Black Dot on Bass Drum?

MikeM

Platinum Member
Short answer: Yes!

I hadn't used one of these since sometime back in the '80s, and based on my observation of other drummers I see locally and here on DW, most probably have either never tried them or it's been a long time.

But I'm back to using them now and can't say enough good things about them.

It occurred to me to revisit these based on a couple revelations.

First, I've been using Black Dots on my toms for almost two years now and can't imagine using anything else at this point. They're my favorite head because they have such a strongly defined mid-forward presence. They also have a great feel under the stick with that reinforced center that seems to inhibit deflection so the stick comes right back at you instead of sinking into the head, which makes for tighter articulation for quicker figures and better control. Toms end up closing the feel gap with the snare and the whole kit plays more evenly.

Second, since I've been getting into bass playing more the last few years and discovering what others have already figured out for what makes a tone survive a full band mix, I've learned that there's a "bedroom tone" that many players dial in that sounds great in isolation, but unfortunately, it's a scooped tone where the EQ is set to a smiley face shape. The mids end up scooped out when the lows and highs are boosted and most that play in bands discover that scooping the mids leaves an ill-defined tone where high end clank and low end rumble dominate. As it turns out, it's the mids that make it though and are what makes for a pleasing sound that works in a mix, though it may not sound "right" in the bedroom. The take-away for me was to set the EQ somewhere between flat or a "frowny face" before striking up with the band. It really works and the same principal applies to drums.

Back to bass drum heads: I've been using pre-muffled heads since Remo Powerstrokes hit the scene. I've played EMADs, and Superkicks, but mostly PS3s for many years. The design element they all have in common is a perimeter muffling scheme (felt, foam, or mylar ring), so they all have that characteristic sound in common - accentuated tubby lows with a fatter attack. All well and good, but it's the drumhead equivalent to that scooped bass sound, IMO. The mids are de-emphasized and clarity in the mix takes a hit.

Black Dots don't do that at all - they have strong mid-presence and their snap doesn't figure in so prominently until they get out of the lower end of their dynamic range - which is about the sweetest thing I've ever heard. It's been a while since I've used an Ambassador, but I suspect they're more evenly EQ'd than anything with perimeter muffling, too, though with more give in the center.

I'm at a point now where I want to hear that CS sound on every bass drum I hear, hence this Public Service Announcement.

Mostly though, I'm only on this rave because I personally feel like these heads are (almost) criminally overlooked. Practically nobody uses them, which results in practically nobody getting the chance to hear their significant charms. Heads with built in perimeter muffling have had an absolute lock on the market for many years now, and since BD heads are expensive, folks are a lot less willing to experiment. Also, I don't see that Evans or Aquarian offer a straight single-ply with a dot for the bass drum, but Ludwig still makes an unadulterated Silver Dot.

I can't recommend this head type strongly enough to anyone looking for something extraordinary.

You're welcome ;)
 
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opentune

Platinum Member
Great post. I gather you are buying up all the black dots? Many stores I visit never stock them.
I've only used a CS once because it came with a used bass drum I bought. I was sorry I let the head go as it did have nice tone and I really liked the feel of that dot.
I am also a fan of Ambassador with a felt strip. It is a nice round open 'old school' sound. As you say, heads like that are unpopular as they do not sound so good in the 'bedroom' regime but is great outside of that with a loud band.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Great post. I gather you are buying up all the black dots? Many stores I visit never stock them.
I've only used a CS once because it came with a used bass drum I bought. I was sorry I let the head go as it did have nice tone and I really liked the feel of that dot.
I am also a fan of Ambassador with a felt strip. It is a nice round open 'old school' sound. As you say, heads like that are unpopular as they do not sound so good in the 'bedroom' regime but is great outside of that with a loud band.
Thanks! Maybe I should start hoarding them ... ;)

I'm not too worried, though; they're still in production and available after all these years of neglect. I don't see too many around in stores either so I order online. I've been forced to give up hope for finding any kind of head in my sizes since my drums are 13-15-18-24. Stores will often have a couple of them but almost never all of them. For some reason it's the 18", and not the 15", that no one seems to carry. Weird.

With the black dot, I've started using felt strips, too. There was never a need for that with the PS3. Now I'm using the CS with a felt strip and a ported Ambassador reso with no felt strip. No other muffling. Sounds friggin amazing.

Interesting.....would be nice to hear a sound clip if you had one, like from a gig or something
I don't, and probably won't until long after this thread has slipped into the ether. Sorry!
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I used to use the Black Dots back in the day and liked them a lot. I moved to the PS3 when those came out, like nearly everyone else.

Recently I put the new PS3 Black Dot on my 24" BD. So far I like it. I'd be curious how it compares to your felt-stripped Black Dot. It definitely has more upper mid than the regular PS3, and that Black Dot feel.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
Used to be the bass drum head of choice back in the 80's, and for good reason. Black dot/ blanket/ no front head = great punchy bass drum sound for recording. The PS3 black dot is a great head. I made one before Remo offered it by cutting out the collar from an old PS3 and laying it on the bearing edge of my kick before I put on a new black dot. Sounded awesome. I just did the same thing on my 26" Legacy bass drum with the collar from an old Power Collar head and a new silver dot. Sounds perfect with a Power Collar on the reso.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Used to be the bass drum head of choice back in the 80's, and for good reason. Black dot/ blanket/ no front head = great punchy bass drum sound for recording. The PS3 black dot is a great head. I made one before Remo offered it by cutting out the collar from an old PS3 and laying it on the bearing edge of my kick before I put on a new black dot. Sounded awesome. I just did the same thing on my 26" Legacy bass drum with the collar from an old Power Collar head and a new silver dot. Sounds perfect with a Power Collar on the reso.
True, it was the head of choice back then and was commonly used just as you describe - blanket muffling with no reso. I used them that way myself and it's a cool punchy sound. They don't have to be used that way, of course, but that's what people remember.

You might also remember DeadRingers from that era, which were foam rings with a sticky back that you would stick on the underside of the head inside the drum. I bought a set of those for my drums and used them for a few months until the novelty wore off and I realized I hated them, but they were the first use of full perimeter muffling I remember seeing. The concept is alive and well, though primarily with bass drum heads.

Pinstripes, which were just coming into wide use around the same time, use an adhesive between the two plies around the perimeter for a similar effect. Doesn't seem like Pinstripes ever caught on for bass drums, but when the PS3s came out, they did right away.

I think my enthusiasm for black dots on bass drums might be less about the actual dot, and more about rediscovering how great a bass drum can sound when the head doesn't have built-in perimeter muffling. Putting a dot on a PS3 misses that benefit. I'm still a fan of PS3s, though, so this isn't meant to be a take-down. I just like the straight black dot better.

For now, anyway.
 

Road Bull

Silver Member
Great post Mike!

Lately, I have been rolling with no muffling whatsoever for my 26" bass drums. Remo Emperor on batter and Ambassador on reso side. I had been using about a 3 inch piece of felt prior. However, I wanted to see what the Vistalite kit would sound like without anything at all. It turns out that I really dug it. It sounds nice, loud, and open. I would be interested in trying some black dots, but 26" heads get expensive to experiment with. I try to pick heads and tunings that maximize attack and sustain. I was always worried that the black dot heads would cut down some of that sustain for all the focused attack. Maybe next time I get to looking for new heads I will have to do some experimenting.
 

JD7

Senior Member
Really great post! I've know of the bedroom sound effect for years, but never heard such a wonderful name for it. I've been using felt strips on a 60s Ludwig batter (and reso) and also on an 80s Superstar 24". I've been thinking about going back to CS and this thread is certainly pushing me further.

My first kit in 89 was an Asian stencil kit and it had a CS w/ the Remo internal muffling system. Sounded great (I realize this takes away from your perimeter muffling statements).
 
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