The bongo drums are a fairly popular Afro-Cuban percussion instrument, mainly used in son cubano and salsa ensembles, though also present in jazz, pop, and Latin musical genres.
When it comes to choosing the best bongos, there are plenty of options. In this article, we’ll consider the top 9 best bongo drum brands in the world today.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Variety of bongos
- Performance of the bongos
- Longevity of the bongos
- The company/brand must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The Top 9 Best Bongo Drum Brands Are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 9 best bongo drum brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of notable bongos, and a link to their official website.
Be sure to check out the other top percussion brands at My New Microphone:
• Top 9 Best Tambourine Brands On The Market
• Top 9 Best Conga Drum Brands On The Market
• Top 9 Best Cajón Brands On The Market
• Top 11 Best Timpani Brands On The Market
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you (which I'm very grateful for, as it helps me produce more free content here at My New Microphone). You can see the list of my partners here and my ethics statement here. Thank you for your support!
In the 1990s, Latin music exploded in mass media, and the market echoed this trend. Thus, an increasing number of people decided to take on hand percussion as a hobby and be part of some of the trendiest bands.
To address that demand, KMC founded Toca, giving the instruments the Latin flavour, vibrant colours, and outstanding sound that transformed Toca into the go-to option for players at all levels. Currently, the company is owned by the RBimusic Family and is available in every corner of the planet.
Notable bongos: Toca Custom Deluxe Wood Bongos
Made entirely of Asian Oak, finished in mesmerizing Sahara Gold, and hand-polished to glisten, these are some of the best bongos on the market today. Moreover, the wider tuning ranges will allow you to push your playing style to the next level while delivering your audience the kind of sound they expect from a top-of-the-line instrument like this.
Meinl is not only one of the biggest names in cymbals in the world; it has been producing state-of-the-art percussion instruments for the past 70 years to critical acclaim. Furthermore, during those years, they appeared in the world's biggest, most demanding stages.
This was not a random occurrence but the outcome of decades of hard work and relentless innovation. Moreover, the Meinl catalogue is constantly expanding, adding new categories to an already outstanding offer. Meinl is a brand you can trust; try their bongos today and feel the difference with your fingertips.
Notable bongos: Meinl Headliner Vintage Wine Barrels
This is Meinl’s creation to solve one of the most recurrent problems in percussion students worldwide: finding a good-sounding, well-made, in-tune instrument to learn the craft.
Indeed, this is a serious instrument for any player to enjoy with the hand-picked buffalo heads, 2mm rounded rims, 8mm reinforced tuning lugs and solid woodblock connection. Finally, the tuning key is included.
Most people know Latin Percussion as simply “LP”. With this logo, you can find them on the most demanding stages of the world in the hands of percussion stars. Because of this unparalleled success, in 2001, Martin Cohen was awarded special recognition from the International Latin Music Hall of Fame because of his contributions to Latin Music history.
After being bought and improved by Kaman Music and Fender, it is now owned by DW, one of the biggest drum companies in the world. If you are after a great-sounding bongo with a long history of creating legends, LP needs to be on your list.
Notable bongos: Latin Percussion Karl Perazzo Signature Bongo
In case you don’t know who Karl Perazzo is, he has been fueling Santana’s groovy guitar and outstanding songs for decades by playing with his hands. This bongo is the result of the long-time relationship between the brand and the artist. Moreover, with a fibreglass body (with a Sugar Skull graphic designed by Perazzo himself) and LP’s comfort curve II rims, this is the bongo to play in every moment of your life.
Pearl is one of the biggest percussion companies in the world, with a presence on virtually every stage around the world. Moreover, it is the preferred company of legends like Dennis Chambers, Ray Luzier, Eric Singer (Kiss), and Mike Mangini (Dream Theater), among many others.
This commitment to excellence took the company to branch out into other territories, creating some of the best percussion instruments in the world. Pearl is an elite-level brand; try their bongos before buying anything else.
Notable bongos: Pearl Elite Series Bongos
The Elite Series, created by Pearl, is the pinnacle of a long journey by one of the world’s most important percussion brands in history. As such, it is the go-to choice of professionals and legendary percussionists to shine on stages around the world.
But that’s not all; the 100% Thai Oak construction, gold-plated hardware, and Pearl’s unique Self-Aligning Washer System make this bongo a beautiful piece that sounds as amazing as it looks and can be tuned in a breeze.
Only a passionate man like Stephen Yu would have given up a profitable, growing career in commodities trading to pursue his lifelong dream of making musical instruments. It is the same passion that made him turn the wheel in his life drastically without looking back that drives the company forward, innovating relentlessly to come up with the best percussion instruments in the market.
Today, Tycoon percussion is synonymous with world-class quality at an affordable price. Try one today and test the difference with your hands if you haven't already.
Notable bongos: Tycoon 30th Anniversary Celebration Series Bongos
Companies don’t turn 30 years old every day. The 30th-anniversary bongos by Tycoon are a special addition to the line. They are made of top-grade, hand-picked American Ash wood with a special treatment to accentuate natural wood grain patterns. The Classic Pro hoops in brushed chrome are the best technology Tycoon offers.
Finally, the water buffalo-skin heads have been specially treated to be black and match the colour of this unique instrument.
Being the go-to repairman for the best bongo and conga players of the Los Angeles scene for years gave Mariano the unique possibility to put apart some of the best percussion instruments in the world. Moreover, he was there to hear what elite-level musicians had to say about them.
Therefore, by the time he made his first bongos and congas, they went straight to the hands of the world's most gifted and famous percussionists. For example, his first models could be seen in the mythical Woodstock ’69 concert.
Notable bongos: Gon Bops Mariano Series
This bongo is made following the legendary design that owner and founder Mariano Bobadilla created to satisfy his playing desires and is among the best bongos in the market.
To begin with, it is made entirely of Durian wood to give it the vintage flavour that made it so famous. Also, the cowhide heads play their role in achieving the quintessential tone. Finally, the welded bottom ring designs eradicate the need for cup washers, extending the instrument’s tuning range.
Starting a company and making state-of-the-art African and Afro-Cuban drums in Canada in the 1990s was a recipe for disaster; there was no market. Still, a bold and confident man, Michael utilized his ears, hands, and tools to create some of the world's best-sounding, best-looking bongos and congas.
As a result of his commitment to excellence and relentless innovation, Moperc is now a worldwide best-kept secret among elite-level percussion players. If you haven’t already, try one and feel the difference.
Notable bongos: Moperc Bongos
Moperc manufactures bongos with different tonewoods to help players customize their sound and get the most out of their personal style. In this vein, it is possible to get dark-sounding Brazilian mahogany tones, soft Spanish cedar tones, or super crispy maple sounds at your request.
Also, the center block is embedded in the bongo body. Thus, you can forget about bolt hole splitting. Finally, all hardware is hand-forged stainless steel, providing a durability level you won’t find anywhere else.
Ryan has been around the world following his passion: percussion instruments. He has studied with the best-known percussionists in countries like Cuba, among many others. He is also a Berklee graduate, sought-after session musician, and director of several percussion ensembles.
When he founded Manito Percussion, he did it to create the kind of instruments he would have liked to study and learn the art of rhythm with. Hence, each bongo coming out of the factory is the result of decades of playing and bears the sensitivity only a seasoned player like himself can imprint on every design.
Notable bongos: Manito Percussion Solid Walnut Bongos
The solid walnut used to make these bongos was sourced locally in Athens, Georgia. Also, the stainless steel hardware was handmade in the local facilities exclusively for this model.
Finally, the 1mm horse skin on the macho and 1.6mm steer skin on the hembra make these bongos sound just as amazing as they look. As an extra, the curly walnut bridge with malachite and magnesite inlays gives it the perfect finishing touch.
A natural-born innovator, the arrival of Remo Belli to the percussion world caused a big sensation among players. Indeed, it was he who introduced PET film and the Mylar to replace calfskin and make more durable, less fluctuating, yet great-sounding drum heads. As you might know, Remo took the world like a storm and can now be seen in virtually every corner of the planet.
In the case of bongos, the great-sounding, utterly revolutionary Fiberskyn heads created by Remo are still the go-to option for most bongo professionals in the world due to their texture, consistency, and reliability. Remo is one of the biggest percussion companies in the world.
Notable bongos: Remo Rhythm Club Bongo
With its pre-tuned Suede drumheads over vibrant, colourful graphics and a pair of Acousticon shells, this is the perfect choice for beginners who want to start on a great-sounding instrument. In the same vein, the moulded rubber base and robust design make it perfect for teaching children (ages 3+) the art of rhythm with a great-sounding, sturdy, and reliable instrument.