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The Aquarian onHead: Acoustic to Electronic and Back

Review by Sean Mitchell // October 07 2014
The Aquarian onHead: Acoustic to Electronic and Back

The Aquarian onHead design has literally made it possible for drummers to make acoustic drums into electronic drums in seconds without having to drill holes or modify your acoustic drums in any way. 

How it Works

How the onHead works is simple: The onHead PED (portable electronic device) is a pad that fits on top of your acoustic drums (i.e. a 10-inch onHead fits on a 10-inch tom). Once the pad is in place, there is an 1/8 output jack that connects the onHead to the second component in this set up, the Aquarian inBox. 

The inBox is a signal conditioner powered by a nine-volt battery that allows the onHead to use many different drum modules. It attaches to your acoustic drum by way of a small metal arm that attaches to one of your rim lugs. Once the arm is attached you then attach the inBox to the metal arm. The inBox also features a gain knob that allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the pad allowing for greater dynamic control. 

The onHead's proprietary Nu Bounce surface is responsive and quiet (much like a high-end practice pad) and has been designed with FSR technology (force sensing response) allowing for a wide dynamic range. FSR measures the pressure being applied to the surface and triggers the module based on the force being applied. Many electronic drums are triggered by a piezo technology embedded in the drum's surface that when struck utilizes the vibration to fire the signal to the module. 

Because the onHead pad registers the force being applied to the head of the surface rather than a piezo pickup sensing vibration, there is no worry of one drum accidentally firing another drum. Crosstalk is eliminated altogether. This is especially handy in recording! 

For the kick drum, Aquarian engineered a foam insert that fits perfectly to the batter head of the kick and is held in place by four sturdy clips. In this case the onHead material is embedded into the foam and a single trigger rests inside. The kick trigger is piezo technology and has a single input by which to connect it to the module. The kick response is incredible and feels very natural. The most recent incarnation of this design resembles the Batman logo with the input jack intelligently placed in the bottom left corner of the insert. See photo below. 


I live in an apartment and have been utilizing a small Questlove kit as a practice kit with the onHead setup. Because the onHead design allows me to easily remove the onHead pad and inBox, I can still use my Questlove kit on gigs where a smaller kit is needed. In addition, the onHead pads muffle the acoustic sounds of my drums and enable me to practice quietly without disrupting my neighbors. With a higher-end module, my setup can be used for bigger venues as a high-end electronic kit. I quickly fell in love with the fact that my practice kit now has multi purposes and that I didn't need to shell out a ton of money on an electronic kit for my apartment. 

Built for the Working Drummer

In addition, the onHead design allows me to bring two snares to a gig and fit one with the onHead pad and inBox. This allows me to use the second snare as my auxiliary electronic percussion pad when I need it, and when I want to use it as a second snare, I simply remove the onHead pad for that song. 

The onHead is the only product on the market that allows for complete and easy transition of electronic device to acoustic and back in just seconds. As a working drummer and in the studio, the onHead design allows me to have more options. Each drum I choose to utilize with an onHead not only has the sounds that can be accessed via the module I am using, but can also be played as an acoustic instrument on the fly, if need be. 

Works with Many Modules

Having the ability to utilize different modules is another freedom I like about the onHead design. The pads have been cleverly designed and work well to a variety of newer drum modules in addition to programs like Superior Drummer and EZ Drummer. I am told by some electronic drum companies that older technology may not work with the onHead design, so keep that in mind if you are buying used gear. If you are not sure, contact your nearest Aquarian retailer and ask them for advice. 

For the first time buyer, you are going to need the onHead bundle as the pad only works with the inBox. However, the onHead pads can be purchased separately as replacement heads.

Check out the below video to hear the onHead in action! 


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

 Scott Pellegrom's Aquarian Arsenal

 Roy Burns Talks Tuning and Drum Head Science



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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