Best Bass Drum Heads

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

15 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
138 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best bass drum heads

Last Updated December 2019

Whether you're an advanced drummer of just starting out, it's important to know about every part of your kit. The bass drum drives the rhythm, and the bass drum head is arguably more crucial in its sound than the drum shell itself. When it's time to change the head — or "skin" — on your bass drum, learn as much as you can about how each feature affects the sound so you can find the best bass drum head for you.

You need to think about a range of features when selecting a new bass drum head. First off, you must know the difference between the beater head and the resonant head, as well as the difference between single-ply and double-ply options. You should also know about the features that help dampen drums and the sound difference between clear and coated drum skins.

You can learn all this and more by reading our buying guide. We've also selected some of our favorite bass drum skins for you to consider.

When changing a bass drum head, it's important to tighten the tension rods evenly so there are no wrinkles or bubbles anywhere on the skin. This gives you an even pitch all over.

Key considerations

Beater head vs. resonant head

The beater head of a bass drum is the one you hit with your kick pedal. This one has the most effect on the overall sound of your bass drum, so it's the one that people tend to focus on. The resonant — or "reso" — head is the one on the other side of your drum kit that you don't hit. Its name comes from the fact that this head resonates from the vibrations caused by the beater head. It still makes a difference to the sound of the bass drum, so it shouldn't be overlooked. You can use the same bass drum skins as either beater heads or resonant heads, though you can find some heads specifically designed as resonant heads only.

Single-ply vs. double-ply

Single-ply bass drum heads consist of one sheet of material, whereas double-ply skins feature two sheets of material either touching one another or with a small gap between them. Single-ply options are extremely responsive with a high, bright sound and plenty of sustain. Double-ply bass drum heads have a warmer sound with emphasis on the mids and lows. They have less sustain, giving duller, more clipped beats, but are more durable overall.

Dampening

Bass drums are meant to give you a steady beat, so excessive sustain and high-frequency overtones can ruin the effect. As such, some bass drum heads have built-in dampening to give you a tighter, punchier sound with a warmer tone and less sustain. Control dots, control rings, inlay rings, and felt strips are all used to dampen the sound of the bass drum.

Coating

The majority of bass drum heads are either coated or clear. Coated skins have an opaque white finish while clear skins are, as the name suggests, clear. The coating on the drum head adds mass, which changes the way it vibrates and therefore the sound it gives off. Clear skins tend to be brighter with more attack and sustain. Coated skins are warmer and subtler with slightly less sustain.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some resonant bass drum heads have precut holes in which to put a microphone, either for recording or playing a large venue where the drums need to be miked up.

Features

Material

Until the 1950s, all drum heads were made from real animal skin (which is why they're also known as drum skins). Then, a polyester film known as Mylar was created and it became the standard material for drum heads — it's still what the majority of bass drum heads are made from today. In addition to standard Mylar drum skins, you can also find some options made from a combination of Mylar and other materials to replicate the sound of calfskin drum heads without the issues that plagued them, such as warping and going out of tune.

Personalization

It's possible to buy personalized resonant bass drum heads with your band's logo or other image of your choice printed on them, though you’d need to go to a specialist retailer. It's generally only the resonant bass skin that's personalized, since it tends to face the audience when you're playing live.

Diameter

Bass drums can range in diameter from anywhere between 16 and 28 inches, though 20 and 22 inches are the most common diameters on average sets. It's important to choose a bass drum skin of the correct diameter to fit the drum shell.

Bass drum head prices

Compared to the overall cost of the kit, bass drum heads are fairly inexpensive. The least-expensive bass drum heads cost around $10 to $15, whereas high-end models cost around $40 to $50 for a single skin or $70 to $90 for a pack containing a beater head and a resonant head.

EXPERT TIP

If you're looking for plenty of sustain, choose a clear, single-ply bass drum head.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If your bass drum head has too bright a sound, you can dampen it using tape, drum dampening pads, rings, or gel.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Choose a bass drum head depending on what kind of sound you wish to achieve. You might get okay results picking the first bass drum skin you find or the one that your friend uses, but you get the best tone for you by focusing on the sound you want from your bass drum. Do you want lots of sustain or a dead, clipped sound? Do you prefer brightness or warmth? Once you figure this out, finding your perfect bass drum head is far easier.

  • Think about where you play your drums. Some bass drum heads have the durability and punch needed for live drumming, while others have the perfect studio tone for recording.

  • Select the right bass drum pedal to go with your new bass drum head. You need to choose between a single or double bass pedal (beginners should start with single pedals, but plenty of advanced players use them too), different drive types, beater styles, and so on.

  • Learn how to properly tune your bass drum head. You can have a great drum kit and a bass drum head perfectly suited to your playing style, but if it's poorly tuned, it will sound terrible. Tighter skins give you a higher pitch and looser skins a lower pitch, but your skin should never be so loose that it flaps around and creates distortion.

Other products we considered

We've listed our top bass drum heads, but they're not the only models worthy of your drum kit. Some of these excellent alternatives could be better fits, depending on your needs.

Remo P31322-10 Clear Powerstroke 3 Bass Drum Head is a great choice for anyone who enjoys the bright sound of a clear drum head but also makes it more durable. Drum Workshop 22 Inch Bass Drum Head has that bright, sustain-heavy sound, but it utilizes a coated outer ring to provide some dampening. Using a blend of synthetic materials, Evans Calftone Bass Drum Head gives you the vintage tones of a calfskin drum head with no animals harmed in the making. It has incredible warmth you just won't find with a standard Mylar bass drum head, plus round attack and dark sustain. If you're looking for a quality resonant option, consider Evans REMAD Resonant Bass Drum Head. It provides a punchy and resonant complement to the sound of the beater head and features a precut mic hole for recording or bigger live shows.

Black bass drum skins have similar tonal qualities to clear, uncoated heads — the only real difference is the color.

FAQ

Q. Are certain bass drum heads suited to particular musical genres?

A. Some types of bass drum heads are associated with certain genres or styles of playing. For instance, double-ply drum heads are common in metal and other loud, heavy music, whereas coated single-ply skins are popular with jazz musicians. That said, there's nothing stopping you from breaking the mold and choosing whichever skins give you the sound you like best, regardless of the genre you usually play.

Q. Does the thickness of a bass drum skin make a difference on how it sounds?

A. Yes, thinner heads tend to sound brighter, while thicker heads have a warmer sound. It takes less force to get sustain from thinner bass drum heads — you can still get plenty of sustain from a thick skin, but you need to apply more force to your kick pedal. Thicker skins aren't quite as responsive as thin ones, but you do get a bigger sound.

Q. How important are bass drums in relation the rest of a drum kit?

A. The bass drum lays down the rhythm of the song you're playing. It's essentially the heartbeat of the song, which makes it an important part of the drum kit. Of course, the whole kit is important, but the bass drum lays down the foundation. As such, you should think carefully about what bass drum head you put on it rather than just buying the cheapest or one you like the look of.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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