7 Best Congas in 2022 Reviewed
Conga drums have a distinctive sound that became popular in the 1930s with the explosion of Latin music. Afro-Cuban influences in Cuba produced the first conga drum, and the world hasn’t stopped dancing to its slapping rhythms since.
Nowadays, conga drums are making a comeback in all sorts of genres, from jazz to electronic dance music. Every year, many different congas hit the market, and since there are so many of them, it can be difficult for any single player to know which drum might be the most suitable for them.
Fortunately, you don't have to navigate all of this by yourself! Here, we review the seven best congas for 2022. Read on to learn about their features, the different tonal output, and the latest deals available. You can also get some valuable tips for searching for new congas.
1. Gon Bops California Tumba Natural — Best If Money Is No Object
The Tumba Natural, created by Gon Bops, is the priciest item on our list today, but it is worth every penny. This item comes from one of the most iconic and legendary brands: Gon Bops.
The California Tumba has all the aesthetics, acoustic features, and excellence that one might expect from this brand. Beautiful hand-selected Appalachian Red Oak gives this tumba a deep bass sound that reverberates beautifully from the natural rawhide drumhead.
The California Tumba might use natural materials, but it possesses some of the most cutting-edge technology on the market. Contour Crown Hoops ease the pressure put on the wood and hardware of the conga. The Gon Bops signature design also extends the tuning range of the congas and gives the drums' hardware a longer lifespan.
- High-quality red oak with hand-cut and shaped staves ensure a deep, pure sound.
- The advanced design of the Gon Bops brand makes the drums far easier to tune.
- This drum set comes with the longest warranty of all of the items on this list; a five-year warranty.
- This item is the single most expensive conga set on this list.
2. LP Galaxy Giovanni Conga — Best Overall
The LP Galaxy Giovanni Conga is an exquisite 30” drum with a 3-ply shell made of Premium North American Ash Wood. It’s the drum made for collectors wanting the finest looking and sounding drums on the market.
The LP Galaxy Giovanni series includes your choice of conga or quinto. These drums feature a natural finish, with deep gloss and gold-tone hardware for a lovely aesthetic touch. Premium, reinforced LP Heart side plates, 3/8" diameter tuning lugs, and LP ProCare shell protectors support the shell and promise excellent longevity. Finally, a natural rawhide head ensures a crisp slap every time.
- The advanced technology used in constructing these congas gives exceptional longevity.
- The conga sound is so clear that you can use this to record in studios, live performances, and practice.
- This conga is the largest drum on this list and thus can be a bit unwieldy.
3. Meinl Woodcraft Series Conga — Best Cuban Style
The Woodcraft Series of congas by Meinl comes in the classic Cuban style and includes all three sizes: quinto, conga, and tumba.
These ornate congas feature a gorgeous American white ash with a zebra finish. Real buffalo skin drumheads and chrome-plated hardware provide a beautiful tonal range.
Also included in the purchase are sound pads, accessory pouches, and an L-shaped tuning key.
- Exceptional craftsmanship makes these drums a worthy investment.
- Thanks to the “Cuban shell” technology, these items can produce an exquisite tonal range.
- A range of tools included with purchase helps optimize the usability of the drums.
- No sets available—each drum is only available as a single purchase.
4. Alex Acuna Conga by Gon Bops — Best for the Pro Traditionalist
Another exceptional product by Gon Bops, the Alex Acuna Conga series is perfect for the pro player eager to take their performances to the next level. The drums in this series will speak to the heart of traditionalists of Afro-Cuban rhythms, thanks to the classical Cuban shape and traditional Gon Bops crown hoop.
You’ll find the standard sizes—quinto, conga, and tumba—as well as a special edition “Super quinto” that is just 9 ¾”. The shell consists of North American Ash, while the drumheads are natural hide. Plus, these drums feature smart plating to protect their wood and hardware under stress.
- The Alex Acuna Congas masterfully produce pure sounds thanks to all-natural hide heads and shells.
- The innovative plating technology extends the tuning range.
- There are various sizes, including a special edition “super quinto.”
- This item lacks the same customizability as some of the other items on this list.
5. LP Matador Wood Conga — Best for Pros Who Appreciate an Aesthetic Touch
Another excellent option for drummers playing at the professional level, the LP Matador Wood Conga series offers the best aesthetic options.
LP is a well-recognized brand, and their Matador series doesn’t disappoint. These congas come in multiple finishes—almond brown, natural wood, and whiskey barrel—along with matching bongos available to interested buyers. These are 30 inches of Siam Oak with a 3-ply shell, rawhide heads, and chrome hardware.
Rounding it all off are Matador’s unique soft strike rims. These are rounder and thicker than traditional rims, which helps lessen the player’s fatigue and the damage to their hands.
- The three finishes deliver the most distinctive aesthetic impact of any conga series.
- Reasonably priced while still providing professional sound and style.
- Soft strike rims enable more play with less soreness and fatigue.
- This series is only available in conga sizing, with the whiskey barrel style also offering one quinto.
6. LP Aspire Wood Congas Set with Double Stand -Vintage Sunburst Finish — Best Value
The LP Aspire Wood Congas Set offers the best value, and with the beautiful sunburst finish, you’ll be able to enjoy it whether you’re a pro or a beginner.
This set of congas comes with 11” and 12” natural rawhide drums, Siam Oak 2-ply shells, and EZ Curve Rims. It also has an adjustable double stand so that players can play both drums as a set.
This set has four finishes: natural wood, red wood, dark wood, and a vintage sunburst finish.
- A stunning sunburst finish gives you a performance-ready set straight out of the box.
- Fantastic value—you won’t find a better deal for two drums at this price.
- Bongos available to purchase mean you can create an entire conga set with LP.
- Choice of drum heads besides the designated sizes not available, which can limit the variety in sound.
7. Toca Synergy Series Wood Conga Set with Stand — Best for Getting Started
Rounding off our list, we bring you the Toca Synergy set, perfect for those beginning to learn how to play the congas.
Toca has focused on being environmentally friendly with this set. They harvest the wood from a plantation in Thailand, where local artisans put them together using environmentally friendly methods.
The two drums included in this purchase are a 10” quinto and an 11'' conga drum. Matching bongos are also available for interested buyers.
- Good starter set, especially with the two different sizes that help new players experiment with more tonal range.
- Conga stand included for the price makes this an outstanding deal.
- 2-ply shell means it isn’t as high-quality as other items on this list.
What to Look For When Buying a Conga
When you're on the market for a conga drum or set, it can be easy to feel a bit of choice paralysis. Consider the factors below to make an informed purchase.
Sound and Size
The single most crucial aspect of finding the right conga is the sound. Many factors affect the sound, from the materials to the acoustics of wherever you're playing. However, the main difference in sound comes down to size.
The term “Congas” describes a pretty wide-ranging category of drums of varying sizes. These break down into quintos, congas, and tumbas.
Quintos are the smallest and highest pitch drums. If you prefer the open “slap” sound in conga playing, then quinto is probably the best option for you.
Congas, also sometimes called segundos, are middle-sized drums. They have the most range of possible sounds.
Tumbas are the largest drums, creating the deepest and lowest sounds. If you prefer bass tones, you’ll want to opt for at least one tumba in your arrangement.
Materials affect everything from the sounds of a drum set to its style and price. Wooden drum shells are more traditional, and they produce warmer tones. However, they can also be sensitive to weather and atmospheric changes.
Fiberglass shells also have become more prevalent in recent years. They are cooler in tone and not as susceptible to atmospheric changes.
Besides the shell, you can also find natural rawhide or synthetic skins for the drum head. Traditionally, cowhide is the material of choice, but innovative manufacturers like Meinl have begun using buffalo hide.
Solo vs. Set
You’ll find that some conga drums are available as solo drums, while others come in sets of two. The difference has to do with sound as much as player preference.
Usually, larger conga and tumbadora drums will be available as a solo or bass drum because the sound is loud enough to stand on its own.
If purchasing two drums, it’s best to get the sizes next two each other to produce a complementary sound. So for a higher range, go for quinto and conga. For a lower range, go for conga and tumba.
Purchasing a set with two of the same drums works, too. Musicians usually will opt for two in the same range to enable more rhythmic variety, such as playing a polyrhythmic number, which appears in many West African songs.
More skilled musicians may also opt to purchase different solo drums and mix and match to create the sounds they prefer.
Style is another crucial component when searching for a good conga drum. You're often highly visible as a conga player while playing your drums. Professional players will especially want to consider the aesthetic they want to display in their performances.
It isn’t to say that newcomers shouldn’t worry about how the drum looks. It can be incredibly motivating and help boost self-confidence when practicing for a first live performance. While the Cuban style and look dominate the conga scene, you’ll find creative drum makers like LP with its Matador series experimenting with design in fun and exciting ways.
Finally, an essential consideration for anyone in the real world is price. Purchasing any musical instrument is an investment, whether it’s an investment in a hobby or in what one hopes to one day make a career.
Price is also a factor that can alter a player’s decision over whether or not to buy a solo drum or a set. Purchasing a set may be better for newer players if it is more affordable than buying one solo drum.
It’s also usually the case that higher-end drums will be on the higher end of the price range. That said, it may not be worthwhile to purchase the most expensive drum for a novice who risks damaging the instrument.
Determining the best price range should be a result of calculating your budget and skill level.
There's a lot of variety with conga drums—just as there is in the genres you can play with them! Not every conga is suitable for every conga player, but you can narrow down your options to find the ideal match with this list.
For any questions about congas, bongos, and other parts of a professional drum kit, feel free to reach out! Your journey as a conga player matters to us, and we hope to hear about it from you. Contact Drum Center of Portsmouth to kickstart your conga career!