AHEAD (Advanced High Efficiency Alloy Drumsticks) was created in 1992 by Easton Company engineer Rick Grossman. Easton is best known for its innovative aerospace-grade aluminum sports products (arrows, baseball bats, hockey sticks), which were designed to replace wood in the manufacturing process. Being a drummer, Grossman set out to do the same for drumsticks and created a unique hybrid that utilizes an aluminum core and handle, threaded-nylon tips, and a replaceable sleeve made from injection-molded polyurethane.
The exclusive distributor for these sticks, Big Bang, purchased the rights to AHEAD in 1997 and has since gone on to expand the brand to include cases, snares, practice pads, thrones, and hardware. This month, we have a selection of new stick and accessory offerings to check out. Let’s dig in.
Maxx 5A and Frank Zummo Drumsticks
The Maxx 5A model is .5″ longer than a typical 16″ 5A in order to provide additional reach and power. The grip is .540″ thick, which is a little thinner than wooden 5As from other manufacturers. The Maxx 5A weighs 59 grams, and that weight is controlled to less than one-percent variance from stick to stick.
To my hands, the Maxx 5As felt slightly heavier than what I’m used to, but there was no discernable difference in weight, rebound, or tone between the two sticks. The biggest concern I have with all synthetic drumsticks is the amount of shock that they transfer to my hands. AHEAD sticks are engineered to have fifty percent less shock than wood sticks, so they’re actually better for your hands, especially for hard-hitting gigs and extended use. I compared the shock factor of these sticks to different sizes of wood models and was surprised by how little vibration transferred into the aluminum handles of the AHEADs.
The nylon tips produced clean, bright cymbal tones, and the plastic sleeves displayed minimal markings after an onslaught of cymbal crashes, hi-hat shanks, and rim shots. (The tips and sleeves are replaceable, if you ever need to do so.) I found the textured-aluminum grips to be a bit hard and cold, but AHEAD makes grip tape (sold separately) if you want to give these sticks a softer, warmer feel.
Sum 41 drummer Frank Zummo’s signature AHEAD model is 16.63″ long and .595″ thick and weighs 65 grams. These rock-style sticks have a long taper and a large nylon tip. They were perfectly balanced and matched, and they had great rebound. (I found that they had a little better response than the Maxx 5A.) The large tip produced massive drum sounds and big, bright cymbal tones. The company claims that all AHEAD drumsticks can last up to ten times longer than wood sticks, which makes the $29.99 street price much more palatable.
6“ Compact Stick-On Practice Pad
For drummers who need a more portable alternative to traditional rubber-on-wood practice pads, AHEAD has created a 6″ model that has a soft, black-rubber playing surface, a medium-soft red-rubber rim, and a tacky gel back that sticks to any clean, flat surface, such as countertops, desks, or tables. The pad comes with a reusable thin-plastic cover, which helps keep the back clean and prevents the gel from sticking to other objects when transported in a gig bag.
The pad is washable, so if the gel gets dirty and loses tackiness, simply clean it with dish soap and let it air-dry. Most small, portable practice pads either move around too much or they lack rebound. The AHEAD Stick-On pad locks into place and doesn’t bounce or slide while you play on it. It has comfortable, realistic rebound, and it’s not any louder than standard rubber pads. For gigging and practicing drummers on the go, this is a great, compact option. Street price is $20.99.
Compact Stick Holder
Another practical and affordable accessory from AHEAD is the Compact Stick Holder. It comprises a ballistic-style 3″x9″ nylon sack that can hold up to five pairs of drumsticks and a bike-seat-type quick-release clamp that fits .625″ to 1″ tubing. The nylon component threads onto a metal ring that can be angled and locked into place against the stand mount via a hex bolt. This is a simple yet durable solution for placing spare sticks within easy reach on hi-hat or cymbal stands. The Compact Stick Holder is super easy to install, and it can be folded up for compact storage. Street price is $20.99.