Music has the power to transport us to another time and place. Thanks to the handpan, playing music has never been easier. Each instrument is tuned in a specific scale to have complementary notes.
At HandPanda.com, we have many years of professional experience and want to share our knowledge with you.
Keep reading to find out more.
Understanding Handpan Prices & Quality
Not all handpans are created equal. In fact, there can be a HUGE difference in both price and quality. On the internet you will find Handpans with prices from $350 to more than $3000. Furthermore, the price does NOT always reflect the quality! Some manufactures charge an outrageous amount for very low quality that could barely be considered to be a handpan. For a newcomer, this is all quite confusing because... how do you find a good handpan for a good price?
First, let's consider what is an average price for a quality handpan that is in tune and is what at Handpanda we would call standard quality. Average handpan prices from REPUTABLE makers typically range between $1400-$3000+, with some of the top makers in the world charging a lot more than that.
If your budget is less than that, you should instead consider some type of steel tongue drum. More often than not, a nice steel tongue drum will sound better than a random cheap handpan bought on eBay which is likely to be out of tune.
What characteristics determine if a handpan is good quality?
There isn't a definitive answer to this question, because some people have very different preferences in what they like or don't like. With this in mind, we'll break it down with some generally agreed on standards in the handpan community.
- Tuning -
One of the most important things is that the handpan is in tune! We've all heard someone play an out of tune guitar or a singer miss a note and it's very noticeable. Sometimes it can sound unbearable if an instrument is tuned poorly. However, a handpan with properly tuned notes and harmonics can sound absolutely magical. This is why we put accurate tuning at the top of our list!
Handpans are tuned to have precise harmonics. Each note has a fundamental, octave and fifth. An experienced handpan maker will be able to accurately tune all of these harmonics, so that each note sounds nice and in tune. Additionally it's important that all of the notes on the handpan sound well balanced and in-tune with each other!
- Sound Quality -
Probably one of the most subjective and tricky to explain, but it's another important aspect. Does the instrument sound warm or metallic? Some people may prefer one or the other.
Most importantly, how does it sound to your ears? Does anything sound off or strange? It should not sound similar banging a kitchen pot. We are looking for the sound to be clear and pleasing to the ear.
To dive in a little deeper, high-quality handpans have a good resonance and very little cross talk (sound interference between notes). This means when playing an F note for example, we don't want to also hear the G note next to it, since this will cause mixed harmonics that can sound muddy or unpleasant. Well made handpans have good isolation between notes that have different harmonics.
This is not to be confused with sympathetic activation - when notes with the same fundamental, octave or fifth are played, it is common that these notes will activate sound together, which can sound quite nice.
- Sustain -
To put it simply, sustain is how long the note rings when it is played. Typically sustain on various handpans can be between 5-10 seconds. If it's shorter than that, it could be of lower quality or more difficult to play because you need to play faster to fill the gaps. When playing a good quality handpan with nice sustain, you can really hear the impact of playing each note.
Percussive musicians may prefer a shorter 5 second sustain, while meditative or slower players may enjoy a longer 10 second sustain. Something in the middle usually suits the average player.
- Dynamic Range -
A basic way to state this is how much range you have between playing softly or with more force. If an instrument has a low dynamic range, then this can force you to play harder constantly, just to make the note ring and limits the possibilities. A high-quality instrument will often have a large dynamic range, allowing you to play softly and still hear very pleasant sounds. You can still play normally as well, thus you have a larger range of expression and playing.
- Conclusion -
While much of this can be subjective to personal preference, we hope that this information has given you more of an idea on what to look and listen for when assessing the quality of a handpan.
If you are buying from a reputable maker, you can expect to pay between $1400-2000 for a standard quality handpan and between $2500-5000 for a handpan from some of the top makers in the world.
HandPanda.com Quality Ratings
We used a rating system on our shop to help guide you on your selection.
Top Class Handpan
Made by an elite master artisan, these handpans offer the best quality possible for a premium price. The tuning and harmonics are often flawless or have special characteristics. The notes are very clear and have a nice balance of harmonics and sustain. It can be played alongside other top class instruments or for professional recordings. This is great for anyone that wants one of the best handpans on the planet.
Professional Level Handpan
Made by a master artisan, these handpans offer fantastic sound quality at a higher price. The tuning and harmonics are very accurate and it can be played alongside other professional quality and top class instruments. The notes are very clear, the harmonics sound great and it has nice sustain. This handpan can be used at professional level concerts and recordings. It is great for anyone that wants absolutely incredible sound quality.
Concert Level Handpan
Made by a highly skilled artisan, these handpans offer a great balance between quality and price. The tuning is very accurate and it can be played alongside other high quality instruments. It sounds great and is excellent choice to play at home, the park, for a yoga class or concert. Great for beginners-advanced players who want the best value in terms of quality for the price.
Entry Level Handpan
Made by a skilled artisan, these handpans offer an affordable price and good build quality. The tuning is accurate. It sounds nice and is great to learn and play at home, at the park or with friend. Great for beginners-intermediate players and those on a limited budget.
Lowest Quality or Prototype Handpan
This is the lowest level of handpan and we DO NOT offer these in our shop, nor do we recommend them.
Made by an apprentice artisan, these handpans offer the lowest quality. Usually the tuning is less accurate and resonance may be less than higher quality handpans. It may be ok to play at home if you manage to find a decent one. Ok for beginners with the smallest budget. [Note that usually it will be better to spend your money on a good quality steel tongue drum, rather than on a very low quality handpan]
Where to Buy a Handpan
What to know before you spend your money
At Handpanda, we took the time to write about "Understanding Handpan Quality" so that you can be more knowledgeable about what makes a handpan worth buying... or not. Now we will discuss where are some good places to buy a handpan and what to avoid.
Let's just start out with the bad side and get that out of the way. First and foremost, we strongly recommend you stay away from eBay, Amazon, Etsy and other similar websites when buying a handpan. While those sites may be great for other things, they are FULL of over-priced, poorly tuned things that LOOK like handpans, but definitely don't sound like good ones. It's not to say that there isn't a decent one to be found there, but that it is VERY unlikely. We can't count the number of horror stories we've heard over the years involving handpans from those sites... Even if it's shaped like a handpan or has pretty designs, it doesn't matter! Handpans quality has nothing to do with looks. Even if you find what looks like an amazing deal on one of those sites...
If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is!
The most important aspect of a handpan is how does it sound? ALWAYS Listen to the handpan before you buy.
Now that we've got that out of the way, where are some good places to buy a handpan?
You can buy directly from a maker. A few years ago, this was the only option! You have to be motivated to do research, find a maker, investigate their sound quality and hope that they don't have a massive waiting list (popular makers can have a waiting list between 6 months up to 2+ years). An experienced handpan player may know exactly what they are looking for so this can be a great option them them. However, this isn't the case for many people.
The other option is to buy a handpan from a reputable shop.
What are the benefits of buying from a shop that specializes in handpans?
Well for starters, you get a lot more options. This can mean that you get to select a handpan from a variety of different makers, scales and quality.
One of our major goals at Handpanda.com is to maintain the highest quality shop possible, offering options that match your budget, wants and and needs. We only work with makers that are meet our tuning quality standards so that you are guaranteed to get a nice sounding, in-tune handpan from a reputable maker. We have been developing professional partnerships with high-quality makers since 2015 and continue to grow each year. We offer a wide selection of different handpan scales, accessories, classes on how to play and more.
Are you looking for something special? Don't worry, we have you covered.
Whether you want a Handpan made from a certain type of steel, extra notes on top or bottom or even a fully customizable handpan, we can make it happen.
For custom inquiries, please contact us. To see what we have available in our shop, please click on the button below.