As with everything in today’s world, technology has made things that seemed impossible before a reality. Electronic kits started off as a fad that many thought would fade away. However, today, drummers are bombarded with tons of electronic kit options (including mesh and rubber heads) that rival pro acoustic kits.
In terms of feel, mesh heads emulate acoustic heads more accurately than rubber because you can adjust their tension. Rubber heads don’t allow this, meaning the rebound will be precisely the same for each pad (similar to a practice pad). Mesh kits also offer more in terms of sensitivity but are priced higher than rubber heads.
If you are looking to purchase an electronic kit and don’t know whether to choose a rubber kit or mesh kit, this article can help you out.
We will briefly cover electronic kits as a whole and then go over the differences as well as the pros and cons for both mesh and rubber drum heads.
Electronic drumkit overview
Electronic drumkits are a far cry from what they were when they came onto the market.
Essentially they looked, felt, and played similar to what the Guitar Hero Drum Kit was. They had an option (rubber pads) for the snare, hats, one cymbal, and two toms.
Furthermore, the samples that came along with them were less than mediocre, and you could always tell that the sound produced was digital.
However, you now get fully-fledged professional electronic drumkits that rival (if not surpass) acoustic kists due to the latest technology and versatility.
Mesh heads vs. rubber heads
The two distinct types of electronic kits that you can find will primarily revolve around rubber or mesh heads.
Many kits will have varying amounts of additional accessories or components such as extra pads for cymbals and toms as well as different features such as many samples, MIDI, USB, and more.
However, besides these additional characteristics and components, you will need to decide if you want a kit that has mesh heads or rubber heads.
Primarily, electronic kits were originally designed with practice in mind. Roland then introduced mesh heads that were intended to emulate acoustic drum heads.
Mesh heads vs. rubber heads (feel)
Besides having a different attack, rebound, and response to an acoustic drum head, a rubber head is very similar to a practice pad in terms of feel. Due to this, you will have to make changes in your dynamics (how hard and soft you play).
Another factor to consider is that every rubber pad will have the same rebound characteristic which is different from an acoustic kit where the tension on various heads can be adjusted.
Mesh heads are similar to acoustic heads because their tension can be adjusted, which creates more leeway (“give”) when they are struck. Hence, they feel very similar to acoustic heads and bring about that sense of a head that feels more realistic.
One thing to consider is that many drummers are for and against mesh heads and rubber heads. This is because in some situations, drummers like the same rebound and attack that rubber pads offer, not having to worry about adjusting their stroke from pad to pad.
Others will say that rubber heads offer a lower quality in terms of feel because they have a noticeably reduced rebound, and this will also vary depending on the type of rubber used to manufacture the heads.
The last thing to consider is that some drummers feel that playing on a rubber head because they are so hard causes their arms and hands to fatigue more quickly than if playing on mesh heads or an acoustic kit.
Check out this YouTube video on mistakes to avoid when buying electronic drum kits.
Mesh heads vs. rubber heads (size)
Rubber heads are noticeably smaller than mesh heads, making them very compact. Not to be considered a negative, this could be great if you need to set up your kit in a small space on stage, in a studio, or in a car or van while gigging.
Furthermore, if you are looking to add an electronic pad to your acoustic kit, you will find that you can squeeze a rubber pad in just about anywhere on your kit.
Mesh heads are typically more accurate in size when compared to acoustic kits. This is great if you are swapping to an acoustic kit, often because it means that you will not have to alter your technique too much or change your accuracy at all when going from one to the other.
Another great factor is that if you start learning drums on an electric kit with mesh heads, you can move to an acoustic kit with relative ease. Due to the nature of rubber pads and how you will have to alter your technique, moving over from rubber to acoustic is sometimes a little challenging.
Mesh heads vs. rubber heads (sensitivity)
Mesh heads, without a doubt, offer more in the way of versatility because of their high engineering and better technology.
For example, some mesh heads allow you to produce different sounds depending on where you strike the head. On some advanced mesh heads, you can even play brush sweeps.
Both mesh and rubber will be able to adjust and compensate for reading how hard you play (loud and soft) and can produce these sounds accordingly. However, mesh heads are typically more sensitive, offering a much wider spectrum in terms of sounds and dynamics.
Mesh heads vs. rubber heads (Cost)
Mesh heads are more expensive than rubber heads. This includes entry-level kits all the way up to professional kits. This is primarily due to the material and technology used in creating mesh heads.
Take note that you do get professional kits with costly rubber heads. So, for the most part, if you are looking at which to choose, it would be best to try each head for yourself because you should opt for the one that makes you feel comfortable at the end of the day.
Pros and cons for mesh and rubber heads
Mesh heads pros and cons
|Mesh Head Pros
|Mesh Head Cons
|More realistic feel
|More realistic size
|Can be large depending on the size of the kit
|Better technology than rubber heads allowing for different sounds and play styles
|Will be difficult to incorporate into an acoustic kit
|Can adjust tension
|Easy to switch from mesh to acoustic in terms of technique
Rubber head pros and cons
|Rubber Head Pros
|Rubber Head Cons
|Feel similar to practice pads
|Same rebound on every pad
|Are easy to integrate into your acoustic kit because of their size
|Cant adjust tension
|Are smaller than mesh heads
|Lower quality than that of mesh pads
|Are much cheaper than mesh heads and kits
|Could be difficult to move to an acoustic kit in terms of technique
Which kit should I buy: mesh or rubber?
If you are a beginner and are not looking to spend too much money to start off your hobby, a rubber kit would be a great option. Remember that rubber kits are not terrible, and thousands of drummers use them and hold them in high regard.
A good starter kit would that is rubber but offers a mesh snare is the Asmuse beginner kit.
This kit has an almost 5-star review of nearly 200 customers and features one mesh snare, three rubber toms, one rubber hat, and two rubber cymbals.
If you are looking to whet your appetite for a drumming experience very close to an acoustic kit, we recommend the Alesis Drums Nitro Mesh Kit.
This full 8-piece mesh kit offers everything you need from 385 sounds to 60 play-along tracks, as well as an aluminum rack. This kit also includes 60 free lessons from Melodics, a sequencer, metronome, aux input, and performance recorder.
We discovered that mesh heads are superior to rubber heads in terms of feel because they closely emulate acoustic heads.
Additionally, they are closer in size to acoustic heads than rubber heads and offer more versatility when it comes to playing various things (even brush sweeps).
We can thus say that mesh heads are better overall than rubber heads because they will give you a much better experience, but they do come at a more expensive cost.
However, rubber heads offer a great alternative to mesh heads, being much cheaper and smaller. This means if you are looking for an electronic kit to carry around from gig to gig that is robust, then you should consider rubber heads.