Home Music & Audio Best Bongos [Buying Guide] in 2019

Best Bongos [Buying Guide] in 2019

by Jonathan Logtenberg
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Lp M301 Matador Custom Bongos Vintage Starburst
Tycoon Percussion 6 Inch & 7 Inch Ritmo Bongos - Mahogany Finish
Meinl Bongos With ABS Plastic Shells - NOT MADE IN CHINA - Natural Skin Heads, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HB50BK)
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LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos
Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos
Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK
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Lp M301 Matador Custom Bongos Vintage Starburst
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LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos
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Tycoon Percussion 6 Inch & 7 Inch Ritmo Bongos - Mahogany Finish
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Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos
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Meinl Bongos With ABS Plastic Shells - NOT MADE IN CHINA - Natural Skin Heads, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HB50BK)
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Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK
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I have been fascinated by Latin music from a young age. In the earliest days, I cared more about the sounds and melody than how they are produced. It has been years, however, that I became keenly interested in how some of the great sounds I have come to enjoy are made and the instruments used in making them.

One of the very first things I found about Latin music is the fact that hand drums are found in the heart of them all. Depending on where you come from and your level of musical awareness, there are several things that can pass as hand drums. I have been fortunate to observe different types closely and happy to help others discover more about these instruments that produce the percussions we all love. 

As mentioned earlier, hand drums are of different types. From the djembe that originated from somewhere in West Africa to the Conga and Bongo drums that are native to Cuba, there are variations in these drums and the nature of the sound you can get from them. The bongo is the instrument of interest in this guide and at Surf n’ Buy, we want you to buy the best at all times. First things first: what is a bongo?

In simple terms, bongo drums are hand drums that originated in Cuba and features prominently in their music. Over the years, the instrument has gained popularity worldwide and can be found in different parts of the world. Bongos usually come as a set of drums; a smaller one that is called the macho (Spanish name for male) and a larger one that is called the hembra (Spanish for female). They can measure anywhere between 6-inches and 7-inches or 7-inches and 8.5-inches respectively.

The bongos are fun instruments to play. They are relatively easy to learn, generally inexpensive, and works great for musicians of all levels. It is an excellent choice for beginners who are looking for a unique instrument to launch their musical journey. Experienced musicians interested in trying out new percussion instruments will also find bongos very attractive.

Are you already attracted to bongos? Do you want to buy the perfect hand drum that will stand the test of time? We will help you figure out the best bongos for you and make it easy for you to grab them right away. Here are the best four products you can find right now:

Top 4 Bongos

1. LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos

FEATURES

These bongos look great, feel great, and play great. Coming from one of the biggest names in the industry, the LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos rank among the best-quality bongos on the market. They feature ribbed shell design, high strength steel bottoms, and natural rawhide heads. They are well crafted from beautiful kiln dried Siam Oak and are available to users in four gorgeous finishes including Satin Blonde, Chilli pepper Red, Latin Blue and Vintage Sunburst.

When you take a close look at the materials used for these bongos and the way they are made, you will understand why they are the first on this guide. The shells are from kiln-dried Oak; due to the process they pass through, these shells form a highly sturdy base(s) for the bongos. The shells are topped with hand-selected traditional size 7-1/4-inch and 8-5/8-inch rawhide heads. This winning combination ensures that the bongos produce a range of crisp highs and lower mid frequencies.

In terms of durability, this Latin Percussion Bongos is an instrument of choice. Remember that the shells have a ribbed design that enhances shell strength. In addition to that, these bongos are anchored with high strength steel bottoms that improve stability. These two features significantly improve the durability of the instrument.

Coming back to the look, these bongos are quite attractive. The hand-selected rawhide looks great and distinctive. The shells distinctively finished in four patterns including the vintage sunburst design that gives the bongos a classic vibe. The LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos comes in a package that includes a durable tuning wrench. You will be able to adjust the bongos whenever you need to. It may also interest you to know that the manufacturers also offer a matching pair of congas for individuals who wish to expand their collection of percussion instruments.

PROS

  • These Bongos are made with some of the best materials out there for high-level performance. From the kiln-dried Siam oak shells to the hand-selected traditional-size rawhide heads, all raw materials are of the best quality.
  • The LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos is a very durable instrument. Thanks to the ribbed shell design that adds strength and the high strength steel bottoms, you can expect these bongos to last for years.  
  • Aesthetically, this is one of the best bongos you can find anywhere. It is well designed with the right material and the vintage sunburst design improves the overall appearance.
  • The durable tuning wrench included in this package improves the value of the bongos tremendously. You don’t have to spend more to get a tuning wrench and you can use this for years. 
  • These bongos are also reasonably priced. Considering the quality of the materials and the sound quality produced by these drums, the price range is simply astonishing.

CONS

  • These drums are a little bit on the heavy side even though they appear compact. While this may not be an issue for many players, it is something you need to know and brace for, as a prospective buyer.
  • You may have to pay more to protect your investment as the extended replacement plan attract a reasonable amount of money.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The LP M301 Matador Custom Bongos are among the most valuable bongos on the market. A very strong and durable set of instruments from Latin Percussion, they are made with the right materials and can stand their ground against any other bongos in terms of design and performance. They are also reasonably priced and come with a durable tuning wrench that will let users adjust the instruments as needed and produce great sounds during performances. Overall, these are excellent bongos that sell at an incredibly attractive price and will certainly make a great purchase for anyone at all.

2. Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos

FEATURES

This is an affordable bongo that is perfect for the beginner percussionist who wants to start with a reliable instrument. It is a set of 6-inch and 7-inch Ritmo bongos that are available in natural or mahogany. As ideal entry-level instruments, these bongos are lightweight and easy to transport. Students will also find them very easy to handle, making practice sessions and mock performances easier and more enjoyable.

In terms of aesthetic, this is a cool instrument to handle and play with. It may not look as striking as some of the professional-grade bongos used by the experts but it looks good by all standards. The hand-selected Siam Oak Wood and water buffalo skin heads combine to give the bongos a simple natural look. As mentioned earlier, they are available in natural and mahogany finishes that look great.

Though the Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos are created for beginners, there is no compromise with quality at all. Remember that the drums are constructed of hand-selected Siam Oak Wood with water buffalo skin head. This combination ensures that the sound you can obtain with the instruments will always be top-notch once they are properly tuned. It also comes with a tuning wrench to increase the value of the package.

There are other impressive things about these bongos we need to highlight. They feature black coated traditional hoops, reinforced side plates, 5/16-inch diameter tuning lugs and backing plates. These all improve the quality of the bongos and make them the perfect choice for beginners.

Getting down to the price of this entry-level bongos by Tycoon, it is as friendly as you can expect. This is a highly affordable instrument that represents great value for the novice. Though it is made for novice musicians and is sold at a very affordable price range, this instrument can also be used by experienced players. Actually, many experienced percussion enthusiasts have these Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos in their collection.

PROS

  • One of the most notable things about the Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos is the price. Tycoon made these bongos for beginners and instrumentalists who are buying bongos for the first time. The price clearly reflects this fact. Even if you are no drummer, it will be fun and rewarding to buy these.
  • These bongos are lightweight and easy to carry about. Portability is important for students and leaners, who are the target market in this case. It will help make moving the instruments for practise less stressful.
  • Though this is an affordable instrument, it looks very durable. The craftsmanship is another thing to be excited about.
  • The affordable package also comes with a tuning wrench. This gives you even more value for the money.
  • Verified Buyers are generally satisfied with the Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos. For an instrument that is so cheap, there is hardly any complaint about the quality or performance. 

CONS

  • While beginners and non-drummers will find the performance of this instrument hugely satisfying, trained ears will easily tell the difference between the sound and what you can get from more expensive bongos.
  • There is no information about the warranty. Though it is very affordable, it will be great to have some sort of warranty information.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

This pair of bongos was made for beginners. As an entry-level instrument, the Tycoon Percussion Ritmo Bongos meet all the requirements any novice will want:  they are lightweight drums, they are easy to use, and they are very affordable. Though they are made for novices, these bongos are strong and appear very durable. With hand-selected Siam Oak Wood and white buffalo skin head, they are made with the right materials. The fact that the package comes with a tuning wrench makes it a lot more valuable. Though trained ears will distinguish the sound from this instrument from the sound you can get from more expensive bongos, they are still perfect for students and beginner percussionists.

3. Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK

FEATURES

This is a unique and modern set of bongos that will appeal to beginners, intermittent, and pro-level percussionists. It is an excellent choice if you are considering such characteristics as good sound quality, nice appearance, great value and durability. They are super-comfortable to handle, thanks to the innovative rounded rims.

One of the factors that distinguish the Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK from others on the list is the material the shell is made from. Unlike what is obtainable with most bongos, the shells of these instruments are made with plastics. These are ABS plastic shells that are light, durable, and deliver plenty of resonance and endurance. They will help to produce great sound quality whether you are playing in an indoor or outdoor environment.

Besides the plastic shells, other materials used in producing this bongos are of the right quality. It has hand-selected buffalo skin heads of 6.5-inches and 7.5-inches that offer superior warm tone with a good mix of melodic options. This set of headliner bongos are known for their versatility. Whether you are heading out on a tour, playing with your good friends, or trying to spice up your drum set, this is an excellent set of instruments to consider.

Another reason you may want to quickly grab this set of bongos is the fact that they are easy to tune and can combine perfectly with other percussion instruments with ease. When you pair them with the headliner series congas, you will find that these bongos are the real deal for your percussion set up.

The Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK is also a valuable percussion instrument. The price is reasonable enough for such a quality product. The package also includes a tuning wrench that will allow players to easily tighten or loosen the head to get the perfect sound in any situation. All bongos in the series come with soft rubber feet that make it easy to play on a smooth surface and also store the instruments safely.

PROS

  • The ABS plastic shell is a distinct feature that offers so many benefits: it is lightweight, it is very durable, and offers plenty of resonance and endurance perfect for indoor and outdoor environments.
  • The rounded rims is an impressive innovation that makes the Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK comfortable for all kinds of players including the heaviest hitters.
  • Though this set of bongos have a remarkable modern look, it provides traditional bongos sound and is very easy to play.
  • This set of bongos combines well with other instruments. Whether you want to decide to pair them with a Cajon or drum kit, you have yourself an excellent start or finish to your percussion set up.
  • It comes with a high-quality tuning wrench that will let players adjust the drums accordingly for the perfect sound in any environment and percussion set up. It also comes with a 2-year warranty.

CONS

  • While the natural skin heads will sound great in the beginning, there is a great chance that they will get cracked rather fast and lose their tonality.
  • It is not an excellent choice for professional players unless they are ready to be changing the heads regularly.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

This is a set of bongos that look great for individuals in need of mid-range hand drums. It has a very modern look, thanks to the ABS plastic shells. While it is aesthetically appealing, this set of bongos also provide rich traditional sounds and comfortable time for the player. The innovative rounded rims make it great for all kinds of players. The major concern about this instrument is the integrity of the natural skin heads. They are prone to cracking and may lose their high-quality tonal output within a few months. If you don’t mind changing the heads from time to time and cherish modern-looking bongos, the Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BKis a great option to consider.

4. Meinl Bongos with Wood Shells FWB190LB

FEATURES

This is another wonderful bongos from Meinl that has all the important features you will want from a hand drum. The Meinl FWB190 Marathon Series Free Ride Wood Bongos are the ideal instruments for the beginner who is ambitious and wants a top-quality instrument to start the journey. It is also an excellent option for intermediate and pro-level players who need relatively affordable bongos that offer professional features. It may be the most expensive item in this list but it is still affordable when you compare it with other instruments in its class. 

Looking at the materials the instrument is made from, it is clear to see that this set of bongos will always live up to expectations. The shells are crafted with high-quality hardwood that helps to bring out the best sound when you hit the drums. They also feature hand-selected buffalo skin heads (6.75-inch and 8-inch) that guarantee superior tone and effortless tenability. You will obtain warm tones at all times with a good mix of melodic options.

In terms of design, this is one of the best set of bongos you can find anywhere. They are aesthetically pleasing, thanks to the stunning leopard Burl finish that will make you want to caress them all day. The Meinl free ride suspension system is another feature you will find interesting: no holes are drilled into the shells. This helps to improve overall resonance. They also feature the innovative rounded rims that Meinl bongos have come to be identified with. The rims do not only look good but help to provide optimal comfort for all kinds of players. 

Another thing you will love about the Meinl Percussion FWB190LB bongos is their versatility. This is one of the sets of bongos you will conveniently use in all kinds of settings. Whether you just want to jam with some friends, spice up your drum set, or go on a musical tour, you will find these bongos very helpful. They are very reliable and will provide the classic bongo sound in any setting. This set of bongos come in aver valuable package. You will get a tuning key, an accessory pouch and a tune up oil when you order this package. Considering that you wouldn’t have to buy any other thing to get started with these Meinl percussion instruments, it is an excellent deal. 

PROS

  • The Meinl Percussion FWB190LB bongos are made with high-quality materials. The high-quality hardwood and the hand-selected buffalo skin heads do not only produce excellent bongo sound but provide remarkable durability. 
  • This set of bongos are also aesthetically appealing. The hardwood shells are complemented by a stunning designer leopard Burl finish. They will certainly stand out in any percussion set up and add color to your next gig.
  • The sound quality of this set of bongos is incredibly satisfying. The selected buffalo skin heads produce sharp highs with classic warm tones.
  • When they are paired with the easily available Meinl Congas, these bongos will conveniently complete your excellent percussion set up.
  • For the price, this is a valuable set of bongos when you consider the important features. It also comes with some helpful accessories and a 2-year warranty.

CONS

  • The Meinl Percussion FWB190LB bongos are a little on the heavy side. You will feel the weight issue well if you have used the other Meinl bongos in this guide which is made of lightweight ABS plastic.
  • This is slightly the most expensive product on this list. This doesn’t mean it is exorbitant. Considering the build quality, the features, and everything the package offers, it is reasonably priced.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

If you are looking for a well-crafted set of bongos that you will be proud to play with anywhere, the Meinl Percussion FWB190LB bongos are one of the best options to consider. Asides from being very attractive percussion instruments, this set of bongos live up to the expectation in terms of performance and overall value. From the high-quality hardwood shells to the hand-selected buffalo skin heads, you have an instrument that will not only produce great sound but offer durability. They will be exceptionally good bongos for an audacious beginner but can also be used by an ardent percussionist who desires good looking bongos with the right professional features. 

What are Bongos Used for?

Bongos are musical instruments in the percussion family. They come as a pair of hand drum of slightly different sizes. The heads are individually nailed or rod-tensioned to open-ended shells of slightly different sizes but the same height. Invented in Cuba around the late 1800s, the bongo drums are played with the hands and fingers.

Like other drums, bongos are used for creating percussions sounds. They are mostly used in live musical performances. Since the bongo drums are yoked together, it is easy for the player to execute lively rhythmic dialogues. While ardent percussionists enjoy playing these bongos and can use them during major gigs, these hand drums are mostly used by beginners. They are great for children and music students who are just starting to appreciate percussion instruments. They are also patronized by individuals who are not really into music but like to jam with friends during their spare times.


Can Bongos be Played with Sticks?

Bongos are made to be played with the hands and fingers. It is better to use your hand if you love your bongos and want them to last as long as possible. Using sticks to play the instruments can easily damage the playing surface (the drum head). Instead of using a stick, you can use the tips of your finger on the edge of the drum nearest to the body.

Though it is generally not advisable, it is also possible to play bongos with sticks. If you must do this, ensure that the sticks are as drum friendly as possible. You should also play on the head and avoid hitting the bearing edges with the shank of the stick. Ruining the edges means you will need new bongo drums.


What is the Difference Between Bongos and Congas?

There are several hand drums that it will be hard for non-musicians to differentiate them. One of the closest instruments to bongo is conga which also features prominently in Latin music. They look similar and are also played with hands and fingers. There are differences between the two, however, and we will highlight them as briefly as possible:

Shape

There is a remarkable difference in the shapes of conga drums and bongos. While bongos are short and squat, congas are easily identified by their tall, tapering shapes.

Size

Bongo drums are generally smaller than conga drums. Congas mostly measure about 30 inches in height while bongos are just about 7 to 10 inches. The difference in size also manifests in the diameter of the drum head. While bongos’ heads measure about 7 inches and 8.5 inches, congas’ heads can vary from 9 to 15 inches in diameter.

Sound

Though bongos and congas are played with hands and fingers, the sounds they produce are distinctively different. Bongos generally produce high-pitched percussive sound while congas produce a deeper bass sound.


Factors to Consider When Buying a Bongo Drum

If you want to buy the best Bongos, there are some factors you need to consider before choosing any particular product. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:

Your Current Skill Level and Your Specific Need

Bongos are not all made equal. While anyone can pick up any set of bongos and start playing, it is always better to buy an instrument that suits your skill level. If you are a beginner, it will be better to choose instruments that are made for students and beginners. These instruments are not just affordable have beginner-friendly features that will make learning the instrument easier for you. Experts and experienced players should buy advanced level bongos that have professional features and deliver top-notch performances consistently.

The Shell Material and Quality of Construction

The material the shells of the bongos are crafted from is another important factor you must consider before buying the instrument. While most bongo drums are crafted from hardwood, some have shells made from ABS plastic, ceramic, metal, or even fiberglass. Wooden shells are considered the best though the ones made with plastic are considerably lighter. The material will influence the sound of the instrument and will also determine durability. Bongos crafted from high-quality hardwood sound great and are durable.

The Material and Quality of the Head

The head of the drum is where you will have to hit to produce the bongo sound. The quality of the head will influence the quality of sound you will get from any bongo drum. The best bongo heads are made of hand-selected rawhide (mostly from buffalo). These skin heads may be affected by the weather but they generally produce better sound and last longer than synthetic heads.

Price

Price is another important thing to consider when buying bongos. Professional players may not mind paying more for high-end bongo drums but a beginner should always consider affordable options. This doesn’t mean you should buy cheap bongos that are made from inferior materials. Consider your skill level, the quality of the raw materials, the quality of construction, and helpful features before comparing prices. Since they are generally not expensive, it is easy to find bongos within your budget.

Included Accessories

There are few accessories you will need for your bongo drums and it is always helpful when they are included in the package you purchase. Tuning wrench is the primary accessory you should look out for as it will be useful whenever there is a need to adjust the drums to get the best sound from them. The included accessories contribute to the overall value of your bongo drums.


Conclusion

Bongos are fun to play. While a professional bongosero can use the instrument to perform rhythmic wonders, anyone will enjoy hitting the drum in his/her spare time. Bongos are also friendly entry-level hand drums for individuals who have developed an interest in percussion instruments. Buying bongos can be very difficult, especially for a novice. To make things easier for you, we have reviewed 4 top bongos you can grab right away. The LP M301 Matador Custom Bongosappeals to players of all levels and perform excellently in any setting.

If you are a beginner who wants simple and user-friendly bongos, the Meinl Bongos with Plastic Shells HB50BK can be the perfect instrument for you. You can also grab the Meinl Percussion FWB190LB if you are an audacious individual or a pro-level player who needs a beautiful set of bongos to complete your percussion set up. At Surf n’ Buy, we strongly believe that online shopping shouldn’t be too hard. This is why we have gone through the troubles of compiling this buying guide. In addition to reviewing the best bongos you can buy, we have provided other information we feel you need. We sincerely hope this piece will help to make your experience with bongos smoother and more enjoyable.

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