The Best Bass Drums: Reviews & Buying Guide For Drum Shell, Drum Head - Rolling Stone
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The Best Bass Drums

Playing in a band and want to bring the beat? You’re going to need a bass drum.

best bass drums

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To really bring the beat in a sound system, you’re going to want to invest in a subwoofer. But to bring the beat if you’re playing in a band, you’re going to need a bass drum.

As an integral part of a basic drum kit (along with a snare, hi-hats and cymbals), a bass drum (or kick drum) is typically the largest member of your percussion family, used to bring lower pitches and to add a punchy thump to your sound mix.

“The bass drum and snare drum are just like husband and wife,” says Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, the drummer for Of Monsters and Men. “They communicate with each other. The kick drum provides the deeper thumping tones that drive the songs and the snare drum is the snappy drum that adds a back beat.”

While bass drums come in a number of sizes, a standard bass drum is most commonly between 20-22 inches in diameter. (Bass drums in an orchestra or in a drum line will be much bigger, but for the purposes of this article we’ll refer to a kick drum in a rock band-style setup).

Bass drums are comprised of a cylindrical shell (typically made of wood), with a drum head that is “struck” using a mallet attached to a foot pedal. Because the bass drum is controlled by your feet, it’s placed on the floor, at the bottom of a drum kit. Look for bass drums that come with “feet” that help stabilize and secure it so it doesn’t shift when you’re kicking away.

These days, you can find a number of solid bass drums online. Hilmarsson suggests going “for one with a deep warm tone,” and to “go for the bigger sizes that are not very deep in width.” Consider a portable bass drum if you’re going to be traveling a lot or if you don’t have a ton of space. You’ll also want to find a grippy and fluid foot pedal if your drum kit doesn’t come with one. The only thing to do after that is to put your drum kit together and let loose.

“Drums are the backbone of the band and the most expressive instrument you can play,” Hilmarsson says. “It gets the heart going and turns the body on. It’s a release and an outlet to let off steam.”

1. Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Bass Drum

Part of Yamaha’s popular “Stage Custom” series, this Custom Birch Bass Drum is ideal for beginners and pros alike, delivering loud, muscular sound. Yamaha says the rounded bearing edges allow for more head to shell contract, which in turn allows for fuller, fatter sound.

The wood is thick and solid, and the included leg stoppers keep the drum firmly planted on the ground. Die-cast bass drum claw hooks help hold your hoop and pull it tight to the shell. 

Handsome birch shells and a beautiful amber finish help take this stage-ready drum to the next level. (Note: this set doesn’t come with a kick/foot pedal).

PROS: Easy to set-up and tune.

CONS: Some users say the drum head is not as sensitive as other models on this list and you have to hit it pretty hard to generate decent sound.


Courtesy Amazon


Buy: Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Bass Drum at

2. DW Design Series Maple Pancake Bass Drum

Get big bass without the backache with this portable “Pancake” Bass Drum from DW.

Made from real North American maple, the wood is sanded, shaped and glued together, then pressed in high-heat molds followed by a cooling process immediately after to crystallize the glue. The result is a drum that keeps its shape and resonance, with no “tinniness” or airiness.

Despite its small size — the drum measures 20 inches in diameter and under three inches thick — this bass drum churns out surprisingly big, rich sound. Place a mic close by to really amplify the sound.

DW’s claw-hook spur system helps to lock the drum in place, keeping it stable even with the kick pedal going. When you’re ready to pack up and go, the hooks are easily removed.

PROS: A ton of thump for its size.

CONS: Sound won’t be as loud as a traditionally-sized bass drum, but adding a mic will boost it easily.

dw-design-bass-drum pancake portable review

Courtesy of Amazon


Buy: DW Design Series Maple Pancake Bass Drum at $279.99

3. Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head

This drum head is from Evans’ EMAD series, which features an externally mounted adjustable damping system (hence the EMAD acronym). The result: get better control of the tone and focus of your drum head thanks to two, removable foam rings. The adjustable damping gets you a thinner ring for punchier attack and a wider foam ring which maximizes the low end to really bring the bass.

Evans’ “Level 360 collar” helps the drum head slot easily into most drum shells for a stable, secure fit. Less wobbling means more consistent, reliable sound and easy tuning.

PROS: Two different foam damping ring options for different sound options. All Evans drum heads are made in the USA.

CONS: This is just the drum head, not the full bass drum.


Courtesy of Amazon


Buy: Evans EMAD2 Clear Bass Drum Head at $46.99


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