We’ve got a brand new article on Green Day’s Tre Cool, where we dive into his signature sound, setup, and how he’s contributed to punk rock drumming over the last 30 years. It’s a must-read for fans of Green Day and Tre Cool – check it out here!
A free & live drum workshop with Danny Carey & other legends, today!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From his thunderous hard-hitting style to his signature skills and fills, read what makes Grohl such a unique and recognizable drummer. There’s also a gear overview, and a huge range of examples from his decades-long drumming career.
They’re both color drumheads, so what’s the difference between Evans Hydraulic and Remo Colortone?
Well, there’s actually a huge difference!
So we’ve put together this Remo Colortone vs Evans Hydraulic drumhead comparison to clear up a few things.
Both heads sound great (and look great!), but you can end up getting caught out if you buy the wrong ones for your sound. So here’s our full guide to Remo Colortone vs Evans Hydraulic drumheads.
The sound: A fat, short, thud.
Evans Hydraulic are very unique drumheads. They’re made with two plies (like a lot of heads), but -and here’s the unique part- there’s a thin layer of oil trapped between the two plies.
The oil acts as a dampening agent, which means it stops your drum from ringing out. It really reduces the sustain and overtones of your drums, because the oil between the plies reduces the vibration of the head.
Along with dampening the drumhead, the tone you get is warmer and lower in pitch, because the oil adds more weight to the head.
This means that Evans Hydraulic heads can give your drums a nice fat, deep, short thud. If that’s the sound you’re looking for, they’re perfect.
Due to the heavier weight, just beware that you’ll lose a lot of volume and projection with Hydraulic heads: the sound of your drums just won’t carry as far.
These heads shine when heard close-up, or in the studio with microphones on your drum kit. If you’re playing in a loud environment though (e.g. rock, punk, etc), your drum sound can get lost in all the noise (unless you have mics on the kit).
The bottom line
Tuned low, Evans Hydraulic heads give a really deep fat sound, and they won’t ring out much at all. You can tune them high to get more sustain and a better attack. However, they’re kind of a one-trick pony: the sound they make is great, but you’re getting one style of sound.
Which one should you choose? Well, it really depends on the sound you want. Let’s take a look now!
Remo Emperor Colortone
The Remo Emperor Colortone is made with two plies of 7mil film (similar to the Evans Hydraulic).
However, unlike Evans Hydraulic, Remo Colortone Emperor heads do not have a layer of oil between the plies. Due to this, Emperor Colortone drumheads will have a longer sustain, slightly more overtones, and a slightly brighter sound compared to a Hydraulic.
If you read our description of the Evans Hydraulic above and think the sound is a little too extreme, then Emperor Colortone are an excellent choice.
Next up is the Remo Powerstroke 77 Colortone, which is made only for snare drums.
This head is also made with two plies of 7mil film (like the Remo Emperor Colortone we’ve just covered). However, the Powerstroke 77 also features a 5mil center control dot and an inlay ring.
The control dot and inlay ring dampen the sound and stop the drumhead from ringing out, which means you’ll get a much more controlled sound compared to the Emperor Colortone.
If you’re looking for the Remo version of an Evans Hydraulic, this is fairly close. It’s very thick when factoring in the control dot, and it gives a deep warm sound and short sustain. The sustain is very short especially when this drumhead is tuned low, but it gives a more cutting snare “crack” when tuned high.
However, compared to Evans Hydraulic, Remo Powerstroke 77 Colortone drumheads do not have a layer of oil between the two plies of Mylar. Instead of the drum sound being dampened by oil, Powerstroke 77 heads are dampened by the control dot and control ring.
Remo Powerstroke P3 Colortone
Remo also have a bass-drum-only version of the Colortone: The Remo Powerstroke P3 Colortone.
The Powerstroke P3 Colortone is actually a much thinner drumhead compared to the Evans Hydraulic and all of the other Remo options: The P3 Colortone is made with a single 10mil ply. It also features an inlay ring to help control overtones and ringing, to give a more focused bass drum sound.
Compared to all of the other color head options, this is the brightest and most open-sounding head. Even though it’s brighter-sounding, it can still be tuned low to get a nice deep bass drum rumble, or tuned up higher for a more cutting sound.
The P3 Colortone is a great choice for an all-round bass drum head (it’s suitable for almost any style of music), as long as you’re not a really hard-hitting drummer… The 10mil ply may not hold up long-term to extremely hard footwork (use a kick drum patch if you’re worried about this!).
While we’re on the topic of bass drum port holes, it’s important to point out that you cannot put a port hole in an Evans Hydraulic drumhead. Hydraulic heads have oil between the plies, which can leak out if you cut a port hole. For this reason, you’d be advised to get a Remo Powerstroke P3 Colortone rather than an Evans Hydraulic if you want to add some color to your bass drum head.
Evans Hydraulic vs Remo Colortone Buying Guide: Which Drumhead Is Best?
Ok, so we’ve looked at how Evans Hydraulic drumheads compare to Remo Colortone. So which one should you buy? Here’s a quick and simple guide.
We’ve listed the drumheads from most sustain and brightest-sounding, to least sustain and warmest/deepest-sounding:
Remo Colortone Powerstroke P3: This is the thinnest and brightest-sounding color drumhead. It’s made for bass drums only, and it’s a great choice for a versatile sound. You can get a deep rumble, or tune it higher for a sound that punches through.
Remo Colortone Emperor: This is the most versatile color snare and tom head. It’s fairly thick, but it still has a fairly strong sustain (and you can add moongels or dampening to reduce the sustain if you need). Get this drumhead if you want an overall warm drum sound, but with enough attack to still be heard among louder instruments and a good amount of tone in your sound.
Remo Colortone Powerstroke 77: This is the thickest and warmest Remo color head, made for snare drums. It also rings out the least of all Remo heads, especially when tuned low. Get this head if you’re a hard-hitter, or if you want a really controlled, short, and fat snare tone.
Evans Hydraulic: Due to the layer of oil between the two plies, this head gives an extremely warm, fat, and short sound. Your drums won’t ring out, and overtones will be almost entirely reduced. Get these heads if you want all of your drums to have a short, deep, fat thud.
At DrumheadAuthority, we’re all about comparing drumheads (it’s why we built our drumhead selector to help you find the right heads).
Drumhead choice (and how you tune and dampen them) will always have a massive impact on the sound of your drum kit.
But what about the drums themselves?
Drummer Johnny Seguin (@johnny_seguin) recently made a nice drum kit comparison, to show how much (or how little?) the actual brand of a drum kit can affect your sound. He’s kindly shared the video with us, so we can show our readers.
He set up a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute, a DW Collectors Series, and a Ludwig Vintage Super Classic. They’re all maple drums, all tuned the same, and all with the exact same drumheads. The snare and toms each feature a coated Remo Ambassador drumhead, with two moongels. On each kick drum is a clear Remo Powerstroke P3.
Take a look at the video, and see if you can hear any real difference between these three kits. You’ll hear each snare, rack tom, and floor tom, followed by each of the kick drums.
When we spoke with Johnny, he told us he wanted a controlled experiment to identify the differences in shells and hardware, with results up for debate. He said the silver lining with this comparison is that an intact shell with good heads can sound great, regardless of the brand.
Beyond just the drum’s wood, the hardware can also have a pretty big effect on your drum sound and sustain, especially where a tom comes in contact with the floor (or with its mount). Check out our overview of how BootyShakers can improve your tom sustain, or try putting some thick cymbal felts under your floor tom legs: These can be especially handy to squeeze some more sustain and boom out of your tom.