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4 Best Professional Congas in 2022 Reviewed

Afro-Cuban music gets its distinct sound thanks to one quality: rhythm. And with the congas, it’s all about rhythm.

The conga player controls the beat and makes the air dance with music. Professional players also know that the drum is as vital as the drummer. 

A set of professional congas will help take your sound to the next level. Whether you’re playing at a festival or your weekly gig at the local dance club, you want a drum that can keep up. Because when you find that instrument, you’ll feel your music transformed. 

There's something distinct and beautiful about playing with your hands, and these four choices are bound to suit your needs. Read on to discover the best professional congas in 2022 and what makes them magical. 

1. Toca Custom Deluxe

If you're playing professionally, you've probably beat a rhythm on a Toca at one point or another. From drum circles to center stage, this brand is synonymous with the distinctive Afro-Cubano sound that we love. Their high quality and attention to sound make them a favorite drum for professionals.

Intelligent builds enhanced their unique designs, and Toca has built its deluxe series to withstand just about anything. For a relatively low price, these mainstays of the conga world are always worth considering when picking up your next set.

 

Specifications

  • Shell: Fiberglass or custom deluxe wood
  • Head: Bison
  • Hardware: High-luster chrome
  • Height: 30”
  • Sizes: Quinto, Conga, Tumba
  • Finishes: Red sparkle, silver sparkle, black sparkle, Sahara gold, blue wood, natural wood, purple gloss
 
 

PROS

  • Fiberglass shell means they are solid as a rock
  • Custom deluxe wood congas offer that classic, cracking sound 
  • Bison heads create an authentic sound
  • Distinctive finishes make them stand out

CONS

  • Six lugs tuning might be too complicated for quick tuning
 

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2. LP (Latin Percussion) Giovanni

Designed with Latin Jazz master Giovanni Hidalgo himself, this series is a specialty design that a serious professional cannot pass up. The patented design earned them the 2003 Musikmesse design award for the most innovative musical instrument. Their smooth sound is only matched by their distinct design.

Bringing resonance, warmth, and attack, no brand can beat the projection of its sound. When you play these drums, you know that you are in the hands of a master.

 

Specifications

  • Shell: North American ash wood 3-ply
  • Head: Natural rawhide
  • Hardware: Gold-tone or chrome 
  • Height: 30”-32”
  • Sizes: Requinto, Conga, Compact Conga
  • Finishes: Natural deep gloss
 
 

PROS

  • Highly durable means they will hold up to extensive professional play
  • Easy to transport and set up
  • Extended Collar Comfort Curve II offers a range of tones
  • Steel pin reinforcement means the drum stays tuned longer

CONS

  • The compact series lacks distinct bass tones
 

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3. Gon Bops California

For over half a century, Gon Bops have provided America with some of the finest Latin-influenced drums on the market. Their congas stay true to the classic Cuban shape, and you won’t find longer-lasting, robust hardware anywhere else.

The California series is cut and shaped by hand out of Appalachian Red Oak and then cured for months at a time. The handcrafted quality is evident in the build, and the sound carries the same meticulous attention to detail. They provide a rich woody sound and a sharp snap that is both crisp and resonant.

 

Specifications

  • Shell: Appalachian Red Oak
  • Head: Remo NuSkyn
  • Hardware: California contour crown hoops
  • Height: 30”
  • Sizes: Tumba
  • Finishes: Natural
 
 

PROS

  • Deep tones that are spot-on perfect
  • Handcrafted quality makes them perfect and durable
  • Sustainable materials in the build make them eco-friendly
  • Hardware offers extended performance and puts less pressure on wood
  • Less effort to tune

CONS

  • Hard to find worldwide
 

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4. Meinl Woodcraft

A powerhouse in the drumming world, the brand Meinl is synonymous with quality. From Europe, their attention to detail and clever design choices mean they are always on point, and their woodcraft series is no exception.

Built as a great fusion between tradition and innovation, the Meinl Woodcraft features original buffalo heads and authentic Cuban-style shells that create a robust and traditional sound. The result is a broad tonal range, and with chrome-plated rims, there is no doubt that this conga features the best of all worlds.

 

Specifications

  • Shell: American White Ash 2-ply
  • Head: True buffalo
  • Hardware: Chrome-plated
  • Height: 30”
  • Sizes: Quinto, Conga, Tumba
  • Finishes: Zebra natural gloss
 
 

PROS

  • Buffalo head creates original classic Latin sound
  • 10mm tuning lugs make it easy to tune and stay tuned longer
  • American Ash creates a natural sound

CONS

  • Heavy shell means it's not always easy to carry around
 

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How to Choose Suitable Professional Congas for You

Knowing what conga is best for you comes from understanding how each element could affect your decision. 

Read on to get the low down on what makes a professional conga stand out from an entry-level one and what factors you should consider for your choice.

Skins

Your drum is only as good as the skin on its head, and when it comes to skins, there are two basic categories. 

One is natural, made from genuine animal skin like buffalo or rawhide. The natural skins follow the traditional building drums that go back to our early ancestors, and they offer that distinctive crack that conga players love. However, while they feel more genuine, natural skins can run into some problems with tuning. The moisture in the air can change the sound and make tuning a problem. 

The other option is synthetic. Synthetic skins do not have issues with moisture, but because they are artificial, it depends on the make to determine whether or not the sound holds up. 

Overall, it's a balance, and the head material can make a big difference.

Shell

When it comes to your drum shell, there are two possibilities: wood or fiberglass.

Wood is the traditional material for conga shells. Wood shells produce a warm, deep sound. However, one thing to note is their sensitivity to weather, as wooden shells can be prone to bend or change in extreme temperatures. 

Many modern congas utilize fiberglass to counter the weather warping. Synthetic shells sound crisp and often louder too. They are lighter, making them easier to carry around.

Hardware and Tuning

The hardware and tuning lugs work with the build and material of the drum, affecting everything from the sound to how easy it is to tune and keep it tuned for an extended period. 

Usually, your lugs will be solid metal, such as chrome or gold-plated options. The sturdier the hardware, the better off you are. Generally, the thicker the lug, the longer your drums will stay in tune. 

The amount of lugs makes a difference, too; the more lugs, the more you can adjust the sound. Always remember when tuning to work horizontally.

Stands

If you want to get the best sound out of your conga, laying your drum against the ground will simply not cut it. A professional conga deserves a solid stand. A big diameter will mean more air moves through the drum, so keep that in mind.

When it comes to how stands factor into your choice, the most straightforward factor is weight. The heavier your drum is, the more durable your stand will need to be. 

While most congas weigh around 25 pounds, big or bulky drums made of heavy materials could be significantly higher. Make sure your conga is not too heavy and has the perfect stand to match; your ears will thank you!

Pairing

As a drummer, playing Latin and Afro-Cuban music means playing more than just one kind of drum. Likely when considering stepping up your conga game, you might extend your collection to include some other kinds of drums, and it's essential to understand how your conga will fit into this mix.

Conga drums come in various sizes, from the smaller requinto, to the quinto, conga, and tumbadora. When trying to match up your drum's sound, take great care to note what sound your conga creates. If not by ear, consider the shell and skins, plus the craft of the drum, and try and match accordingly for your other drums.

Conclusion

Any of our choices should fit your needs, but when it comes to drums, especially ones you play with your hands, the best way of knowing is to give them a try yourself. With just a bit of playing, you should get an idea of the sound and what makes each drum so distinct.

Want to try them out yourself? If you're in the New Hampshire area, drop in at the Drum Center of Portsmouth. Our expert knowledge is yours to draw from, and our professional staff all have experience playing. We’re drummers and musicians who take pride in our work, keeping the thriving music scene alive. We love bringing our wisdom to you and can ensure that you end up with the best fit for your needs! 

Have more questions? Stop by DCP and let out experts guide you to the perfect choice!

23 days ago