Buyers' guide: specialist drum heads

20th Apr 2009 | 11:59

Try some skins with authority…

Some heads don't fit into any of the obvious categories. Sometimes you need a head for a specialist application and, even when you consider the wide range of heads now available for normal drum set use, nothing is quite right for the job.

This is where specialist heads come in. There's no strict definition here – we're just drawing your attention to heads that you may never have considered, or may not even know about, but which fill a niche in the market and can work wonders in giving your kit a radically different sound.

Specialist

Evans's Hydraulic, for example, is unique in that there's oil between the twin layers of Mylar, resulting in the ultimate damped, wet, slappy tone. What's more, the heads are available to buy in a choice of colours.

Artist signature heads are rare and Aquarian's heavily textured, coated black heads for Jack DeJohnette are different to anything else around.

Specialist heads are probably best tried out one at a time – you don't want to make an expensive mistake – here's our top five picks to get you started…

5 specialist heads from £13.60

5. Attack jingle
Approx £13.60 (12")

StarsAttack jingle

This is more of a novelty than anything. There are four tambourine jingles riveted into the head, so you get the effect of a tight tambourine along with your backbeat. Effective for certain styles of music, perhaps, or maybe for your secondary snare, but you're not able to turn it off. The head is currently awaiting UK distribution.

4. Pearl Muffle
£17.70 (14")

Stars
Pearl muffle

Muffles are designed specifically for practising quietly. Previously, drummers had to lay rubber pads on their heads or cover them with cloths or towels. With muffles, you get a reasonable approximation of the feel of real plastic heads and, although almost silent, you can still discern the pitch differences between drums.

3. Evans Hydraulic
£15.50 (14" tom glass)

Stars
Evans hydraulic

Back in the '70s, Evans shook the drum world with its revolutionary Hydraulic – a two-ply head enclosing a thin skin of oil, giving a deep, fat and wet sound. They're hard-wearing, short on resonance and made in a choice of three colours: glass (clear), blue or black.

Next page: Aquarian Jack DeJohnette Signature Series and our top pick

2. Aquarian Jack DeJohnette Signature Series
£18.03 (14")

Stars
Aquarian

These single-ply heads have a thick application of black, textured coating and black powder-coated rims. The coating produces a signifi cantly sharper and louder brush response on the snare drum than normal. Jazzy and funky, the overall feel is warm, full and dark with no further dampening required.

1. Remo Suede
£13.80 (14" Ambassador, Diplomat, Emperor)

StarsRemo suede

Suede heads have a textured surface on both the top and bottom, which is etched into the head. Since this isn't a coating, it won't wear off with time. The resulting sound retains the clarity and sustain of a clear head but also has some of the warmth of a coated product.


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