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5 Best Bongos 2018 (Reviews & Buying Guide) - Armchair Empire

5 Best Bongos 2018 (Reviews & Buying Guide)

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Thomas Boxtiger

 Thomas Boxtiger​​​ 

 Head Music Editor 

The bongos are fun to play, relatively inexpensive, and easy to pick up. If you're a beginner musician looking for a unique instrument, they're a great choice. If you're an experienced musician looking to pick up a new instrument or just try something off of the beaten path out, they're also a great choice. Either way, I hope this guide and list see you well on your way to picking up some of the best bongos out there. I've purposefully selected the best bongo drums for your reading. So, go ahead, and read my bongo drum reviews.


1. LP ASPIRE Series LPA601-AW

LP Aspire Bong Drums are made of sturdy Siam Oak shells coated with black powder for added durability. It uses 6 - ¾ inch and 8-inch natural rawhide for the drumhead. Tuning lugs measure at 9/32 inches in diameter and features Cuban-style steel bottoms. A tuning wrench is included with the set. The overall performance and quality of the LP Aspire Bongo Drum Set makes it an ideal and safe choice for beginners and experienced bongo players alike.

Pros

  • Lightweight design makes handling this bongo set quite easily.
  • Good quality sound for the price.
  • Well-built and sturdy.

Cons

  • None to mention.

2. Meinl Percussion HB50BK

The Meinl Percussion Bongo Drum is a lightweight instrument making it great for playing on top of your lap. The product also comes with the option to include an adjustable stand which is a welcome addition. The compact design makes transportation easy and convenient. The sound produced by this bongo finds that perfect volume that is not grating to the ears but loud enough so that it is not overshadowed by other instruments.

Pros

  • Great sound
  • It is highly responsive
  • Versatile 
  • Huge tone

Cons

  • Might sound a little flat

3. Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos

The Tycoon Percussion is a bongo that I would recommend to both beginner and advanced players. It features genuine water buffalo skin heads and durable Siam Oak wood giving it that deep and hollow sound. It also utilizes black powder coated traditional hoops, 5/16 inches diameter tuning lugs, backing plates, and reinforced side plates. The product comes with its own tuning wrench as well.

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact design make it easy to transport
  • Beautiful design
  • Great sound from the get-go but also comes with its own tuner for when you need to make some quick tweaks

Cons

  • The head is rather thin.

4. RockJam 100301 Drum Set

The RockJam Bongo set is a bit on the heavier side. The construction feels solid and sturdy enough for use in long-duration sessions. It has a tuning ring attached to the base of the bongo drum which makes it easier to tune. The carry bag is a great inclusion, especially if you like to bring your instrument everywhere.

It also comes with a separate tuning key as well. This is another good choice for beginners and for children who are interested in learning to play this musical instrument.

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Traditional bongo design, sound, and performance
  • Carrying case has interior padding which helps further protect your bongo drum set when traveling

Cons

  • The sound quality leaves much to be desired out of the box but a little tuning can fix that

5. Remo KD-5400-01 Kids

As the name suggests, this is a great introductory bongo drum set for children. Its craftsmanship is surprisingly good. The pre-tuned drumhead is perfect for those who are still inexperienced when it comes to tuning their bongos. It is available in 5-inch and 6-inch sizes. While not the best quality bongo drum for obvious reasons, it is a great way to introduce a child to the most basic element of music: the rhythm.

Pros

  • Simple, sturdy, lightweight, and affordable
  • Great bongo drum set for beginners and children
  • Optimized and pre-tuned during assembly

Cons

  • List The sound sounds flat at the time. Children might need to use sticks to produce good popping sounds

2018 Buying Guide

Introduction

Bongo drums, or bongos, are a musical instrument that originated in Cuba in the 1900 and was used for Latin American dance music. They're a pair of small Afro-Cuban drums that utilize two “heads” that are 5x7 inches across and attached or rod-tensioned to a wooden open-ended drum of similar height. It is played with both hands and fingers. It has been a staple of traditional Caribbean music and is certainly an interesting and easy instrument to play. 

Bongos sounds similar to the conga drums in that it produces a high-pitched sound. It’s a pretty simple instrument to play and anyone with a sense of rhythm can pick up and play. If you are interested and serious in learning to play the bongo then I suggest you get yourself a good quality bongo. I’ll give you a list of the 5 best bongo drums available but before that, we will first rundown some important factors and everything you need to know about the classic bongo drum.

Different Types of Bongo Drums

Wooden Bongos

The original bongo type is one made of wood. Wooden bongos originally used oak wood which was a common material in Cuba. The more current type of bongo drum uses several types of wood from mahogany to ash. One characteristic of the wooden bongo is its ability to produce deeper sounds compared to other types of bongos. However, wooden bongos that utilize harder wood types like maple and heavier ones like ash will produce sharper sounds compared to permeable wood. 

Ceramic Bongos

The ceramic bongo has a distinct design and shape, different from wooden bongos. Ceramic bongos have a more bowl-like shape and come with several unique advantages. The advantages of using a ceramic bongo include its ability to not be affected by significant changes in temperature and humidity. It is also incredibly easy to repair if damaged. The sound produced by ceramic bongos have a “thud” and deep tone to it.

Metal Bongos

One of the newer types of bongos is made of metal. This type of bongo produces a distinctive sound which is why it is often played using sticks instead of by hand. As you would expect, metal bongos sound considerably different than traditional ones made of wood. The sound produced by metal bongos are akin to the timbale. It is used mostly due to its unique sound.

Fiberglass Bongos

This is the most recent iteration of the bongo drum. Fiberglass has quickly risen to the top of the most popular type of bongo drum today. Not only does fiberglass bongos deliver high durability and resistance to corrosion, it also does not warp over time like the wooden types while delivering sound almost identical to that of wooden bongos. Another huge advantage of fiberglass bongo drums is its affordable price.

Picking The Best Bongos

Before going to your local music store and picking a bongo drum, there are several factors that you need to take into account before buying one. I’ve listed down some important factors that you need to consider before making a purchase. This should help you land on the best possible bongo drum as there are minute yet vital details you need to factor into your decision. Ask yourself the following questions before buying a bongo drum:

1. What is your current skill level?

There a different bongo drums for beginners and experienced players. I highly recommend the smaller and lighter bongos for beginners as it is easier to handle, affordable, and produces solid quality sounds. For advanced players, there are top-quality bongos that are not only aesthetically pleasing to look at (with ornate design) but are also expertly crafted and extremely durable. Advanced level bongos are, of course, considerably more expensive but deliver top-notch quality.

2. Wood or Fiberglass?

Besides the fact that fiberglass bongos can be cheaper than some wooden bongos, without sacrificing quality, it can be a no-brainer to choose fiberglass, right? Not exactly. There is another difference between the two and it boils down to the sound each type of bongo produces. I know I stated earlier that wooden and fiberglass bongos produce almost similar sound, key word there being almost. Let me clarify, wooden bongos deliver a deeper and hollow sound while fiberglass glass produces a brighter pop. Keep that in mind before making a purchase.

3. Do you prefer rawhide or synthetic heads?

If you prefer rawhide heads here is a little tip to help you find the best one:

  • Hold it up to the light and check to see if it is evenly colored throughout. Evenly colored rawhide means it has a consistent thickness which is important if you want to produce the best possible sound. Remember that rawhide is susceptible to temperature changes. You will need to fine tune it often once different seasons roll in as the summer heat tightens the head while cooler winter days will loosen it.
  • Synthetic heads are artificially made and are generally unaffected by changes in temperature. It is also quite convenient as synthetic heads are already tuned and ready to play from the get-go.

4. Pre-fitted or Flat Style?

Pre-fitted, as the name suggests, is basically a bongo drum that you can play out of the box. No tweaking needed as it is already fine-tuned during assembly. It is also made of synthetic material which completely negates temperature effect. Replacing it is also easy as you simply replace it with another pre-fitted head. Flatheads, on the other hand, will need to be tucked manually. There is also a waiting period as you wait for the flat head to dry up before you can start playing it.

Conclusion

The bongos are a fun and easy to play a musical instrument. As long as you have some grasp on rhythm you will be able to produce some nice tunes with a bongo. Not only is it a popular and easy instrument to play, it is also a great musical instrument for kids and introduces to them the backbone of music which is rhythm. This list and buying guide should help you narrow down your short list of the best bongo drum on the market today.

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