Powerstroke 77 and Powerstroke 3 Black Dot Drumheads
Extra-durable additions to the ubiquitous pre-muffled batters.
Expanding the sound palette of its Powerstroke line of drumheads, Remo recently introduced a black-dot version of the hugely popular P3 bass drum batter and a new ultra-durable snare batter, the Powerstroke 77, which features two layers of 7 mil film, a 7 mil underlay muffling ring, and a 5 mil clear center dot on top. We checked out a coated and clear version of each and tested them on a 24″ bass drum and a 14″ snare.
Our choice for testing the PS77 heads was a 5×14 fiberglass snare with triple-flange hoops. We chose this drum because of its inherent neutral tone, meaning the synthetic shell doesn’t impart much timbre, so we were able to really hear the differences in frequency response and overtones between the stock head (a single-ply Coated Ambassador) and the PS77s. Also, because the test drum is on the shallower side, we were able to compare snare response between the heads down to the lightest strokes possible.
With the stock single-ply coated head tuned medium (around 85 on a DrumDial or a lug pitch of D), the snare sounded very open, semi-bright, and crisp. There were no discernable low-end frequencies below 200 Hz, but there were strong spikes in the midrange (750 Hz) and high-mids (2 kHz). The overtones also had a fair amount of high-end ring that created a bit of bite.
Swapping out the single-ply head with the Clear PS77, tuned medium, the first thing I noticed was that the high-end overtones were tamped down considerably. The low-frequency range was also extended a bit (180 Hz), and there were now peaks in the low-mids (338 Hz) and midrange (500 Hz). The drum still sounded open and crisp and had an even sustain, but the overall tone was fuller and darker than with the coated single-ply. The Coated PS77 performed nearly identically as its clear counterpart, with more emphasis on the lower tones (150 and 295 Hz) and a slightly shorter sustain.
Snare response on both PS77s was surprisingly detailed, although the clear dot did cause the heads to lose a bit of rebound at the center, and the muffling ring lessened the heads’ sensitivity at the outermost edges. Those two issues shouldn’t cause any concern, however, given that the PS77 is designed primarily for harder-hitting situations. The heads also produced fantastic focused, chunky tones at high tunings (great for pop and contemporary R&B applications) and could be detuned for a fat, triggered-type sound without any additional muffling (my favorite application). The PS77 is currently available in 13″, 14″, and 15″ sizes.
Whereas both PS77 snare heads—coated and clear—feature a 5 mil center dot on top, the Clear PS3 Black Dot bass drum head has the dot on top, while the coated version has the dot on the bottom. These heads were inspired by MD Hall of Famer/fusion great Steve Smith, who has recently been using black-dot heads on all of his drums. Combining the underlay ring of the Powerstroke 3 with the large black dot in the center is said to provide deeper lows, a more focused attack, and extra durability. We weren’t able to test the durability factor during our short review period, but we can attest that the heads did, in fact, produce lower lows and more pronounced high-end spikes around 2 and 6 kHz, which translated into a cleaner, clearer attack.
We compared the 24″ versions of the PS Black Dot with Remo’s hugely popular Clear Powerstroke 3 batter, with a Falam Slam impact pad. While the new black-dot versions performed similarly to the PS3, which is revered for its fat and punchy lows, controlled overtones, and moderate sustain, they had a low-frequency response that peaked between 65 and 85 Hz. This was about 10 Hz lower than the standard PS3. Both the Clear PS3 and the Clear PS3 Black Dot had another peak in the midrange, around 625 to 675 Hz, while the Coated PS3 Black Dot had more even mids.
The coated version also had a less clicky attack that peaked around 4 kHz, which gave it a slightly mellower tone, while the clear model had more presence and a more open sustain. Our test drum, a dark-sounding vintage WFL 3-ply mahogany, fared best with the Coated PS3 Black Dot, but for a more contemporary sound on a modern drum, I’d definitely go with the clear version. I’d also highly recommend the clear model for acrylic drums and for drummers using regular black-dot heads on their snares and toms (like Smith) who want a similar look and sound from the bass drum, but with a more focused, deeper tone. Powerstroke 3 Black Dots are currently available in 18″ to 24″ sizes.