Tom head attack?


Mar 24, 2020
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Hi Folks— currently, I have tom heads that’s are two ply white uncoated (the stock heads from DW). I usually play w/ isolating headphones (35db). However, when I take the headphones off, I hear too much click/plastic attack out of the heads. Is that the nature of sitting behind the drums.. playing technique etc? Tuning? Or is it related to an extent to the heads?

Was wondering if there are heads that would be less of what I hear w/o the headphones, and more.. well, I don’t know how to describe it. Less click and more ‘tone’? I do love the sound of Gavin Harrison’s drums on ‘What Happens Now’ (0m:50s) on his ‘Cheating the Polygraph’ album. I found this that indicates he uses ‘Emperor Vintage’ in this video, but obviously have no idea if that is what he used on “What Happens Now”. He also doesn’t specify that he’s using Coated, but according to Remo’s site, the Emporer Vintage only come in Clear or Coated (no smooth white). Does the coating reduce the attack / “click”.

Anyway.. curious any input on the above drum heads.. examples of how different heads sound on the same toms, etc.



DFO Star
Aug 7, 2005
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Jeannette, Pa.
single coated 1-ply were the first step away from calf- so if you want as natural and rich as possible- don't stray too far ; ) from the first step away from calf if you want a rich natural sound


Well-Known Member
Aug 25, 2009
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Hey welcome aboard! What you are hearing with headphones is basically a compressed sound. (Compression makes the soft sounds loud and the loud sounds soft). So when you take
the phones off, your ears are very sensitive to the uncompressed sound. So that click/plastic sound becomes pronounced to the sensitive ear. Clear heads will cut or project more than a coated
head (which is why I like to use clear heads live). Especially when I'm not mic'ed up.
You may be looking for a warmer tone and the coated heads will give you that, especially a 2ply coated type. (The amount of plys in the head will also warm up the tone) If, however, you're use to playing with headphones, or ear protection, the drums will sound much sharper to your ears immediately after removing the headphones or ear protection and you might not like the sound you're hearing.
Your ears may "need a rest" or time to re-acclimate when this happens.
You're also correct in realizing the drums sound different behind the kit than out front. Many guys that play live don't seem to get this concept and for that reason, their 3000. set of drums
sound no better than an beginner set. But guys who do understand this, can make a cheaper set sound real good and a good set sound great.
Have a buddy come over and play your kit while you stand out in front and away from it to hear the difference. Also note that the room the drums are in play a big part in the overall sound of a kit.
Another cool trick is to keep the heads you have and put some O-rings (or make your own from old used heads) and see how the drums muffle down almost to the point of being the sound you hear with your headphones on. I do this for very small room rehearsals and like to ad a piece of gaffers tape to each cymbal too. This creates a nice blend between the drums and cymbals. The band will appreciate it too!
Lastly, and sorry for being long winded, but it's very hard to recreate a sound you like from a record, cd, etc. because of the filters in the mics and the recording process. You may get close, but remember, a live instrument in just that, live and raw. So that's why it's hard to duplicate a sound you like. Even with the same gear as the artist, it'll still sound a bit different. With some trial and experiments, you'll get the sound you're looking for, but remember, that's the sound that works in your room and situation. When playing live, this may not work for a good sound.
A lot of drummers fall into the trap of muffling their kits up at home (to reproduce that recorded sound they like), then take those same drums to a gig resulting in a flat or dead sound with no projection instead of a full, round sound with good projection.
All the best!
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DFO Veteran
Apr 11, 2013
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Great answer above.
What I would like to say is rather short: learn to tune the drum to maximum tone as opposed to overtones and attack. This means making sure the pitch is the same at all t-rods, then finding a relation between top and bottom head that produces the most resonance. I would start with the same pitch top and bottom, rather medium-tight, then gradually lowering the batter head until the tone is maximized. Maybe tune both head lower after that, but in general maxium tone is not achieved with the lowest tuning.
As Joe mentioned, coated Ambassador or G1 can do this, no 2-ply, o-rings, moon gel necessary.