RTOM, makers of the ubiquitous Moon Gel damper pads, has developed a new product designed to reduce the sound of an acoustic kit up to eighty percent without eliminating all of the natural tone. This system, called Black Hole, comprises a black-mesh drumhead affixed to a metal counter hoop embedded in a 1.5″ rubber rim. Available in 10″–24″ sizes, the Black Hole heads employ a fabric dot in the center that enhances the realism of the response and provides a more audible attack.

How It Works

You snap the tom and snare Black Hole heads into place on drums with stamped triple-flange hoops by pushing the rubber hoop between the tension rods and the rim of the drum. On snares and toms with die-cast or wood hoops, you may need to use optional elastic hook attachments (sold separately) to lock the Black Hole heads in place. These attachments connect the head to the bottom hoop. Similarly, bass drum models are secured in place with elastic cables and claws that affix to the front hoop (included).

The bass drum system also includes a metal extender plate that you use to connect the pedal. Simply clamp the pedal to the extender, and then slide the extender under the hoop of the Black Hole until it locks into place.

Each head can be independently tuned to match the pitch and tension of the drum on which it’s attached by rotating a turnbuckle located on the underside of the rubber hoop with an included tool.

In Use

We tested the Black Hole system on a basic five-piece kit (10″, 12″, and 16″ toms, 14″ snare, and 22″ bass drum). Installing the heads on the drums took less than five minutes, and the only adjustment we had to make to the setup was to lower the snare and toms 1.5″ to compensate for the extra height added by the rubber hoops of the Black Holes.

The Black Hole heads did a great job of decreasing the overall volume of the kit so that we could practice at full dynamics without producing decibel levels that would be disturbing to next-door neighbors or damaging to our own hearing. (According to the National Institute of Health, prolonged exposure to sounds exceeding 85 decibels can lead to hearing loss; an unmuted drumset played moderately loud can easily exceed 100 decibels.)

Mesh drumheads have way more bounce than Mylar heads, but the fabric dot on the Black Holes helps to provide a more accurate feel that’s not overly springy. On the flipside, striking the dots produces an audible, snappy attack. This attack is good for practicing so you can monitor your timing accuracy, but it also makes the Black Hole heads louder than other mesh heads that don’t have a dot. (You can achieve a significantly quieter sound by striking the area of the mesh head that’s not covered by the dot.)

The Black Hole heads also allow some of the drum’s natural tone to ring, so the snare wires responded accurately and the toms and kick produced some pitch and sustain. The rubber hoops of the Black Hole heads allow you to practice rimshots without a significant increase in volume.

If you’re looking to create a near-silent practice setup for at-home practice, the increased attack of the Black Holes caused by the fabric dots may make this system too loud for your situation. (We should point out that the Black Hole setup is markedly quieter than some other dampening systems that utilize foam-rubber mutes.) If you’re looking for sound dampening that can be installed and removed easily without having to swap out the existing drumheads, while also providing significant sound reduction and realistic response, RTOM’s Black Hole heads are highly recommended.

Michael Dawson