9 Best Bongo Drums 2023
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In the market for a bongo drum? We’ve got you! While all bongo drums have the same design, there are subtle differences between them all when it comes to shell material, tone, and construction.
Here are some of the best bongo drums on the market to pick from.
Latin Percussion Aspire Series Bongos – Best Overall
The Latin Percussion Aspire Series Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are an quality set of bongos to get. They have everything you’d expect from an expensive luxury set of bongos, but they have a surprisingly affordable price tag.
The standout feature of these bongos is the designer finish. The shells look strikingly beautiful, making these bongos something that you’d proudly place on a shelf somewhere in your house.
They’re meant to be played, though, and they sound excellent when you play them. They have natural rawhide skins that sound very rich and detailed. They also have LP’s EZ curve rims that make tuning the bongos a breeze.
If you’re not a fan of the tone, you can easily adjust the tension rods to change how the bongos sound. The Siam Oak shells have a traditional bongo sound, so it’s easy to dial in the sound that you hear on studio recordings.
The bongos are held together with brushed-nickel hardware. It has a polished look that further adds to the luxurious appearance of these bongos.
Overall, these bongos are a very strong option. They have great tones, visuals, and design quality. They’re a solid pick that will satisfy most people.
Size: 6.75” and 8”
Material: Siam Oak
Finish: Havana Cafe
Drumhead Type: Rawhide
Pearl Elite Series Oak Bongos – Premium Option
The Pearl Elite Series Oak Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the highest-quality sets of bongos available on the market. These bongos are a top choice for professional percussionists, thanks to their amazing tones and solid build features.
They’re slightly larger than most bongos, giving you deeper tones than you’d expect. The larger hembra drum is a particular standout here, as it has a deep bass tone that is really effective when playing different rhythms.
These bongos are made from Thai Oak, which is an incredibly rich shell material that gives the bongos heaps of tonal goodness. No matter how you tune them, they’ll always sound musical. The buffalo skin heads further add to that.
The bongos have Pearl’s Contour Crown rims, which make playing the bongos feel very comfortable. They’re surprisingly soft on your fingers, allowing you to play hard edge strikes without wearing your fingers out. If you’re someone who loves playing rimshots on a drum kit, you’ll love these bongos for these rims.
The rims also have Pearl’s Self-Aligning Washer system, which makes tuning the bongos very easy. It also keeps the bongos in tune for a lot longer than standard bongos.
Size: 7” and 9”
Material: Thai Oak
Finish: Natural Finish
Drumhead Type: Buffalo Skin
RockJam Bongo Set – Best Budget Option
The RockJam Bongo Set is a good option to consider if you’re looking for the most affordable bongos possible. Most inexpensive bongos don’t allow you to tune them, but these have the same design as high-quality bongos. This means that you can adjust the tension rods to get pleasing tones if you put in the time.
These are a good option for anyone who wants to dabble in bongo playing. They feel the same as higher-quality bongos. They also sound very similar. The tones just aren’t as rich or detailed.
They come with chrome hardware that keeps them firmly together, and the tension rods are constructed with the same lug system that you find on drum sets. So, you’ll need to use a standard drum key to tune the heads on each drum.
The drums are made from an inexpensive hardwood. While the tones from this wood aren’t as good as the rarer ones, they’re still relatively decent.
A huge bonus of these bongos is that they come with a carry bag. So, you’re getting amazing value for the money.
Size: 7” and 8”
Finish: Red and Natural Stripe
Drumhead Type: Authentic Skin
Meinl Percussion Journey Series Bongos
The Meinl Percussion Journey Series Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a highly popular option in the percussion community. These bongos are considered as a budget pick, but they’re a bit more expensive than the RockJam bongos. If you want budget bongos with professional quality, look no further than the Journey Series.
These bongos are made from ABS Plastic. They’re very solid and durable enough to be thrown around without taking any damage. That makes them a good option to take traveling if you’re not keen on traveling around with an expensive set of bongos.
They have 2.6mm rounded rims that feel fairly comfortable to play on. They’re not as good as some of the rims from the other bongos on this list, but most people will be more than happy with them.
The buffalo skin drumheads make up for the plastic shells. They give the bongos a lot more tone compared to if they were to have synthetic skins.
These bongos are a solid pick for hobbyists and intermediate bongo players. The pure black finish looks great too.
Size: 6.5” and 7.5”
Material: ABS Plastic
Drumhead Type: Buffalo Skin
Latin Percussion City Wood Bongos
The Latin Percussion City Wood Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are another solid option. They’re quite similar to the Meinl Journey bongos, but they have a few design features that make them slightly better.
The biggest difference is that these have Siam Oak shells. They have tones that are very expressive, allowing you to play highly varied sounds on them by striking the heads in different ways. They also have rawhide skins, further boosting their musical sounds.
The highlight for me with these bongos is that you get three different finish options. Most other bongos are limited to one, but Latin Percussion lets you choose between a Vintage Sunburst, Dark Wood, and Natural finish. All the finishes look great, but the Vintage Sunburst is a personal favorite.
These are excellent bongos to get if you want the benefits of Siam Oak shells and rawhide heads but you don’t want to spend a lot of money on the higher-quality professional bongos.
Size: 6” and 7”
Material: Siam Oak
Finish: Vintage Sunburst, Dark Wood, or Natural
Drumhead Type: Rawhide
Latin Percussion Galaxy Giovanni Signature Bongos
The Latin Percussion Galaxy Giovanni Signature Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a premium set of bongos with a very high price tag. These are luxury bongos for pro players to consider, as hobbyists most likely won’t be willing to spend so much money on a single set.
Everything about these bongos screams class and quality. From when you first look at them, you’ll see the gold hardware and natural gold finish.
They sound even better than they look, though. They’re made from Ash wood that has been kiln-dried, causing the bongos to produce much better tones than everything we’ve looked at so far.
The bongos have LP’s Comfort Curve II rims, which feel amazing under your hands. They also do a fantastic job of keeping the natural rawhide heads in tune. They’re gold-plated, which is one of my favorite things about these bongos.
If you’re a percussionist, you should consider getting the Galaxy Giovanni congas as well. There’s a matching set, giving you a full setup of luxurious percussive drums to play.
Overall, these are a dream set of bongos to get. If you’re happy to spend a few hundred dollars on them, you’ll get many years of heavy use.
Size: 7” and 8”
Material: Ash Wood
Finish: Natural Gold
Drumhead Type: Natural Rawhide
Meinl Percussion Headliner Series Wood Bongos
The Meinl Percussion Headliner Series Wood Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are the next step up after the Meinl Percussion Journey Series bongos. They have very similar construction, but they’re made from Siam Oak instead of ABS Plastic.
The smaller bongo drum is 6.75”, which is a unique size compared to the rest of the bongos we’ve looked at. Most people are used to playing macho drums that are 6 or 7”. This slightly larger one is a bit deeper in the bass frequency range, but it still offers the punchy bright tones that macho drums are known for.
These bongos also have the 2.6mm rounded rims. They feel excellent to play, and they keep your hands feeling very comfortable after hours of use. The buffalo skin drumheads are the same ones that you’ll find on the other Meinl Percussion bongos.
Your two finish options with these bongos are Natural and Vintage Sunburst. The latter is a bit more interesting to look at, but you can never go wrong with a natural finish.
Size: 6.75” and 8”
Material: Siam Oak
Finish: Natural and Vintage Sunburst
Drumhead Type: Buffalo Skin
Pearl Travel Bongos
The Pearl Travel Bongos (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the more unique bongo options available. These bongos have much shallower depths than most, making them lighter and easier to travel with.
Each drum is only 3.5” in depth, which is about half the depth of standard bongo drums. While this makes the bongos lighter, you’d assume that it would make them higher-pitched as well. However, they sound very similar to what most other bongos sound like, which is quite surprising.
Another thing that makes these bongos ideal for traveling is that they have synthetic heads. The Remo Fiberskyn heads aren’t affected by the weather, so the bongos won’t lose their tuning when you travel through different weather environments.
So, these are excellent bongos to get if you want something a bit different from the norm. Even if you’re not using them to travel with, they sound excellent in every setting you put them in.
They have Thai Oak shells that give them rich and detailed tones. They’re easy to tune as well, thanks to the Fiberskyn heads.
The downside of these bongos is that they’re a lot more expensive than standard bongos. They sit in the same price range as the LP Galaxy Giovanni bongos, meaning you’ll be spending a fair amount on them.
Size: 7” and 8.5”
Material: Thai Oak
Finish: Caramel Brown Matte
Drumhead Type: Remo Fiberskyn Synthetic Heads
Meinl Percussion Bongo Cajon
The Meinl Percussion Bongo Cajon (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is my wildcard option for this list. It’s a cajon drum, which typically has a very different design compared to bongo drums. However, this particular cajon is designed to be played the same way that you would play bongo drums.
It’s a big wooden square that you can fit between your legs and play with your fingers. You play it the same way that you would with macho and hembra drums to get high and low tones. You can also play rimshot sounds.
The biggest benefit of this cajon is that it’s a lot more affordable than bongo drums, yet it produces very similar tones. The downside is that you can’t alter those tones with tuning.
Size: 15.75” x 6.75” x 7”
Material: Siam Oak
Finish: Natural Wood
What To Look For In Bongo Drums
The shell material used for bongos doesn’t make as much of a difference as it does with something like a drum kit. However, it’s still a noteworthy feature to check out. The shell material will affect the tone and price of the bongos you’re looking at.
The most common shell material you’ll find with beginner and mid-range bongos is Siam Oak. It’s a hardwood that keeps the bongos quite secure in their construction. It’s also a very durable material.
Higher-priced bongos may be made from something a bit rarer such as Ash Wood.
It’s also common to find bongos made from fiberglass. Fiberglass bongos are designed to be a lot more durable, as they don’t have wooden shells that get affected by weather. They keep their tuning a lot better than wooden bongos do.
The cheapest bongos are typically made from ABS plastic. They don’t produce tones that are as rich or detailed as wooden and fiberglass bongos, but they still sound relatively decent.
I wouldn’t suggest picking bongos purely based on certain shell material preferences, as most beginners won’t even hear the differences in tone. However, it’s good to know what the shell material is so that you know what to expect when you get the bongos.
As you become more experienced with bongo playing, the subtle differences start to become clearer.
Bongos always come in pairs. The smaller drum is known as the macho and the larger one is called the hembra. These two drums are connected by a solid block.
You get various sizes when it comes to macho and hembra drums, so that’s something you need to look out for when picking a pair of bongos out.
The smaller the bongos are, the brighter and higher-pitched their sounds will be. They’ll also be physically lighter to carry, making them easier for traveling.
Larger bongos have more volume, so those would be a better option to get if you want to add them to a percussion rig. You’d also benefit from getting a tripod stand to hold them. A lot of percussionists use a setup like that with bongos and congas, and larger bongos work very well for that.
With most bongos, macho drums will be between six and eight inches, and hembra drums will be between seven and ten inches.
You can use all bongo sizes to play in a seated position, but it will be more comfortable to play smaller bongos like that.
If you’re a dedicated bongo player, it may be worth getting two pairs with contrasting sizes.
The first thing to look at when considering a pair of bongos is whether they have rims with tension rods. If they don’t, it means that you can’t tune those bongos, and I suggest staying away from those. The only exception to this is the combination bongo cajon that I suggested at the end of the above list.
Once you know that the bongos have rims and tension rods, it’s worth checking what kind of material the rims are made from.
There are two things that the rims affect. Firstly, they affect how the bongos feel to play. They’ll add weight to the bongos, and you may hit them with your fingers when you strike the edge of the bongos as well.
They’ll also affect how the bongos look. Some pairs of bongos have gold-plated rims, making them look highly appealing to a lot of people.
The rims on the bongos also affect the price you pay. Higher-quality rims boost that price, while most affordable bongos have simple ABS plastic rims with metal tension rods.
Bongos will either have synthetic or natural rawhide skins. Natural rawhide skins are typically found on the best bongo drums, as they have much wider tonal ranges. You can get a lot out of rawhide skins by playing the drums differently with your fingers.
Synthetic skins are cheaper to put on the bongos, so you’ll find them on more affordable options. While synthetic skins don’t sound as good, they stay in tune for a lot longer. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to constantly tune your bongos, these may be a better option. They also don’t expand and contract depending on the weather as rawhide skins do.
If you’re happy to tune your bongos to perfection whenever you need to, rawhide skins are the clear winner.
Remember that you can always change the skins out if you need to. That’s another reason why I suggest steering clear of bongos without tuning rods.
Apart from drumhead choice, shell material, and rim material, you’ll find a few more construction details when looking at different bongo options. While bongos all look the same, they’re not all designed in the same way.
Certain brands have innovative designs which they claim make the bongos sound and perform better. It’s important to look out for things like that so that you can decide if it appeals to you.
You should also look for other unique construction quirks. For example, the Pearl Travel bongos have very shallow depths. There aren’t many bongos with similar design features as those, making them a highly viable option.
Just make sure to read up on everything when looking to buy a pair, and you’ll become clued up and how certain bongos are made. Doing that will also allow you to understand pricing structures a bit better.
To recap everything said above, the price of a pair of bongos depends on what shell material they’re made from, what skins are placed on the drums, and what hardware is used to hold them together.
When thinking of how much you’re willing to spend, you should decide how important the bongo tone is to you. If you’re a professional percussionist, you’ll hear the distinct differences between a set of beginner bongos and a set of pro bongos. In that case, getting the best set of bongos would be the only option.
If you’re less experienced, getting a more affordable intermediate set of bongos would be a better idea. They still sound great, but they won’t cost too much.
If you’re just a hobbyist, an entry-level set may be perfectly fine for you. Remember that bongos only produce a limited number of sounds. Paying hundreds of dollars for a single pair isn’t something that hobbyist players will be willing to do in most cases.
Best Bongo Drum Brands
There are dozens of brands that sell bongos. However, there are a select few that I’d suggest sticking with, as they all have large ranges of high-quality bongos that are known to be very reliable.
Latin Percussion is arguably the best percussion instrument brand in the world. The brand sells every percussion instrument that you can possibly think of, and all of them are brilliantly designed.
The brand has an impressive product line of bongos, with affordable options for beginners and luxurious options for pros.
Meinl Percussion is another very popular percussion instrument brand. The brand falls under the greater group of Meinl brands, and all the instruments are expertly made in Germany.
I’d say the best thing about Meinl Percussion is the brand’s large range of intermediate bongos. They’re good enough for professionals to use, but they’re also affordable enough for hobbyists to easily get them.
Pearl is primarily a drum kit company. However, the brand creates a few percussion instruments that match their drum kits in quality. The brand has been making bongos and congas for years, and hundreds of musicians are still using Pearl percussion instruments that they purchased decades ago.
The best thing about Pearl bongos is their reliability and excellent construction quality.
RockJam is a brand that makes budget instruments. While the brand only offers a single pair of bongos, these are undoubtedly the best-sounding budget bongos on the market.
So, RockJam is the brand I suggest looking into if you want the cheapest bongos possible that still sound good.
Top Bongo Drums, Final Thoughts
If you’re new to playing the bongos, your best options will be intermediate bongos that don’t cost hundreds of dollars.
They have attainable price tags, and they sound good enough to use in musical settings. Most of the bongos that I’ve suggested fit into that category.
Your other options would be to get a cheap pair or an expensive luxury pair. The luxury bongos are for the pros and collectors.
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