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Conga Buying Advice

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  • Conga Buying Advice

    I have just about decided to buy the Pearl Elite Congas,(after seriouslly considering the Meinl Marathon series).Any comments about a first time hand percussion buyer buying fiberglass instead of wood?Best (price) or dealer comments?

  • #2
    Generally fiberglass is less expensive, more durable, and louder, while wood (Oak) is more expensive, needs a bit more care (cases, susceptible to climate changes), and has a warmer tradional tone.

    Fiberglass is great for gigging and live playing when steady transporting of your instruments is an issue, while wood is great for studio.

    These are not steadfast rules, but generalities.

    Best Regards,



    • #3
      Fiberglass will also give you more volume than wood.


      • #4
        any opinions on different brands (ok, I know everyone here loves Pearl, but apart from that...!!!)
        I'm looking as a beginner (but intermediate kit drummer), with the aim of using them in church.
        I know I'm probaby best bypassing real entry level stuff, but can anyone advise over the next level up in terms of choice, brands, what to look for or avoid? Money will definitely be tight (plus UK prices are a further barrier) - are any of the entry level options worth considering? How do I tell what's any good....
        Plus I heard that LP do a mini-conga (or maybe a 'junior' model) - how do these sound compared to 'grown-up' models? (like bongos?)
        any help gratefully appreciated....
        2002 Pearl ELX in Cobalt Mist 10"x8", 12"x10", 13"x11", 16"x16", 22"x16", 14"x5.5"
        Sabian cymbals: HHX 16" Ozone; Sig. 10" Glennie's Garbage; AAX 6" splash; AA El Sabor Salsa 13" Splash; Pro Sonix 14" hats, 20" ride, 14" & 16" crashes & 16" china; Pro 14" mini china & 12" china splash


        • #5
          The "standard" professional sizes out there for congas are 11' Quinto, 113/4, Conga and 12 1/2 for the Tumbador. When this set up is used it will give you a fuller sound than using alternate sizes. Anything different in sizes could give you a different sound. Therefore, it will depend on what sound do you want. Budget lines usually do not have those sizes or differ by 1/2 an inch or 1 inch and their heads are not the best quality and will not allow you to make the best of out them. In most instances there could be a problem trying to get replacement heads or parts for budget lines because they do not have the easier to get standard sizes including their lugs, etc. et. Nevertheless, I know people who get a "full sound" out of any type or size of conga it depends on you. (Of course, one of the guys doing that that I've seen is Giovanni Hidalgo).

          Alternatives in regards to prices...Pearl is pretty good plus it has some models in packages that have "alternate" sizes priced lower than their professional lines. (Not that familiar with Pearl's full line). Toca which I am not that familiar is like Pearl that it has some "mid level"/budget congas but they are in odd sizes.

          I am more familiar with the LP and Meinl which are more common here in PR. (In your area other companies might be easier to get, hence, cheaper). In LP, Aspire is their beginning line and like every beginners line, their sizes are not the standard like the ones I mentioned before. Matador is their mid level and is in the standard sizes mentioned above. Matador prices are pretty good and in congas, Matador is actually the same quality as the LP models. Meinl's has a beginners or budget line called Headliner but like LP Aspire it has "odd" sizes in the congas and not the standard sizes. Meinl has the Marathon line which is their midlevel line and the prices are around the LP Matador line and in most places is cheaper. Their quality in congas is similar to their Professional Series. Prior to Meinl having their professional series and other "professional level" instruments, Marathon was their pro line. Remo also has some congas which are priced pretty good.

          All is just a matter of "shopping around" and trying the "stuff" at the store! In most cases, if not all, a beginner's or mid level conga will give a sound that is not that full because first the heads are not good quality also their sizes will affect the sound. (Is not the same to have a 10 inch and 11 inch - conga/tumbador than an 11 3/4 and a 12 1/2 combo). To get a professional sound in some mid level congas all you have to do is get good replacement heads which are easier to get in the "standard sizes". In beginners line is hard to get good quality heads because of their "odd sizes".

          In the event you want to go "budget line" anything from those companies that I mentioned before is pretty good. However, see my comment regarding "budget lines" and the hard that is to get replacement parts for them.

          Happy shopping!
          Last edited by Ray; 02-18-2003, 04:48 PM.


          • #6
            My recomendations for fiberglass congas are the Toca Premier Series and for wood congas are the LP Classics. The Toca Premier have a very warm sound considering they are fiberglass, but yet retain all the fiberglass advantages. Plus they are available in cool finishes. The LP Classics are probably the international standard for Congas. Many recordings feature LP Classics.

            Re: Budget Lines. While these lines of Congas might be okay for schools and beginners, they are by no means good quality congas. I went from playing Toca Player's Series (beginner level) to playing Classics and I can't believe I tollerated that sound for so long. A lot has to do with the head, but more has to do with the materials quality.

            Re: Sizes. I would go for the Tumba and Conga. These are pretty much industry standard for two-piece conga setups. I am also thinking adding a Reqinto (10"1/4) for accents and other fun stuff.

            Re: Budget Contraints. The LP Classics I play were purchased used (about 10 years old). The finish is pretty beat up but the sound is still incredible. Most percussionists will tell you that a conga (or any hand drum) takes a while to "open up" before it starts sounding good. So buying used isn't really bad. eBay is a great source.

            If you are looking at using percussion at church, consider also tambourines, shakers, cowbells, blocks of some sort, claves, cabasas, chime trees, mini-timbales, djembes, splashes, rainsticks. There is so much you can do.
            Pearl Session Studio Birch
            Ludwig Supraphonic
            All the Cymbals