Hey everyone! We have been asked to put a resource like this together for quite some time - with the evolution of our activity, there have also been some awesome (and some not-so-awesome) developments in the practice pad market, so I wanted to assemble a quick guide here on some great brands, both big and small, that I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past two decades. Recently, I have been introduced to some AMAZING small pad-makers, some new and some that have been around for some time, so I figured I'd give you a quick summary of what I've learned.
Please keep in mind that these are strictly my personal opinions, backed up either by fact from personal experience, or word-of-mouth within the industry. This shouldn't be used as an end-all resource, but will hopefully prove useful in your research for that next pad for your collection!
Click each brand's name to check them out!
A small outfit from the Pacific Northwest (Washington state, near Portland to be exact), OffWorld has been around since the mid-2000s and is by far one of my favorite pad companies out there. Paul Howard, the owner, is one of the most informative and helpful people I've met in the industry.
They offer several models for both snare & tenor players, all of which revolve around their proprietary DarkMatter playing surface. DarkMatter is a bit high maintenance and does require some care, but it yields one of the most true-to-form feels of any pad out there. Not to mention, their pads are manufactured EXCEPTIONALLY well and will last for as long as you need them to.
We offer OffWorld's entire line at the lowest allowable prices, with a few Flam 7-specific options on certain ones: for example, the Lime Green Mothership :)
Based out of our home state of Ohio, Power Percussion is a duo that are relatively new to the practice pad scene. I did not know much about them until recently, other than their pads used material sourced from Beetle Percussion (who I'll introduce below), and that they appeared to have a really nice fit and finish, despite a high price point.
Yeah, I was right. The fit and finish is extremely nice on their products, and the recycled car tire playing surfaces are helpful for developing chops. They mimic the feel of a standard high-tension head pretty dang well, and appear to be built well enough to last for the long haul. Keep in mind that these pads are handmade to order with high-end materials, yielding the price tag. They're worth every penny. And the team at Power is extremely responsive on social media, as well as completely transparent, which is not something you'll find a lot of these days.
We offer an exclusive Flam 7 variant of their marching snare pad and travel pad, both of which I personally own and really enjoy playing on. The travel pad fits in my Vic Firth stick bag, which is a huge game-changer! My recommendation is to give these guys a try - it's quite an investment, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.
This brings us to our pal Brad at Beetle Percussion. Beetle has been around for some time now (I don't know exactly how long), and they have quite the reputation for making conservation efforts the forefront of their mission, aside from making great pads by hand.
Beetle products are relatively difficult to get your hands on, as their stock is made in small batches and when it sells out, it's out for a bit. It's no surprise, as the quality is superb and it's a very small operation.
We do not currently carry Beetle pads, but I recommend them 100% to anyone looking for a unique addition to their collection. I've played on them, and know several people who swear by them.
RCP is relatively new to the scene as well, but from what I've gathered they're a small outfit run by a very helpful group of folks who have always been extremely informative and responsive any time I've communicated with them.
They offer a few different models, and also have a customizable marching snare pad that allows you to create a custom laminate for an excellent price point. Their ship times are fast, and I haven't really caught any negative wind on them, so I'm going to slap the "Yes, I recommend" seal of approval here as well!
Prologix has been around for some time, and is a medium-sized outfit offering a wide variety of pads made from recycled materials. Their snare-style pads are offered in many different resistance levels, and I've heard consistently favorable opinions of them, though I don't own one myself. Their Vortex tenor pads are also a favorite among the available options out there, as they're light, built very well, and offer rims for accurate rehearsing.
I've reached out to them a few times with various inquiries, and they've always been quick & helpful. Scott seal of approval? You betcha.
RD is a European company that manufactures absolutely insane practice pads using real heads, die cast hoops, and phenomenal build quality. These pads are very expensive, especially after shipping to the US, but I have never heard a bad thing about them. I have communicated with the company one time, and got a reply quickly. I'd definitely recommend them if you have the spare change and want something that'll strike up a conversation anywhere you take it!
The major brands (Evans, Vic Firth, Zildjian, Vater, Innovative Percussion, etc.) all offer great practice pad options for beginners as well. The RealFeel is a classic. I own one, and probably will always have one nearby. I mainly wanted this blog post to feature the newcomers and small businesses that really deserve your business, and are doing great things for the community :)
Shop all of our practice pads HERE
There are a couple brands that have been a hotly-debated topic lately, and in the interest of helping folks reading this understand what brands I'd recommend avoiding, I'm including them here. I will not elaborate, as there's probably plenty I don't know, but remember - this is just opinion.
XYMOX - avoid at all costs. Excellent products, but production times are horrid (sometimes north of 2 years), and customer service is non-existent.
DRUMSLINGER - Same as above. Terrific products, but I have heard far too many horror stories to recommend sourcing a pad from them. I have friends who are now several years after ordering with no pad, and no communication.
Let us know if you'd like a more in-depth review of pads by all of the above manufacturers, and we can put something together! There are a ton of great resources already available out there - I recommend searching YouTube, as dozens of folks have posted their takes on these pads, and have provided examples of sound, feel, etc.