Choosing a synthesized drum machine can be a challenging task with the many options that are available. Many times, the decision for what is best can be attributed to user preference. However, when it comes to digital drum machines, the feel of the drum surface can be the deciding factor for most drummers.
Many times the person who needs a digital drum kit is the person who is seeking the ability to practice without disturbing the world around them. In addition, someone who is working on recording may be in the marking for the best mesh heads.
Both of these examples would benefit from having a drum set that feels similar to what they would be playing live in a show or concert. Mesh drum heads provide that feel so that the user is getting the full effect and response from the drum heads.
The Evolution of Mesh Heads
When digital drum kits were originally established, various materials were used in their fabrication. These materials include rubber and other various coated materials to provide a realistic feel and feedback of an acoustic drum while simultaneously creating the digital signal to produce sounds.
In the late 1990s, as technology was evolving with digital drum machines, one leading manufacturer created a design to include using mesh drum pads. The mesh they designed was initially a double layer of stretched mesh with sensors to pick up strikes of the sticks. As these pads were smaller than the acoustic version, they did have more bounce than their acoustic counterpart, but the overall feel was remarkably similar; better than rubber had ever achieved.
The Benefits of Mesh Heads
Using mesh drum heads provide a different response than its predecessor of the rubber pads. One of the innovations was the ability to tighten the heads to a user’s preference, similar to that of an acoustic nature. This means that you would need a drum key to physically loosen or tighten the mesh head. This same tool would be required to replace the mesh head on your kit. Over the course of each drum head’s lifespan, these heads may require additional tightening due to the mesh weakening and stretching from prolonged use. This tightening may be more frequent depending upon the quantity of use.
Designs of Mesh Heads
Since the rapid growth of mesh drum heads on the market, different manufacturers have begun presenting different sizes and styles of mesh designs. These designs provide drummers with variables to consider. Some manufacturers have opted to go with a single layer of thicker mesh, and some have even went as far as three layers of woven mesh to achieve the best mesh drum head.
Some users report that the lifespan of the drum heads has been shorter when using single-ply heads versus double or even three-layer drum heads. The lifespan could also be attributed to the drumstick selection as well.
The Best Mesh Heads
The question remains as to what is the best mesh head available on today’s market. Nearly any internet search for a digital drum kit or mesh head for a digital kit will point you back to the same three manufacturers who all can be attributed with the technological advancements of the digital drum kits.
Simmons, Roland, and Yamaha have all provided technological advancements in the field, and their products can be seen in any web search. Additionally, their products can be seen used on many stages across the world.
Roland and Yamaha have become the most prevalent of the three. Both companies offer comparable digital drum kits to provide professional quality percussion. The downside for Yamaha is that their comparable sets do not include a mesh head. Instead, their sets include a silicone coated pad which does not have the same characteristics.
With many smaller companies emerging in the 2000s that provide alternatives to the bigger named companies, both Roland and Yamaha have continued to evolve their presence by making newer models with advanced features to continue to set themselves apart.
Roland Mesh Heads
The Roland company was the first to implement and release the mesh drum pads and have really perfected the technology along the way. It should be said that many people consider Roland to be one of the top contenders for both quality and performance in both this market as well as synthesized sounds. That being said, many users feel as though the sounds produced by the higher end Yamaha kits is more realistic than the Roland equipment.
Roland’s V-Drums have been produced with mesh pads that were designed by Roland and Remo since the late 1990s. Remo has always been a trusted manufacturer of drum heads and their partnership with Roland helped to put Roland at the forefront for this technology. Roland continues to offer both their hybrid systems and their full drum systems with these mesh heads in various sizes which can be found here.
The Roland TD-1DMK kit includes Roland’s dual-ply mesh heads on the snare and 3 toms. The V-Drums mesh heads that are included in this kit are highly regarded across the music community and almost treated as the standard that all other companies should live up to.
Alesis Mesh Heads
In order to compete with these two power players, companies like Alesis began to produce equipment very similar to the previous owners of the market. While producing equipment, Alesis also found themselves producing mesh drum head systems for their drum sets. Alesis has since made quite a name for themselves as a quality product for a great price. Both Alesis and Roland have an 8 piece drum kit with mesh heads with the same price point, and both setups have similar specifications.
The Alesis Command Mesh Kit is considered great for students, as well as established musicians, as this kit is a full system with features that include built-in sounds, a sequencer for recording, and built-in MIDI functions. The one offering of this kit over Roland’s comparable kit is that this kit offers over 670 polyphony sounds, while the Roland kit only has 256 built in.
Many would not consider this factor significant enough to push this model over Roland’s competitor, but some will find it both intriguing and useful.
Preserving Your Drum’s Mesh Heads
Both of these two competitors mesh drum heads are made from mesh fibers which will yield them susceptible to two weaknesses; picking of material and dirty/dingy look over time. It is not recommended to use metal brushes over either of these mesh heads but rather to use light plastic or wooden brushes with this equipment.
Not only does the metal increase the probability for damaging the head from picking at the mesh material but it would also increase the dirty/dingy look of the head. These mesh heads can be cleaned however it should be mentioned that the Alesis mesh heads are a dark grey/black mesh so this will likely be less of an issue for their heads.
Mix and Match
Some drummers may prefer that their snare drum have a tighter or stiffer feel than the feel of their toms. In order to achieve this, some users are faced to mix and match their setups to obtain the different feels for each drum. You may find in your search that you pair multiple pieces from multiple manufacturers together to achieve the feel and sound that you are looking for.
It is highly recommended to take a trip down to the local music store to see what they have on display and see if they will let you take a test drive on their display model so that you can truly feel and hear their equipment. This could be that way for an individual to make that final decision.
It is difficult to pinpoint an actual winner for the best of mesh heads category, but Roland’s V-Drums mesh heads have been established as the baseline for all others to live up to and that comes for a good reason with Roland being at the front of this digital trend. Roland’s mesh heads are still made in partnership with Remo, and their dual-layer mesh has proven that they hold up to normal playing with both wooden tipped drum sticks and nylon tipped drumsticks.
While some players still question the sound of the Roland digital drum systems, it is quite difficult to find a negative remark on the quality of the Roland V-Drums mesh heads or any other Roland equipment.