should be prepared to drop close to – if not in excess of – $50 if you want to add this head to your bass drum. If you’re searching for a bass drum head that you can rely on during live performances, it is important to note that some drummers have reported the Evans EMAD being too loud for such a purpose. There are a number of reports online from players claiming this drum head amplified their bass drum to such mammoth proportions that its booming overshadowed the music of their bandmates. Now, this could likely be rectified by careful tuning and a little restraint, but it would be remiss of us not to mention the “issue” here.
- Easy to set up
- Clear and coated versions available
- Single and two-ply versions available
- More expensive than many rival models
- May be too loud for live performances
4. Aquarian Super-Kick II
- Floating muffling system
- Safe-T-Lock technology
- Two-ply design
Continuing our look at the top bass drum heads of 2019 is this model from Aquarian. Boasting some of the brand’s most popular features, the Super-Kick II is a firm reminder of why Aquarian products are so popular among novice and professional drummers alike.
The major selling point of the Aquarian Super-Kick II is its floating muffling system. Aquarian is quite proud of this feature and makes sure to discuss it in detail when advertising any drum head on which it is present. To be honest, we can’t blame them. The floating muffling system is intuitive and convenient. It uses a thin strip of acoustic felt to produce what the manufacturer describes as a “pre-dampened yet natural sound”. The use of felt is also advantageous as it absorbs high frequencies and unwanted sounds. It also minimizes vibration, allowing you to achieve a tone that is uncorrupted and pure. Drummers will also appreciate the patented Safe-T-Loc Hoop with which this drum head comes fitted. This hoop keeps the head firmly in place, virtually eliminating the risk of slipping or puckering during playing. This is a particularly useful feature for rock drummers, as is the head’s two-ply design, which allows it to hold up under some serious punishment.
Much like the previous model from Evans, the Aquarian Super-Kick II tends to go for more than many other bass drum heads. If you think this is the head you need to make the most of your bass drum, you should be prepared to drop in or around $50 to get it. Unlike the Evans EMAD, this bass drum head can be rather uncooperative when it comes to tuning. There are multiple reports online from unhappy drummers detailing many minutes of fumbling with the head in an attempt to get tuning just right. Experienced players probably won’t have too much trouble tuning this drum head, but novices may want to take their search elsewhere until they have mastered the art of tuning.
- Suitable for hard rock and heavy metal
- Pre-dampened sound
- Minimal noise interference
- More affordable models available
- Can be difficult to tune
5. Remo Emperor X Coated
- Reverse black dot
- Designed for snares
- Dual-layer Mylar film
The snare is the most struck component of any drum kit. For that reason, it is essential to get a quality snare head that is capable of holding up under extreme pressure, regardless of the genre you play the most. The Remo Emperor X Coated is one such snare head.
One of the most alluring features of the Remo Emperor X Coated is its reverse black dot. This dot makes natural muffling and damping easily attainable, with no need for alterations to the drum head. It produces warmer and more focused tones than many rival snare drum heads, while simultaneously eradicating unpleasant overtones and interference. Finally, this reverse black dot serves to increase the durability of the snare head. Also furthering the lifespan of the Remo Emperor X Coated drum head are its dual free-floating plies of 10-mil Mylar film. Working in conjunction with the aforementioned reverse black dot, these multiple layers of film significantly reduce the risk of wear and tear. Remo manufactures this snare head in a variety of different sizes, so you won’t have any trouble fitting it to your snare. Installation is made even easier by the head’s simple tuning system, which allows it to be accurately tuned in a fraction of the time of some other snare heads. Given how easily this snare head can be fitted and tuned – along with the increased consistency provided by the reverse black dot – we often recommend it to novice drummers who are still trying to master the more challenging aspects of setting up a drum kit.
The thick skin of the Remo Emperor X Coated snare head is certainly an advantage when it comes to tone and durability. However, it can be a bit of a pain in the neck when it comes to conditioning. Many who have purchased this snare head have reported some difficulty breaking it in. All have praised its long-term performance, but also agree you shouldn’t wait until a live performance to play this head for the first time. Meanwhile, some drummers have bemoaned this head’s lack of versatility. While it is great for most rock, heavy metal, and classic songs, you may find it lacks the range necessary for more nuanced playing styles.
- Provides enhanced control
- Easy to tune
- Thick skin for greater durability
- Can be difficult to break in
- May lack the range needed for complex techniques
6. Evans Clear 300
- Side head design
- Single-ply body
- Enhanced control
The Evans Clear 300 is a little different to the other drum heads examined thus far in this article. In fact, it’s quite different to almost all other popular drum heads of the past year.
So what makes the Evans Clear 300 so unique? Well, for starters, it is a side drum head. This means it is designed to be installed on the side of the drum which does not come into contact with your drumstick. Many drummers neglect to pay attention to the bottom half of their drum, which is understandable, especially if you’re a novice and still struggling to master the top half. However, you’d be surprised by the effect a quality side drum head can have on your playing. When correctly installed, the Evans Clear 300 will help you obtain a warmer and more consistent sound. It enhances the impact of each strike, while its single-ply body ensures it does not overpower the more active drum head. Evans manufactures this drum head in a number of different sizes, with virtually all models coming in at less than $20. This makes it a popular choice among drummers who want to experiment with a side drum head but aren’t willing to drop a lot of cash on a more expensive model until they are convinced of its necessity. Interestingly, despite its name, the Evans Clear 300 is not a clear drum head. Nor is it a coated drum head. It falls somewhere in the middle of the two categories and is therefore classified as “hazy”. This hazy finish gives the drum head a unique look and sound; perfect for the drummer who craves individuality.
While the trained ear of an experienced drummer will almost definitely be able to detect the contribution the Evans Clear 300 makes to the typical kit, newcomers may have some difficulty hearing the difference between a drum kit which has this drum head installed and one which does not. This has led to a number of online reviewers labeling this drum head as ineffective. If you do purchase the Evans Clear 300, it is absolutely essential that you remember it is intended to be used exclusively as a side drum head. Trying to use it on top of your drum – even if only for experimentation – will very quickly lead to disaster.
- More affordable than some alternative models
- Hazy finish for unique sound and look
- Increased warmth of tone
- Some may struggle to notice the effect of this drum head
- Not suitable for use on top of drum
7. Remo Ambassador Hazy
- Side head design
- Suitable for snare heads
- Single-ply body
So let’s say the previous entry convinced you to try out a side drum head, but didn’t exactly convince you that the Evans Clear 300 is the side drum head for you. Don’t worry, there are many other quality side drum heads you can choose from. Take, for example, this offering from Remo.
The Remo Ambassador Hazy is a side drum head from one of the top manufacturers of drum heads in the world. When placed on the bottom of your snare, it will give you a more balanced sound, with greater warmth and consistency than can be achieved through skill alone. Its single-ply body will improve your resonance, while its 3-mil Mylar film will take your attack to another level. Despite being a product of one of the top names in the drum equipment industry, the Remo Ambassador Hazy is quite affordable. For only a little over $10, you can add this studio-quality snare side head to your drum kit. This will leave you with plenty of money left over to purchase a more traditional top snare head to complement it. Side heads can be a little difficult to install, especially if you have never consciously used one before. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Ambassador Hazy. Remo designed this side head to be easy to fit, so even a total newcomer will be able to attach it to their snare in a matter of minutes. Installation is further simplified by the multiple sizes in which this drum head comes available.
Although the Remo Ambassador Hazy was designed to be straightforward enough for even a novice drummer to install with minimal effort, drummers who are just starting out won’t have much need for this drum head. Side heads, while certainly useful, aren’t of much importance during one’s early days of drumming. If you are still getting the hang of the top of your snare, there is no sense in devoting any attention to the bottom of it. For that reason, we advise novice and intermediate drummers to avoid the Remo Ambassador Hazy – and all other side drum heads – until they are appropriately confident in their playing abilities. We know we mentioned this when discussing the Evans Clear 300, but we have heard so many drumming horror stories that we feel it must be repeated again: a side drum head should never be relied upon as a top drum head. Even though Remo has been responsible for some of the most durable drum heads in history, the brand’s Ambassador Hazy is simply not thick enough to endure the constant striking that comes along with topping a snare. Even the best drumsticks will tear true this drum head in a matter of minutes, so we advise you not to stray beyond Remo’s intended purpose when using the Ambassador Hazy.
- Simple and straightforward installation
- Available in multiple sizes
- More affordable than many other side drum heads
- Needless expense if you’re a novice drummer
- Not suitable for use on the top of a drum
8. Evans EMAD 2
- Externally mounted damping system
- Two-ply body
- Level 360 technology
2019 has been a very good year for Evans’ EMAD series. The original EMAD bass drum head remains as popular as ever, with countless units being purchased by Evans devotees every day. Almost equal in popularity to the original EMAD model, however, is the Evans EMAD 2.
The Evans EMAD 2 builds upon the foundation laid by its predecessor, although it also utilizes many of the original EMAD head’s most popular features. This, of course, includes the externally mounted damping system which gives the product its name. As discussed earlier on, this externally mounted damping system allows the drummer to alter the sound produced by the head via one of two removable foam rings. The Evans EMAD 2 also boasts the Level 360 technology which has made – and continues to make – its predecessor so popular among beginner and professional drummers alike. When it comes to durability, the EMAD 2 trumps the original EMAD. It features a two-ply body, while its predecessor features only a single-ply alternative. Each layer of the EMAD 2 boasts a different density, with the first being constructed of 6.5-mil ply and the second being comprised of 10-mil ply. These layers work together to protect the drum head against even the most powerful of strikes, making it a great choice for heavy metal drummers. Finally, Evans manufactures this drum head in a number of different sizes. Those who are considering adding it to their drumming arsenal can choose between sizes ranging from 18 to 26 inches.
The main difference between the original Evans EMAD and the Evans EMAD 2 is the durability of the head. As mentioned above, the Evans EMAD 2 raises a two-ply design its predecessor’s single-ply body, which gives it the edge when it comes to powerful drumming. Other than this two-ply design, however, there isn’t too much to separate the EMAD 2 from the EMAD. This has resulted in criticism of Evans by eagle-eyed drummers who feel the manufacturer released an updated drum head too soon after the original model hit the market. While you’ll certainly want to purchase the EMAD 2 if you’re the kind of drummer who craves the absolute latest of everything, there’s really no need to drop extra cash on this model if you already have the original EMAD. Speaking of dropping cash, the Evans EMAD 2 is considerably more expensive than many other drum heads. Regardless of where you purchase this drum head from, you can be certain it’s going to set you back more than $50.
- More durable than its predecessor
- Available in multiple sizes
- Ideal for heavy metal drumming
- Minimal differences between the EMAD 2 and original EMAD model
- More expensive than less extravagant bass drum heads
9. Remo Pinstripe Clear Tom Pack
- Multiple heads in single pack
- Varying sizes in each pack
- Overtone reduction
Most drum kits include a number of toms. This is especially true in the case of pop and R&B, two genres of music in which toms and the various tones they produce are relied upon heavily. Replacing tom heads one at a time can be a little tedious, not to mention pretty pricey. For that reason, Remo released this multi-pack of tom heads.
In genres such as R&B, increased sustain is often seen as a disadvantage. If you want to achieve the fat sounds that are so synonymous with R&B music, you’re going to need a collection of toms with quick decay. The Remo Pinstripe Clear Tom Pack is one such collection. With quick decay guaranteed by every tom in this pack, you won’t have any trouble recreating R&B classics while working on some of your own. You’ll notice two black rings running around each tom in this collection. While they are certainly visually pleasing, the purpose they serve reaches far beyond the realm of aesthetics. These circles serve as overtone reducers, ensuring minimal interference and a lower pitch than can be expected from rival toms. Each pack is made up of toms of varying sizes. Additionally, there are multiple packs available, each containing a different collection of sizes. Every included head can be easily fitted to its corresponding tom, with its dual 7-mil Mylar plies ensuring it won’t have to be removed or replaced for years after installation.
The cost of the Remo Pinstripe Clear Tom Pack will rise or fall depending on the collection of tom heads you choose. The smallest pack won’t set you back too much, nor will the size above it. The largest pack, however, is considered a little overpriced by many drummers. This pack is made up of heads that are 12, 13, and 16 inches in size and will set you back in or around $50. While Remo does include an additional head for that price, it is a largely unnecessary addition and is really only there to convince gullible drummers the pack is a good deal. Beginner drummers should make note that these drum heads can be difficult to tune. Having one drum head in your arsenal that’s difficult to tune is bad enough, but having three such heads in your arsenal may push you to the brink of sanity.
- Dual 7-mil plies
- Easy to install
- Ideal for R&B
- Largest pack is overpriced
- Each head is difficult to tune
10. Evans G1 Coated
- 10-mil film
- Level 360 technology
- Enhanced tuning range
Evans has appeared a number of times throughout this article and it should come as no surprise. After all, the brand has been responsible for many of the finest drum heads ever produced. It seems only fitting, then, that the climax of this look at the best drum heads of 2019 comes in the form of another Evans offering. Enter the Evans G1 Coated.
Although the Evans G1 Coated features a single-ply body, it is one of the most durable drum heads to appear on this list. This is because it features an ultra-thick 10-mil layer of film, which is capable of enduring severe punishment. This makes it ideal for rock and heavy metal, but does not restrict its applications in jazz and smoother genres. Much like many of Evans’ recent drum heads, the G1 Coated boasts the brand’s Level 360 technology. Its Level 360 collar design greatly simplifies the tuning of the head. It also makes for an enhanced tuning range, allowing you to continue adjusting the head until you feel it is just right for your playing style. A coated and responsive drum head, the G1 produces a focused, warm sound, with noticeable depth even when played with brushes. The Evans G1 Coated is a snare head and comes available in every possible snare size.
As mentioned above, the Evans G1 Coated features one layer of 10-mil film. While this ensures durability, many drummers are somewhat skeptical of its single-ply body. As a result, some have reported finding it difficult to strike the drum with full enthusiasm for fear of damaging it. While even they can recognize their fears as unfounded, the single-ply body may be an insurmountable mental obstacle. You may find it prevents you from obtaining total comfort and relaxation while playing. It should also be noted that Evans has released a G2 drum head in the time since this model first hit the shelves. The G2 isn’t all that different to its predecessor, so those who choose it basically end up paying more money for the same features. However, those who want to have only the latest models in their drumming arsenal should be aware that there is an updated version of the G1 available (though this model is far superior, in our opinion).
- More affordable than updated alternative
- Suitable for brushes
- Available in all snare sizes
- Single-ply body may induce paranoia in rock and metal drummers
- Not the latest model in the series
Things To Consider Before Buying A Drum Head
Given that there are so many different makes and models of drum heads available, finding the right drum head for you can be a bit of a challenge. In order to guide our readers towards the best model for their playing style, we have prepared the following list of things to consider when shopping for a drum head.
As you almost definitely already know, a drum kit is made up of several different types of drums. The typical drum kit will include a bass drum, a snare, hi hats, cymbals, and toms (usually about two or three). While hi hats and cymbals don’t require drum heads, the bass drum, snare, and toms do. To further complicate matters, each requires a drum head designed specifically for that type of drum. You cannot fit a snare head on a tom or vice-versa (and good luck trying to attach a tom head to a bass drum!) Before purchasing a drum head, make sure that it was designed for the drum you intend to fit it to. Our above list includes a number of snare, bass, and tom drum heads, so you won’t have any trouble finding the appropriate head for the drum you’re looking to update.
Quality Of Kit
The drum heads you choose should always be in line with the quality of your kit. There’s no sense in purchasing the best hi-hat stands, bass drum, toms, and snares only to top every drum in your kit off with a subpar head. Similarly, you shouldn’t think that you can get away with purchasing an inferior quality drum kit by fitting each drum in it with the most expensive head you can find. A drum head is most effective when paired with a drum that is of similar build and style.
Your playing style will directly influence the drum heads you require. Certain drum heads come reinforced, allowing them to be used in rock and heavy metal performances without issues. Others are more delicate and should only be used when playing jazz and similar styles of music. If you intend to use your drum kit in conjunction with a drum machine, it may be wise to choose a drum head with significant attack. This will ensure your manual playing can keep up with the punchiness and speed typical of the best electronic drum pads.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re new to the world of drumming, you likely have a number of questions you’d like answered regarding drum heads. In fact, even an experienced drummer may have a few questions if they have never had reason to replace the factory-installed drum heads that came with their kit. To help make your search for a drum head just a little bit easier, we have prepared the following answers to some of the most frequently asked drum head questions.
What Are The Best Drum Heads For Rock?
Given that rock is such a demanding genre, it requires drum heads specifically designed for that style of music. Of the drum heads discussed above, we particularly suggest the Evans EMAD for rock drummers. Obviously, the EMAD 2 is just as suited to rock and heavy metal, but it will set you back a little bit more and you won’t have a whole lot of extra features to show for it. Rock drummers should also consider the Remo Emperor X Coated drum head, which comes fitted with dual layers of 10-mil Mylar film for unparalleled durability.
How Often Do You Need To Change Drum Heads?
A lot of times, the answer to this question is a matter of personal taste. We have heard of drummers who go years at a time without changing their drum heads. On the other end of the spectrum, we have heard tales of obsessive drummers who change their drum heads after every performance or recording session. It’s best to aim to change your drum heads every six months or so, although there’s no need to worry if you can only afford to switch things up once a year. Of course, you should change your drum head immediately if you notice it beginning to tear or give way.
What Is The Bottom Drum Head Called?
Many drum head manufacturers list their bottom drum heads as “side heads”. Consequently, you’ll find a lot of drummers and blogs (including this one) which habitually refer to the bottom drum head as such. In reality, however, the official name for the bottom drum head is the “resonant head”. The top drum head – the one you strike – is known as the “batter head”.
When Should I Replace My Resonant Heads?
Speaking of resonant heads, how often should you aim to change yours? We will concede that resonant heads are not quite as important as batter heads, which makes changing them less of a priority. That being said, you should try to change your resonant heads once a year. While you could go years at a time without changing your resonant heads, yearly replacement will help you maintain a lively sound.
Shopping for equipment is much more difficult for a drummer than it is for a guitarist or a keyboardist. This is largely owing to the many parts that make up the average drum kit. If one of those parts is of an inferior quality, the drummer’s entire performance will be thrown off. For that reason, drummers often stress themselves out trying to find everything from the best cymbal packs to the best thrones to, you guessed it, the best drum heads. We believe the only way to fully eradicate this stress is to drum it out. However, we also believe that this stress can be somewhat alleviated by quality advice and guidance, which we hope we have provided in this article. Each of the drum heads outlined above fulfills its purpose beautifully. The model you choose will complement the corresponding drum in your kit and will help you derive maximum effect from every strike.