Have you just started out on the snare drum, and you want to graduate to a full-size drum kit? If you are a beginner or a parent whose child dreams of being in a band one day, you need to understand all the components of a drum set, and how each piece works together to create that fabulous sound we have all seen on stage.
A floor tom normally stands on the floor and has two heads and three legs. Toms can also be attached to the kit with a drum clamp. When you are doing your research and you are specifically looking to add a floor tom to your kit, make sure to not get the two confused.
- Ludwig Classic Maple Floor Tom
- Pearl Export EXX Floor Tom
- DW Performance Series Floor Tom
- Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Floor Tom
- Yamaha Live Custom
- DW Design Series Acrylic
- Sonor Vintage Series
- PDP Concept Maple Classic
- Pork Pie Maple/Rosewood
This drum delivers impressive impact with strong basics, plus the ferocious attack Ludwig is known to deliver. We found the Classic Maple floor toms to have a flawless tone and incredible versatility.
Comes with a six-ply design, absolute lugs, and dark silver hardware.
Here are a few tips on what to look for when purchasing a floor tom, and several in-depth reviews including our top recommendations.
Tom Drum Sizes
After playing for over thirty years and having owned numerous different kits, I have become well acquainted with the purpose and benefits of each part of the drum kit. To the untrained eye, most drums in a kit all look the same, but vary in size a little bit.
This is obviously not the case. Each drum has its purpose, and each provides a unique sound to the overall set. Usually, a tom will create a hollow sound at varying pitches depending on what size drum you are using. A floor tom is the lowest tuned drum in a normal five-piece drum kit that you will play with your sticks.
The most common size for a floor tom is the 16 x 16, which means it is 16 inches in diameter, as well as in depth. This was actually the original size for a floor tom, and it has remained the most common. Other size floor toms are used in different ways. A 14 x 14 is often used for jazz and fusion styles music. An 18 x 16, which means 18 inches in diameter and 16 inches in depth, is often used as a second-floor tom, and used in addition to the 16 x 16-floor tom. A somewhat rarer size, 16 x 18 (so a reverse of the 18 x 16) is also sometimes used as a second-floor tom along with the 16 x 16.
Our Top Pick: Ludwig Classic Maple
The Ludwig Classic Maple Floor Toms are perfect for any style of music. This 7-ply maple shell can deliver both punch and power with impressive impact with strong basics, plus the ferocious attack Ludwig is known to deliver. This drum will integrate perfectly into a drum kit, plus it will bring a great new dynamic that you have probably been missing. It has a flawless tone and incredible versatility, and it brings that great Ludwig legacy that we all love.
The Maple floor toms use Ludwig’s Radio Frequency Shell Technology to mold the drums, which is a unique bonding system that uses adhesive to guarantee that all of the plies are evenly preserved throughout the entire shell surface. It features flawlessly hand-sanded 45-degree bearing edges, and an incredible flat surface that increases the shell’s sustain and its harmonic content.
Ludwig has maintained its legacy in percussion since 1909. It is a favorite of many famous drummers for its punchy and warm sound. Greats like Ginger Baker, John Bonham, and that famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show with the Beatles’ in February of 1964 have cemented them into an iconic instrument throughout the 20th Century. They are priced in the higher mid-range in our list, but they are definitely worth the investment.
- Great addition to any drum kit
- Very versatile, great tone
- Warm sound, definitely a Ludwig product
- In the higher mid-price range
Runner Up: Pearl Export EXX
The Pearl Export EXX features Pearl’s Superior Shell Technology (SST) that utilizes a mix of calculated arranged plies of both Asian mahogany and poplar woods. The proprietary construction techniques give you an extremely durable drum that can maximize the frequency response by achieving the ultimate air chamber. It is a high-quality addition to any drum kit.
The woods for the Pearl Export EXX are selected based on their unique acoustic properties; then they are milled to the perfect thickness by using overlapping scarf joined seams that give you the ideal, air-tight fit. AcoustiGlue is then used to saturate all the wood plies until the glue has permeated every open pore. After it dries to the exact consistency of the wood, you will get the most phenomenal resonance you can from a floor tom.
Finally, the plies are shaped into high-temperature molds using 1000 PSI of hydraulic pressure that creates shells that have the most remarkable vibrancy, strength, and tone. The Export EXX’s also come with low-mass lugs that give you increased resonance, and awesome sounding Remo drum heads. They are available at an incredible value.
- Increased resonance and great tone
- Great quality production for an awesome price
- Very durable and sound awesome
DW Performance Series
The DW Performance Series floor toms are made with rock maple, and it gives you a warm sound that projects with a deep and punchy basic tone. Additionally, it has precision-cut 45 bearing edges, Remo heads, lacquer finishes that are high-gloss, and lugs that are the new lower-mass turret design. All of this is available at a very affordable price.
- Huge tone
- Made of maple wood
- Outstanding drums and reasonably priced
- Not the collector’s series
Yamaha Stage Custom Birch
The Yamaha Stage Custom Birch comes with shells made entirely of birch plus upgraded hardware compared to earlier models. The Stage Custom was introduced by Yamaha in 1995, and it quickly set the standard for both sound and value. The key to this drums sound is its shell by using a classic birchwood. It has a six-ply structure that precisely delivers the vibrations that are produced when you strike the drum head and its consistent performance will quickly overwhelm all its competitors.
It has a six-ply structure that precisely delivers the vibrations that are produced when you strike the drum head and its consistent performance will quickly overwhelm all its competitors.
The Stage Custom floor toms are fitted with 1.5 mm steel trip-flange hoops and Remo heads, and it comes in several sizes. This shell comes with an air seal system that helps it outshine all the others in its class with its quality and craftsmanship. It is a great way to add a thunderous bottom end of rolls and fills, and it is great for heavier rock.
The Yamaha Stage Custom will fit in well with the rest of your kit, and truly represents the high-quality products that Yamaha is known for with its great sound. This is a great floor tom for the money ranging at around $150.
- Has a great sound and huge tone
- Very sensitive drum, and very versatile
- Affordable and it is a great addition to any drum kit
Pearl Vision Birch
The Pearl Vision Birch floor tom is made with a blend of BirchPly shells that are constructed with birch and basswood layered plies. It is a unique combination for a shell, and it can give it the power and the projection for the low end. It is also able to give you higher frequencies that are normally given off by a smaller drum.
It is great to use as an accompaniment, for recording both metal and jazz, and to use when you are playing small venues.
The Pearl Vision Birch will boom for you, and it gives you a nice low end to your kit. If you add better heads, you can get a nice deep and dampened tone. It is a great value for the high-quality that you get.
- Has a great sound with huge tone
- Very responsive with an impressive boom
- Great addition to any kit
- Need to add better heads, can sound dead and hollow
Gretsch Drums Catalina
The Gretsch Custom Floor Tom gives you nice balanced tone with an explosive projection. Gretsch is known for its high-quality, hand crafted products, and this floor tom does not disappoint. Grestch used extremely experienced and skilled drumsmiths to create this floor tom that features the original Gresch 6-ply maple shell formula that has been used for over fifty years.
It includes a GTS suspension system, 30-degree bearing edges, and the original Silver Sealer inner shell finish. As always, you will find the DropG badge and the silver/black internal shell labels.
The Catalina Drum floor tom gives you satisfying resonance, plus a warm, balanced tone that showcases the old-world quality of their workmanship. This series 6-ply shell is the cornerstone of the Gresch sound that is legendary is the music world. They also features custom finishes and die-cast hoops.
Gretsch drums are a well-recognized sound throughout the music world that is known for its balanced tone, classic clear timbre, and fiery projection.
It is a very versatile drum that has endless tone, and it tunes very easily. It can be used for performances in lots of different ways including small venues and school bands. This Gretsch floor tom is a little on the pricy side.
- Has amazing tone and is easy to tune
- Very high-quality with a beautiful finish
- Unmatched quality and sound
- A little on the expensive side
Yamaha Live Custom
The Yamaha Live Custom floor tom is a great way to open up a new world of drum possibilities. This floor tom was created with playing in front of a live audience in mind. It uses 1.2 mm oak plies that are thicker by 10% than the Yamaha Oak Custom drums. It comes with a six-ply design, absolute lugs, and dark silver hardware. It has an open type floor tom bracket with 2.3 mm Dyna hoops, and Remo Emperor heads.
The Live Custom gives you great sound with awesome depth and strength. The rich, expressive power that you get will surpass your expectations, and the newly design hardware are the result of innovative designs that give you insane stability and the most reliability you can expect live on stage. The clear sound of the oak and the well-defined power of the low-end will give you a soul shaking experience.
The flawless finish and fantastic sound will make it a great addition to any drum kit. It is very easy to tune and works well as a drum for gigging. This is a great drum for playing live on stage, or for using in the studio with its rich and fat tone and it is impressive and awe-inspiring charisma. It is also very affordable.
- Great sound with a huge tone
- Easy to tune
- Flawless finish that will fit well with the rest of your kit
DW Design Series Acrylic
The DW name is always synonymous with a great set of drums. They take their custom drum-making experience seriously, and it gives you a great professional quality drum that continues to set the standard for affordability and quality. The DW Design Series Acrylic floor tom is the quintessential DW drum that includes newly-designed mini Turret lugs, Remo Suede “outline” logo heads, plus its sleek silver and white DW badge.
The 100% seamless acrylic shells may have a fresh look, but the DW design is definitely familiar. True Pitch tuning is also part of the custom inspired features of the DW Design Series.
- Great sound and awesome looks
- Cool design and professional quality
- DW makes great products, and this floor tom is no exception
- Sound is rather flat
Sonor Vintage Series
The Sonor Vintage Series floor tom is an auxiliary or add-on Vintage Series floor tom. Some of the most sought after vintage drum sets are the Sonor Teardrop kits. To recreate this vintage series, Sonor has used the rounded bearing edges, and they recreated the Vintage Series drum in an effort to return the old Sonor sound to its product line. Premium German, hand-selected beech wood shells are featured with the vintage rounded bearing edges in the Sonor Vintage Series Floor Tom.
Sonor has been successful in recreating the feel and look of the 1950’s teardrop lug, and they have updated it with the Tunesafe system that is exclusive to Sonor. They have also redesigned the Superprofil triple-flanged hoops, as well as brought back the classic Sonor logo and badge that was used between 1952 and 1961. It is on the pricier side.
- Great Sonor look and sound
- Classic appearance with great German engineering
- Great addition to any kit
- A little on the expensive side
PDP Concept Maple Classic
The PDP is a boutique-style add-on drum that is affordably priced for any level or budget-conscious player. It has retro looks along with a warm vintage sound that features all maple shells, and counter hoops that are available in tobacco or natural finishes.
PDP also includes recessed stamped claw hooks which hold onto the plied maple hoops, as well as maintain that classic appeal. Included in the hardware are die cast low-mass claw hooks, pitch tension rods, and durable lacquer finishes. It lives up to its DW standards and is well-priced.
- Classic looks, love the retro appeal
- Great price for awesome drums
- Great vintage sound
Pork Pie Maple/Rosewood
Pork Pie has done it again with a rare wood and attention detail construction like you have never seen before. The artisans at Pork Pie have constructed a progressive-ply design that features a maple shell interior with a rosewood exterior. This exquisite creation is unmatched by its competitors and is stunning in its appearance and sound.
The drum is precision-cut, with hand-sanded bearing edges, plus the tonal quality with giving you the punch that only hard rosewood would give combined with the rich tones of maple wood. The hardware contains Pork Pie exclusive compact lugs and 2.3 mm heavy-duty hoops that are durable and ready for a beating.
This drum comes with Remo heads and is available in either Black Metallic Suede finish or high-gloss Black Cherry Red Lacquer. It also features Pork Pie proprietary hourglass shaped hardware, and it is definitely worth the investment as the Port Pie floor tom is on the high end of the price range.
- Stunning craftsmanship with beautiful hand-sanded edges
- The rare wood creates an awesome sound and looks
- Durable, ready for a show
- It is a little on the expensive side
The DW Eco-X floor tom has a huge sound, and a full frequency range that will make any drummer happy, plus it is eco-friendly which will satisfy our environmentally challenged conscious.
It is a creatively unique hybrid of birch and bamboo that gives you improved high-end attack while using DW’s X Shell technology that gives you an unprecedented low-end response. These big sounding drums have all the basics, plus they give you resonance, warmth and the attack that Collector’s Series drums are well-known for.
It also has all the DW drummer-friendly features such as STM (Suspension Tom Mounts), True Pitch Tuning, Proportional Counter Hoops, DW Heads by Remo USA that all come standard with the drum. At time of publishing, they were priced a little higher than most of the others on the list.
- Huge sound with great low-end response
- Love that it is eco-friendly
- Great frequency range with great resonance
- It is a little more expensive than the moderately priced floor toms
Placing Your Floor Tom
First popularized in the 1950s by Gene Krupa, the floor tom was originally placed in the drum kit in the middle of two bass drums on the far side of the snare drum. Its placement was swiftly moved to its current position at the right of the drummer’s leg. The floor tom is the largest tom that you will have in your kit, while any other toms you have will be smaller and have higher sounds.
Floor toms can also be mounted. Traditionally, they sit on the floor with three adjustable legs, but they can also be mounted onto a drum rack or cymbal stand, but this mounting is only used with small 14 x 14 floor toms. When it is mounted, this type of tom is called a mid tom.
Depending on your preferences, you may or may not add a mid tom. Some drummers may prefer a more simple kit, while others play a musical style that doesn’t need one. There are some styles of music that require up to three different toms, and these drummers may use several mid toms.
A floor tom can also be used to replace a bass drum if you have a small kit, most likely used for jazz music. When it is used as a bass drum, it is horizontally mounted on a special rack system. Some companies, like Pearl, have designed special conversion kits for making the floor tom a bass drum. These kits comprise a set of specially shaped rods that are used instead of the floor tom legs so that the drum will be able to stand up horizontally. To complete this conversion process, you will also need to get special bass drum hoops as well:
Knowing How to Measure a Drum
When you are looking at the size of a drum, you always want to follow the width x depth format. If you ever see a single number regarding the size of a drum, they are referring to the width or head size.
To get the most precise measurements of your drums, make sure the drum heads have been removed, so you will also need to remove the hoops. The hoops help to create an inaccurate measurement with their additional size. It can also help to take a measurement from inside the shell without the heads or hoops to get the most accurate measurements.
You may see a shell pack that includes just the bass drum and the toms. This way you can purchase similar drums together, so they all have the same type of wood and hoops. The other parts of the drum kit will need to be purchased separately including the stands, pedals, cymbals, and snare drum.
Are Two Toms Enough? Are Four Toms Too Many?
Since toms are primarily used for fills that help the song transition from one part to the next, the number and types of toms are usually just the personal preference of the drummer. Most drum kits have a floor tom and a mounted tom. Toms are often positioned to form an arc, so you will have the highest pitched toms near the snare drum, while the lower pitched tom is on the outside of the kit. If you are a beginning drummer, two to three toms should be sufficient for you.
Type of Drum Heads
Drum heads have definitely evolved over the years since the first plastic head was invented fifty years ago. They are available in several forms:
- Thick or thin
- Single- or multi-ply
- Clear or coated
- Reinforced edges or centers
The best drum head is a personal preference, so it is important to try a few and see which types you prefer. If you are just starting out, or want one for general purposes, a medium-weight head will work. If you are a harder hitting drummer, you should get a more durable heavier duty drum head that has a double ply head that can take a beating. Heads with reinforced centers or edges can help if you are interested in tuning out overtones or a controlling ring.
Types of Drum Shell Woods
Wood is the most commonly used material for a drum shell. They are made with several thin plies of wood that are glued together, and they are then bent into shape, often by using steam. Depending on the type of wood that is used, your drum will have different characteristics in its tone.
This is one of the hardest shell options. Birch gives a drum a bright sound, along with a sharp transient attack. This is a great option for drummers that want a louder drum for performing live.
Bubinga is often called “African rosewood,” and has been recently gaining more popularity as a drum shell wood. It is a hard wood that is often used as the inner ply of a shell with another type of wood used on the outside plies.
This is one of the softest woods which gives a drum a low fundamental tone, as well as great bottom-end punches.
Maple is in the middle of hardness and tone. It has a higher pitch than mahogany does but has a warmer sound than other harder woods. It is one of the more popular wood options for shells.
No matter what type of wood is used, they all can be stained, wrapped and painted to suit your preferences.
Features to Look for in a Floor Drum
One piece of the drum equipment that you will get intimately acquainted with is the drum head. It is a round surface that is usually made of plastic or animal hide that stretches across the shell opening, and it can be tightened to varying tension degrees depending on the sound that you want.
The drum hoop is usually made of stamped metal, cast metal, or wood. It has a flange shaped to keep the head on the shell for tensioning.
A tension rod is mounted through the holes you will find on a hoop. They are then threaded into the lugs, so you keep the tension that your prefer.
A lug is usually made of metal, and then it is mounted onto the shell so that it can receive the tension rods. The design of a lug can be either very basic or very complex so that they contain alignment springs or other features.
The shell is one of the more important parts of the drum that helps to determine the tone of the drum. Shells are usually made of wood, but they can also be found in acrylic and fiberglass.
Vents allow air pressure to be released through a hole when you strike the drum head. This is not found on all drums.
Just like the top head, this bottom head helps to determine the tone of the drum. If you have are using resonant heads, the top head will be thinner than the bottom head.