Rubber Pads vs. Mesh Drum Heads – Which are Better?

Most electronic drum kits nowadays boast hard rubber pads, mesh heads, or a combination of the two. But which kind are better? Or to put it another way - which are more suitable for you? This blog aims to answer those questions and more...

Will Brook-Jones

Will Brook-Jones

Whatever the brand, be it Roland, Alesis or Tourtech etc, their electronic kits will have pads/heads made from hard rubber and/or mesh. They’re the most popular kinds of material for your kick drum, snare and toms; cymbal pads are almost exclusively always made from some kind of rubber.

Many early electronic kits consisted of mostly rubber drums – with maybe the odd mesh snare as an exception. Roland were then the first brand to pioneer the use of mesh heads on their electronic kits. Since then, many of the biggest names in the business have followed suit, developing their own suite of innovative tech for their own products. Due to this now widespread adoption, mesh head kits have never been more accessible or affordable! However, both mesh and rubber materials ultimately have both their own positive and negative traits.

What do the Different Materials Impact?

When directly compared, both rubber pads and mesh drum heads feature contrasting characteristics in a number of areas. They mainly differ when it comes to rebound, attack and response, with their own noticeably unique feel when compared to an acoustic kit. You may have a kit with all rubber pads, all mesh heads, or rubber pads for your toms/kick and a mesh head for your snare etc. It all depends on the price of the kit.

Here are the main pros and cons of both:

Rubber Pads

More cost effective: many budget entry-level electronic kits will be made up of rubber pads entirely. This helps to keep the overall cost down, as rubber pads are cheaper to produce than their mesh cousins. Some good examples of these types of kits are the Roland TD-1K, the Carlsbro Commander 130, and the Tourtech TT-12S. They’re all under £365, making them the ideal first set to kickstart your drum journey.

Compact design: rubber pads are generally a lot more compact. They feature a slimmer build, allowing you to easily fold them away on the rack systems that most electronic kits utilise. This makes them perfect if you need a kit with a smaller footprint that’ll fit into a small practice space, or one that can be easily packed away once you’re finished using it.

Lower quality feel: rubber pads do not feel as good to play as mesh heads, with a noticeably reduced rebound. This feel will also change depending on the exact rubber material itself, as well as the thickness and robustness of it. They are much harder too; some drummers complain of fatigue in their hands and wrists if they play for too long on a kit with rubber pads. If you’ve ever played on a practice pad, you should expect a similar experience when using rubber pads.

Rubber Pad Electronic Drum Kits

Mesh Heads

Improved playing feel: mesh heads emulate the response, feel and rebound of traditional acoustic drum skins a lot better than rubber pads. Many new electronic kits even have mesh heads that can be tweaked (tension-wise) to suit your preferred level of stick rebound, benefitting your own unique playing style in the process.

More accurate sizes: most kits with mesh heads are usually closer to the sizes of actual acoustic drums. This means they’re a good choice if you swap between an acoustic and electronic set regularly, as you won’t have to alter your technique or change your accuracy at all. It also means if you start out learning to drum using an electronic kit with mesh heads, you’ll be able to translate these skills more easily over to an acoustic kit at a later date.

High-end Engineering: many of the electronic kits with mesh heads feature far more advanced integrated technology. Every nuance of your playing with be picked up in far better detail – from ghost notes and rim shots, to cross stick. Improved dynamics once again mirror those that you’d find on an acoustic drum head.

More expensive: due to the material and technology itself, you should expect to pay more for a kit with mesh heads. However, you’re paying for a high-quality drumming experience in the process. You definitely get what you pay for if you decide to go for them!

Mesh Head Electronic Drum Kits

Are Rubber Pads and Mesh Heads Silent?

No, not completely. The actual sound of the drums will be quiet (if you’re playing through headphones), but your strikes won’t be entirely silent. Rubber pads sound louder than mesh ones (as they transfer more vibration to your rack and into the floor), so if you want an electronic drum experience that’s less likely to cheese off your family or neighbours, then an all mesh kit is the way to go. However, any kind of electronic drum kit is going to be far quieter than an acoustic – that’s for sure!

If you still want to quieten your electronic drums down even further, there’s a few easy ways to do so:

  • Placing your kit on a thick rug can help reduce vibrations quite effectively.
  • Replace your drum beater in your kick pedal with a ‘silent’ beater.
  • Raise your kick drum onto something so it sits off of the floor. The kick drum can be one of the loudest elements of an electronic kit.
  • Purchase a Roland ‘Noise Eater’ kick drum pedal. These pedals (available in a single and double variants) harness smart technology to reduce the noise transfer that’s usually generated by vibrations. They’ve been specially designed to work with electronic kits.

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Will Brook-Jones
Will Brook-Jones
Will is the Tech & Drums Category Marketing Lead at Andertons. The sole drummer in the web team, Will favours TAMA Drums and Sabian cymbals. His love of Hip-Hop and Jazz is reflected in some of his favourite musicians, from Anderson .Paak and Mac Miller, to Thundercat and Yussef Dayes.

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