Prior to the 1950s, drumheads were created using calfskin heads. While the sound produced was cool with a nice depth, the installation proved a challenge. Every head had to be formed into a round disc and then soaked to loosen up. From there, it would be stretched across the shell and connected to the hoop and tuned up. These heads would contract and expand based on the weather. Post-1950s saw the creation of plastic drumheads formed from Mylar polyester or even Kevlar aramid fiber. These advancements formed opportunities for new textures and sounds.
The drumheads are important aspects of the drum kit. A solid drumhead can transform the drum kit sound to something truly amazing. Drumheads come in a variety of options, including clear or coated, double-ply or single, or even thin or thick. Understanding your options is the first step in choosing a great drumhead to really pull the kit together.
If you are an experienced drummer, replacing the drumheads can bring the sound back to life or offer new options. For novice drummers, your best bet is to start with a quality set. That way, you can train your ears to the right tones. At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we know a bit about building great kits and can help determine the best drumhead for your needs.
A Quick Overview
We are here to connect you to the top 3 drumheads in our inventory and on the market. In 2019, there are plenty of options, so we took careful consideration in building this list. For a quick glance, look at the Evans Calftone for a Retro look, the Remo Emperor Colortone for a bold statement, or the Aquarian Modern Vintage for versatility.
There’s also a handy buyer’ guide to help answer some questions when it comes to choosing a drumhead. Ready to learn more and make a choice? Let’s roll!
Best Drum Head for a Retro Style: Evans Calftone
For a more traditional kit with a warm, responsive drumhead, go for the Evans Calftone. The drumhead has a great retro aesthetic in both sound and appearance. It is equipped with a synthetic fiber coat for a little bit extra focus in the sound product. The drumhead is a single-ply head and has the sound and look of calfskin even with a synthetic fiber layer. The combination creates more boost for the low to mid frequencies.
- Retro look
- Aesthetic mimics calfskin
- Synthetic fiber coat
- Single ply head
- Affordable price range
- Rich, warm tones
- Works best for low or medium live playing
- Sound not as bright as it would be with a clear drumhead
- Works better with drumstick as brushes do not pop out clearly
- Calftone drumhead finish
- Available in sizes 8” to 18”
- Level 360 Tech
- 7mil film base
We offer the full range of the Evans Calftone sizes both online and in store. Browse the collection or stop in and see it for yourself!
Why We Love it
Overall, a retro drum kit is a solid choice for any drummer. We love the calfskin aesthetic that provides this vintage look and warm tones. One of the great benefits of this drumhead is the range between mid and low frequencies. The sound is both warm and bright, great qualities for drumheads. It is thin enough that the Evans Calftone will respond well to light touches.
Best Drum Head for Making a Statement: Remo Emperor Colortone
The Remo Emperor Colortone is great for many reasons. One of the top reasons is the popping colors options that include vibrant shades of red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and even smoke. This makes for a visual aesthetic that is bright and captivating. The vibrant shades make a for a great statement on any kit, perfect for the stage.
The tom batter heads are formed with Skyndeep Imaging Technology. The visual is accompanied by great durability, attack, and projection. This is created with two-ply and 7 mil film and a smoothly coated top layer.
- Powerful projection
- Great durability
- Can handle heavy hitting
- Affordable price range
- Not great for high volume situations
- Does not respond as well to brushes
- 7-mil clear film
- Available in sizes 8-18 (tom batter)
- Available in sizes 18-26 (bass batter)
- Comes in 6 colors (Yellow, Orange, Green, Red, Smoke, and Blue)
This drumhead is available as both bass batter head and tom batter heads. At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we offer the full line of products in both types with a range of sizes. These can be found in-store and online.
Why We Love It
The colors available from this line are wonderful, and we love the statement they make. The Remo Emperor Colortone produces a sustainable and warm attack. We prefer this for studio recording or medium volumes of live playing. The great part here is that the aesthetic is matched by a quality product that comes out through this durable and versatile drumhead.
Best Drum Head for Versatility: Aquarian Modern Vintage
Similar to the Evans Calftone, the Aquarian Modern Vintage creates a warm sound with a calfskin look and feel. It is also a vintage look but has a couple more options. This drumhead is available as either a thin or medium option. Each one has a benefit, depending on what you are looking to create. The medium weight is available with a 10-mil coating, and the thin weight comes with a 7-mil coating.
- Responds well to either drumsticks or brushes
- Produces warm tones
- Sustains well
- Not suited for high-volume playing
- Slightly more expensive than other options
- The thin head is slightly less durable than the medium
- Available with either 10-mil or 7-mil coating
- Range of sizes, including 10” to 26”
Excited to check this out? You can do that either online or in person. Check out the medium or thin drumheads that are stocked in a range of sizes by Drum Center of Portsmouth.
Why We Love It
We like options, which is why we love the Aquarian Modern Vintage drumhead. With this drumhead, you get to choose between a medium or thin option and control the sound you create. This single ply drumhead has a warm, open sound with both options sustaining well. The medium version is slightly more durable than the thin, so keep that in mind when outfitting your set. Overall, both options provide an open and responsive drumhead.
Quick Look: Summarizing the Drum Head Options
|Drum Head||Ply||Size Range||Coating Thickness|
|Evans Calftone||One-ply||8” to 18”||7 mil|
|Remo Emperor Colortone||Two-ply||8” to 18” or 18” to 26”||7 mil|
|Aquarian Modern Vintage||One-ply||10” to 26”||7 mil or 10 mil|
Buyer's Guide for Drum Heads
There’s more to buying a drumhead than reading a few reviews. These are just three options, and there are quite a few factors and specs to consider before committing to a drumhead. Whether you are building a new kit or replacing old worn out drumheads, we want to help you find what works for you. To do this, we built a Buyer’s Guide specifically for drumheads. We’ll start by discussing important factors to consider and then answer some common questions.
In the world of drums, some brands stand out above the rest. For other parts of the drum kit, like the best cymbals, there are a number of manufacturers producing high-quality products. For drumheads, high-quality drumhead producers are a bit more limited. If you are lucky, you can find a solid local manufacturer. In most cases, the highest standards are reached by well-known manufacturers. Two of the best brands made this list: Evans and Remo.
The tone a drumhead produces largely depends on the thickness of the head itself. The thickness can be determined through the number of plies, which increases thickness. Increased thickness is a benefit because it offers better durability. Thicker drumheads also mean different tones.
Here is an outline of the main differences between thin and thick heads:
- Less durable
- More sensitive
- Less attack
- More durable
- Less sensitive
- More attack
A variety of textured finishes will offer a variety of sonic characteristics, each distinct from one another. Drumhead finishes include coated, clear, fiber-skin /calfskin, or ebony/black.
Here is a breakdown of each finish and the sound it produces:
Coated drumheads come with thick texturing for a dark, warm, and dampened sound.
- Dry tone
- White appearance
- Short sustain
Clear drumheads produce a bright tone with a long sustain. They have a bright, transparent, and smooth appearance.
- Long sustain
- Transparent appearance
- “Wet” tone
- Fast attack
Fiberskyn/Calfskin drumheads mimic the classic animal skin composition. It has a similar response to actual calfskin but is warmer and has less overtone.
- Dry tone
- Natural skin appearance
Ebony/black produces tonal quality similar to the clear heads but is black in design.
- Long sustain
- Black appearance
- Fast attack
Dampening production is a result of controlling natural overtones. Drumheads normally come with certain features intended to dampen the drum without the need for additional dampening measures like gel or tape.
The type of drum will require different levels of dampening. For example, a bass drum will need to dampen high-end overtones while also enhancing low-end frequencies.
Most of the focus is on the batter side of the drum, or the side you hit. However, the side you don’t hit is the resonant side. This is equally important in the overall drum tone. This is where you hear the term “wet” or “dry” resonance.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have made it this far, there are probably a few lingering questions. With all this information, we know it is still important to answer a few straightforward questions. Perhaps you have already through these, or perhaps you need the extra push to ask a few more questions before purchasing a drumhead.
What to consider when buying a drumhead?
Considerations before buying a drumhead include everything outlined in the Buyer’s Guide and a few more things as well. For one thing, what type of music are you trying to create? Light rock, jazz, and acoustic noises will require the increased resonance found in the one-ply head. A heavy hitter will find their needs met with a double-ply head and thicker coating. Heavy hitters are typically looking to produce R&B, rock, or funk music.
How do I know I'm ready to buy drumhead?
If you are reading this guide, you might be ready to buy a drumhead. Buying a drumhead might also mean you are looking to replace an old one. If your drumhead is worn out and not producing the same sound you need, you might need to look into replacing it. If you are trying to create a new sound, you might have to switch between a thin or thick drumhead to try and find that new sound. If you aren’t sure if you are ready, talk to the experts at the Drum Center of Portsmouth.
How much should I expect to spend?
The answer here is based on the size of the drumhead you need as well as how many. For the most part, it has a large range, going anywhere between $14 to over $100. Right now, Drum Center of Portsmouth has some great deals running on drumheads, so you might be able to snag a high-quality drumhead at a great price.
Drumheads have been an integral part of the ideal drum kit since the inception of the drum. Finding the right one means asking the right questions and thinking critically about what you are trying to produce. With the right amount of durability, this investment will create a great sustainable sound for a great music set.