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Thread: Congas: What's the best?

  1. #1

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    Default Congas: What's the best?

    What are your favorite congas?

    I love LP congas! Unfortunatly, I have a Toca Players conga. Lookin' to upgrade very soon!
    Da' Bum
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  2. #2

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    Thumbs up Congas? What's the best?

    I have a friend who has played a pair of fiberglass Tocas for several years...they're all right, but I'm with ya on the LPs. Actually, I own a pair of black fiberglass CPs which I've owned for almost 20 years...they're a little too light for my taste and have been knocked around andbattle-scarred, but sound darn good for their age.

    I bought a pair of red wooden CP's a couple years ago--they're the ones I use in my church guitar group and on "professional" gigs--and I dig the way they sound indoors and out!

    The one make that's surprised me is Remo. I picked up a gray Remo tumba a year ago and it really adds a lot of bottom to my playing with either CP set. (And I've gotten a lot of compliments from the guitar group since I added the Remo to the red CP's.) I like the shell design; it resembles the bed-liner in some new pickup trucks...it withstands the jolts and I like the way it sounds on slaps and rimshots...

    Whoa, I want to start jammin' on those drums right now ...
    keep the beat goin' ... Don't keep it to yourself!

    Charlie

    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." --Henry David Thoreau, "Walden," 1854

    "There's a lot to be said for Time Honored tradition and value." --In memory of Frank "fiacovaz" Iacovazzi

    "Maybe your drums can be beat, but you can't."--Jack Keck

  3. #3

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    I got a chance to play with some of the Remo conga's down at Guitar Center today. OMG!!! They are probably the best sounding congas I have ever played! Great tone and resonance, and your right, the tumba has a great, deep sound. I think I might have to save some money to get me a set. Thanks for turning me on to such a great set of congas Bro!
    Da' Bum
    Rockin' the beat for fadedblue
    Slappin' the skins for Willow Tree
    Kickin' the bass for Olde Youth
    http://www.facebook.com/fadedbluemusic
    http://www.facebook.com/willowtreebandpdx
    DW Performance 5 pc. in White Marine Pearl
    Pearl ELX 7 pc. in Black Burst
    1972 Pearl Deluxe Custom 5 pc. in blue sparkle
    KAT KT-3

  4. #4

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    This can be a very emotional topic. First thing first. The best conga is one that is being played. This list is only my opinon.

    New congas:

    Best mass production congas: Remo Pancho Sanchez line.

    Custom built congas: Volcano Percussion.

    Vintage congas:

    Best mass produced: Gon Bops (but you need to be able to perform repairs)

    Cost effective set: CP Cosmic Percussion (with chrome hardware) or Matador

    Custom built: Valje

    There are so many great choices and options available today both new and used. Check em' out and play em'!

  5. #5

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    Quote Originally Posted by 1DrumBum View Post
    What are your favorite congas?

    I love LP congas! Unfortunatly, I have a Toca Players conga. Lookin' to upgrade very soon!
    All Asian made drums are of same materials & made in same factories, only the design elements & parts change. Lps are often over built shells & lack bass tones as a result. The common models using wood or glass shells are going to sound the same regardless of brand so there is no up grade in music qualities, only in price range. The more dressed up & beefed up the drum is...the less good it seems to sound ! ? Pearl, Meinl, Tycoon, Rhythm tech., Sonar & others are all made too similar so its a matter of fashion or name / brand nonsense. The only way to truly compare drums is using a uniform head like remo plastic since it is a consistent thickness if same type. The heads are the key ! The shells have a part to play as a resonator. Wood density adds volume, softer woods are warmer & hard woods approach fiberglass in high end frequencies. Shell size & fatness of bellies adds to resonance of some tones. Hard wares and internal fiberglass reinforcements that are too heavy will mute resonance a bit and make wood shells sound more like glass shells. This is why many Lp's suffer from not having full bass tones. My LIST : For tone, volume shell integrity & hard ware function dependability is : #1 ~My 1998 Ash wood, banded Gon Bops w/ new Cowhide heads ( general purpose from accoustic to big band gigs ) #2 ~Timba ( same as Orig Gon Bops but w/ design corrections ), #3 ~ Meinl top end models ( not Siam Oak soft woods or rubber woods ~ equal to Valje but more dependable hard wares. #4 ~ Lp/ Valje Armando Peraza model w/ Cherry wood shells & rubber booted bottoms. #5 ~ Volcano ( love the tone in accoustic settings but not for Salsa unless a slightly thinner head were available when I tested & played them on gigs ). # 6 ~ Fat Congas of Santa Barbara ( vintage! mid 70's ) for accoustic gigs. #7 ~ Lp Fiberglass & Meinl Fiberglass are tied for Salsa ! # 8 ~ Meinl Float Tune shells. #9 Ritmos & Skin on Skin are tied for accoustic or small band ( over priced considering obsolete problematic hard ware designs )# 10 ~ Remo w/ NuSkynz heads ( not FiberSkynz ) For Salsa & Latin Jazz general purpose work horses w/ ugly shell wrappers that go out of fashion in 4 months ! LOL ! I select based on performance environment settings, practical function & drum sound...not taking cosmetics into account except for Remos poor choice of fashion designs that must be aimed at 14 yr old & house wives.

  6. #6

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    Thanks Ernesto for the detailed list.

  7. #7

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    I am buying my first pair and can afford to buy up. Any suggestions on a mid level pair for someone who is playing first for fun but has plans to use them for gigs. I am vacillating between Meinl Woodcraft and LP Palladium Series but just discovered the top tuning LPs which while not ash seem interesting. Anyone have suggestions on the best way to go? These or others?

  8. #8

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    I would not reccomend any LP congas if you are serious for the long term (my opinion) there are many better choices now available for equal or less money. The Palladium series are 32" tall so if you play sitting down it will not be that great unless yare really tall or sit really high.

    The only 2 mass produced congas I would consider currently are: Gon Bops Mariano series (New) and the Pearl Folkloric series. These both are less than LP and superior in many ways.

    If you buy only one conga, first buy a conga (11 1/2" - 11 3/4") and the second drum a Tumba (12 1/4" - 13 1/4"). If you have more money then a full set of 3 or 4 but most beginners will be busy with 2 drums for quite a while.

    Next find a good teacher to guide you. This way you will learn correctly and quickly. It is easy to develop bad habits from being self taught or street style drumming. (I know this from personal experience and I have an excellent teacher now.)

    I hope you have a long life of enjoyment of these fine drums.

  9. #9

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    I forgot to add that the Gon Bops Mariano series should not have the issues for repairs that the old Gon Bops from the 70's had.

  10. #10

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    OOPS! My mistake. The correct link is below. This guy has some interesting new stuff.

    manito percussion

    Another interesting newer handbuilder is Lou Vega at VGA.

    These are not big retailers but handbuilders that put their sweat and tears into their work. Very personal stuff.

    All postings are only my opinion and not ment to offend anyone. I have only seen photos of Mantino's and VGA's work but it does look great.

    *Sorry Jerry, but the Forum Rules prohibit links to retailers (commercial links). - PB*

  11. #11

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    There are sinoumerous issues as to what makes it “The best conga”. I’ve owned a pair of old LP fiberglass, and a Ismael (a PR conga artisan) wood conga for many years. But, I always wanted a pair of Fiberglass LP Galaxys. I saw a lot of “congueros” playing them and I loved their sound. Obviously, I could not afford them (back then). So, I waited and waited and the wait, paid off. Not long ago I just bought a pair of them on Craiglist for $500. They not only look great but also... they sound great!!!

    The manufacturer is responsible for the looks, but, the drummer is responsible for the sound. It’s like Giovanni Hidalgo once told me, “It’s not the conga, is the conguero” (I saw this “Cat” playing on a pair of paint pales and they sounded better than any conga would ever sound)!!!

    In conclusion, the best conga ever,… is the one that sounds the best for you. Is the one that, puts a smile on your face everytime you play it.

    CONGARICAN
    Last edited by CONGARICAN; 04-14-2011 at 12:45 PM.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by CONGARICAN View Post

    In conclusion, the best conga ever, is the one that sounds the best for you. Is the one that, puts a smile on your face everytime you play it.

    CONGARICAN
    couldn't have said it better myself!

    Fiber Galaxys were my first pair of real congas, loved them! I also loved my LP Classics from the 90s. I've owned many sets of vintage gon bops and I always go back to them for the sound to price ratio. My all time favorite that I owned was a set of Cuban made Sonocs that I really regret selling, the shells were made of spanish cedar, very cool drums with an amazing sound.
    *****GRETSCH****BOSPHORUS****AQUARIAN****VALJE**** *

  13. #13

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    Yeah, the best drum is the one you got and play.

    I played LP, CP, SP, Matador, Aspire, Pearl, Meinl, Gon Bops, Volcano, Matthew Smith, Isla, Afro, Valje, Resolution, Toca, JCR, Zim Gar, Playa Azul, Gope, South American Conga, Tack Heads, my homemade and more. This has been over 20 years and it is all good.

    I love all of the deversity of sounds. I have a local rumba party every other Friday. We bring it. Last week Mr. Bongo's nephew came out and kicked it on this road worn LP Quinto (Classic).

    I think the head or skin really makes a bigger difference than the actual drum. As always the player makes the instrument. A great player with a great instrument is truly amazing.
    Enjoy your drums and drumming.

  14. #14

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    Cool Re: Congas: What's the best?

    Wow, this question is almost as old as DrumChat itself!

    I must admit when I answered 1DrumBum way back when, LP was still producing some excellent congas. Trouble was, it was just about the time Kaman Music took over LP, and I've noticed the newer LPs I've played don't quite sound the same as the older pre-Kaman models...

    "In conclusion, the best conga ever… is the one that sounds the best for you. Is the one that, puts a smile on your face everytime you play it."

    BTW, congarican, you need to put that statement as your sig! (I'd do it but I ran out of space in my sig area!) Right on, bro'!
    Last edited by bongobro; 09-29-2014 at 04:45 PM. Reason: after all this time I realized I left out a major part of one sentence!
    keep the beat goin' ... Don't keep it to yourself!

    Charlie

    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." --Henry David Thoreau, "Walden," 1854

    "There's a lot to be said for Time Honored tradition and value." --In memory of Frank "fiacovaz" Iacovazzi

    "Maybe your drums can be beat, but you can't."--Jack Keck

  15. #15

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    Bongobro;

    Thanks for the sugestion. I will.

    CONGARICAN
    "The best Conga ever is... The one that sounds the best for you. Is the one that, puts a smile on your face everytime you play it."

  16. #16

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    I am of the mind set that all Asian made drums are more similar than are different. They all copy each other, use same Asian heads & only in rare cases offer better woods. But...Meinl sizes ( heads & the size of the drum bellies ) and heads are most consistent w/ authentic CONGA sound rather than the thin sounding Lp's & the shells offer a rubber base which protect from slipping drums or scratched floors & actually helps the drums to sound constantly resonant on wood, concrete or other surfaces. Every thing else is purely cosmetic or marketing hype. I prefer my 1997 Gon Bops although It requires me to tuck my own heads since they are & were never easily available in stores. Natural heads are all different & only time & experience will make selecting & mounting heads a success. My Gon Bops sound like REAL congas...not like sewer pipes w/ randomly selected heads mounted or plastic tom tom heads w/ odd over tones etc. THE BEST congas on the market are Volcano congas from Hawaii. Best shells, great skins, great hard wares, great traditional conga tone but are custom made w/ exotic woods...so are pricey.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Bembe View Post
    I would not reccomend any LP congas if you are serious for the long term (my opinion) there are many better choices now available for equal or less money. The Palladium series are 32" tall so if you play sitting down it will not be that great unless yare really tall or sit really high.

    The only 2 mass produced congas I would consider currently are: Gon Bops Mariano series (New) and the Pearl Folkloric series. These both are less than LP and superior in many ways.

    If you buy only one conga, first buy a conga (11 1/2" - 11 3/4") and the second drum a Tumba (12 1/4" - 13 1/4"). If you have more money then a full set of 3 or 4 but most beginners will be busy with 2 drums for quite a while.

    Next find a good teacher to guide you. This way you will learn correctly and quickly. It is easy to develop bad habits from being self taught or street style drumming. (I know this from personal experience and I have an excellent teacher now.)

    I hope you have a long life of enjoyment of these fine drums.
    Jerry; can you expand on your thoughts about the Folklorics? I'm really wanting some new congas. I have no idea how these sound but they look very nice, both cosmetically and how they are built. Thanks.
    LP Performer Quinto, Conga, Tumba & Remo Nuskyn Heads
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by busyflyin View Post
    Jerry; can you expand on your thoughts about the Folklorics? I'm really wanting some new congas. I have no idea how these sound but they look very nice, both cosmetically and how they are built. Thanks.
    I have not seen either of these particular models in person. I am basing these comments on 2 primary factors.

    #1 is the heads on both drums is calfskin. Nothing is better than American calfskin for tone. 80-90% of the tone is from the head. (If you have a nice hardware on a sturdy drum then a calfskin head could be a significant upgrade option rather than buying a new drum. Most pre-tucked heads are Water Buffalo so you might need to tuck your own head for this to be an option with your old drums.)

    #2 the reputation quality of the actual drum verses the cost of the drum. This is a good value for both. The downside of the Pearls is the hardware is steel and not Chrome plated so there is a possible rust issue in the future.

    I am short 5' 7" and the 28" high drums are rather comfortable for me.

    Your old CP drums are a Classic in my opinion though. I think these older CPs with Traditional hardware were a close runner up to the LP classics. These old CPs will support a nice medium thick head for both drums. This could be what you are looking for. i would keep the old heads just in case. There are some good retailers that you can get hoops from and others with great skins. There are a few retailers that have both good skins and hoops for tucking a new head.

    I hope this helps and sorry for the delay with my response.

    The best drums are so often the drums you already have.

  19. #19

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    I like pearl primero pro congas because they have just a great sound and r great for playing live.

  20. #20

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    The only congas I have owned. My 1980 California Series Oak Conga & Tumba.
    I had to repair the Tumba for a split along a couple staves and refinished them a couple years ago. They sound great live and for recording.
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1980 Silver Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1960 Gold Sparkle
    Ludwig Classic Maple vintage 1968 Champagne Sparkle
    Premier Resonators vintage 70's Polychromatic Red
    Slingerland 60's Vintage. Vintage Sky Blue Pearl
    Slingerland 1972 "Avante" Red
    Camco Chanute vintage. 1973 Silver Sparkle
    Gretsch Catalina Jazz. Blue Pearl
    Sonor Safari. Black Galaxy
    Rogers Londoner V vintage. 1977 Silver Mist
    Rogers Script Badge 9/72 1972 Black Nitro
    Beverley of England 4 piece vintage. Red

    Vintage Paiste 2002
    Vintage Avedis Zildjian

  21. #21

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    Cool Re: Congas: What's the best?

    I still own all the bongos and congas I've mentioned through the years, and as I reviewed the responses, I have come away with two conclusions that are classics; actually one...IF you forgive me for mashing JerryBenbe and CONGRICAN together"

    While the best congas are often the ones you currently own, it's not so much the congas that make the sound as it is the conguero. If you don't know what you're doing, the highest-rated congas in the world will sound like empty paint pails...but if you have the discipline to practice and the willingness to learn, you can make them sound almost as good as Giovanni Hidalgo or Poncho Sanchez...

    PS: Poncho was in town last night and I didn't find out about it until I was at work--too darn late to do anything about it!
    keep the beat goin' ... Don't keep it to yourself!

    Charlie

    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." --Henry David Thoreau, "Walden," 1854

    "There's a lot to be said for Time Honored tradition and value." --In memory of Frank "fiacovaz" Iacovazzi

    "Maybe your drums can be beat, but you can't."--Jack Keck

  22. #22

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    ...it's more the drummer than the drum. There are numerous opinions as to which conga is best, but to me it's about the playin' not the talking. If i am seriously being asked advice, then i just recommend buying professional models, from reputable drum makers , when budgets permit. If not, just buy one that sounds good to you and play, play, play.

    Have been fortunate enough to have played a lot of congas in the past 50 years and still own quite a few. Still have vintage LP, Valje, Gon Bops, and number of handmade drums, and like them all. I work with what i got 'cuz sometimes the congas are provided at a gig.

    I have a home on the Big Island and have personally played a number of Volcano Percussion congas. Tom approached me for an endorsement quite a few years ago but i really couldn't recommend them at those prices. I'd pick any one of my drums over his unless it were an art contest. Interesting thing is, i met Tom showing his drums in an art gallery ...Just my 2 cents

  23. #23

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    I totally agree with Bongobro;

    "'It's not so much the congas that make the sound as it is the conguero"

    I've seen A LOT of "wanna-be-congueros" that purchase thousand-dollars-congas and they were better off playing paint pails. What a waste of money!!!. (That's how I got my two LP Galaxys). The guy bought them, but never learned how to play them. Got bored and had to sell them at rock-bottom price. His loss my gain. Never the less I've seen Real Congueros (e.j. Giovanni Hidalgo) playing on broken-down congas and they made them sound like the best conga in the world.

    CONGARICAN
    "The best Conga ever is... The one that sounds the best for you. Is the one that, puts a smile on your face everytime you play it."

  24. #24

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    If I was to consider a entry level..as I see a lot on the bay and CL..are LP's Ok for a beginner? thoughts
    Enjoy the Music!

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  25. #25

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    Default Re: Congas: What's the best?

    Quote Originally Posted by MartyM View Post
    If I was to consider a entry level..as I see a lot on the bay and CL..are LP's Ok for a beginner? thoughts
    I bought a set of LP Classics when I started and I still have them. Also check out Meinl congas. I remember playing some that sounded pretty good(sorry, I can't remember the name of the particular model).

    Also played some Pearl Bobby Allende Fiberglass congas with Remo Fiber Skins on them. They were loud! Nice to play though. You might find that if you learn on a set like that, when you have to play wood congas with thick skins you might struggle a bit as those fiberglass ones were so easy to get a loud sound on (if that makes sense). However, I guess there will always be a certain amount of adjustment between different congas.

    I have thought about changing the skins on my congas, having played a few different types over the last few years.

    The LP Giovanni congas are good but obviously more expensive than the Classic series. Try and play as many as you can before buying. You don't want to buy a set and then six months later sell them on Ebay at a loss to get the ones you really want.

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