I have used several brands of skins over the years but Gary at FourFour Music in Fareham introduced me to Aquarian. At first I used Response II heads on the toms, which proved to be excellent and I have since gone on to use exclusively Aquarian.
The Response II heads are clear, two-ply heads that are manufactured with a vacuum process that eliminates air bubbles and wrinkles between the two plies. I am supplied here in the UK by The Music Shipping Company in Kidderminster, and – as I can’t describe them as well as these guys can – here is what they have to say about these heads:
“Californian-based Aquarian’s drumheads are the world’s finest. Produced with a fanatical attention to quality and with product innovation driven by close contact with top players. Aquarian’s range has a size and style to suit every playing need, and many unique features. Aquarian’s Safe-T-Loc system locks the drumhead into specially contoured aluminium extrusion hoops, secured with epoxy. For the drummer, it means a head that never pulls out and which cannot de-tune. Aquarian vacuum-sealing process is used on two-ply heads, which guarantees no air gets trapped between the surfaces, ensuring a pure, clear tone.”
Couldn’t agree more
Since then I have swapped to using the Performance II heads. These are again two-ply, incorporating a black ‘damping’ ring and designed for ‘loose’ tuning to get the depth and punch with no over-ring. With these there is never any need to stick Gaffa tape and all that crap onto the batter heads, and they hold their tone for a long period of time despite some pretty heavy punishment. I’ve used these on several tours and they have withstood the pounding they received very very well.
On the resonant side of the toms, I have simple Classic Clear single-ply heads.
For the bass drums I use Super Kick IIs. These are two-ply heads that incorporate Aquarian’s patented ‘Floating Muffling System’, comprising a narrow felt muffle ring sandwiched between the plies. The sound of the head is low and punchy and, with the addition of kick pads where the beater strikes the head, they are extremely durable. Due to the integral damping of the skin there is no need to stuff the bass drum full of crap to muffle any unwanted sounds (provided it is tuned correctly). Of course it never hurts to have some kind of material in there in case soundmen need to mic the drum from the inside.
The snare heads that I use are texture coated Triple Threat heads with a power dot on the underside. Single ply, and medium weight this is an excellent easily tuned and durable snare head that, once again, outlives other brands without dimpling or fracturing. On the right drum, with the right tuning (very tightly wound for my preference) and hit with some force, these will make your ears ring for days
On the front of the bass drums I have single ply display heads. These also need to be tuned correctly to get the best from your drum. I use Holz reinforcing rings around the port that is cut for the microphone (some drummers like their display heads intact, but I find it easier to allow internal microphone placement to get the right sound). Also, on occasion I got the company Rock Star Skins to manufacture album cover-based artwork for the bass drums. Which looks bloody great!
Tuning a drumhead is one of the black arts that many drummers find the realm of magicians and wizards, requiring a level of voodoo that beggars belief. Frequently the ‘right’ tone of a drum remains annoying elusive, instead replaced by some monstrosity that sounds like a person beating a wooden box that houses a vaguely ringing bell within it. Bloody annoying. It takes a lot of practice to perfect this particular skill….but some cool tips and a step by step guide can be found here.