Mesh and rubber drum heads are the two main options for electronic drum kits. Rubber was the only option for a long time, but mesh drum heads have become increasingly popular and more affordable. Still, there is a lot of debate between the two types of drum heads, both of which have their unique advantages and drawbacks.
Rubber drum pads are cheaper and easier to find, while their mesh counterparts produce a more natural feeling. Mesh’s heads are also quieter and easier on the player’s arms. They are equally durable, although it’s a bit easier to damage a mesh drum head.
If you’re in the market for a new electronic drum kit and are unsure what to pick, we’ve got you covered. This article will explain the pros and cons of both types of drum heads, so you’ll easily know what the best choice is for you.
Mesh Drum Heads: Pros and Cons
Until recently, mesh drum heads were exclusive to high-end Roland electronic drum kits. After a while, the exclusivity waned steadily, and an increasing number of e-drum manufacturers started creating their version of electronic drums with mesh heads.
They have become quite popular, and there are always new drummers who switch from acoustic to electronic drums because mesh drum heads allow them to practice quietly without changing much in their technique.
There are several reasons why this is happening, so let’s examine what mesh drum heads offer. We’ll also check out what their drawbacks are so you can get the full picture.
Mesh Drum Heads Feel Great
The biggest advantage of mesh drum heads is that they closely mimic how acoustic drum skins behave and feel. Their rebound is rather similar to the one you can find on acoustic drums, and the pads are in different sizes, which makes them more similar to the acoustic ones.
This size similarity is not just there for aesthetics. Since the pads are not all the same size, you won’t have to change your technique to adapt to the new drum kit. You’d be able to play more or less the same way you usually do.
Thus, you could jump right into playing your favorite songs without missing the pads or hitting them on the wrong part.
The rebound these heads offer is similar to what you’d get from an acoustic drum set. The mesh is not hard like plastic or rubber. It is more elastic, much like real drum skins, which means it will behave similarly. This also means less fatigue and pain in your forearms, allowing you to keep playing for much longer.
Mesh drum pads are also tensionable, just like acoustic drum heads. This means you can tweak the tension to make it even closer to what you’re used to on acoustic drums.
The material and the customizability mean that you’ll have an easy time switching from acoustic drums to electronic drums. However, the opposite is also true. If you’re learning how to play on an electronic set with mesh heads, you’ll have a much easier time when you finally sit behind an acoustic set.
Mesh Drum Heads Aren’t Noisy
Even though electronic drums don’t produce any drum sound when they’re not plugged in or when you’re using headphones, there is always some acoustic sound. After all, you’re hitting the pads with sticks, and you can’t do that without making a sound.
Mesh drum heads are full of tiny holes that diffuse vibrations and thus produce less acoustic sound. This diffusion of vibrations also means fewer vibrations will travel to the rooms around you, meaning less noise for your roommates or family members.
If you aim to practice drums with as little noise as possible, you should go for mesh drum heads. You’re not very likely to disturb anyone with your playing if you use these, and you’ll be able to play them anywhere there’s space, even in a dorm room or another similar place where you’re not allowed to make noise.
They Make You Feel Less Tired
Since mesh drum heads diffuse vibrations, fewer of them will travel through your fingers and forearms. This is a huge benefit if you hit the pads hard because you might feel those vibrations in your bones as pain after a while.
Drummers generally report that they feel less pain and fatigue when they use mesh drum heads. If you’re into marathon practice sessions, they might give you an edge and allow you to play longer.
While you won’t exactly get permanent damage from playing other types of electronic drum heads, making your playing as comfortable as possible should always be a goal for you. For that reason, opting for mesh heads is a good option.
Mesh Drum Heads are More Durable
The mesh material these drum heads are made of is relatively soft. However, that doesn’t mean that it is not durable. It can get pierced with a stick if you go ham on it, but that almost never happens. Even if it happens, you can easily replace the drum head and continue playing like nothing happened.
There Is Less Crosstalk With Mesh Drum Heads
Crosstalk occurs when a pad misfires because it reacts to outside noise or vibrations from another pad. This is not always a bad thing. There’s always some crosstalk when using an acoustic drum kit, and you want your electronic drums to behave similarly to your acoustic drums. However, when crosstalk starts to hinder your playing, you have to do something to prevent it.
Using a mesh drum head is a good choice for minimizing or eliminating crosstalk. Since mesh heads dampen the vibrations, fewer of them will travel to the other pads and cause crosstalk. You can also change the gain, sensitivity, and crosstalk settings, but a mesh drum head will ensure that you don’t have to tinker much with that.
Mesh Drum Heads Are Expensive
Even though this type of drum head is not as exclusive as it once was, it’s still high-end technology. They will closely mirror acoustic drums and give you an amazing sound. The material they’re made of is not very easy to produce. This all inflates the price and makes them a less affordable option.
Even when it comes to relatively inexpensive mesh drum heads, they cost roughly twice as much as e-drums with rubber heads. If you’re looking for a high-end electronic drum kit with mesh heads, you’ll probably spend three or four times as much compared to a kit with rubber pads.
If you’re looking for an affordable option, mesh drum heads are not for you. They have many amazing benefits, but those benefits have to come at a very high price, so they are not for everyone.
These Drum Kits Take Up More Space
E-drum kits with mesh heads have pads that are similar in size to actual snares and toms. While this adds to the realism and makes you feel more like you’re playing an acoustic drum kit, it also means that they take up almost as much space.
If you want a drum kit that has a very small footprint because you lack space, a kit with mesh heads probably isn’t for you. While it’s not huge, it’s not easy to squeeze it into any room, either, so you’ll need a few extra inches of space to accommodate it.
Rubber Drum Pads: Pros and Cons
Rubber pads have been around much longer than mesh heads. Even though this is an older technology, seemingly inferior to mesh heads, it is still very widely used by drummers who use e-drums, and some prefer these pads to mesh heads.
Let’s check out the pros and cons of rubber pads and see if they’re worthy of their good reputation and long use.
Rubber Drum Pads Are Affordable
Rubber pads have been around for a long time, they’re not difficult to produce, and there is an abundance of them. In addition, they are not some kind of high-end technology; they’re quite basic in their designs for today’s standards.
All these factors make e-drum kits with rubber pads a very affordable option. This makes them a great choice for beginners and inexperienced players, but also for those who mainly play acoustic drums and only need electronic drums on specific occasions.
You can find a great set of electronic drums with rubber pads for around $400 to $500. If you only want something basic that suits the needs of a total beginner, you can get away with spending even less than that.
While the prices for super high-end rubber pad drum kits go much higher than the range mentioned above, they’re still much more affordable than their mesh head counterparts. Their affordability is a huge part of their continued use and popularity today.
Rubber Pad Electronic Drums Are Very Compact
Rubber pads are usually very slim and take up very little space. All the pads are much smaller than the drum components they represent, which means that these drum kits have really small footprints.
An e-drum set with rubber pads is an excellent choice if you live in a studio apartment or have a very small room. You can squeeze them pretty much anywhere, especially if it is a minimalistic kit.
Another great benefit of their small size is that they can be easily stored somewhere if you don’t want them to take up precious space in your room. When they’re taken apart, they can be easily left in a closet without taking too much space in it.
If you have to commute to your band practice, having a rubber pad kit is again an advantage. You can easily put it in your trunk and still have enough space to squeeze in other things if necessary. Unless you drive a teeny-tiny car, in which case you might want to upgrade.
Rubber Drum Pads Are Extremely Durable
We’ve mentioned that mesh heads are durable and difficult to destroy. However, rubber pads take that durability up a notch. They’re almost indestructible, and unless you stab them with a knife or a very sharp broken stick, it’s almost impossible to damage or destroy them.
Since this situation is probably extremely unlikely, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to use rubber pads for quite a long time. After a while, they might get some traces of use, but that won’t affect their functionality. You can use a rubber cleaning solution to protect them and give them a fresh look.
However, there is one big downside here. If the playing surface of your rubber pad gets damaged, it’s cheaper and more effective to buy a whole new pad. This can be a bit wasteful, and you have to put in more effort, but it’s not very likely to happen.
Rubber Drum Pads Are Good for Bass Drums
Rubber bass drum pads have a spongy feel and are made from a layered material that gives less rebound and absorbs the beater’s hits much better than the mesh counterpart. Many drummers prefer this feel.
On the other hand, rubber bass drum pads are relatively tall and thin, so there’s always a chance they’ll wobble, move side to side, or fall over. You can always make them more stable by propping them up against something, but they’d be much better if this was unnecessary.
These Pads Are Great for Synthetic Sounds
Mesh heads can provide you with a more natural feel than rubber pads, hands down. However, you might not always want to emulate the sound and feel of acoustic drums, in which case, rubber pads are the better option.
For example, if your electronic drums are hooked up to a module or sample pad with the goal of creating synthetic, obviously electronic sounds, a rubber pad might give you a better feel. Since you’re explicitly aiming to create a synthetic sound, having a pad that doesn’t feel like a real drum might be a better fit.
If you want to use a pad as a functional switch, a mesh head would be absolutely overkill. It would just be a waste of an expensive head. Plus, using a rubber pad, in that case, might help you differentiate between the pad used as a functional switch and the pads used to produce drum sounds.
Rubber Pads Can Be Noisy
Rubber pads produce much more acoustic noise than their mesh counterparts. The rubber surface does not diffuse the vibrations as well as a mesh surface, so the sound of your sticks hitting the surface of the pads will be much more audible.
This might make them less suitable for situations in which you have to be silent. Even if you plug in your headphones, thwacking the pads with the sticks will be heard. This sound can also be a bother if you can hear it while playing.
Hearing that noise alongside the actual drum sounds can break your and your bandmates’ concentration and spoil the mood a bit. You can eliminate this problem by increasing the volume, but that’s not an option if you want to raise very little noise.
For these reasons, an electronic drum kit with rubber pads is not the best choice if you’re looking for a silent drum kit. However, rubber pads will do just fine if noise is not an issue.
Rubber Drum Pads Don’t Absorb Vibrations Well Enough
Mesh heads feature many little holes that absorb and diffuse vibrations. Unlike them, rubber pads are firm pieces of rubber with no holes that can efficiently deal with vibrations. Apart from making them noisier, this may cause some other problems.
Firstly, this may make you more tired and feel more pain in your forearms, especially when you get wild during practice. Since a bigger part of the vibrations will go through your bones, you’ll feel them much more, and you might eventually feel some pain. You won’t get carpal tunnel syndrome from this, but it might make you feel discomfort or shorten your sessions.
In addition to that, the excess vibrations might create more crosstalk. As crosstalk is caused by the pads reacting to vibrations they shouldn’t react to, more vibrations equal more crosstalk. This doesn’t mean that your entire kit will go crazy, but you might be annoyed more than you would usually be.
However, these vibration problems might not be noticeable. If you have good control over how hard you hit the pads, you’re likely to avoid these problems altogether.
Mesh drum heads can offer you a superior sound and feel. They’re much closer to acoustic drums, and they’re a perfect choice for situations in which you have to practice silently as they don’t produce much acoustic sound. However, they’re quite costly, so it might not always be a good idea to invest in them.
Rubber pads are much cheaper and take up less space. They’re a great choice if you’re looking for a budget option or if you lack space. However, they’re not great if you need to be silent, and you might have more sound problems with them.