I’ve always had a bit of trouble differentiating what different tom heads sound like. However, I’ve come to know and hear the subtle differences over time. While I typically have a sound that I go for every time I change my heads, I’ve been lucky enough to test out a few options over the years.
I’m going to use my experiences to help you decide which tom heads will be the best option for you. There are several fantastic options to consider, but I’ve narrowed them down to five. Let’s check them out.
5 of My Favorite Tom Head Packs
The Evans EC2 Clears are a highly popular tom head choice. They’re thick drum heads that give your toms powerful attacking tones that sound great live and in the studio. There are a few reasons I love these heads.
Firstly, I found that they cut out most of the high overtones from the toms and then accent the low-end tones. This makes the toms sound quite powerful which is great for styles like rock and metal. I’ve seen so many hard-hitting drummers use these heads because of this.
Another thing I found is that you don’t need much effort to get a fantastic sound with these. They tune up incredibly easily. The tuning also holds well no matter the environment you’re in.
I’ve played on a kit in an air-conditioned room and then outside in the scorching sun, and the EC2s sounded the exact same in both settings. They’re a top option for anyone with an entry-level drum set. One of the best ways to enhance the sound of a cheaper kit is to use high-quality drum heads.
Since these are easy to tune and bring out the low-end punch of your toms, your cheaper kit will sound much better than it was originally worth.
With that being said, I know some drummers who don’t like these heads because they cut off too much of the natural tone of the toms. This only seems to be the case with higher-end kits.
The top-quality drum kits typically have toms that sing beautifully, and the EC2s won’t let them sing like they’re supposed to.
So, keep that in mind if you have a pro-level drum set. These probably aren’t the best option for you if you don’t play rock and metal, in that case.
Remo’s Emperor Coated tom heads are another favorite of many drummers. They have a fairly resonant tone with a soft and buttery feel to them when you play. They’re one of my favorite options when it comes to coated drum heads.
I’ve found the key feature of the Emperor Coated heads to be durability. They hold their tone for an incredibly long time, and they don’t show signs of wear and tear very quickly.
I’d suggest getting these if you have a practice room or teaching studio where you don’t plan on changing tom heads very often. They’ll probably last you longer than the other tom heads on this list.
One thing I love about these heads is that you can crank them quite tightly, yet you’ll still hear a lot of low end from the toms. This is thanks to the 2 plies. You also get great stick definition and decent sustain. The sound is a bit more round than any heads that only have 1 ply.
While they work well for most styles of music, these were the tom heads of choice for John Bonham. When the most popular rock drummer in the world has these as his heads, it leads other rock drummers to follow suit. However, you shouldn’t underestimate their versatility.
Since they’re coated heads, they work fairly well in jazz settings as well. So, they’re a good option to go with if you play multiple styles of music.
I don’t have anything bad to say about them. They’re a solid choice for your toms. You may just need something else if you’re looking for highly specific features.
These were my go-to heads for a long time when I was heavily into rock drumming. They always made my Pearl Export toms sound massive. I’ve been using higher-quality drums since then, but I know that the Pinstripes will have the same effect on my current toms.
These heads will make your toms sound deep and powerful. They’ll also give an overall warm tone that works best in the lower tuning ranges. I’d say that they’re Remo’s version of the EC2s from Evans. However, they have a few slight differences that may lead you to choose them instead.
I found that they have a wonderful singing tone when you tune your toms well. If your tuning is a bit off, they sound quite flat. I personally love the flat tone, but I know many drummers who don’t. That flat tone reminds me of drum kits from the 60s and 70s where the toms had almost no sustain.
Similar to the EC2s, these heads are fantastic for cheaper drum kits as they tend to drastically elevate the sounds of the toms. My Pearl Export was an entry-level drum set, but these Pinstripes made it sound like a world-class kit ready to be played in a large stadium.
The big problem that I have with these heads is that they have a paper-like feel and sound if you don’t put any muffling on them. It almost feels wobbly when your stick hits the surface. Add some Moongel or tape and that feeling disappears completely.
So, they’re not the best option for someone who doesn’t want to muffle their toms at all. Otherwise, they’re great heads that will make your toms sound huge.
The Evans G2 Coated heads are my current go-to choice for the toms on my main drum kit. I found that these are a lot more versatile than the EC2s, giving you much more depth in tonal options. Their overall tone is quite balanced, so you can tune them high or low and still get a rich sound.
Speaking of tuning, they’re easy to tune as well. Since they’re 2-ply heads, you don’t need to worry about too many overtones as they cut them out quite easily.
I’ve always thought of the G2 Coated heads as heads that give you the texture and benefit of thin coated heads, but also give the easy tuning and durability, thanks to their second ply.
They’re incredibly versatile. I’ve played a few rock shows with these on my toms, and I’ve managed to get powerful and deep tones. I’ve also played some jazz and tuned them fairly high. They sang beautifully in the higher tuning.
The biggest thing that I love about these heads is how they don’t need much dampening. I’ve almost never used dampening on the rack toms, and I typically just put one piece of tape or Moongel on the floor tom.
The closest competitor to the G2s would be the Remo Emperor Coated heads. In comparison, the G2s give you a dry sound with slightly less sustain.
I can’t see everyone being a fan of that dry sound. So, I’d suggest looking for comparisons between the two similar head choices and deciding which ones you think would suit you best.
Since the previous four options are fairly similar with a few small differences, I thought it would be good to put something highly unique as the last option. Evans introduced the Hydraulic Series a few years ago, and these heads have become very popular since then.
You’re either going to love or hate these heads on your toms as the effect they have on the drums is quite drastic. They completely eliminate all the overtones of the toms, giving you thick and thuddy sounds.
They’re 2-ply heads with a thin oil layer of film between the two plies. That layer acts as the dampening tool, and it dampens the toms much more than a few pieces of tape would. The result of this is a very short sound.
I’ve seen so many Gospel drummers use these heads as that short sound is perfect for busy playing around the toms. I think Metal drummers would benefit from using them as well.
The other hit or miss aspect of these heads is the color. The most common option that I’ve seen drummers using is red. However, you can also get the heads in black, blue, or glass.
If you’re a traditionalist and you want standard drum heads, you probably won’t like the vibrant aesthetic of these. On the contrary, you may end up loving the unique dynamic that these heads add to your kit.
One downside I’ve found is that they eliminate a bit of the rebound on the toms. If you have them in the same tuning as the other tom heads on the list, they’ll feel a bit softer and harder to play fast notes on.
Things to Note When Choosing Tom Heads
Clear vs Coated Toms
The biggest debate every drummer has with themselves when choosing whether to get clear or coated heads. While the answer will be coated most of the time when getting a snare head, you have more room for choice when it comes to the toms.
Coated heads will give you more stick definition from your toms. Clear heads will sound warmer and give off an overall rounder tone. Typically, clear heads sound better in lower tunings, so they’re great options for rock drummers.
Coated heads are more versatile, so they give you more room for different tunings when playing different styles of music.
I always go for coated heads on my toms, mostly for aesthetic reasons. I’ve found that when I’m making videos, the LED lighting reflects too much off clear heads, making it difficult to work around them. So, coated heads are the answer for video purposes.
That’s a small practical reason for my tom head choice. You’ll find that you will have your own reasons for choosing which type of heads to get. Stick with those and you’ll be happy with what you eventually decide on.
Thickness and Muffling
Thickness and muffling are other things that you should always consider when choosing new tom heads. This also depends on what drum set you currently have. If you have a cheaper entry-level set, you should get thick drum heads such as the Evans EC2s or Remo Pinstripes.
Those thicker heads tend to elevate the tone of cheaper drums. If you get thinner heads, you’ll find yourself adding a fair bit of muffling to each tom to eliminate the unwanted ringing sounds.
You won’t have the same problem with intermediate and pro drum sets. You have a bit more room to choose your tom heads. In this case, you should decide how much natural tone you want coming from your drums.
If you want as much as possible, you should get the thinnest heads. Just note that they won’t last as long as thick heads. You have to juggle all these factors when buying tom heads.
Drum Head Brands
Evans and Remo are the two main players in the drum head game. Aquarian follows closely behind. You would have noticed that the options I put on the list from each company directly rivaled each other.
Your choice of which heads to get should be dependent on how you like their sound, but also on how much you like the company.
If you buy tom heads from a particular brand, the chances are high that you’ll do it again in the future. So, it’s a good idea to see what the brand is all about and to check out everything they offer.
Developing a bit of loyalty to a brand is a great way to make your decision between the two types of tom heads that are mostly the same.
How Often Should You Change Tom Heads?
This depends on how often you play your drums. Professional drummers who play gigs every night will change their tom heads once a week. Casual drummers who only play every now and then may never change their tom heads at all. You should find a balance between those two extremes.
I typically change the tom heads of the drum kit in my teaching space once a year. I do this because the drum kit doesn’t get used for many performances. Rather, it’s mostly used as a teaching tool. This means that it doesn’t have to sound the best it can all the time.
If you need your kit to sound top-quality all the time, you’ll need to change the tom heads more often. A general consensus is to change them every 3 to 6 months.
Resonant Tom Heads
Resonant heads are the drum heads that go on the bottom of the drums. While they’re often forgotten about, reso heads play a massive role in getting a great tone from your toms.
You can get away with using the stock heads that came with your drums for the most part but replacing the stock resonant heads may just be what you need to get the best tom sound.
You’d need to get a set of single-ply heads for the bottom sides of your toms. 2-ply heads would cut off too much of the sustain and end up killing the tone. Some good options for resonant heads would be Remo Ambassadors or Evans G1s.
I highly recommend experimenting with different tom drum heads. It’s the best way to find out which heads you like the most. You’ll realize that you always come back to them, showing you how much they work for you and the settings you play in.
Changing your tom heads is the best way to bring life back into your tom sounds after a while. Whether you do it often or only once a year, a new set of tom heads will always surprise you in how much they make your toms sound better.
So, weigh up all your options and carefully select which heads you think will suit your toms the best. If you don’t end up liking them, try a different set the next time you change your heads.