Stick Response of Single-Ply vs. Double-Ply Heads

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Greetings, all. I've been drumming thirty-six years and have always, without variation, used Remo Coated Ambassadors as both batter and resonant heads on all my kits. My primary genres are country and light rock. Coated Ambassadors, owing to their classic sound and immense versatility, have suited my needs comprehensively, so I've never bothered to dabble with alternative heads. Why seek variety when you have no complaints? Perfecting my technique has always made more sense to me than getting bogged down in the equipment market.

Here's my question with regard to the title of my post: I'm now considering sampling a double-ply coated model, just for the sake of experimentation, and am wondering how double-ply heads might differ from single-ply in relation to feel. How do the two compare in terms of stick response, and does a double-ply, owing to its thickness, feel "harder" under the stick than a single-ply? I favor low tuning on all my drums (and thus loose batter heads). If a double-ply will greatly compromise rebound or will have a heavy feel beneath the stick, I might not waste my time or money.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
I have never noticed a difference. Drums sound very different from a few yards in front of the kit than sitting behind it. Drums tuned real low have very little tone out in front. Peace and goodwill.
 

TK-421

Senior Member
There isn't a dramatic difference in feel. Especially at lower tunings. The Emperors will have a slightly "thicker" feel to them—not harder, but maybe just a hair less bounce to them. But again, it's a very subtle difference. I highly doubt it will bother you, so give them a try!

FWIW, I used to play coated Ambassadors for many years before switching to coated Emperors—and then ultimately switching back to Ambassadors more recently. I like both. I may even try going back to Emps next time I get new heads.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I'm one of the oddballs that believe that all multi-ply heads are defective by design.

It's my opinion that there's an entire world of single ply heads out there to explore... Dots, rings, thin, thick, etc, and they're all endlessly more tonally-interesting that anything I've ever heard produced by an Emperor.
 
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Good Karma

Well-known member
If you're going to try a 2 ply and like a low dark sound for toms. Consider Remo weatherking. I like the ambassador to, I can't really tell a difference in feel but definitely in sound. 20191124_214231.jpg
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Thanks very much for your insight thus far. I agree that ultra-low tunings can knock the wind out of drums. I tune moderately low rather than extremely low. My toms are medium-deep, and my bass is best characterized as subdued yet selectively outspoken. My snare, on the other hand, is usually marching-band tight. I've tried lower snare tunings over the years, but I dislike the lack of sensitivity and the mushy feel.

I might pick up a coated double-ply down the line, just to say I've lived a little. After thirty-six years, however, any transition, however experimental, resembles foreign soil. The Coated Ambassador is so engrained in my drumming identity that I might not be able to tune a different head. And especially on my snare, I favor the crispness that John believes to be compromised with double-ply options. Regardless, the question is largely subjective, and experience is the deciding factor.
 

TK-421

Senior Member
If you're going to try a 2 ply and like a low dark sound for toms. Consider Remo weatherking. I like the ambassador to, I can't really tell a difference in feel but definitely in sound. View attachment 90897
You know that ALL Remo heads are branded Weatherking, right? They came up with that name when they launched their first mylar heads, which are much less prone to stretching/detuning than calfskin heads in changing weather conditions.

What you've got there is a Coated Powerstroke 4. Which I think would be waaaaay too much of a difference for someone who is used to Ambassadors, considering PS4s are double-ply AND come with a tone-control ring. Way deader sounding than an Ambassador or Emperor.

I might pick up a coated double-ply down the line, just to say I've lived a little. After thirty-six years, however, any transition, however experimental, resembles foreign soil. The Coated Ambassador is so engrained in my drumming identity that I might not be able to tune a different head. And especially on my snare, I favor the crispness that John believes to be compromised with double-ply options. Regardless, the question is largely subjective, and experience is the deciding factor.
Coated Emperors and Coated Ambassadors tune up very similarly, IMO. And you don't have to put one on your snare. You can try one out on a floor tom to see what you think. In fact, I don't like any double-ply heads on snare drums, so I don't blame you for wanting to stick with Ambassadors for your snare.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
You know that ALL Remo heads are branded Weatherking, right? They came up with that name when they launched their first mylar heads, which are much less prone to stretching/detuning than calfskin heads in changing weather conditions.

What you've got there is a Coated Powerstroke 4. Which I think would be waaaaay too much of a difference for someone who is used to Ambassadors, considering PS4s are double-ply AND come with a tone-control ring. Way deader sounding than an Ambassador or Emperor.



Coated Emperors and Coated Ambassadors tune up very similarly, IMO. And you don't have to put one on your snare. You can try one out on a floor tom to see what you think. In fact, I don't like any double-ply heads on snare drums, so I don't blame you for wanting to stick with Ambassadors for your snare.
The Coated Emperor is likely as far as I'd go. Double-ply heads that incorporate additional tone control would be too smothering. That's the beauty of a single-ply. You can mute it when necessary but let it sing as desired. Factory muting isn't half as flexible, though I suppose it works if you favor that effect.
 

buddhadrummer

Junior Member
Generally speaking, double-ply heads require more energy to excite. In addition, double-ply heads can be tuned lower, pitch-wise. But they will take more energy to get tone than a single ply. That said, you can get a double ply that is basically the same weight as your Ambassadors, in a Remo Vintage A head. Regarding feel of single vs. double, the double will feel a bit softer than a single. While not everyone likes the Vintage A heads, I've been using them for about 12 years now all around. They are slightly warmer than an Ambassador, with a slightt softer feel, and, while they tune easily high or low, they are really great for lower tunings on a floor tom or even a 10" or 12" mounted tom. I stopped looking once I got in with these heads. Since they are the same weight as your Ambassadors, yet double ply, these might really work for you.

It all depends on shell sizes, plies, bearing edges, music styles and instrumentation, too, as well as how you play and the venue. Give them a try. With a double ply, in my expr, it's more important to make sure you seat the head properly before the final tuning.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
I think there's a practical difference, if not a technical difference.

You will find that head tension contributes to bounce. So a tighter head has a higher pitch, and more rebound than a lower tuned head. Pretty simple.

However, 2 ply heads are lower pitch by design. I actually like tuning up my Emperors, because it gets me a nice open sound, while keeping the deeper tone of an emperor (an ambassador at an equivelent tension will be too high pitched for my ears). However, most people with two ply heads take advantage of the lower pitch by...tuning them lower so they can acheive a deeper pitch than a one ply head. This is incredibly common practice. And because the head is so loose, it is flabbier and has less a stick response.

So no, 2 ply heads technically don't have less rebound, but most people get them get them because they can get them loooooow, which requires low pitch, which requires loose tuning, so practically speaking, most 2 ply heads you run across will be flabbier. But not by design.
 
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MntnMan62

Junior Member
I've not tried double ply coated heads but I've been using Evans double ply oil filled heads for years, if not decades. I realize they are not the same thing as the 2 ply coated heads but figured I'd give some feedback. I find they don't have as quick a rebound so you have to work harder when playing the two ply heads. I do like how they sound but the Evans I've been playing are pretty thick and I've been considering a lighter version of the oil filled heads. Remo pinstripes come to mind and will look to see if Evans makes a thinner 2 ply oil filled head. I've found the Evans are indestructible. I've never been able to put a dent into them and I can hit pretty hard. I've had the same set of heads on my drums for probably 20 years, possibly more. Not sure any of this is helpful, and if not, I apologize.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Every response has been helpful, and I appreciate the ongoing input. I've always been curious about Vintage Ambassadors, so they're an experimental option as well. What's really sparked my recent interest in trying double-ply heads for my toms is that, because they have an intrinsically lower tone than single-plies, I might be able to apply a bit of extra tension while maintaining a darker character, enhancing rebound along the way.

I use a four-piece configuration (snare, virgin bass, 12-inch tom in a snare stand, and 16-inch floor tom). Though I'm chiefly a backbeat drummer, my style is geared toward finesse and control. And because double-ply heads require more punch if you wish to stimulate their full potential, I'm not sure they're the best dynamic option for my mode of execution. Don't get me wrong; I play with authority when necessary. I'm just not a heavy hitter by nature.

When I started this thread, my presumption was that the feel of double-ply heads would be largely dictated by their tuning rather than by their construction. For the most part, your perspectives confirm that hypothesis. My gut tells me that my long relationship with the Coated Ambassador will likely survive as long as I do, though I might add some variety here and there.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
What's really sparked my recent interest in trying double-ply heads for my toms is that, because they have an intrinsically lower tone than single-plies, I might be able to apply a bit of extra tension while maintaining a darker character, enhancing rebound along the way.
As you probably read in my post, that's why I love two ply heads. Not to tune them absurdly low, but to tune them relatively tight, giving off good resonance and stick control while being lower in pitch. You can tune an ambassador to that pitch, but you're not going to get that stick response or resonance (although Ambassadors are naturally more resonant so it'll be close, but not quite there)
 

RickP

Gold Member
I use coated Ambassadors over clear Ambassadors on the rack toms . The floor toms get coated Emperors over clear Ambassadors . My choice for going this route has nothing to do with durability , but for the sound I can get on these particular drums is pleasing to my ear .
The difference in feel when playing single ply heads versus 2 ply heads is noticeable but not as noticeable as you would expect .

The Ambassador X a slightly thicker single ply head is the best of both worlds . You get the response of a single ply head with a bit more durability of the two ply head .These heads come in coated and clear .
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I use coated Ambassadors over clear Ambassadors on the rack toms . The floor toms get coated Emperors over clear Ambassadors . My choice for going this route has nothing to do with durability , but for the sound I can get on these particular drums is pleasing to my ear .
The difference in feel when playing single ply heads versus 2 ply heads is noticeable but not as noticeable as you would expect .

The Ambassador X a slightly thicker single ply head is the best of both worlds . You get the response of a single ply head with a bit more durability of the two ply head .These heads come in coated and clear .
Your use of Emperors instead of Ambassadors on your floor tom is an interesting choice, as the thicker Emperors likely lower its tone further. I favor a deep floor tom as well. I play a 12-inch tom in a snare stand and a 16-inch floor tom and love the vast tonal difference between the two. Some players feel that the drop-off from a 12 to a 16 is too dramatic (and thus opt for a 14 instead of a 16 or a 14 and a 16), but I love the abrupt transition I achieve when moving from a moderately deep 12 to a thunderous 16. The dramatic shift has character to my ears.
 

Ruok

Silver Member
First of all, I’m a light hitter. But I once owned a huge double bass Premier APK power tom kit from the 80s. Not a kit that I should have bought. But I owned it for many years, and I always tuned it medium to medium low, no matter what heads I used.

One day I decided to tune the kit high, which I had never tried to do before, and I had coated emperors on the kit at the time. I couldn’t believe how good the kit sounded and the rebound was great because of the tightness of the heads. It was absolutely addicting. So my only point is that the emperors tuned way up sounded and felt phenomenal on a budget kit with power toms. 🙂
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Well I'm taking it up a notch-no rebound. So made these piezoelectric pillow cases on pillows that are triggered. Took the spring off bass peda, and took off hats pedalboard so a string tied to chain and my big toe. If I can master these I'll give Dennis Chambers a run for his money. Just kidding LOL. I can't feel a difference-cause I tune my batter head to my touch (so single or double feels same) but I can hear a difference between single and double ply. I think double ply are easier to tune than single ply or maybe I should say more forgiving with tuning. I often compromise with Vintage ambassadors. I like the big gap to ala Mike Johnston 10 in and 16 in floor toms.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Well I'm taking it up a notch-no rebound. So made these piezoelectric pillow cases on pillows that are triggered. Took the spring off bass peda, and took off hats pedalboard so a string tied to chain and my big toe. If I can master these I'll give Dennis Chambers a run for his money. Just kidding LOL. I can't feel a difference-cause I tune my batter head to my touch (so single or double feels same) but I can hear a difference between single and double ply. I think double ply are easier to tune than single ply or maybe I should say more forgiving with tuning. I often compromise with Vintage ambassadors. I like the big gap to ala Mike Johnston 10 in and 16 in floor toms.
Quite an invention with pillows. "No rebound" on drumheads, however, is a lot less comfortable, at least in my experience. Initially, the softness seems easy on the wrists and forearms, but it soon becomes clear that the sticks aren't doing enough work on their own, and fatigue starts to creep in. This is one reason I like a very tight snare head. My sticks respond beautifully, and single-stroke and double-stroke rolls become effortless.
 
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