Forget Everything You Know About Drum Wood

When was the last time you heard a song and thought “That drummer should have really used mahogany shells rather than maple“? Never, right?

If you’re wondering what the best drum wood is for your new drum kit, you’re asking the wrong question. In our latest article, we pull apart the “best drum wood” conversation, to show you how little it actually affects your sound.

Would you pay $8,000 for this kit (hardware not included)

Drummers can sometimes put so much emphasis on the sound of drum wood. But when you see exactly what goes into a drum’s sound, you’ll realize that you should forget about the wood type altogether.

So don’t buy a drum set made from the wrong wood, don’t pay too much for the “perfect” wood, and don’t overlook the other critical factors that influence your drums.

Here’s everything you need to know about how drum wood affects your sound.

New Article: A Guide To Effective Drum Practice

Need a drum practice routine to take you to the next level? These tips will get you there.

How To Practice Drums

In our latest article, 7UPPERCUTS drummer Callum Rollo takes us through his go-to drum practice schedule, covering the four key areas he targets to keep his skills up.

Here’s exactly how to maximize your drum practice routine, with a focus on technique & timing, rudiments, planning for projects/gigs, and working on improvisation & creativity.

Free Live Workshop: Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Dirk Verbeuren, Ray Luzier & More

A free & live drum workshop with Danny Carey & other legends, today!

Danny Carey free live webinar

Berklee College of Music is holding a live drum workshop at 1pm Eastern Time (USA and Canada) on Thursday April 16th.

It’s called Big Gigs, Big Stages, Big Skills, and it will feature some of the biggest names in the industry.

Tool’s Danny Carey will be taking part, along with his rhythm-section counterpart Justin Chancellor. They’ll also be joined by the bass-drum combos of Dirk Verbeuren & Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Ray Luzier & Billy Sheehan (from acts including David Lee Roth, Korn, Stone Temple Pilots, Vai, Winery Dogs).

The focus will be on the intensity, precision, and groove of “heavy” drum and bass relationships.

This is a super rare event where you can get some amazing free advice from some of the best in the industry. Register on Berklee’s sign-up page here.

Check out Danny Carey’s recording drum set for Tool’s latest album here.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor

What’s the difference between Remo Ambassador vs Remo Emperor drumheads?

Remo Ambassador Drumhead
Remo Ambassador Coated

One is a thinner single-ply head, while the other is a two-ply thicker head with a very different sound.

They’re both excellent drumheads, and they both have a good amount of versatility, but it’s important to know the difference.

We’ve broken down everything on this page, to make sure you buy the best drumheads for your sound and style. Don’t get caught out with the wrong heads!

Ambassador & Emperor: What’s In A Name

So you might be wondering what the hell do the words “Ambassador” and “Emperor” actually have to do with drums in the first place?

Remo Emperor Coated Drumhead
Remo Emperor Coated

Well, Remo had to name them something, but there is some logic behind the different names here. Thinking deeper about the names can help you remember which is which, if you struggle with this.

Think of the “job descriptions” behind the drumhead names:

An Ambassador is a pretty “honorable” position. You’ve got some weight, experience, and power.

But compare that to an Emperor.

The Emperor is the real big-shot… Heavy, thick, and really strong. If you’re an emperor, you’re at the top of the food chain.

So keep this in mind when you’re thinking of these heads and reading everything we cover below. You’ll see that these descriptions can fit with how they sound, and how they behave.

What About Evans & Aquarian Drumheads?

Before we get into the details, you should know that this article will be super helpful even if you don’t play Remo drumheads.

Here’s how Evans and Aquarian stack up against the Remo Ambassador and Emperor:

Aquarian Texture Coated Drumhead
Aquarian Texture Coated

They’re basically the same type of heads, just made by different companies.

Sure, there can be slight differences in sound between these brands. But the construction is the same when it comes to thickness and ply count, and the sound differences between a G1 and G2 (or between a Classic Clear and Response 2) are very similar to the differences between an Ambassador and an Emperor.

So if you prefer Evans or Aquarian, you can easily apply everything we say about the Ambassador and Emperor to the Evans and Aquarian equivalent.

Tip: If you want to see a full list of equivalent heads between Aquarian, Evans and Remo, see our full drumhead comparison chart here.

Quick Comparison

Okay, here’s a quick overview of the differences between Remo Ambassador vs Remo Emperor. Check it out, and then we’ll get into exactly what each difference actually means for your drum sound.

Quick GuideRemo AmbassadorRemo Emperor
AttackLow-ModerateModerate-High
DrumSnare, Bass, TomsSnare, Bass, Toms
DurabilityLowMedium, High
OvertonesHighModerate
Ply1 ply2 ply
ResponsivenessHighMedium
SoundBalanced, BrightBalanced, Warm
SustainHigh, Very HighModerate
Total Thickness10mil14mil
SurfaceClear or CoatedClear or Coated
Special FeaturesNoneNone
PriceCheck price hereCheck price here

Don’t worry if you’re not sure of any of the variables listed above, because we’ll dive deep into this as we compare these drumheads.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Differences In Construction

The key difference between Ambassador vs Emperor drumheads is how they’re built. This affects all of the other variables, so it’s important to cover this first.

While they both use the same type of Mylar plastic, the sound of these drumheads changes quite a lot based on how the Mylar is actually used.

Remo Ambassador drumheads are made with a single ply (a single layer) of Mylar, and this ply is 10mil thick. In comparison, Remo Emperor heads are made with two plies, and each ply is 7mil thick (giving a total thickness of 14 mil).

The difference in thickness and ply count is what makes these heads sound and behave differently when they’re compared to one another. It’s super important to remember these differences in ply and thickness, because this is what determines how your drums will actually sound when you choose either the Remo Ambassador or Emperor.

Throughout the rest of this review, we’ll be referring back to the differences in thickness and ply count. So keep in mind that the Remo Ambassador is 10mil thick and single ply, while the Remo Emperor is 14mil thick and made with two plies.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Differences In Attack

The “attack” of a drumhead is the big crack, snap, or thud you hear when the head is first hit. It’s the big sound that comes right when the stick (or your bass drum beater) makes contact with the head, before you hear the ringing of the sustain and overtones.

Attack is important, because it can help your drums either blend into the overall sound (this is important when you’re playing in a band or in the studio), or allow your drums to really stand out against all the other instruments (so you can be heard in really loud environments).

So how does attack compare when looking at the Remo Ambassador vs Emperor?

In short, the Remo Emperor is capable of producing a stronger and louder attack, compared to the Ambassador. Let’s take a look at the Emperor first.

Remo Emperor: Attack

Hit the Emperor hard, and it will give a louder sound compared to the Remo Ambassador. The difference is not huge, but if you need a drumhead that can cut through in loud environments (for example with hard rock, punk, or metal), then the Emperor will help get you there (especially the clear version).

Thicker drumheads (especially clear ones) can create a bigger attack when hit hard. Although if a head is too thick, the attack can drop off. The Remo Emperor is in the sweet spot where it’s thick enough for a good strong attack, but not too thick.

If a loud attack in your drum sound is important, you’d want to consider buying the Remo Emperor rather than the Ambassador. When hit hard, the Emperor can cut through louder.

Remo Ambassador: Attack

On the flip side, if you’re playing lower-volume styles of music, the Remo Ambassador might be a better choice compared to the Emperor: Due to its single ply construction and thinner overall design, it takes less energy to “activate” the Ambassador, so you can get a nicer drum sound at lower volumes, without a huge cutting attack.

It’s important to think about how your drums will fit into the mix with other instruments here, so give some consideration to the type of attack you need for the style of music you play.

Tip: Attack is not the only variable that can affect how clearly your drums are heard, and this will become evident as you read on (responsiveness and brightness/warmth are also important factors here – we’ll cover these soon).

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Differences In Durability

Durability is a measurement of how much use and abuse a drumhead can handle.

It’s determined by how thick the head is, which becomes pretty clear when you think about it: A thicker film of plastic can take more of a beating compared to a thin film.

So is the Remo Ambassador or Remo Emperor more durable? If you think back to what we covered earlier, you’ll know pretty quickly that the Remo Emperor is more durable than the Ambassador, because it’s thicker (the Emperor is 14mil thick, compared to the 10mil Ambassador).

Remo Ambassador & Emperor: Durability

If you’re beating the hell out of your drums, then durability is an important thing to consider. So for punk, hard rock, metal, and similar types of music, consider buying Remo Emperors instead of Ambassadors. That’s a very loose and general rule though; you can definitely use Ambassadors for those music styles if you prefer the sound (there’s never any “best” drumhead, since it all comes down to your own personal taste).

Overall both the Ambassador and Emperor are extremely well-made professional-grade drumheads, and they can both handle a lot of drumming. If you’re not beating the hell out of your drums, then I really wouldn’t worry about which head is more durable. The Ambassador is definitely not a super-thin drumhead, and it can handle a bit of hard playing.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Differences In Sustain & Overtones

First up, let’s cover some important definitions here:

  • Sustain = how long your drums ring out, and how loud this ringing is.
  • Overtones = how much variance in tone there can be when your drums are ringing out.

Think about the drum sound you want: Do you picture boomy toms that have a long tone that rings out? Or would you prefer a shorter thud? As well as thinking about your tom sound, the same questions can be applied to your snare, or your bass drum.

When comparing the Remo Ambassador vs the Remo Emperor, it’s mainly the ply count which matters most for sustain and overtones. With other heads, there are other variables that can have a huge influence on sustain and overtones (e.g. drumheads with built-in control rings). However, both the Ambassador and Emperor are free from any built-in dampening (so the ply count has the biggest influence here).

Two-ply heads generally give less sustain and overtones when compared to a one-ply head.

This is because one sheet of plastic (a single ply) can freely vibrate after you hit it. If you stack two sheets of plastic on top of each other (two plies), they won’t be able to vibrate as easily (since they’re rubbing and pushing against each other). This vibration is what produces your drum sound, the sustain, and the overtones!

It’s important to also mention that if a head is too thin or too thick, it won’t ring out as much. Really thin heads don’t have the weight behind them to vibrate hard for a long time, and really thick heads take a lot more force (i.e. extremely hard hitting) to vibrate at their full potential. However, the Remo Ambassador and Emperor don’t really suffer these issues (they’re not super thin, nor super thick).

Remo Ambassador: Sustain & Overtones

Compared to the Remo Emperor, the single-ply Ambassador can produce more sustain and overtones. This means that if you want your drums to ring out longer, the Ambassador is the best choice.

The single ply of Mylar used for the Remo Ambassador can freely vibrate when you hit the drumhead, and its thickness (10mil) is a good sweet-spot for being thick enough to vibrate well, but not so thick that it chokes itself or takes too much force to activate. This allows for more sustain, and also more overtones.

Let’s focus specifically on overtones for a moment:

The Remo Ambassador can give you more overtones compared to the Emperor. For beginner drummers, overtones can often cause drums to sound strange (with a weird and unpleasant ringing). The solution here is tuning: When you’re using the drum key to turn each tuning rod, ensure each rod has the same tension (or “tightness”) compared to all of the others on that drum. If each tension rod is tuned differently, you’ll get a lot of strange overtones.

Tip: There’s more to tuning than just the tightness of each rod! See here for our drum tuning guide for beginners.

Remo Emperor: Sustain & Overtones

Compared to the Ambassador, the Remo Emperor gives less sustain and overtones. As we’ve covered above, this is because the two plies choke each other slightly when they vibrate against each other (after the drum is hit).

This is not a huge difference, but it is noticeable if you put these drumheads side by side. So if you’re looking to reduce your overtones or lessen your sustain, the Remo Emperor is the better choice.

Tip: It’s important to mention that there are a lot of things you can use to reduce sustain and/or overtones, and there are also a lot of heads with built-in dampening to control these. Check out our full guide to drum dampening to become an instant expert on this!

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Differences In Responsiveness

Responsiveness means sensitivity: How sensitive is a drumhead when you play it lightly. Does the drumhead pick up every tiny ghost note, or does it sound “choked” or dull when you gently tap it?

Responsiveness is especially important for snare drums, because you need your drumhead to be sensitive enough to activate the snare wires with lighter playing.

Thinner and single-ply drumheads are always more responsive than thicker and two-ply heads. This is because the thinner material takes less energy to activate and vibrate (which creates your drum sound). Similarly, a single layer (ply) of plastic can activate more easily compared to two layers.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Responsiveness

Based on how the thickness and ply can affect responsiveness, hopefully it’s pretty clear that the Remo Ambassador is more responsive compared to the Remo Emperor.

This means that if you’re playing quieter music, or if you use a lot of light ghost notes in your drumming, the Remo Ambassador is the best choice compared to the Emperor. Otherwise, you’ll risk those ghost notes getting lost (especially when your drums are competing against other instruments).

The Ambassador’s responsiveness will also mean you’ll get a fuller tone even when playing softer (since it takes less force to fully activate the drumhead).

If you don’t care about low-volume drumming or ghost notes, then you can safely choose either the Ambassador or Emperor.

Remo Ambassador vs Emperor: Overall Drum Sound

The “overall drum sound” we’re talking about here is the balance (or ratio) of tones that these drumheads produce, when compared against each other.

This sound ranges from bright (or high-pitch) to warm (or dark / low-pitch). If there’s a fairly even amount of both high and low-pitch tones, the head’s sound is considered “balanced”.

Depending on the design, some heads will always have a brighter overall sound, while other can have a deeper and warmer overall sound.

In general: The thicker the head, the deeper and warmer the sound.

While this will obviously affect the tone you get from your drums, it also affects how easily your drums can cut through and be heard (especially in louder environments). Brighter (higher-pitch) drums can be heard more clearly, compared to deep and warm sounding drums.

You can change the tone of your drums by tuning them higher or lower. But a thicker head will always sound a little warmer and deeper, when compared to a thinner head tuned to the exact same tension. So let’s see what this means for the Remo Ambassador and Emperor.

Remo Ambassador: Drumhead Sound

Since the Remo Ambassador is thinner than the Emperor, you’ll get a slightly brighter overall drum sound with the Ambassador.

In general, the Remo Ambassador has a balanced to bright overall sound (when compared to all other drumheads out there).

It’s important to mention that your overall sound comes from more than just a drumhead’s thickness (and you’re probably noticing this as you read through this guide). The next section on clear and coated heads will put things into even better context. First though, let’s take a quick look at the Emperor’s sound.

Remo Emperor: Drumhead Sound

Compared to the Ambassador, the Emperor has a warmer overall sound. Compared to all other heads out there, it’s still within “balanced” territory though: The Emperor is has a balanced-warm sound, but there are definitely much warmer heads available (like these ones).

If you want a slightly deeper drum tone without too much harsher high-pitch frequencies, then the Remo Emperor is a good choice compared to the Ambassador. However, read the next section about clear and coated drumheads, because there’s more to brightness and warmth than just head thickness.

Remo Ambassador & Remo Emperor: Clear Or Coated?

One final (and important) point to cover is that both the Remo Ambassador and Emperor come in clear and coated versions.

This coating can have a big impact on your drum sound:

  • Clear heads have a brighter overall sound, and they also have slightly more sustain and overtones (since there’s nothing choking the plastic when it vibrates)
  • Coated heads have a warmer overall sound, with slightly less sustain and overtones (the coating dulls some of the higher frequencies, and slightly chokes the vibrations of the head)

Why is this important?

Because you can use this knowledge to “modify” the other variables we’ve covered above. Here’s just a few examples:

    • If you were considering a Remo Ambassador drumhead until we said it was “brighter” sounding, then get the coated version to make your sound a little warmer.
    • Similarly, if you’re worried about the Emperor being a little too warm, get the clear version.
    • If you want to get as much sustain as possible from a Remo Emperor drumhead, get the clear version (so the coating doesn’t take the edge off your sustain).
  • If you want an Ambassador to ring out a little less, the coated version can help a little.
Remo Emperor Colortone
Remo Emperor Colortone

The Remo Emperor also comes in a lot of different colored clear versions (called Remo Emperor Colortone). There’s pink, purple, orange, yellow, red, green, blue, and smoke colors available. These drumheads sound very similar to the regular clear Emperor heads.

Price-wise, Colortone heads cost around the same as the standard versions – take a look at the latest Colortone prices and styles here.

Tip: If you’re interested in the different color drumheads available, check out our comparison of the different options – we compare Evans Hydraulic and all of the Remo Colortone varieties.

Remo Ambassador & Emperor In Action

Here’s Dave Weckl playing Remo Ambassadors:

And here’s Tommy Aldridge going to town on a kit using Remo Emperor heads:

Struggling With All Of The Above?

Okay, so we’ve covered a huuuge range of variables… attack, responsiveness, overtones, sustain, durability, ply, thickness… It can be hard to put them all into perspective to find the best drumhead for your kit. Especially when you’re looking beyond comparing Remo Ambassador to Emperor, and across different drumhead brands.

Luckily, we’ve done all of the hard work for you, with our free drumhead selector:

Key in the exact level of attack, sustain, overtones, responsiveness, durability, dampening, and more, to see the exact drumheads that fit your needs.

It’s 100% free, so check it out here to find the best drumheads for your sound.

Alternatives to the Remo Ambassador and Remo Emperor

If you want the best of both worlds, there are a few heads that fit right in between Remo Ambassador and Emperor heads. Here’s a few examples (click on any to read a full review):

  • Remo Ambassador X // Evans G12 Clear or Coated: These heads are 12mil single-ply: They’re quite responsive, but with a slightly warmer sound and bigger attack to a regular Ambassador.
  • Remo Ambassador X14 // Evans G14 Clear or Coated: Going even thicker, these are 14mil single-ply heads. Take everything mentioned in the above point about the Ambassador X, and amplify it.
  • Aquarian Super 2 Clear or Coated: These are made with two plies of 6mil film, giving a total thickness of 12mil. These heads are slightly brighter sounding than a Remo Emperor, but with slightly less overtones compared to a Remo Ambassador.

Want to see how all Aquarian, Evans & Remo drumheads compare? See our full drumhead comparison chart, with everything on one page.