The statement that drum heads are critical to a drummer’s sound and performance is not a novel proposition. But finding the right head and making it work for you in any environment or venue is a different story. Recently, I was captivated by a promo video that I saw of monster drummer Eric Moore. I know that Eric is very talented and in my mind he could probably make tupperware sound good however, I could not help but notice these interesting drum heads that Eric was playing. Then a light went off when I recognized where the promo video was shot; it was Aquarian Drumhead’s facility in Anaheim, California.
My next step was to place a call with Chris Brady, Aquarian Drumhead’s kwan and Mr. Burns’ (as in drum legend Roy Burns) right hand man. After giving me some basic information about these heads (which I came to learn are called Aquarian’s “Reflector” series), Chris asked if I wanted to try them to which I said, “sure.” Drum heads take on a special importance to me because I am not a national artist. I usually don’t even have a sound crew. In fact, for many of the venues that I play in with The Phil Engel Band we typically only mic the kick drum. So, I expect any drum head I use to do a lot of things for me such as getting a rich sound that can carry in a somewhat large room. It also has to be durable because with Summer coming we will be working a steady 3-4 nights a week on the Jersey Shore (one of busiest cover circuits in the country) and many of those gigs will be outside in the heat and elements. Finally, for the larger outdoor gigs, I will need a head that will be responsive to the whim of a finicky soundman who is miking my drums. That last concern is a big one because I never let duct tape anywhere near my drums (it is a favorite of some sound guys) so I rely on the the drum head to sound good miked or not.
Upon receiving these heads–which are very pleasing to the eye–I immediately noticed the “feel” of the heads themselves in my hands. The Reflector heads are 2 ply so there is some meat to them (the top layer is 7 mil and the bottom is 10mil). They are not going to break easy which is a good start but by the same token, by their “feel” I could tell they would sound great if that makes any sense. Next, I applied the heads to my drums and followed Chris Brady’s suggestion on tuning them (i.e., watch Eric Moore’s video). What I loved about how Aquarian distributes their products is that each head came with 2 T-Tabs which is my favorite Aquarian product. The T-Tab looks like a band-aid and it really helps fine tune out any overtones in either the batter or resonant head. Each head also came with a “duraDOT” which is essentially a circular dot with adhesive to the back of it. The “duraDOT,” like the T-Tab, can be stuck anywhere on the head and it is reusable.
Although you can really manipulate your sound with either a T-Tab or duraDOT, I did not need either. The head performed beautifully without any need for sound control. But, in the spirit of adventure, I thought I would try applying Aquarian’s industry-leading sound controls devices. I found that if you are in a big hall where the sound “bounces,” so to speak, and basically your drums ring if you even look at them, you can virtually manipulate your Reflector head any way you want to. It’s a strange dynamic because with Aquarian’s Reflector heads they almost go through 2 processes of tuning; the first is traditional tuning to make sure that the drum is tuned to your preferences as a player and the second process involves the application of Aquarian’s sound control devices (i.e., T-Tab or duraDOT) to remove any overtones or “ringing” that traditional tuning might not resolve.
The end result is that these heads are more susceptible of tuning by the player than virtually any other heads on the market. So, in light of all their capabilities and adjustments how did they sound? Phenomenal. The Reflector series heads provide depth, punch, and attack, all without unwanted overtones. And here’s the best part. With Aquarian’s superb sound control products, I can make changes virtually on the fly. The T-Tabs and duraDOTS are easily removable and reusable. There also is no sacrifice in the power of these heads. They cut through and basically can be modified for the needs of any player. So, do I recommend them? You bet. No questions asked. You will love them–I sure did.