Buying a synthetic djembe is a very personal process, with many factors to consider before making your final choice. If you read my previous post you know that these instruments are more complex than they seem.
Each model and brand of djembe offer different advantages and disadvantages. A new synthetic djembe can cost anywhere from $30 to $450, so I suggest you take your time when choosing a new drum.
What Is The Best Synthetic Djembe For You?
Before you begin your search for a new djembe you should determine how you’re going to use it, and what you’re expecting to achieve with the djembe. Are you a beginner purchasing your first drum? An intermediate player looking for an upgrade to take you to the next level? Or are you an advanced player looking for the perfect travel drum that won’t let you down?
Each drummer has a different set of standards and motives when purchasing a djembe. A small $50 djembe may be a great choice for someone that is just starting out, but this same drum won’t cut it for an intermediate or advanced player.
Luckily, there is a wide range of djembes available that will perfectly suit your needs. By performing proper research and determining your goals, you can find the perfect djembe.
What We Look For When Reviewing Synthetic Djembes
When we review a synthetic djembe we go over each and every aspect of its construction in excruciating detail. We look at the quality of the construction materials such as the shell, tuning system, and skin type. Other factors such as sound, cost, appearance, and value are also factored into the overall rating.
This page will be updated as new synthetic djembes are released into the market and will act as an up-to-date resource for years to come.
Remo Mondo Designer Series Key-Tuned Djembe
This is Remo’s flagship synthetic djembe and it’s one of the best.
Shell, Skin, and Tuning System
The Remo Mondo djembe features a durable and lightweight Acousticon shell that is made of 100% recycled wood-fiber materials. The shell is then given a special ‘acousticon’ coating on its interior for optimal tone and acoustic qualities. Remo boasts that the Acousticon shell technology “takes the best qualities of wood and improves them for incredible consistency allowing unparalleled timbre, pitch, and projection.” The 12×24-inch version of this djembe weighs in at just 10lbs, which is quite impressive for its size.
Mounted with a 6-point key tuned system, this djembe sports Remo’s famous Mondo Skyn Deep drum head. These skins are very responsive, easy to play, and are capable of producing a wide range of sound. The Mondo Skyndeep head is weather resistant, easy to replace, and extremely durable.
The Remo Mondo djembe suffers from a high-pitched ringing noise that drums with synthetic skins are often plagued with. By placing small pieces of tape on the underside of the skin, this high-pitched ring can be nearly eliminated. Looking past the high-pitched ring that can be remedied, this djembe sounds great. It has a deep and resonating bass, good high tones and slaps, and a differentiated mid-range.
This range of sound can be hard to achieve in fully synthetic drums, but Remo did a great job on this one.
This is a great mid to high-end synthetic djembe that excels in inclement weather and travel scenarios. It can be used and abused and will remain in great playing condition. Traveling with this djembe is a breeze due to its lightweight construction, and the sound it produces is more than good enough for recreational use.
This djembe provides great value with the 12×24-inch model selling for around $200. Visually there are 6 different graphic options for the exterior of this drum, so you’re sure to find something that fits your taste.I recommend this djembe to serious beginners, intermediate players that would like an upgrade, and any djembe player that wants a great and respectable sounding travel drum. You won’t find a nicer synthetic djembe at this price and if you purchase this drum it will serve you well for years to come.
Toca Synergy Freestyle Rope Tuned Djembe
The Toca Synergy Freestyle djembe combines synthetic and natural materials with a traditional rope tuned system for surprisingly good results.
Shell, Skin, and Tuning System
This djembe features a seamless fully synthetic shell that is crafted from an extremely lightweight PVC plastic. Like the Remo Mondo djembe, this djembe has a protective rubber footing and is very durable. A minor issue I’ve noticed over the 5+ years I’ve owned this drum is that the interior paint has started to peel off, and removing the factory stickers from the interior shell caused the paint to rip off with it. The 12×24-inch version of this djembe weighs just 9.2 lbs, which is slightly less than the Remo Mondo djembe.
The Toca Synergy Freestyle djembe uses a treated goat skin head that barely resembles a goat skin due to the high amount of processing it’s gone through. These skins sound very good and don’t seem to suffer from the high-pitched ringing noise that fully synthetic drum heads do. These skins are very consistent with minimal imperfections, and they provide better durability than non-treated goat skins. With a traditional rope tuned system, this djembe is almost more traditional than synthetic.
The thin PVC shell is responsible for a deep bass with a lasting resonance, and higher pitched than usual mid and high tones. The higher pitch isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should be noted. The treated goatskin provides a “true” sound and does not suffer from a high-pitched ring. This drum produces a well rounded and consistent sound due to the rope tuned design that allows for many points of tension on the skin.
At a price point of roughly $130 for the 12×24-inch design, this djembe offers incredible value. It’s able to provide the best of both worlds with a lightweight synthetic shell, rope tuning system, and treated goat skin head.
Different sizes are available ranging from 7-inch to 12-inch diameter drum heads. There are also many exterior designs and colors to choose from, with something for everyone to like.
I recommend this djembe to anyone that’s interested in a rope tuning system and goat skin head, but still wants the lightweight design for travel use. This is the best synthetic option available that will meet those requirements.
Pearl Elite Fiberglass Djembe
The Pearl Elite Fiberglass Djembe is Pearl’s high-end offering in the synthetic djembe market. They advertise this drum as “The traditional tone you crave and the durability you need!”
Shell, Skin, and Tuning System
This djembe shell is made from hand-layered fiberglass and is designed for professional use in any climate. The foot of the drum is protected by a rubber base. Pearl has outfitted these drums with very thin goat skins that are mounted with a key-tuned system.
An interesting feature of this drum that speaks to the overall craftsmanship is the “bongo style” bottom ring. This special ring can handle extremely high tension and will not crack like cast bottom rings. Pearl has also included a drum strap mount on the djembe that is a useful feature to have.
The unique dimensions of the fiberglass shell enhance the bass tone of the drum. This djembe is able to produce cracking slaps and a booming bass due to the ultra-thin goat skin used for the drum head.
The Pearl Elite Fiberglass Djembe is in my opinion, the best sounding synthetic djembe on the market. With premium sound comes a premium cost, this is the most expensive djembe of the bunch with a standard cost of $440.
Clocking in at 14×24-inches this drum is slightly bigger than the other synthetic djembes reviewed. It weighs a hefty 21lbs and comes with a free carrying strap (which you’ll probably need at this weight!). The weight of this djembe is over twice as heavy as the other two models. It isn’t that heavy when compared to wood carved djembes, but one of the main advantages of synthetic djembes is that they are lightweight.
This djembe offers the least amount of value of the djembes reviewed but it also provides unparalleled sound quality. I recommend this djembe to intermediate and professional players that want a djembe with a key-tuned system and amazing sound.
Each of these drums are a great choice, but choosing the “best” one will be based on your needs.
I suggest the Remo Mondo djembe for a mix of travel and at-home use. With a nice synthetic skin, lightweight recycled wood shell, and a variety of sizes and exterior finishes, it’s a perfect drum circle companion. The cost is relatively low and this drum provides great value for any skill level.
The Toca Synergy Freestyle djembe is is my go to djembe for drum circles and music festivals. It is lightest of the bunch and features a nice treated goatskin head with a traditional rope tuning system. The plastic PVC shell is very durable and you won’t have to worry about damaging it. It can de-tune in poor weather conditions but with a few added knots, it will be back up to speed in no time. This drum provides the best value out of the synthetic djembes reviewed.
I recommend the Pearl Elite Fiberglass djembe to intermediate or advanced drummers that want to add a key-tuned djembe to their arsenal. It weighs nearly as much as a wood djembe of the same size so it is not ideal for travel. It features a high-quality key tuning system and sounds amazing for a synthetic djembe. This drum provides the least value of the djembes reviewed but may still be a good choice based on your personal needs.
If you have any specific questions let me know in the comments!
Ned Lyons says
What is your opinion of the LP Aspire Conga?
I have owned a Remo and feel the LP is better??
I have a set of LP Aspire Congas (and the matching bongos) and think they provide a great sound and value. I suggest the LP Aspire conga stand so you can focus on your hand movements and striking rather than the orientation of the congas. LP also sells a bongo attachment so you can have everything right in front of you. It makes for a very nice setup!
John G. says
Though Remos are well made drums, I never liked the “ringing” of their artificial drum heads.
The Tocas sound great but I’m looking for an artificial drum head.
I recently got to play an LP World Beat FX 11″ drum with an artificial head head (both rope and mechanical tuned). The drum has a great sound, good bass, and no “ringing”. I want to try the 12.5″ model next to see if the same is true with it.
You should add a review of the LP drums to your list.
I agree that Remo artificial drum heads often have a “ringing” associated with them which can be a big negative for a beginner or intermediate player. I’ve found that the ringing can be dampened (or eliminated) through the use of strategically placed tape on the inside of the drum head. This isn’t ideal but I think the durability and “feel” of the Remo synthetic drum heads is worth the hassle.
I really like the Toca freestyle series and the construction of these drums look very similar to the LP World Beat FX drum that you mentioned (built with a lightweight, seamless PVC body). I like the options LP is providing for the drum (rope or mechanically tuned – and synthetic or natural drum heads). The natural drum head on the Toca Freestyle can be a hassle with tuning and durability, especially since it is an easy drum to “abuse” and travel with.
I’ll see if I can get my hands on the LP World Beat and if so, I will report back with an updated review.
I really, really dislike remo djembes.
Years ago I used to buy Toca freestyle djembes with damaged heads and rehead them with African goat skin. They sounded unbelievable.
I am now curious about LP’s version of the PCV Djembe. I’m wondering how the sound compares to Toca’s