Buying a pair of bongos seems like an easy purchase, considering how simplistic their designs are. However, different bongos offer various tonal qualities and textures, and some are much better than others.
Understanding the quality differences can be tough for people who aren’t experienced percussionists. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best bongo options to make things a bit easier for you.
Every pair we’ve chosen offers excellent quality and playability, so look through them and decide which set appeals to you the most.
- 1 Top 3 Bongo Drums
- 2 Best Bongo Drum Reviews
- 3 How to Choose the Best Bongo Drums
- 4 Final Thoughts on the Best Bongo Drums
Top 3 Bongo Drums
The Latin Percussion Matador Wood Bongos are our Top Pick Winner. These bongos have rich tones, and their beautiful and artistic finish is a big selling point. They’re an amazing option to get if you want top-tier bongos that will sound great in any setting.
The Meinl Percussion Bongo Cajon is our Budget Option. This unique design combines the playability of a pair of bongos with the wooden construction of a cajon. It sounds like bongos, and it’s a lot more affordable than a comparable pair.
The Latin Percussion Galaxy Giovanni Signature Bongos are our Editor’s Pick. These are what you should get if you want the best bongos available. They top the class in every area, including construction quality, sound quality, and overall design. They’re amazing for percussionists willing to pay for them.
Best Bongo Drum Reviews
A top-quality pair of bongos that look just as good as they sound.
One of the most popular sets of bongos from Latin Percussion. They have sweet yet punchy tones, and they’re seriously easy to tune. These are a good pair of bongos to get if you’re upgrading from entry-level ones.
These Latin Percussion Matador Bongos were one of our favorite pairs that we played, and they were an easy choice to top this list. While they sound and perform like top-tier bongos, they’re far more affordable than you may expect.
The Siam Oak shells produced beautiful tones, and we were mostly surprised with how much these things project. We didn’t need to hit them hard to hear full and clear sounds.
The combination of rawhide heads and traditional rims also gave them a classic and natural feel. It makes them quite comfortable to play, which is a great touch.
If you purchase these on Sweetwater, you can get them in a special Red Carved Mango finish, which looks absolutely stunning. However, all the finishes look eye-catching, and you can get those everywhere else.
There aren’t any downsides to these, so they’re just an overall epic option to consider.
Verdict: The Latin Percussion Matador Wood Bongos are our top recommendation if you’re looking for professional playability at a reasonable cost. These bongos both look and sound amazing, and their shell and construction makeup ensure that they’ll perform the same for decades. These are an appealing option to consider if you’re looking to upgrade from a cheaper set of entry-level bongos. Their tones will be noticeably better.
A small cajon designed to play and sound like bongo drums.
This cajon doesn’t share the same shell design as bongos, but it sounds far better than cheap bongos with the same price tag. It offers the same punchy attacking tones, so it’s an enticing alternative options to consider.
If you heard this thing being played without seeing it, you wouldn’t believe that it wasn’t a classic pair of bongos. We love this design, and we think it’s a fantastic way of getting high-quality bongo tones without paying much at all for them.
The cajon is made from Siam Oak, which is the same material as most bongos, and that’s how a similar tone is achieved.
We found it to be very comfortable to play, especially when resting it on the knees while sitting on a chair. We also love how dynamically responsive it is.
While the benefit of having no drum skins is that it will never go out of tune, the downside of that is that you can’t change how it sounds. We’d just recommend this for players who want something easy and cost-effective. It’s not a good option for traditional bongo lovers.
Verdict: The Meinl Percussion Bongo Cajon is the most affordable instrument you can get that will give you solid and expressive bongo tones. It has a cajon design, but it performs just as bongos would. You wouldn’t easily tell the difference between this and regular bongos if you were just listening to the tones. The downside is that you can’t tune it to sound different, limiting the range of tones you can get.
One of the highest-quality pairs of bongos available.
These bongos are part of a larger Galaxy Giovanni series of percussion instruments, and they have some of the best design quality you’ll find. They sound incredible, look amazing, and they have a seriously diverse range of sounds to play around with.
These bongos were designed with the help of Giovanni Hidalgo, who is one of the most successful percussionists in the world. They’re some of the most pristine bongos you can get, and we could easily feel the difference in the quality of these compared to other sets of bongos.
They’re made from kiln-dried ash wood, which is the main contributor to their unique tone compared to other bongos. They have 3-ply shells, which gives them solid tones that are both powerful and musical.
Our favorite feature is the Comfort Curve II rims. These rims are so easy on your hands that you can easily play these bongos for hours without feeling much discomfort.
We also love how amazingly the gold hardware contrasts with the color of the shells. They’re very pretty to look at.
The obvious downside is how expensive these bongos are. With the high price tag, we’d only recommend these to passionate percussionists.
Verdict: The Latin Percussion Galaxy Giovanni Signature Bongos are one of the best pairs of bongos that you can get. They have a unique shell design, with their musical tones coming from kiln-dried ash wood. They’re gorgeous to look at with their gold hardware, and they sound so much better than most bongos out there. They’re very expensive, though, so they’re not a viable option for most people who are looking for a decent set of bongos.
A great professional bongo set with a stunning finish.
Latin Percussion’s Aspire Series bongos are seriously popular, and these Havana Café bongos are the cream of the crop. They look beautiful, and they sound rich and full of tone. They’re a set of bongos that anyone would love to have.
Reliable would be our best word to describe all the Aspire Series bongos. They consistently have incredible tones, and you’ll see these being used by professional percussionists all over the world.
The specific pair that we’re recommending are the Havana Café bongos. The other finish options in this series are great, but these look far better and more luxurious. They also cost slightly more.
The rawhide heads give these bongos solid tones, and we found that they sound good with both medium and high tunings. LP’s EZ curve rims also make playing and tuning a pleasant experience.
The hardware is brushed nickel, and it perfectly suits the color of the bongo shells. These are bongos that you’ll want displayed when not using them.
Something that may surprise you about these is how heavy they are. Many percussionists prefer to mount them to a stand because of that.
Verdict: The Latin Percussion Aspire Series Havana Café Bongos are a solid bongo option worth considering. They’re yet another pair of bongos that both look and sound tremendous. The brush-nickel hardware is a nice touch, and beginners and professionals will be just as happy with these. Just note that they’re quite heavy, and many people don’t expect that from them before making the purchase.
One of Meinl Percussion’s affordable sets of bongos.
These bongos are quite affordable, making them an attractive option for newer percussionists not looking to spend too much money. They can still be used in professional environments, though, as their tones will hold up well.
If you don’t want to spend too much but you still want something usable for gigs, the Headliner Series bongos are a compelling option. We’re big fans of these bongos, and we love how easy they are to set up and play.
One of the standout features is how much they resonate. Bongos are meant to have quick and strong tones, but these ring for slightly longer than you may expect. It’s a subtle tonal difference that sets them apart from other bongos in the same price range.
Their 8mm tuning lugs keep them in tune for a decent amount of time, but we found that these aren’t as reliable with their tuning as some of the higher-priced choices. You get a tuning key when you buy them, so you’ll just need to quickly learn how to use it to maintain the tonal quality.
Verdict: The Meinl Percussion Headliner Series Wood Bongos are a great option for players who want professional bongos but don’t want to spend a lot of money. We’d say that they’re the most affordable bongos that will still work in gigging environments. All the bongos that cost less don’t sound as good. These just don’t hold tuning as well as higher-quality bongos do, so you’ll need to tune them more often.
Bongos with shallower depths to help with traveling.
These bongos come from Pearl’s Travel Series line, and they’re surprisingly good for bongos that look like pancake drums. They sound just as rich and musical as regular-sized bongos. They’re just easier to fit in tight spaces.
Most bongos have depths of 5” to around 9”, but these bongos have depths of 3.5”. They’re designed for traveling, but they can easily be used whenever you need them. That makes them a good option to consider as a replacement for standard-sized bongos.
We were impressed with how much projection these had. You typically need larger depths for more volume and resonance, but Pearl has somehow designed these to be quite loud.
They’re also seriously responsive to different dynamic levels. They’re through-and-through professional bongos, and they sound a lot better than most of the options on this list.
The big downside is that they cost a lot. These are at the top of Pearl’s bongo product range, so they cost the same as all the top-tier bongos from different brands. They’re great for a collector or pro player, but the price may be a bit steep for beginners.
Verdict: The Pearl Travel Bongos are high-end bongos with much shorter depths than what other options have. Their hardware and shell construction is top-notch, and they produce sweet tones that are punchy and effective. These bongos just cost a lot for what they are, making them less attractive to most people looking for bongos. If you’re happy to pay for them, they’re incredible.
A good set of beginner bongos with a standard design.
These are Latin Percussion’s entry-level bongos. They’re an excellent option for beginners, as they’re affordable but offer all the goods of what bongo drums are known for. They have a range of finish options that cater to everyone’s tastes.
If you’re looking for a cheap pair of bongos but you don’t want to get the cajon bongo drum that we suggested earlier, this Discovery Bongo Set is your next best option. These bongos were specifically designed for beginners, and they’re super affordable.
The first thing we noticed about them is that they’re a lot lighter than all the other bongo sets on this list. This makes them easier for traveling with, and it also makes them a bit more appealing to children who want to play.
They’re made from HD shells, which are a synthetic material designed to imitate the sounds that wood shells offer. That’s the main reason for these being more affordable.
We love all the finish options you can choose from. They’re all solid colors, but there are enough colors to suit everyone’s preferences.
We just wouldn’t suggest using these bongos for professional settings, as they don’t have too much depth in terms of sound quality and musicality.
Verdict: The Latin Percussion Discovery Bongo Set is a fantastic option for beginners looking for their first set of standard bongos. They’re far more affordable than most options, and they’re lighter to carry around. They have decent sounds, but they’re not as rich or musical. However, beginner bongo players most likely notice the difference in quality just yet. We just wouldn’t recommend these to experienced players, as they’ll feel the dip in playability.
How to Choose the Best Bongo Drums
Most bongos have similar sizes. There are two drums in a bongo set, and they’re called the macho and the hembra. Macho drums are typically 6” x 7”, and hembras are 7” x 8”. Not all bongo drums will have those sizes, though.
When looking at a pair to buy, check to see what the dimensions are. If they’re larger than those common sizes, the bongos are more likely to have deeper tones. If they’re smaller, their tones will be shorter and punchier.
An exception to this would be Pearl’s Travel Bongos. Pearl has somehow designed those to sound exactly the same as bongos with standard sizes.
Bongos are traditional percussion drums that have been around for over a century. Throughout that time, they’ve mostly had animal skin heads, and that has been what gives them the most natural sound.
Many modern sets of bongos have synthetic heads. They’re easier to maintain, and they keep the drums in tune for longer. However, they don’t sound as musical and rich as animal skin heads.
It’s better to get animal skin heads to have better tones, but you just need to accept that you’ll be tuning the bongos more often to maintain them.
It’s important to know how to tune them well so that you can do this.
There are two things to look at when checking out the shell makeup. These are the shell material and the hardwareused to hold the shells together.
Siam Oak is the material used to make most pairs of bongos. It’s a fantastic wood that gives them woody tones that are rich and musical. You’ll find intermediate and pro-level bongos with it.
A lot of top-tier bongos are made from other woods. There are too many to mention, but they all give the bongos unique flavors in their tones. You just need to read up on them to see what they add.
Cheap bongos are typically made from synthetic materials. They’re a lot cheaper to work with, and they keep the prices low, but they don’t sound as good as wooden bongos.
When it comes to hardware, you should be looking for something comfortable. All the best bongos have curved rimsthat make it easy for your hands to play the skins. Anything different from that will feel seriously uncomfortable over time.
The term finish refers to the color and patterns that are placed on the shells of the bongos. Most bongos come with a few different finish options, so you get to choose which color and design you want.
We highly recommend getting a finish that you like, as it’s always better to have something that you love looking at.
Finishes have no effect on the tone or playability, but choosing a good finish is still very important, in our opinion.
You’ll find dozens of brands selling cheap and expensive bongos everywhere. However, we strongly suggest sticking with Meinl Percussion, Pearl, and Latin Percussion.
We’ve found them to be the most reliable brands in the bongo world, and they all have multiple good options to pick from. Each brand has excellent quality control as well.
If you buy bongos from a lesser-known brand, you won’t get the assurance that they’ll hold up, and you may just be paying more money for bongos with lower-quality tones.
When thinking of how much to spend on a pair of bongos, just know that they range from $50 to $500. They’re relatively affordable compared to most other instruments, but it still hurts to spend $400 on just two drums.
It helps to establish what area of playing ability you fall under. Beginners don’t need to spend more than $150 on a decent pair. Intermediate players could benefit from spending a bit more. We’d then only suggest that professionals buy the $400 bongos.
Final Thoughts on the Best Bongo Drums
The beauty of bongo drums is that they’re pretty affordable compared to most other instruments. Most percussionists end up with multiple sets, so you should get two or more if you like more than one of the pairs we mentioned.
Here’s a short recap of our top picks. The Latin Percussion Matador Wood Bongos are our overall Top Pick Winner. They combine top-tier playability with an attainable price tag.
The Meinl Percussion Bongo Cajon is our Best Budget Option. It has a bit of a different design, but it’s far more affordable than the other high-quality bongos, and it sounds much better than comparable bongos in the same price range.
Finally, the Latin Percussion Galaxy Giovanni Signature Bongos are our Editor’s Choice. If money is no issue, these are our best recommendation.