Find the best hang drum to recommend? Now there’s a mission we can get into.
Hang drums (or hangs, or handpans) are newcomers to the world of percussion instruments, having been around for less than 20 years. We can honestly say that when we first heard one played, it blew our collective mind!
The rich sound, with rhythmic taps combined with overtones vibrating together to produce lush chords, really sets this instrument apart. It’s part drum, part xylophone, and part voice of god!
From simple beginnings with only one maker to now several hundred designs of similar size and weight, how do you choose the best one for you?
Top-end hang drums can cost as much as $10,000 and take over a year to be custom made for serious professionals. However, in this review, we take a look at the 5 best hang drums for quality, value, and overall playing experience.
Top 10 Best Hang Drums of 2023
13.4 lbs (6.09 kg)
21 ½” (54.6cm) x 10” (25.4cm)
|(5 / 5)|
18 lbs (8.2kg)
24.4” (70cm) x 9.4” (24.4cm)
|(4.4 / 5)|
Sela Harmony Handpan D Kurd
22.1 lbs (10kg)
23” (58.4cm) x 10.5” (26.7cm)
|(5 / 5)|
Asteman Handpan in D Minor
17.26 lbs (7.8kg)
22” (55.9cm) x 10.2” (25.9 cm)
|(4.4 / 5)|
14 lbs (6.4kg)
22” (55.9cm) x 10” (25.4 cm)
|(5 / 5)|
11 lbs (5kg)
22.8” (58cm) x 9.1” (23cm)
|(5 / 5)|
11 lbs (5kg)
20.5” (52cm) x 7.1” (18cm)
|(4.6 / 5)|
11 lbs (5kg)
21” (53cm) x 10” (25.4cm)
|(4.6 / 5)|
10.5 lbs (4.8kg)
22.8” (58cm) x 8.7” (22cm)
|(4.3 / 5)|
10 lbs (4.55kg)
21” (53cm) x 10” (25.4cm)
|(3.6 / 5)|
1 Meinl Sonic Energy HD3 Harmonic Art Series D# Handpan – Best Hang Drum for Ensemble Playing
Diameter: 21 ½” (54.6cm)
Height: 10” (25.4cm)
The Sonic Energy HD3 Harmonic Art D# Handpan is also known as the Raga Desya Todi handpan because it’s based on the Indian classical scale by that name. This pan includes the ding tuned to D# and then seven fields tuned to G, A#, C, D, D#, F, G. This particular scale gives a unique and very mystical quality to your playing making this a great handpan to use in a soothing meditative context.
The pan is tuned on the basis of A4/ a’ 440 Hz, which is the standard for popular Western music, and therefore you can use it to play along with a band or small ensemble as well. This pan is made of high-quality German stainless steel, but it is made in China, where the steel is first lathed and then formed, and finally hand tuned. This keeps the price up over $2000.
Sadly, this isn’t extreme for a high-quality handpan these days!
The ding here sounds pretty decent, and you can get some nice tones by striking the shoulders. The tuned fields are relatively loud, which isn’t surprising because of a unique feature of this handpan series.
Meinl has designed these pans with 2 Gu’s (or bottom sound ports) rather than a single central one. One port is meant to face an audience, while the other faces the player. The tones here are quite a bit on the “pingy” side of things, leading to a brighter sound with lots of attack and a quick decay relative to other pans. The overtones are moderate. Combined, this all makes the Meinl HD3 a good pan for playing with ensembles.
- Tuned based on 440 Hz, so good for ensemble playing.
- Relatively loud.
- Comes with cover and carry bag.
- Less ethereal sound with a focus on attack and brightness.
2 NovaPans Handpan 9 Note E Minor Kurd in Purple (Generation 3) – Best Value For Money Hang Drum
Diameter: 24.4” (70cm)
Height: 9.4” (24.4cm)
In comparison to the percussion giant Meinl, NovaPans is a small company making unique instruments and totally focused on handpans. The 9-Note Generation 3 Handpan is made from stainless steel and comes in a purple, but also crimson or blue nitride surface to increase both durability and rust-proofing. These pans are also made in China but have been priced much lower than the Meinl at around $900.
That’s a much softer landing, especially if you’re looking to purchase your first instrument of this kind!
The hang drum comes with a soft, padded shoulder-strap carry bag for convenience and protection. Another soft landing!
How about the sound?
This pan is surprisingly loud. I expected a less focused voice than the Meinl, but really the sound level is comparable. This pan is tuned to the mysterious and adventurous Kurd scale, here in E minor. That gives you an E3 at the ding and eight areas tuned to B3, C4, D4, E4, F#4, G4, A4, and finally, B4.
As you can see, this is a pretty high tuning, and that gives this pan a soaring, angelic sort of voice. The trade-off is that you don’t get such a nice soothing deep bass note.
The overall sound is also a bit “pingy,” but the notes are clear and crisp and have more sustain than with the Meinl. This can make it sound a bit confused when played very fast, but most players will find it clear at normal playing speeds. It’s also tuned based on A4 = 440 Hz, so again you can play this handpan with other instruments in standard tuning.
- Loud and bright.
- Missing deep, resonant bass note.
- Not a huge amount of overtones.
- Can get a bit muddy when played fast due to long sustain.
3 Sela Harmony Handpan D Kurd – Best Hang Drum for Low End
Diameter: 23” (58.4cm)
Height: 10.5” (26.7cm)
Here’s another hang drum tuned in the very popular Kurd scale. However, this time we’re looking at D minor instead. This gives you a ding at D3 and then tuned areas at A3, Bb3, C4, D4, E4, F4, G4, and A4. Right away, you can see that it’s a fair bit deeper than the NovaPans. You get a deeper, more luscious tone out of the ding here.
As with most pans these days, this one is stainless steel which is hand hammered and then completed with a brushed gold finish. It’s a little bit heavier than its cousins at 10 pounds, but nothing that will break your back. But what that does do is give you more steel in the construction, and that leads to more overtones.
This handpan is quieter and more contemplative than the ones I’ve tested so far, but with those extra overtones, you get a really nice ethereal quality to the overall sound.
This pan from German maker Sela doesn’t come cheap, though. It’s priced at about $2000. Well, at least it comes with an extra-durable padded carry case. It sounds lush and deeply voiced, and I think this makes it a great instrument for self-playing or accompanying group meditation or relaxation. It’s simply soothing and peaceful, and as a unique hand-hammered instrument, this pan will be a one of a kind purchase.
- Warm, deep bass.
- Lots of overtones and moderate level of sustain.
- Ding responds well to bends.
- Not very loud.
- A bit heavy.
4 Asteman Handpan in D Minor – Best Budget Hang Drum
Diameter: 22” (55.9cm)
Height: 10.2” (25.9 cm)
Asteman is a Chinese company based in Hong Kong. They’ve recently entered the handpan market with relatively inexpensive instruments that look pretty snazzy. They have some with painted and even molded designs, but the one I tested, the handpan in D minor, is a pretty normal looking pan.
It’s made from stainless steel that has been nitride to produce a durable golden coating. The pan also looks beautiful thanks to a natural-looking hemp cord wrap holding the two hemispheres together.
These handpans are the cheapest I tested, priced below $700. This is because they’re not hand hammered but instead are machine tuned.
How does this affect the sound?
You get a lot more of a “pingy” sound here, and the overtones are very reduced. The overall sound is still loud and bright, but there is, in my mind, too much sustain because of the very flat, regular surfaces. This pan rings for a really long time, and that can make your playing sound muddy and confused, especially if you play quickly.
The scale here is the good old D minor Kurd scale we just saw with the Sela handpan. It’s a lovely scale, but again the missing overtones here leave it sounding more hollow and thin on this instrument.
For the cheapest hang drum, this one comes with the most goodies. You get a thinly padded soft carry bag, hard rubber mallets (though using them on a handpan is not recommended!), and a tripod stand that you can use instead of keeping the drum on your lap. This stand is pretty cool and works well to hold up the pan, allowing you to play in a different position other than on your lap.
Overall, this is a relatively inexpensive handpan that doesn’t sound wonderful but might be a good starter instrument making it the best beginners hang drum you can buy.
- Comes with accessories.
- Sound is thin and lacking in overtones.
- Sustain is overly long.
5 Pearl Awakening Series Euphonic Handpan 9-Note F Minor – Best Affordable Hang Drum
Diameter: 22” (55.9cm)
Height: 10” (25.4 cm)
Our last contender for best hang drum is from Pearl, a legend in drum and percussion building and a big force to be reckoned with. Pearl has created the 9-note Euphoric Handpan in F minor as what they call their “affordable” handpan. I guess they mean in comparison to their own 10-note pan in D minor, since this hang drum still costs about $2000!
The ding is tuned here to F, and this gives it a deliciously deep central tone and a dark and mysterious overall sound. This isn’t the loudest handpan around. In fact, it’s muted compared to the Meinl and the Sela, priced at the same level. But it still sounds very pretty.
This is stainless steel, actually covered with a grey lacquer for durability, but I think that must also be what mutes the sound level here. At the same time, you still get some really nice overtones here, and the sustain is just right in my mind. You can play fast without things getting muddy, and there’s a great response from the tone areas and their edges.
The thing that Pearl does very well here is the case design. While all of the hang drums we’ve looked at so far come with soft cases of varying quality, Pearl’s is the first that I think really fits the price of this instrument. It’s a soft padded case as well, but Pearl has reinforced it with PVC to add extra durability to protect your baby.
Overall, this is a nicely tuned instrument with a very pretty sound. It may need to be mic’d in some applications but can fit in beautifully with ensembles and sounds great on its own, too.
- Nice deep, dark tuning.
- Great overtones.
- Comes with a very good case.
- Not terribly loud.
6 Bali Steel Pan (E Major) – Affordable Custom Handpan Experience
When this hang drum arrived from Indonesia smartly packed in a wooden crate, inside its own soft protective backpack case, we were super-excited.
The story behind this hang drum is that a musician traveled to Bali and started making steel pans with local Balinese musicians. Once they had perfected their skills on oil barrels, they decided to try making hang drums. The results speak for themselves.
The manufacturer of this hang drum offers an incredible opportunity – to choose the scale you want for your own instrument. We tried out a hang drum in E major, which is quite a versatile scale with a nice, deep E3 as the ding (that’s the central tone, but more on that later).
Our studio was instantly filled with a full, rich sound like a miniature orchestra. Compared to other hang drums, this one had less of a “ping” and more of a “pong” sound to it. Striking each tone area also pulled out 2-4 overtones, plenty of sound to fill the room.
To us, this instrument had a distinctive sound. The tones of the Bali Steel Pan are bright and full, with a fast envelope, even the highest notes. I was instantly reminded of classic gamelan music, ringing with gongs but less muddy and with nice clear tones.
7 RAV2 Tongue Handpan (RAV Universal Scale) – Heavenly Hang/Tongue Hybrid
After being mesmerized by a magical hang drum, we had the opportunity to be tantalized by a tongue. No, it’s not what you’re thinking!
Tongue drums have “keys” cut out of the steel shell. These are usually struck with mallets and ring to single, true tones. But with the RAV2 Tongue Handpan, we were in for a big surprise.
This drum isn’t hammered into indented tone fields like a normal hang. Instead, it’s cut into tongues, which are each then cut into smaller keys with beautiful, intricate patterns. This automatically creates heavenly ringing overtones on each tongue. We heard up to 7 tones on the ding!
When you strike the tongues in different places, you’re able to isolate certain overtones while muting others. That’s what makes this beautiful instrument rich and full of color, and that’s why we’ve included it on our list, even though it’s not a true hang drum.
It does, however, make this instrument a bit harder to play.
Differences come through, but it’s up to your ear to decide whether they are positive or negative. This instrument rings a lot. It had the fullest sound of all the drums and was by far the loudest.
While true hang drums had a lot more dynamic range, the RAV2 stands out boldly, singing outdoors or in a large acoustic space.
8 Handpan Akebono Bali Steel – Eastern Mystical Magic
This hang drum arrived at our studio shiny and black, with an almost iridescent sheen on it.
According to the manufacturer, the colors of the heat-treated steel vary by instrument, and ours luckily came out looking fantastic. This was the most expensive of the hang drums we tried, but we think it looked the part.
And the sound?
The big tone areas on this drum rang quite brightly, whether softly tapped or struck hard with a thumb. It had a sound reminiscent of a steel pan but mellowed out and less “pingy.”
The overall resonances of the instrument were in great balance and really brought out the mystical feel of the Akebono scale it was tuned to. This is essentially a Japanese pentatonic scale, and to most ears sounds very eastern.
One issue was the precision of the tones. Checked with our own tuner, 2 of the 8 tones were a bit off. However, when played by itself the instrument sounded fantastic and in tune. This may be a larger compromise – in order to get an overall perfect sound; some tones may have to be slightly detuned.
So this hang drum sounded great but may be hard to use in accompaniment with other precisely tuned instruments. On its own, the bright sound of this hang drum combined with the Akebono scale would make it a fantastic instrument to accompany meditation or provide a mystical ambiance.
9 Harmonic Handpan D Minor – Accurate Accompaniment
Next on our list came the most affordably-priced hang drum that we checked out. This one came from Vietnam, which probably accounts for the low price. It was delivered with a very cool backpack case that was obviously designed by someone who has carted drum equipment around to gigs before!
What was it like out of its case?
The first thing we noticed in comparison to the other hang drums we tried out was the evenness of the construction. While some drums were lumpy and organic-looking, this one had tone areas that were flatter and smoother. And the look seems to have dictated the sound.
We found the tuning of the main tones in each area to be very precise. All of them were bang on with our tuner. When struck centrally, each tone area came across clearly and brightly. Around the rims of the areas and on shoulders, however, we found this drum to have significantly fewer overtones.
What does that mean for sound quality?
This basically translates into a brighter, “pingy” sound with clear tones. Combined with a versatile D minor tuning, this instrument was probably the best for playing along with strictly tuned instruments. However, on its own, the sound wasn’t the fullest. There’s always a trade-off.
10 Tzevaot Handpan Aeolian – Deep And Dark
The last hang drum on our list also happened to be the most expensive. Let’s see how it stacks up.
The first thing we had to notice when we pulled it out of its packing crate was its ultra-slick case. This wheeled and pressure-adjusted case was the only hardshell case we encountered, and it makes a big difference to durability, especially for a musician on the road.
Opening it up, the Tzevaot handpan has eight tone areas surrounding the ding, and is nitrided to protect against corrosion.
Tuned to the Aeolian (or natural minor scale), we found this instrument to have a very interesting, dark sound. The tones are generally deeper than the others we tried, and overall it plays quieter.
Altogether, the sound is soft and very pleasant, though we would have to say it lacks the ringing overtones we found in some of the other pans. While it plays nicely and with great response, it’s not exactly a sound that would fill up the room.
But for a quiet, meditative space, it might be just the thing.
Hang Drum Buying Guide
When, as a young, poor musician, I found a leaky old beer keg in the park, I did what anyone would do I tried to make it into a steel pan! After hammering in and out for weeks, I had to accept that I was not getting the right sounds. At some point, I also realized that the thing was made from aluminum!
So What Did I Learn?
You want an instrument made from quality steel, and that means 2mm thickness or more. Anything thinner will simply lack the resonant ringing that defines a hang drum. It might even dent and warp as you play.
Pro tip: The surface of your instrument also has to be taken care of. This generally means light oiling from time to time, and at least a wipe-down after a long session to keep the sweat on your hands from rusting the instrument.
A hang drum is made of 2 steel domes glued together where they meet. The top dome is hammered into tone areas around a central mound called the ding. The ding should be the deepest and loudest note on your hang drum and should have the most overtones.
Pro tip: Strike the ding with different weight and see how it rings. If you love it, keep investigating. If you don’t fall in love with the sound, this hang drum’s not for you!
Around the ding, you’ll find typically 7-8 tone fields, usually alternating so you climb your scale by striking left-right-left-right. These tones areas have small depressions hammered into the center of flattish circles.
Striking the depressions should give you the maximum of overtones, while hitting the circles gives a muted sound. Between these flat areas are sloped “shoulders,” which ideally should produce their own moderate overtones.
Pro tip: Strike the instrument everywhere. The best hang drum is going to have overtones all over, not just in the centers of the tone fields.
In the middle of the bottom dome is the gu, a funnel-shaped hole that helps the whole instrument to resonate with maximum volume. Though normally played sitting on your lap, you can also play the drum vertically and strike the gu for a massive ring.
Pro tip: Strike the gu. It should be tuned in complement to the ding and other tones if the whole hang drum is to resonate well.
Think about what you’re going to be playing and why, then choose a scale that fits your needs. If you’re going to accompany other instruments, make sure your scale is going to be versatile to be able to play across the tone range of your hang drum.
Which of these Best Hang Drums Should You Buy?
Hang drums or handpans keep evolving and improving. We’ve basically moved to nitride stainless steel for durability on all these drums, so the biggest differences are not in the materials but in the technique and tuning used to produce them.
At this point in time, I think the best hang drum you’re going to find out there is the…
This instrument has lovely tones and a deep, resonant bass voice. It’s very responsive and has just the right level of sustain to make your playing perfect. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a great handpan to keep you happy for years, this is it.