A few months back, I ran the first Headhunters review featuring a selection of the company’s grooved, un-grooved, and gripped drumsticks. They’re really nice sticks, and you should take a few minutes to read the review. The Canadian stick slingers were nice enough to send a huge box of product over, so we’ve still got a lot to cover, which rules. And remember, after I finish the last review, I’m going to give you guys a chance to win one of several selections of Headhunters products. Stick around (JOKES).
For this installment, we’re going to take a look at several of the company’s bundles and Hybrids. There’s a lot to cover here, so I’m going to try and limit my usual preamble.
Let me add one quick note about bundles: I don’t have a ton of experience playing with them. I’ve not, prior to this review, found a lot of use for them. That’s not to say I don’t see their value. I do, and I really appreciate seeing players who can use them well. I just never took the time to learn how to play with them. This review really forced me to put some time into figuring out how to pull good sounds out of drums and cymbals with bundles, and for that I’m very appreciative. I feel like I’ve got a new tool in my bag now. If you’re in the same boat and haven’t given bundles a fair shot, I’d highly recommend doing so. Finding a whole new sound palette in your regular drum set is very exciting.
Finally, before we get started, really just sit back and enjoy how great these photos (courtesy of Headhunters) are. Nat Geo cover shots, for sure.
If you take a look at some of the individual product descriptions on the Headhunters website, you’ll see repeated references to the extremely high number of original bundle rod clones. Dave (HH founder) put considerable effort into addressing some of the more troublesome issues with classic bundles, while also exploring the wealth of dowel count, size, and shape options. The results are very cool.
I should note quickly that throughout the course of this review, I found all of these products to be exceptionally well-constructed. I don’t recall seeing any frayed dowel edges, slippage, un-bundling (fun word), or sloppy wrapping. These bundles were, without question, made with a lot of love and care.
Let’s dig in.
At roughly the same diameter (or maybe a little larger) and length as most of the other bundles I’ve played, the Doobies feel like the most direct analog to classic rods. But, rather than utilizing the standard 19 uniform dowels, the Headhunters alternative packs 12 birch dowels around a 3/8” split wooden core (see image). Rather than simply reiterate the reasons from the copy on the HH website, I’m going to go ahead and share a bit of it here:
“In order to achieve a bundled rod sound and create a drumstick like bounce, we have inserted an internal dowel. This format allows the stick to be round in diameter. In the gripping area we have glued the dowels together; this stiffens the sticks and aids in the bounce response. We also split the centre dowel so that the interplay between the dowels is further enriched. By splitting the centre dowel to about the 40mm mark from the playing end, allows the centre dowel in the split zone to compress and spring back. The resulting design creates the sound expectations of the bundled rod concept but with significantly more rebound and with the feel and response of a solid drumstick.”
The result is pretty fascinating. I found the Doobies to be exceptionally warm and very articulate. They had that great big click-y splat that rods are known for, but they pulled a lot more sound out of my drums than other bundles. They felt firm and buoyant – very playable. The included gasket can be used to cinch or open the four-way split core, which can change the spread of that slap to better suit personal preference. Really nice touch.
The Doobies also pulled a ton of sound from my cymbals. Even on paper-thin rides, I got significant definition bolster by loads of heavy spread. Plus, that gasket I mentioned above can be used as an alternative striking surface to create a kind of firm mallet sound. They feel ideal for medium or even high-volume situations that just call for a different feel. I’m sure they could be used for volume management in the right hands, but they are likely better suited to sound tailoring.
A slimmer version of the Doobies, the Spliffs have a much cleaner and lighter feel. These are great finesse rods with a surprisingly full sound on toms and a delicate spray on cymbals. Eleven bamboo dowels around a 5/16” core rod lighten the load and offer a very crisp response. These feel a little more appropriate for volume control if that’s what you’re after, but they’re still very capable of getting loud.
Featuring six birch dowels around a synthetic core, the Reefers have a thin, flexible feel that worked best on thin cymbals. Truthfully, I didn’t love the feel on toms and snare drums, but adjusting the three gaskets helped add a little meat to the throw. There is no wrapped section near the playing tip as there is on the Doobies and Spliffs – only the three movable gaskets. I found that frontloading all three gaskets gave me the closest sound to what my ear was after though. Fantastic feel and response though.
The Cube-X bundles are built on the same split core foundation seen in the Doobies and Spliffs, but instead of birch or bamboo dowels, they’re framed by 4 flat bamboo slats. The resulting cube shape creates a really interesting playing surface and a fairly unique sound. The slats incease the slap and clap at the top of each note, but the real intrigue comes from the way they affect drum sound. Toms, especially when tuned below medium kind of flatten out under the slats. I feel like I’ve got to dig into my Adam West-era Batman library of onomatopoeia for the right sound here. Maybe a “plap”? That doesn’t sound particularly flattering, but it’s a cool sound. A little electronic-ish – fat with some woodiness, but more wild.
The other thing to consider here is that the Cube-Xs obviously have corners which will no doubt scare the hell out of your already abused drumheads. The flatted edges of the grip section (they maintain their cube shape from top to bottom) make it easier to keep the striking edge down, but I wouldn’t recommend playing vigorous or high-energy music with these – especially if you’re playing single-ply heads. The Cube-Xs feel durable enough to handle heavy play though, so if you’re confident you can keep your skins safe, go for it.
The Colliders feature similar construction to the Cube-X model, but have a core of four Reefer dowels. They are not banded near the playing surface, instead using 3 gaskets like the Reefer bundles. All of the pieces are designed to strike one another (hence the name), which limits the rebound just a bit, but creates an awesome clatter with each note. That splatting tom note I mentioned above is even more prevalent, but it really takes a back seat to the sound of the Colliders themselves. Again, corners are a concern here, but I’d say this is a great effects stick. Wonderful on cymbals too.
This review is getting pretty long, so I’m going to split the Headhunters Hybrids into a separate page. Check it out here.