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In the remarkable world of metal, the sound of a drum head lies at the heart of the music. Whether it’s the toms, a snare, or the bass drum, you want them to cut through the mix like butter while accentuating those bone crushing guitar riffs and breakdowns.
A good drum head should be able to endure a fair amount of beating while complying with your needs sonically. For professional drummers, understanding how the instrument works is almost as important as learning how to play the instrument itself.
Drummers have to be very picky when deciding the right material and thickness of drum heads for their kit. Even the smallest of the decisions can make a huge difference sonically. Surprisingly, hunting for a new drum head while chasing those tones inside your head is always an exciting journey for every drummer.
With that in mind, we went ahead and took the liberty of scouring through the markets to bring you the best drum heads that provide:
- Solid articulation
- A rich low end
- And, most importantly, massive amounts of power
Let’s dive in, shall we?
The Importance of Drum Heads and Early History
In some of the mentions from early human history, long before records were being created, musicians were using animal hide to make their drumheads. Even today, many hand drums (such as djembes, frame drums, bongos, and congas) use real hide for the head material.
Some musicians, most notably from the jazz community, prefer rawhide heads over other synthetic counterparts so as not to stray away from the authenticity of their musical style. Ever since the musical artform came into existence, musicians have always experimented with different materials while designing their instruments.
When it comes to drums, different types of materials for the heads can help you in diversifying your sound palette. Thinner heads have a projected sound and a lot of sustain but also produce more overtones, which is one of their drawbacks.
Thicker drum heads sound warm and have a rounded tone which is good when you want a mellow attack.
Nowadays, drum heads or drum skins are mostly made from plastic, such as mylar or polyester. Animal skin drum heads are rare these days because plastic counterparts last longer and offer more consistent results.
Our Evaluation Criteria
With so many options available in the market, you must be thinking to yourself, “What all things should I consider before buying my next set of drum heads?” Some of the most talented and experienced musicians out there believe that you don’t always need expensive gear to make good music, and we fully agree with them.
There are a lot of factors that musical instruments such as drums are judged on besides price. To give you an idea of our evaluation criteria while coming up with this list, here are some of the factors we considered:
Some manufacturers apply a layer of translucent coating to their drum heads to change their sonic characteristics, while others keep it clear. The extra mass added to coated drum heads has a dampening effect on the sound, making it warm and deep sounding.On the other hand, clear drum heads sound brighter and offer more control and attack. Coated drum heads are usually a great choice for snare drums, but a lot of people use them for kick drums as well in order to achieve that compressed sound.
Single-ply drum heads are usually made from a single layer of 10 mil Mylar, but you can find thinner options as well from some manufacturers. You can get solid intonations and resonance with single-ply drum heads at the cost of durability. These are a great option for lighter musical styles like Jazz, but if you are a metal player, they won’t last long. Double-ply drum heads, as the name suggests, are made from two layers of Mylar, which increases their durability. They offer more attack while reducing sustain and overtones by a huge margin. These are great for rock and metal music, where articulation and longevity matter a lot.
The thickness of drum heads plays a huge role in deciding their sonic limits as well as sensitivity. Thicker drum heads are louder and offer more attack as well as headroom. Thinner drum heads on the other hand are less durable, quieter, and offer less attack.
Most beginners don’t want to spend a lot, whereas experienced players want to make sure they are investing in the right places. Therefore, budgeting plays a critical role when buying drum heads. We made sure to cover both these options adequately when coming up with this list.
The Major Differences Between Coated Drum Heads and Clear
The drum head and tuning are the primary elements that allow you to shape the sound of your drums. Most of the decisions, however, come down to a matter of personal choice. To give you a gist of the main differences between coated and clear drum heads, we’ve listed some of them as follows:
- Coated drum heads have a brighter tone and rich overtones, whereas clear drum heads have warmer and deeper tones, with less overtones.
- Coated drum heads have a snappy attack and sustain, whereas clear drum heads have a mellow attack and less sustain.
- Coated drum heads have an open sound that covers a larger spectrum clear drum heads tend to have a muffled or scooped sound.
Metal is mostly associated with bright-sounding instruments, so for the snare drum, you may want to go with the community favorite, a single-ply coated batter head. If you want to use brushes or create soft embellishments, coated heads will give you better results and more control over the sound.
What are the Best Drum Heads for Metal?
Evans EC2 Tompack Clear Rock
Our first option is for the lovers of the classic heavy metal genre who want to stay true to their roots. If articulation and lots of power in the mids is your top priority, you can never go wrong with the Evans Clear Rock drum heads.
Available in 10, 12, and 16-inch thickness options, these double-ply drum heads consist of two 7 mil films that offer optimum durability and longevity. With the help of Sound Shaping Technology (or SST), Evans has created one of the most practical sets of drum heads.
The EC2 Tompack is moderately priced and loved by both professional drummers, as well as beginners, for its consistent results.
- Solid Mids and bottom end control
- Multiple options for thickness
- Some players reported getting too much resonance
Remo ES0616PS Ebony Pinstripe
Dark themes and heavy metal go hand in hand, so why not go for an ebony drum head? This double-ply drum head is created by fusing a set of 10 mm and 5 mm Mylar plies, with an added layer of a ring reducing agent. This agent sits between the plies and helps in reducing redundant overtones and dampening high frequencies.
The overall tone can be safely described as “fat,” which provides a rich bottom end and tons of power with a hint of brightness. A lot of tightness in the low end is a no-brainer when it comes to metal, and this drum head should help you achieve that. This is the ideal drum head for modern metal and rock.
- Good control over low frequencies
- Good for both live and studio scenarios
- Highly durable
- The mids tend to sound a bit scooped
Aquarian Performance II Drumheads
Next, we have a highly versatile set of drum heads that should fit every drum in a standard kit without hassle. The Performance 2 series from Aquarian is ideal for players who are new to the drumming scene and unfamiliar with changing drum heads.
There are 12, 13, and 16-inch double-ply clear drum heads to pick from, that will give you a vicious attack and top-notch durability. Aquarian guarantees the absence of any air bubbles that keep the sound clean and crisp, even after months of aggressive playing.
The heads are designed to sound thick in the bottom end, especially on the toms. They can maintain a hefty amount of detail and depth when down tuning, which is quite useful in heavy metal music. Overall, this is a great product for beginners who can get their hands on every drum head with a single purchase.
- Punchy and fat sound
- Great results in live scenarios
- Full set available
- Bass drum head does not match the rest of the set
- Lacking ample resonance
Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head
When it comes to bass drums, they are the spine of your kit, so compromise is not an option. The Evans EMAD2 drum head is supposed to be great for all genres but it has made a rather special mark in the heavy metal community. This one is a clear head, for a ferocious attack and a punchy low-end.
Available in five options, ranging from 18-26 inches, this drum head is created to fit any drum kit on the stage or in the studio. You even have the option of buying the head with a drum beater because it can never hurt to have a spare drum beater in your arsenal.
You get a level, 360 collar that allows you to tune on the go and get desired results with top-notch detail. Durability is never an issue with double-ply heads, which remains true in this case as well.
- Variety of sizes
- Comes with a drum beater
- Quick and easy to tune
- Plastic ring degrades rather quickly
Evans EMAD Onyx Bass Drum Head
There is nothing more iconic than musical instruments that accentuate your playing style — as well aesthetics — on the stage. Our next listing has proven itself as the perfect addition to any dark or gloomy theme, which heavy metallers just can’t get enough of.
You can get these heads, ranging from 18-26 inches in diameter, that come with an externally mounted adjustable damping system. The damping system lets you fine-tune your attack and customize your sound to align with your needs. The damping system is optional, meaning you can remove it in case you want to work without it.
The single-ply drum head is quite bright and resonant, but still also manages to control those high overtones rather well because of the coating.
You can pair up this bass drum head with other heads in the Evan’s EMAD range to get the best out of your kit. Unfortunately, these heads are not sold as part of a set, so you will have to purchase them individually.
- Great look and sound
- External damping system for added customizability
- Great results across many genres
- Less durable and wears out quickly
- Not suitable for detuning
Remo Powerstroke 4
The Powerstroke 4 is the double-ply version of its predecessor, Powerstroke 3, which has gained quite a fan following over the years. Their ultimate objective was to improve the focus in the mids which would align this drum head perfectly with modern metal genres.
The Powerstroke 3 lacked substantial durability due to it being single-ply, which is not an issue with the double-ply construction of Powerstroke 4. Whether you are pounding on it or hitting softly, this head captures the perfect palette of resonance, low end, and mids.
This drum head carries a solid punch in the bottom end and enough detail in the high frequencies, making it the perfect addition to modern metal records.
- Resonates like a beast
- Loud with lots of headroom
- Lacks proper vocalization of high frequencies
Aquarian Drumheads SKII22 Super-Kick II
The second to last place in this list goes to the underdog of the drumming world, Aquarian Drum Heads Super Kick II. Aquarian has been slowly raking up fans in a market that is dominated by two companies: Remo and Evans.
The Super Kick II is a double-ply drum head made from two 7 mil plies, which have a built-in floating felt muffle ring that makes sure no extra muffling is required. The raw and focused power in the low end is a telltale sign of any metal record, something that Aquarian has perfected with their technology.
This drum head has shown stunning results across many metal subgenres in the past with its vicious attack and chest-thumping low end. It’s ideal for players who like to experiment and push their limits.
- Power dot for extra strength and focus
- Ideal for aggressive players
- Great tone with lots of focus in the higher mids
- Sizes are not specified properly
Aquarian Drumheads Pack
Here is another beauty for the admirers of dark aesthetics, but it gets better this time because you also get the robustness of a double-ply head. This one comes without any external dampers, but that shouldn’t be a problem since Aquarian’s build quality is top of the shelf.
This budget drum head is great for those who are looking for black skins but don’t want to shell out too much money on an Evans drum head.
Even though this drum head is lacking a wow factor, its performance and sound quality are respectably high enough. You can use this as a backup for your live kit, or make it a part of those sweaty practice sessions, and be assured that it will do its job flawlessly.
Overall, this is an affordable set of dark drum heads for beginners which sound great and look pretty killer, too. They are loud enough for small to midsize live venues and respond really well to high as well as low-velocity hits.
- Power dot lends you extra strength
- Best fit for dark themes
- Sizes unspecified by manufacturer
- Lack of boost in mids
Advantages of Drum Heads
Drums have changed the music scene to such an extent that it’s nearly impossible to imagine certain musical styles without them. Some of the notable advantages to using drum heads (according to us!) are as follows:
- The distinctive sound of drum heads is arguably the best when it comes to spotlighting guitar and bass parts.
- It’s hard to imagine heavy metal music without breakdowns and even harder when you take drums out of the picture. Different kinds of drum heads allow you to fine-tune the sonic energy of your music as per taste.
- The sonic qualities of drum heads allow them to be fused with virtually any instrument out there.
Disadvantages of Drum Heads
Drums are undeniably the most popular percussion instruments out there, but like every great product, there are some underlying disadvantages to them as well. Here are some of the most common downsides to drum heads:
- You can’t have it all when it comes to drum heads. If you want a super bright tone then you will have to compromise on the durability factor because single-ply drum heads don’t last too long. On the other hand, double-ply heads last much longer but take away a hefty amount of high frequencies and resonance from the sound.
- In most scenarios, you will need the help of an external system to damp or control overtones in order to achieve your ideal tone.
- The cost of replacing drum skins is quite high, especially if you are an aggressive player or play for longer durations.
Some Best Use Tips
Many of you would agree that when it comes to giving a unique character to your drum sound, you have to get into the nitty-gritty of all the elements. Here are some best use tips which can benefit both beginners and seasoned musicians to get the best out of their drum heads:
- Wax the bearings: Use a piece of wax and rub it around the edges of the bearing to avoid any unnecessary friction between the head and the shell. This will increase the life of your drum head and make sure it fits evenly.
- Choose your ply: Single-ply heads sound brighter, more resonant and open, whereas double-ply heads are the opposite of that. The nature of your tone will mostly depend on how you tune but choosing the right ply is a must.
- Bottom heads are just as important: A lot of us often ignore the bottom heads on our toms and snare drums, which can drastically affect your sound. Make sure to tune and adjust the bottom heads as frequently as the top ones for best results.
- Don’t use harsh cleaning agents: We all need to clean our drum kits from time to time, so it’s very important that we use the right cleaning agents for the job. Harsh chemicals or cleaners can damage the heads and even rust critical parts of your kit so you must avoid them at all costs. Instead, use a soft kitchen cleaner or washing liquid to gently rub the surfaces of the drum heads. Make sure not to press too hard while cleaning which can loosen or detune your drum heads.
- Ensure proper fitting: We cannot press enough on how important it is to fit your drum heads evenly and tightly in the first place. If you happen to own an older drum kit, it may have an oversized shell which could be a hassle, so tread carefully. You don’t want to nick any bearing edges while installing the head.
Our Top Recommendations
Some of the most experienced drummers still find it hard to put a finger on their favorite drum heads because there are so many great options out there. Almost every manufacturer puts their own spin on drum heads, which opens up the door to new sonic possibilities and ideas.
After much contemplation and discussion with other players, we were able to pick out our top three candidates for the best drum head out there:
Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head
Evans has been on the top of their game ever since they entered the industry. Drummers have been blindly relying on their products because of how they perform and feel in both live and studio setups. The EMAD2 offers an unmatched sound spectrum on top of sheer raw power and clarity.
The clear coating on this double-ply drum head will get you the cleanest resonance and punch in the mids, making it one of the best drum heads for metal out there. The sizing goes up from 18-26 inches, so it’s very easy to find the right fitting skin for your bass drum.
Remo ES0616PS Ebony Pinstripe
In addition to the beautiful looks, the consistent sonic performance and durability of this drum head make it a winner for us. Instead of the usual 7 mil plies, Remo went with a 10 mil and 5 mil ply which boosts the feedback and resonance in the right places.
If you are looking for that dark and fat drum sound, this drum head will not let you down. The damping agent is poured right between the two plies, which eliminates nearly all high-frequency overtones, giving you a clear and well-rounded resonance.
You want your drum heads to sound focused if they are going to sit besides distorted guitars in the mix, something that Remo has perfected over the years.
Aquarian Drumheads Pack
Last but not the least, the best budget head out there according to us is the Aquarian’s drum heads pack. Since launch, these products have received tons of high praises from players across the board, both freshers and professionals. Aquarian takes the cake for creating one of the most cost-effective drum heads that perform in the range of premium products.
This drum head pack caters to every drum in a standard kit, so you won’t have to go elsewhere for particular heads. Luckily, Aquarian has managed to nail a pretty well-rounded tone right out of the box, reducing the need for post-processing for beginners who want a great sound rather quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: The drum heads are taking a literal beating, so from time to time, they will need to be replaced. If you use a lot of force while beating on those puppies, your drum heads will be subjected to tear or dead sounds much quicker.
Most drummers, on average, change their drum heads every six months. If you start noting deep dents or tears, it’s time to go for a new set of drum heads.
Answer: The bottom heads often go unnoticed by players, which can start impacting their sound over time. Some players replace the bottom heads every time they replace the batter side, while others prefer every second or third replacement.
Resonant heads lose their qualities over time due to tension from stretching and vibrations from the shell. Even though resonant heads are not facing the beating from drum sticks, they will start to wear out depending on how hard you hit and the longer you play.
Answer: Major dents are almost always a sign for replacement but minor ones can be rectified to a limit. You can use a good old hairdryer to straighten out small dents or bumps, but don’t go overboard.
Overheating can damage the drum head beyond repair or cause it to snap or tear instantly. We can say we’ve used this technique ourselves a couple of times in the past, but with very little success.
Answer: Thinner or single-ply drum heads are brighter sounding, which means more high frequencies. This is good when you need that rich and crispy percussive sound that can cut through a mix with precision.
Double-ply or thick drum heads sound warm and scooped, which is preferred in music genres such as blues and jazz. These drum heads have more focus in the low to mid frequencies and taper off the high frequencies.
Answer: After years of experimentation and taking advice from experienced drummers, we have come to the conclusion that resonant heads should be tensioned very tightly.
If you need maximum resonance and feedback from your bottom heads, crank those bearings up as far as you can without damaging the head.
Our Final Thoughts
Unlike other musical genres, the attention to detail and syncopation is quite high in metal music. You want your instruments to accent each other naturally without losing the depth and nuances of their sound.
You can pick up any drum head from the shop and start making music with it but when it comes to staying true to that sound in your head, you have to narrow down your choices.
If we had to pick a winner out of all the great products on this list, we would have to go with the Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head. For a slightly higher price, you are getting the ultimate drum head which will enhance your skills as well as musical knowledge of drum sounds as you use it.
We hope this guide was able to help you determine which drum heads will best suit your needs for metal. Now that you know how to pick out the best drum heads for your metal jams, you can start producing those incredible, ear-splitting sounds all metalheads know and love!