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FROM DRUM! MAGAZINE’S APRIL 2018 ISSUE | BY AJ DONAHUE

It’s wild how much a couple ounces of solid mass at the end of a metal pole can influence the sound of something as large as a bass drum and completely alter the feel of an action dictated by your whole leg. Perhaps as much as head choice, your bass drum pedal beater’s weight, striking surface, position, and impact area size can have a dramatic effect on the way your bass drum responds to each stroke.

We tested 43 different models (forty-three!) to help you get a better sense of what some of these kickers can do. Obviously, we won’t be able to convey exactly how the units featured in this article will impact your bass drum’s bottom line, but we hope this information will help you make some more informed shopping decisions.

 

Lab Conditions

Most of these beaters were tested on several different kicks, but for direct comparison I played each on a 22″ x 18″ maple bass drum equipped with clear, single-ply batter, and ported, single-ply resonant heads. All beaters were played with the same pedal for consistency. Initially, I thought using an open drum would yield the most accurate and organic results, but I found that the liberated overtones and undertones were overshadowing the differences between each subject and the others. I installed a small, lightweight muffling pillow so it was just barely touching the batter, which allowed me to hear the beaters more clearly. I reasoned that this is also probably more in line with how most drummers set up their kick.

Dimensions for beater faces are listed in width x height format, except for round beaters, where only height is detailed. Shaft measurements refer only to the exposed rod, not the full beater length. Prices are MSRP unless otherwise noted.

 

FELT

Big, Controlled, Versatile. The classic! Felt bass drum beaters have been our default option for decades, and with good reason. The mild mellowing of a fuzzy felt face offers a broad blend of controlled warmth and hefty punch. It’s a familiar sound in general, but there’s plenty of range here.

Make: Ahead
Model: Pro Kick Staccato Felt

Beater: Felt with aircraft aluminum core

Shape: Round

Sides: They’re all sides

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1″

Weight: 2.9 oz.

MSRP: $39.99

Performance: Despite its name, this is one of the mellower felt beaters covered here because the felt is a hair softer than on the others. It produces a full-spectrum sound, with a lot of shell tone and a strong low-end presence.

Make: Ahead
Model: Pro Kick Cube Felt

Beater: Felt over aircraft aluminum core

Shape: Cube

Sides: 4

Shaft: 6.25″ stainless steel

Impact Zone: 1.75″ x 1.5″

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $39.99

Performance: The Cube Felt beater packs some serious bump. The felt is very firm, so responding notes aren’t quite as mellow as with other felt units. Due to its overall density and weight, it pulls an exceptionally full and robust sound.

Make: Cherry Hill
Model: Black Walnut Crotch With Felt

Beater: Black walnut and felt

Shape: Round

Sides: All

Shaft: 6.25″ graduated steel

Impact Zone: .375″ leather band over 1.25″ wood

Weight: 2.5 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $50

Performance: This gorgeous Black Walnut beater from Cherry Hill is unexpectedly light, but still provides a strong, warm whump because of the wood core’s density. The felt strip reduces attack and adds fatness.

Make: Danmar
Model: 206 Classic White Felt

Beater: Felt

Shape: Round

Sides: Eternity

Shaft: 6.2″ black steel

Impact Zone: 1.1″

Weight: 2.7 oz.

MSRP: $32.40

Performance: Danmar’s classic round felt beater offers a tremendous sound with big impact and a lot of openness around the edge. Its large size builds in some extra beef.

Make: Danmar
Model: 206S Zoro Square Felt

Beater: Felt

Shape: Square

Sides: 4

Shaft: 6″ black steel

Impact Zone: 1.75″ x 1.55″

Weight: 2.9 oz.

MSRP: $31.50

Performance: With its broad striking faces, Zoro’s cube-shaped signature beater has a slightly harder attack than Danmar’s classic felt model. It’s punchy with strong low-end support, and it plays very fast.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: Light Weight

Beater: Felt

Shape: Cylinder

Sides: 1

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.2″ diameter

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $22.99

Performance: The felt face’s small impact zone creates a more focused response. It’s a tight note with clear, controlled highs. The action doesn’t feel as light as the name implies, but it plays very well. Great on smaller drums.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Standard Felt Daddy

Beater: Felt over maple

Shape: Cone with flat face

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ diameter felt; 1″ wood

Weight: 3.35 oz.

Direct Sale Price Starting At: $38

Performance: Low Boy’s Standard cone-shaped beater plays heavy and really brings up those booming low frequencies. The addition of a felt pad softens the initial impact but expands the sustain with a fuller mid-range spread. It’s consistent at all volumes to boot.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Lightweight Felt Daddy

Beater: Felt over maple

Shape: Conical cylinder

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ diameter felt; 1.5″ wood

Weight: 2.8 oz.

Direct Sale Price Starting At: $36

Performance: The lighter Felt Daddy plays mostly the same as its big brother, but has a somewhat faster stroke and is more controlled. I love it for low volume feathering.

Make: Tama
Model: Power-Strike

Beater: Felt

Shape: Cylinder

Sides: 1

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1″ diameter

Weight: 3.2 oz.

MSRP:  $32

Performance: Tama’s Power-Strike has a fast feel, but is balanced by some surprising weight in the housing. Extra-firm felt and a small striking face make this the most focused of the felt group, but it’s not lacking for low-end richness.

Make: Vater
Model: VBF Hard White Felt

Beater: Felt

Shape: Round

Sides: Globetrotter

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.3″

Weight: 3.6 oz.

MSRP: $40.99

Performance: This is a very firm felt unit. It maintains some of the warmth and control expected of felt, but punches pretty hard when needed. As an added bonus, it’s almost as articulate as some of the wood models included below.

 

Make: Vic Firth
Model: VicKick VKB1 Felt

Beater:  Felt over wood

Shape: Radial

Sides: 4

Shaft: 5.75″ steel

Impact Zone: 2″ face; 1.5″ slim

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $43.25

Performance: This one plays light, but keeps the classic felt tone. I thought the small window of exposed wood core on one side would increase impact sound, but I actually get more cut from the all-felt face. Slim sides offer a more focused thump.

 

Make: Vic Firth
Model: VicKick Wood Shaft

Beater:  Felt with wood “handle”

Shape: Round

Sides: It never ends

Shaft: 6.25″ wood over steel

Impact Zone: 1.25″

Weight: 2.8 oz.

MSRP: $48

Performance: I was expecting a tighter sound because of its weight and small head, but the added mass of a wood “handle” over the shaft helps the marching mallet–style VicKick put some beef behind each note. That unorthodox weight distribution produces an even stroke and a speedy feel.

WOOD

Articulate, Full, Low End-Heavy. Wood beaters are articulate and punching, but also provide a sound that’s sort of scooped in the middle with strong highs and lows. They’ve got great dynamic range, and they can handle quick patterns at any volume without losing definition. Plus, because wood is so easy for small shops to work with, there are a growing number of boutique and custom-crafted options.

Make: Danmar
Model: 205 Classic Red Wood

Beater: Wood

Shape: Round

Sides: Does the world have sides?

Shaft: 6.1″ black steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″

Weight: 3.8 oz.

MSRP: $31.50

Performance: This iconic little apple is super articulate when playing fast figures, present and clear at high volumes, and balanced when tapped gently. It’s not overly slap-y either, so it’s a nice intro to wood beaters.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: Standard Wood

Beater: Wood

Shape: Round

Sides: Infinity

Shaft: 6″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″

Weight: 3.4 oz.

MSRP: $14.99


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Performance: Gibraltar’s Standard wood beater is on the smaller side, but it plays big. It creates a present, powerful sound without a lot of unwanted overtones. The shorter reach of its small head favors a cam setting closer to the batter for a natural response.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: Red Wood Long

Beater: Wood

Shape: Round

Sides: Infinity

Shaft: 7″ black steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″

Weight: 4 oz.

MSRP: $30.99

Performance: The Red Wood Long is almost too lengthy to strike the center of a 22″ drum without bottoming out on the batter, but is excellent for pulling additional articulation out of larger drums, or playing higher on the head of a 22″ kick for a more open tone.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Standard

Beater: Maple

Shape: Cone with flat face

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.7″ diameter; 1″

Weight: 3.35 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $30

Performance: Low Boy’s Standard beater has a huge, clear, and extremely powerful sound with surprising tone. The smaller, rounded striking side dials in a cleaner note with less rumble. Plus, an insane array of custom detail choices allows you to completely personalize your beater.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Lightweight

Beater: Maple

Shape: Conical Cylindar

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.7″ diameter; 1.5″

Weight: 2.8 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $28

Performance: I hear most of the same qualities produced by the Standard Low Boy, but with a hair less low-end in the follow through. The action is faster, and the smaller second side offers even more definition.

Make: Vater
Model: VBNW Natural Wood

Beater: Wood

Shape: Round

Sides: Rotund

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.6″

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $38.99

Performance: Vater’s wood beater feels like the most articulate of the entire group. Even very fast triplet figures at low volumes are clear and defined. That high-end clarity translates well to loud play.

Make: Vic Firth
Model: VicKick VKB2 Wood

Beater:  Maple

Shape: Radial

Sides: 4

Shaft: 5.75″ steel

Impact Zone: 2″ face; 1.5″ slim

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $37.75

Performance: The VicKick Wood beater pulls a rounder, wider tone than I was expecting from its larger faces. It’s a good bridge between hard felt and wood. The skinny sides punch harder, but still imbue each note with satisfying warmth.

PLASTIC

Focused, Biting, and Fast. Hard plastic beaters are often employed by hard-hitting drummers who need loads of attack and definition without a lot of weight in the action. I think that’s still where the VKB2s shine the most, but I’m surprised by how versatile some of these plastic pieces are.

Make: Ahead
Model: Pro Kick Mach Wave

Beater: ABS plastic with self-aligning aircraft aluminum core

Shape: Semi-hollow squat cylinder with one open side

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.25″ stainless steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ x 1.25″ open cup; 1.5″ x 1.25″ full plastic

Weight: 3.5 oz.

MSRP:  $39.99

Performance: The main striking face is an open cup with about an 1/8″ thick wall of hard ABS plastic impact area. It produces a sharp, cutting slap somewhat reminiscent of triggered sounds used by many metal bands. The closed side delivers a firmer, slamming bang more in line with a standard plastic beater.

Make: Ahead
Model: Speed Kick Sonic Beater

Beater: ABS plastic

Shape: Semi-hollow squat cylinder with one open side

Sides: 2

Shaft: 4.5″ x 7.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ x 1.25″ open cup; 1.5″ x 1.25″ full plastic

Weight: 4 oz.

MSRP:  $39.99

Performance: This is effectively the same beater as the Mach Wave but with a bit of extra weight from the Speed Kick’s adjustable shaft and housing, so it hits a hair harder, but not that much.

Make: Vater
Model: Poly Ball

Beater: Hard plastic

Shape: Small sphere

Sides: What even are sides, anyway?

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.6″

Weight: 3.25 oz.

MSRP: $37.99

Performance: Though fairly small, the dense plastic ball packs some serious oomph because of its weight. The tight impact surface helps create a particular focus that allows for extreme articulation and very fast play. It’s great on smaller drums.

SOFTIES

Mellow, Warm, Booming. Soft felt and wool beaters are designed to recapture the round, mellowed boom of big band–era jazz, but they’ve taken on a new life in recent years. The array of snuggly bumpers I tested for this piece delivers wide but contained sounds that I find as useful for mid-volume rock and sampled music as for swing.

Make: Ahead
Model: Pro Kick Vintage Boom

Beater: Fleece over hard felt with an aircraft aluminum core

Shape: Round

Sides: Roll with it

Shaft: 6″ steel

Impact Zone: 2.3″

Weight: 3.2 oz.

MSRP: $39.99

Performance: It gives the expected round, mellow boom when played softly, but offers more definition under firmer strokes due to its hard-felt core. I hear more high-end in loud hits with this one than the other softies.

 

Make: Ahead
Model: Speed Kick Vintage Boom

Beater: White fleece over high-density felt

Shape: Round

Sides: Try Googling “How many sides does a sphere have?”

Shaft: 4.5 to 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 2.5″

Weight: 4 oz.

MSRP: $89.99

Performance: This fleece covered piece has a softer yet wider sound than other fluffies, but the unit’s hard felt core really packs some extra oomph when the volume goes up. Louder strokes are met with a large note that blooms late due to the softened impact.
Make: Innovative Percussion
Model: KDB-1 Chris McHugh Signature

Beater: Yarn over wood

Shape: Round

Sides: Forever

Shaft: 6″ black steel

Impact Zone: 2″

Weight: 3.3 oz.

MSRP: $41

Performance: This very cool beater, designed with the help of Chris McHugh, has some of the soft fleece thing at low volumes but a much fuller punch with huge lows under hard hits. There’s enough articulation here to hang with speedy, intense play.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Standard Puff Daddy

Beater: Wool pad on maple

Shape: Cone with flat face

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.25″ diameter wool; 1″ wood

Weight: 3.35 oz.

Direct Sale Price Starting At: $40

Performance: The long-fibered striker helps create a gentle boom, but its heavy wood frame adds the option of a big, thumping follow-through. I’m concerned about mushing up those fibers after some use, but it sure sounds great now.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Lightweight Puff Daddy

Beater: Wool pad on maple

Shape: Conical cylinder

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.25″ diameter wool; 1.5″ wood

Weight: 2.8 oz.

Direct Sale Price Starting At: $38

Performance: This is a tighter version of its Standard counterpart, although the larger, secondary wood face makes this Lightweight model more versatile.

Make: Tama
Model: Soft Sound

Beater: Acoustic foam over lightweight plastic

Shape: Large rectangle

Sides: 1

Shaft: 5.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 3.75″ x 2.8″

Weight: 2.9 oz.

MSRP: $32

Performance: Far and away the quietest of the entire group, Tama’s Soft Sound beater can get lost under the rest of a kit played with sticks. It creates kind of an orchestral whum sound that opens slowly and then rumbles a bit, making it a beautiful complement to brushes.

Make: Vater
Model: Vintage Bomber Beater

Beater: Synthetic wool over cork

Shape: Round

Sides: Running out of jokes for round things that don’t have sides

Shaft: 6″ steel

Impact Zone: 2.25″

Weight: 2.9 oz.

MSRP: $34.49

Performance: Vater’s synthetic wool sheath has a stiffer pile than some of the other softies, but its lightweight cork core keeps things cushy. Don’t expect to bang out any Bonham triplets with this one, but you will enjoy a cozy, expanding boom at all volumes.

Make: Vic Firth
Model: Vic Kick VKB3 Fleece

Beater: Fleece over medium felt

Shape: Round

Sides: See above

Shaft: 5.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 2″

Weight: 3.5 oz.

MSRP: $46.50

Performance: The extra weight afforded by the Vic Kick’s felt core builds in some bonus bottom-end here. It’s equally subdued at low volumes, but can hit a little harder than some of the others.

 

LEATHER

Heavy, Punchy, Broad. Leather is popping up more often in bass drum beater offerings as boutique work becomes increasingly prevalent. These hide-covered hitters ride the line between the hefty attack of wood and the controlled bump of felt. They produce a full sound that’s bolstered by an exaggerated bam resulting from the flatter, firmer leather face.

Make: Cherry Hill
Model: Black Walnut Crotch With Black Leather

Beater: Black walnut and leather

Shape: Round

Sides: Right round like a record, baby

Shaft: 6.25″ graduated steel

Impact Zone: .375″ leather band over 1.25″ wood

Weight: 2.5 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $50

Performance: Cherry Hill’s leather-banded beater delivers a tighter bump than its felted counterpart, but actually incorporates less of the woody punch under soft strokes. That’s because the leather doesn’t depress as easily, so bringing in more of that heavy wood impact requires a harder hit.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Leather Daddy

Beater: Leather patch over maple

Shape: Cone

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ diameter leather; 1″ wood

Weight: 3 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $40

Performance: With a bit more definition than Low Boy’s Felt Daddy beaters, this leather-lidded piece is a great go-between for those who don’t need the harder attack of a wood face. This is a surprisingly dynamic and complete sound.

Make: Low Boy
Model: Lightweight Leather Daddy

Beater: Leather patch over maple

Shape: Short conical cylinder

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.5″ diameter leather; 1.5″ wood

Weight: 2.8 oz.

Direct Sale Price: Starting at $38

Performance: Like the Standard LD, the Lightweight Leather Daddy hits harder but doesn’t overwhelm with attack. Reduced mass takes away some of the richness heard in the Standard Leather Daddy, but offers speedier action.

RUBBER AND SYNTHETICS

Powerful, Responsive, Tone-rich. I received a few rubber and synthetic outliers that didn’t quite fit into any other category. These beaters come in a variety of shapes, densities, and sizes, so there’s plenty of range here.

Make: Ahead
Model: Speed Kick Bob’s Two-Way

Beater: Black sponge foam and red painted maple

Shape: Square

Sides: 2

Shaft: 5″ to 7″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.3″ x 1.2″

Weight: 3.8 oz.

MSRP:  $89.99

Performance: The sponge foam side has a squishy, rubbery pad that produces a subdued whump under soft strokes, but perks up to pull out a controlled boom when you lean in. Flipping it around yields a classic solid maple beater sound, and great action when it’s installed at its longest setting.

Make: Tama
Model: Accu-Strike

Beater: Butadiene rubber

Shape: Cylinder

Sides: 1

Shaft:  6″ steel

Impact Zone: 1″ diameter

Weight: 3 oz.

MSRP: $32

Performance: The Accu-Strike’s butadiene rubber face is firm under finger, but a small air pocket at the base provides some give. The result is a tight, cutting note that’s backed up by some unexpected fatness. Its light frame makes it feel extremely fast.

Make: Vic Firth
Model: VicKick VKB4 Cajon

Beater: Foam rubber

Shape: Sphere

Sides: All sides being equal

Shaft: 5.9″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.75″

Weight: 2.6 oz.

MSRP: $28.25

Performance: The Cajon Beater’s foam rubber body flattens against the batter head on impact and pulls a sort of slapping palm sound out of the middle of the drum. Well, it is made for a cajon, after all. I find it best for light feathering and situations where more volume and popping attack are needed.

TWO-TIMERS AND CONVERTIBLES

Options, Options, Options. Most of the beaters included in this piece have multiple faces, but several are designed with no primary striker. These multi-faceted models are built with adaptability and versatility in mind.

Make: Ahead
Model: Speed Kick Two-Way

Beater: Felt and plastic

Shape: Round felt and flat plastic

Sides: 2

Shaft: 4.5″ to 7.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.4″ felt; 1.4″ x 1.4″ plastic

Weight: 3.8 oz.

MSRP: $89.99

Performance: This is the model that started it all for Speed Kick (formerly Switch Kick). It’s strong and full on the felt side, and cutting but surprisingly open on the plastic side. The easily adjustable Speed Kick shaft makes this a great option for navigating different feels during live performances.

Make: Drum Workshop
Model: Air Weight

Beater: Felt and plastic

Shape: Rounded felt and flat plastic

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.25″ felt; 1.75″ x 1.5″ plastic

Weight: 2.8 oz.; 3.2 oz. with adjustable weight

MSRP: $33.99

Performance: This light unit plays quick, but delivers a surprisingly potent bang. Its felt face has a strong but controlled impact, while the plastic side is slamming and quick. I think the reduced weight shaves the tiniest bit of attack off of the plastic side.

Make: Drum Workshop
Model: Black Sheep

Beater: Maple with removable wool sleeve

Shape: Round

Sides: Everything is a side

Shaft: 6.75″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.38″

Weight: 3.4 oz.; 3.8 oz. with adjustable weight

MSRP: $49.99

Performance: In its “nude” maple state, the Rich Redmond–designed Black Sheep produces a monstrous boom with plenty of cutting attack upfront. Slipping on the elastic, fleece-covered sleeve easily shifts the response to a warm, wooly boom that’s supported by a bed of fat bottom.

Make: Drum Workshop
Model: Control XL

Beater: Felt and wood

Shape: Flat

Sides: 2

Shaft: 7.5″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.8″ x 1.5″ (both)

Weight: 2.8 oz. without weights; 4.2 oz. with all four 10g weights

MSRP: $49.99

Performance: Flat wood and felt faces are interchangeable on the J.R. Robinson co-designed piece thanks to a threaded screw mechanism. Both strikers play as expected, but can be augmented with the addition of up to four brass weights. Dropping in one or two weights affects the throw more than the sound, but four weights really made each note explode off the head.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: G-Class Dual Surface 90 Gram

Beater: Felt and plastic

Shape: Round

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.25″ x 1.4″ felt; 1.4″ plastic

Weight: 3.1 oz.

MSRP: $30.99

Performance: Gibraltar’s two-tone tapper has a hefty throw and a hammering punch. Notes are big and broad like classic round felt models, but with some added attack. The plastic face is similar, but adds some cutting slap up top.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: G-Class Dual Surface Self Aligning

Beater: Felt and Plastic

Shape: Rounded felt and square plastic

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.75″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.75″ felt; 1.5″ x 1.25″ plastic

Weight: 3.5 oz.

MSRP: $35.99

Performance: The unit’s self-aligning core allows for a consistently flush hit every time, which is helpful as the felt face starts to change shape with use. Otherwise, the beater puts out a firm, midrange frequency–rich bump. It plays with a fairly heavy feel that adds power.

Make: Gibraltar
Model: G-Class Variable Weighted Beater

Beater: Felt and plastic

Shape: Round

Sides: 2

Shaft: 6.25″ steel

Impact Zone: 1.4″

Weight: 3.4 oz. plus 3 individual 5.2-gram removable brass weights

(and an extra one for replacements)

MSRP: $43.99

Performance: This model plays almost exactly like the Dual Surface, but weighs more in default form. Add up to three of the included magnetized brass weights to ramp up the power and attack. I didn’t hear those weights rattle at all during testing.

 

 

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