6 Best Bass Drum Heads – Deep Sounding Kick Heads

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Drum heads are one aspect of drum kits that many people don’t think about to start with. Every kit you buy will come with a set of stock heads to use. These stock heads will get the job done and sometimes even sound pretty good.

However, replacing those heads with higher-quality ones can make a world of difference. The biggest difference can be made with the bass drum. A better head will give you a deeper tone and more durability.

The top 3 drum head companies are Evans, Aquarian, and Remo. Each company has some unique products that provide specific edges and improvements. So, let’s have a look.

Best Bass Drum Heads for an Improved Kick Drum Sound

The Evans EMAD2 head has a 2-ply surface that delivers a great balance of power, punchiness, and low end. It’s a bass drum head designed to produce a thick sound that sits well in rock, metal, and gospel settings.

The sound it produces is very full with a lot of attack. This basically means it sounds similar to a basketball bouncing on a hard surface. It has a sort of “pre EQ’d” sound that many drummers love. That sound isn’t for everyone, though, as it’s quite aggressive. 

The head has an externally mounted dampening system, meaning you can change the amount of attack it has. Some drummers aren’t fans of that sharp sound, but they still want the low-end punch.

I’ve found that I only use one of the rings when I use the EMAD2. The other one always tends to get lost. However, I think it’s great that Evans provides you with 3 voice options when you first buy the head.

The dampening system comes in the form of 2 foam rings. These can be placed on the head fairly easily and give you versatile sound options. These foam rings also mean you don’t need to place pillows inside the bass drum, giving you a true sound.

I’ve found that I only use one of the rings when I use the EMAD2. The other one always tends to get lost. However, I think it’s great that Evans provides you with 3 voice options when you first buy the head.

If you’re a hard-hitter looking for a deep tone, the EMAD2 is a wonderful option. The biggest downside this head has is the reputation for some of them breaking before their time.

I have quite a few friends who claim the EMAD2 isn’t very durable. However, I’ve had one on my kick drum for a long time and I’ve had no issue at all. It just means that some EMAD2s are slightly faulty.

The aggressive nature of this head means it works best in particular situations. If you’re thinking of getting a bass drum head for your jazz drum kit, I wouldn’t get this one. Overall, these EMAD2 heads sound killer in rock and metal bands and are fantastic if you can make them last longer.

PROS

  • Good balance of power, punchiness, and low-end
  • Externally mounted dampening system
  • Good choice for rock, metal, and gospel

CONS

  • Not great for jazz
  • Some users complain about the EMAD2's durability

I saw Eric Moore playing on one of these when I was younger, and I was convinced that I’d be able to play as fast as him if I got one for myself.

While that couldn’t be further from the truth, the Aquarian Superkick is an incredibly solid bass drum head that opens you up to fast playing and clean kicks.

It’s common to see metal drummers using Aquarian heads. The reason for this is that they produce some highly durable products that deliver a clean sound. The Superkick II follows this trend, having a thick 2-ply surface that allows highly intricate bass notes to be heard.

The tone is sharp and focused. It makes the bass drum extremely easy to be mixed by a sound guy and will be heard clearly no matter how big the venue is. When mic’d up, it produces a thundering wall of sound that is perfect for heavy styles.

Similar to the EMAD, the Superkick muffles the bass drum enough so that no extra internal muffling is needed. This is true even in live venue situations, making this head a valuable tool.

One standout feature of it is the durability. You’ll be playing it for a seriously long time before it shows any sort of wear and tear. After getting one of these bass drum heads after watching Eric Moore, it stayed on my bass drum for years before I changed it to something else.

It’s fairly loud, so I wouldn’t suggest getting it if you’re planning on playing gigs in local coffee shops or at wedding canapes.

PROS

  • Extremely clean tone
  • Easy to be mixed by a sound engineer
  • No extra muffling needed

CONS

  • Too loud for quiet venues

The Remo Silentstroke bass drum head is designed with the specific purpose of keeping noise levels down. You won’t be able to use it at a gig, but you’ll be able to practice drums late into the night without bothering anyone around you.

It has a mesh surface that feels like an authentic drum head but lowers the volume by about 70%. Typically, drummers will use electronic drum kits to get around any sound issues.

E-kits are great for what they are, but they don’t feel like acoustic drums. This makes the Silentstroke head the best choice for anyone wanting to practice technique while still having an authentic feel.

When the Silentstroke heads were first released, I was incredibly surprised at how authentic they felt. I don’t think you can find a better practice option than using a set of Silentstroke heads on your kit.

My main concern was how the bass drum would handle it. Bass drums typically produce the most noise no matter what you do to them. However, this head brought the sound level down to the same as all the other drums.

It keeps the tone of the bass drum, meaning you’ll still get a slight sound from your drums. If you pair this head up with some more silent heads for the rest of the kit and some silent cymbals, you’ll have a full practice kit ready to go.

The Silentstroke also works well for a trigger setup. Connecting your bass drum to an electronic drum module with a trigger will give you different sound options. It’s a good alternative to having an electronic drum kit.

The one gripe I had with the Silentstroke head was that I had to change heads every time I wanted to use my kit in a real situation. The solution was to buy a second kit to permanently house the silent head. I understand not everyone can afford to do this, though. So, it can get a bit annoying when you need to constantly change and tune your drums.

PROS

  • Great for practicing and keeping noise levels down
  • Feels authentic
  • Works well with triggers

CONS

  • Not designed for live gigging

Resonant drum heads are arguably the most overlooked pieces of drum gear. They’re the heads that are attached to the bottom side of every drum and they control how much the drums resonate. When looking at bass drum reso heads, not much can beat the EMAD.

It’s criminally underrated how much this reso head can improve the sound of your bass drum. If you’re looking for something more from your kick, but you’ve done everything you can at the front-end, it could be time to look to the back.

The EMAD reso produces a lot of low-end punch, adding to the beefiness of your bass drum. Paired with the EMAD batter, you got yourself a seriously good sounding bass drum. This isn’t to say you can’t pair it with anything else. It’ll work wonders with most batter heads. The EMAD resonant head is fairly easy to tune, making it easier to get a great sound from the kick.

The best feature is the kick port. This small circular cutout allows you to place a microphone inside the bass drum. I’m not too sure why, but most drum kits don’t come with resonant bass drum heads that have mic cutouts in them. You either need to cut that out yourself or get a new reso head that has a ready-made kick port.

Mics placed inside will allow you to have more control over the sound of the bass in the mix. If you arrive at a gig with a head like this, the sound engineer will thank you dearly. I’ve had too many situations where a sound engineer got frustrated because the bass drum I brought with me was harder to mic nicely.

The only thing I don’t like about this resonant bass drum head is that the kick port is situated awkwardly close to the ground.

It’s no problem if you’re using a bass drum mic on a boom stand. However, you’d need to rotate the head around for a mic on a dedicated bass drum mic stand to fit. In turn, this would make the Evans logo look skew which isn’t aesthetically pleasing.

Overall, the smooth black finish of the head will give the front of your kit a professional appearance. If you want to add the final touch of sound improvement to your bass drum, get yourself an EMAD resonant head.

PROS

  • Makes the bass drum easier to tune
  • Has a kick port
  • Sleek black finish

CONS

  • Kick port may be too low to the ground for some mic setups

The Powerstroke P3 is one of Remo’s most popular bass drum heads. It delivers a deep tone that is fairly focused without being overbalanced. It has a thin underlay around the edges that dampens high-frequencies, giving you a completely deep sound.

Being a single-ply head, it sounds a bit more open than the previous heads on the list. This makes it great for drummers who love that large resonating sound. If the Evans EMAD2 was a bit too focused and aggressive for your taste, I’d suggest giving this P3 Clear a go.

Included with the head is a white falam patch for your bass drum beater. The patch increases the attack of the bass drum. If you don’t want more attack, you don’t need to use it. But, it’s great that Remo gives you the option. I also found that the included patch greatly extended the lifetime of the head.

I love how versatile this head is. I’ve seen so many different drummers use it in a variety of settings, proving that it’s a fantastic head for jazz, hip-hop, pop, or even country. The high-end attack along with the low-end punch makes it feel great to play. If you need something that works for everything, this is the head for you.

I wouldn’t suggest getting this head if you like to play your bass drum very hard. It’s only durable to a certain point. After that, you’re going to find yourself replacing bass drum heads very quickly.

If you like the sound but need more durability with a bit more attack, the Remo Powerstroke P4 is the next product in Remo’s bass drum line to checkout.

PROS

  • Extremely versatile
  • Includes a bass drum patch that adds more attack
  • Feels great to play

CONS

  • Not ideal for very hard hitters

Remo’s Ambassador drum heads are marketed as the most recorded drum heads in the world, meaning they’re extremely popular in studio situations. This Ambassador drum head has a single-ply surface that will accurately reflect the tone of your bass drum.

It has a great balance of attack and tone, giving you a warm sound thanks to the coated surface. It’s best suited for jazz drumming as it has a lot of sustain. Bass drums in jazz are meant to sing and resonate for a good while.

My favorite thing about the Ambassador is that it can be used as a batter or resonant head.

I’ve had a few scenarios in the past where I wanted to use something different on my bass drum, but I was able to move the Ambassador from the batter to the resonant side and it lived on as a reso head. It’s a bit thin to be used as a batter in heavy styles, but it works wonders as a resonant head. It’s perfect as a batter head for softer playing.

If you’re looking for a new batter head, I’d only recommend getting this one for jazz drumming. It’s incredibly responsive and it reacts well to bass drum feathering. It also brings out the true tone of what your bass drum sounds like without adding any muffling to it.

If you’re playing rock or something similar, this head will suit you better as a resonant head. It’s great that it can be used as both. It means it’s a versatile head that every drummer can benefit from.

PROS

  • Can be used as a batter or resonant head
  • Highly popular
  • Warm resonating tone

CONS

  • Not great as a batter head for hard hitters

Single vs Double-Ply Drum Heads

The biggest thing you need to look for in drum heads is whether they have one or two plies. This is especially important in bass drum heads as the sound you want could be determined by the type of head you have.

Two-ply heads are thicker and arguably the most popular option when it comes to bass drum heads. The reason for this is that most people are accustomed to having a solid bass drum sound that resembles a quick thud. They require less muffling within the bass drum itself and generally feel very solid to play on.

Single-ply heads, on the other hand, are a lot thinner and more dynamic. They won’t sound as meaty as a two-ply head. However, they’ll make your bass drum sound rounder and warmer. They give your bass drum a vintage tone that was very popular in the 20th century. You’ll hear many drummers with this sound today as well.

I’ve found that two-ply heads are a bit easier to play on for beginners. The amount of response they give when connecting with the pedal is minimal compared to one-ply heads. Single-ply heads make the beater bounce a bit more.

I have two drum kits in my teaching classroom. One of them has a single-ply head while the other has a double. My beginner students always gravitate towards the thicker head as they say it feels better for them. This is a big reason to why you’ll see mostly pros playing on single-ply bass drum heads.

Another thing to note is that two-ply heads work exceptionally well on entry-level drum sets. They help to muffle the harsh overtones and bring about a great overall sound. Single-ply heads will always sound better on high-end kits that have beautiful high-end tones.

Heads for Different Styles of Music

The next thing to think about is what style of music you’re playing on the drums. Certain styles require specific tones from the bass drum. The most demanding style would be jazz. The typical jazz drum kit sound would include having single-ply heads on all the drums. The booming bass drum sound is easiest to achieve when you have a single-ply bass drum head.

Driving styles such as rock, metal, and funk benefit from having a double-ply bass drum head. Having one of those is especially important in metal music because of all the quick double pedal patterns. A single-ply head would feel too loose to comfortably play repeating notes.

Other than those specific styles, I’ve found both types of heads to work in most situations. It just comes down to how you want your bass drum to sound. You could make a tight kick drum work really well in a Latin band. You could make a booming and open kick drum work surprisingly well too.

I always keep a single and double-ply bass drum head lying around so that I can switch heads according to the gig. You could survive without doing that, but I’ve found that going the extra mile with my drum sound always makes a big difference at the end of the day.

Durability

If you’re someone who plays the bass drum incredibly hard, you need to get a double-ply head. There’s no way around it, unfortunately. I have a hard rock drummer friend who liked the sound of a popular single-ply head. He went through so many of them so quickly that he eventually had to accept defeat and go with a double-ply head that could handle his hard playing.

If you’re looking for durability, a double-ply head will always last longer than a single-ply one will. Drummers who play on single-ply heads generally don’t dig their beaters into the skin, causing the heads to last just as long. However, they’re not going to last long if you’re playing constant four-on-the-floor drum beats.

Bass drum heads are the most expensive drum heads to replace, so it’s important that you get one that fits your playing style and will be durable enough to handle what you have in store for it. I always sigh when I see the prices of bass drum heads nowadays.

Which Drum Head Brand to Choose?

As I said earlier, the three leading drum head brands are Evans, Remo, and Aquarian. These are the titans of the drum head industry and not many brands have even come close to what they offer.

If you’re wondering which three of these brands you should go with, I don’t have a definite answer for you. My solution for choosing a drum brand is always to go watch videos of drummers I like that use them and see what their opinions are about the brand. I always think that if that drummer that I look up to loves that, maybe I will too.

My favorite drummers that use Evans heads are Larnell Lewis, Anika Nilles, and Matt Halpern. Famous drummers that use Remo heads would be Chad Smith, Taylor Hawkins, and Aric Improta. The two biggest Aquarian artists I know are Mike Johnston and Eric Moore.

After seeing names like those, you can watch videos of the drummers playing the heads and discover if they’re using a bass drum head that will suit what you’re looking for. This is the process I suggest you follow if you’re not loyal to a single brand. If you’re loyal to a brand, just keep going with that brand. All three drum head brands offer excellent heads.

Conclusion

When thinking about upgrading your drum heads, the snare and bass drums are the two most important factors. These are the drums that you play the most, so they need to sound the best. The toms can come later.

Having a solid bass drum sound can really affect how well you play. I’ve often sat behind a house kit and struggled to play well because of the low-quality bass drum head.

If you're looking to get the best bass drum head to suit your playing, consider getting one of the heads on this list. It'll hopefully improve the tone and feel of your bass drum dramatically.

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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