Best Bongo Drums for Beginners and Experienced Percussionists

Whether you’re looking to entertain your friends at the campfire or a drummer who has outgrown fidget spinners, you may want to consider getting the best bongo drums for your money just so you can keep practicing your beats and have something to play on wherever you go.

The ability to play soft or loud is one of the coolest things about bongos. And, you can get a very rich sound out of these basic instruments once you learn how to properly tighten the heads and explore the different tunings.

5 Best Bongo Drums that Sound Great

The Latin Percussion Aspire is a series of natural wood bongos. The LPA601-AW pair comes with Siam oak shells and powder-coated durable hardware. The drums also have 6-3/4” and 8” rawhide heads that offer a very interesting rich sound.

I also recommend these drums for their Cuban-style steel bottoms that add a touch of elegance and improve the playability. Also helping improve the comfort is the EZ curve rim.

When it comes to sound, the LPA601-AW bongos are quite versatile. It all comes down to tuning, which you can do with the wrench that comes in the package. You can adapt the sound to your preferred genre and change the pitch and tone in various ways until you’re satisfied.

However, what sets these bongos apart is probably their ability to produce very high-pitched beats. This is hard to achieve in your garden-variety bongos. The overall durability of the drums is also impressive and the stability of the drums makes them easy to place and play almost anywhere.

If you’re looking for professional drums with a loud output and versatile sound, the LPA601-AW may be your best bet.

  • Durable build
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    Good stability
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    EZ curve rim
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    Natural hide heads
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    Rugged exterior
  • May have a slight ring if not tuned properly

Meinl has always excelled at all things percussion. It should come as no surprise that the Meinl HB100VSB is a set of highly popular bongos. First of all, the bongos are made with buffalo skin heads that offer superior tonal quality, plenty of warmth, and enough adjustability to lend the bongos to multiple genres.

In terms of design and build quality, you would be hard-pressed to find anything better in this price range. These Meinl bongos have hardwood shells, which is always a good sign. This ensures build integrity in a better resonator box that helps to amplify the volume.

A tuning wrench is included, as it most often is. Another thing I liked about these bongos was their ability to take a pounding. If you’re a heavy hitter then you should appreciate the strong feedback you’ll get from the drums, as well as the consistent intonation at all volume levels.

  • Meinl craftsmanship
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    Rugged rubber wood shells
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    Natural buffalo skin heads
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    Designed to withstand hard hits
  • No Meinl free-ride system

The Tycoon Ritmo bongos come in four colors. They feature Siam oak wood shells for durability and extra loudness and buffalo skin heads for versatility and durability.

These bongos may look simple, but that’s because they are, though they have a lot going for them when it comes to sound quality. You can use them for classic tunes but you can also adjust their pitch to fit more modern music.

There’s enough volume to let you use the bongos when accompanying a traditional drum kit. The intonation should be consistent and the heads produce very little ringing. This means that putting some mics in front of the bongos will result in a clean capture.

The reinforced side plates improve the durability even further and allow the drums to take a beating. This is one of the reasons why I recommend the Tycoon Ritmo bongos for beginner and intermediate percussionists.

  • Reinforced side and back plates
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    Lightweight and easy to handle
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    Rugged build
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    6” and 7” buffalo skin heads
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    Affordable
  • Not the loudest output for their size

RockJam has been making a killing in percussion instruments. What I first liked about this bongo drum set was the low cost of the complete package, which also includes a padded gig bag and a tuning key. You may also be surprised to see that the bongos feature chrome hardware, a pretty high-end feature for this price range.

The bongos are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but the natural finish bongos (there are 3 other finishes) look pretty good for some campfire or small venue playing. Both the 7” and 8” heads feature natural skin that allows some versatility in terms of pitch and intonation.

I also liked the overall build quality, although it’s important to remember that gradual tightening of the skins will be necessary. The bongos don’t have sufficient stress resistance to handle aggressive tunings.

The bag offers a snug fit so you can use the RockJam set as a travel bongo drum set. The strap is strong and thick enough to prevent chafing. On the inside, the bongos sit tightly together and won’t move around too much.

  • Natural skin
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    Chrome fittings
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    Padded case included
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    Affordable
  • The skin heads are thinner than expected

The GP Percussion B2 bongos are part of the GP Percussion Pro Series. They boast a very professional look, whether you prefer the hickory or the dark brown finish. The artwork looks great and is well complemented by the chrome hardware.

In terms of sound, the B2 bongos are quite sharp but also have a richness about them. The authentic skin heads provide plenty of volume and can handle a heavy beating. Durability shouldn’t be an issue either.

The wood is high quality and the metal hardware does more than just improve the aesthetics of the drums. The combination of 6” and 7” heads provides enough range for enthusiasts and is easier to handle by beginners too.

  • Natural skin
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    All-metal hardware
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    Eye-catching artwork
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    Tunable heads
  • Not ideal for recordings

How Much Should You Spend on Bongos?

In order to figure out what’s the best move for you, financially speaking, you should figure out why or where you want to play your bongos. If you want them just for practicing at home or doing some outdoor acoustic jamming with friends, then you shouldn’t go out of your way to pay for a nice set.

Manufacturers tend to throw in a carry bag of at least above average quality these days, one that can serve as storage and travel bag. Just make sure that the bongos don’t move around too much inside.

Natural Skin, Always the Way to Go

There’s a very good reason why natural skin heads are preferable. They are a lot more durable and should be able to endure more stress. If you like to experiment with different pitches and tunings, then natural skin should be the only option to consider.

In terms of sound quality, there’s also no denying that natural skin will provide you with a richer sound and more volume for its ability to handle a heavier beating.

Hardware and Reinforcements

Most bongos, even the budget-friendly sets, should have all-metal hardware. This will provide you with good stability and a high performance tuning system.

Reinforced plates on the sides and back should also improve durability. However, they may influence the sound at times. If the drums aren’t well-designed, reinforcing may cause an unwanted ringing sound when you tighten the skin for high-pitched sounds.

Time to Step Up Your Game

You may think that bongos are simple instruments that aren’t worthy of any serious drummers. But the fact is that you can get some pretty impressive beats out of just two small bongos.

As you can see, bongos won’t set you back too much either. The good ones, i.e. any of the above, can keep you busy for hours – just be careful not to overstress your palms.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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